Upon arrival at the restaurant, I was welcomed by the enticing aroma of Mexican cuisine. It envelops the customer – whoever abandons the cold, Galway night air is sure to be comforted by the warmth of the restaurant and the uplifting latino pop music. I was greeted by the co-owner, Enrique. His friendly smile and chatty personality make the place even more welcoming.
Enrique and Angelica are co-owners of an authentic Mexican restaurant named Salsa located in Galway city. The Dublin-based restaurant opened during the first week of October 2022 and serves a delicious variety of traditional Mexican street food.
Sitting at a little table facing the Salsa menu, I wonder why Enrique chose Ireland to open the restaurant. “That’s a good question”, he laughs.
“It was 2012 when I made the decision to come here and the principal reason was to study English. I was nearly finished my career in Mexico as a PE teacher. Then I was a bit bored in Mexico so I decided to come here”.
“I got the student visa for a year then they give you three months to travel Europe. I fell in love in Dublin so decided to stay another year and my English started to improve”.
Enrique mentions that he was working as a kitchen porter, his first position here in Ireland, in a Mexican restaurant.
“Then one of the managers told me he wanted a bartender. I said I didn’t have any skills and he told me ‘Bueno, it’s not too difficult, you can improve here’”.
He then worked as a bartender and moved to a waiter, then assistant manager. Then came the COVID restrictions.
“That was weird”, he says. “Tough time for restaurants; the measures, the limits, the restrictions. That was hard”.
Around this time in his life, Enrique decided to take a break.
“I was mentally drained”.
We are then joined by co-owner, Angelica.
The pair met when Angelica was a past customer of the Mexican restaurant where Enrique worked. They arranged to meet in Dublin and Angelica asked whether Enrique would be interested in starting up a business.
“I have a friend,” says Enrique. “The owner of the brand Salsa, his name is Hector. We were working together in that Mexican restaurant and he always told me that I was good. That day, after the chat, I decided to ask Hector how to start a business. He decided that we should open a business together,” he adds with a smile.
“We found a place in two hours”, says Angelica.
Among the many Mexican restaurants in Galway City, both Salsa owners acknowledge that “competition is good.”
“The difference between this restaurant and the others is: first of all – it is a Mexican-run business”, says Enrique. “We have the passports to prove it!” laughs Angelica.
Both Enrique and Angelica create an emphasis on the importance of the authenticity of the food, how it is cooked, and the different salsa used.
“It isn’t something you can learn from the internet. The salsa makes our food different to the others. If you go to Mexico, the salsa is the point”, says Enrique.
Their recipes come from Hector and his grandmother.
“It’s the way we cook it. Also, from where I am from, we add lime juice to everything. People are learning to eat tacos properly- just squeeze lime!” says Angelica.
Mexico is often associated with the stereotypical burrito. However, real Mexican cuisine is somewhat different.
“Burritos are a ‘TexMex’ thing and we have realised that Irish people love them! It’s something fast to eat but burritos are not a properly Mexican thing. We usually use the tortilla with something inside and add salsa. No rice, no beans, etc.” says Enrique.
It is interesting to find out how the area has responded to the recent opening of their restaurant. Angelica and Enrique wish to entice the customers with the delicious smells of their savoury dishes.
“A lot of people ask why we do not put the menu outside. This is because people will look and say ‘it’s just another Mexican restaurant’. They need to open the door and smell it, then they will wish to try it”.
Any recommendations for authentic Mexican cuisine beginners? “For me, it’s tacos”, says Angelica. “It’s the real street food and is a small portion, the closest to Mexican cuisine. But if you are really hungry, another good advice is the tortas, which are bigger”.
“Yes, tortas, and for the filling, I think pastor”, says Enrique. “This is something you will not find in Galway, or even in Ireland. It’s a pork meat cooked in a kebab-style”.
I thank both for their friendly and accommodating hospitality, and then I decide to try their delicious recommendations. “People’s faces are so glad,” they say, “This is real and amazing. We have regular customers now, which makes everything more familiar”.