READERS' PICK: La Salsa operates on a simple premise: customers like choice, and they like abundance. Enter the salsa bar, stuffed with heady concoctions from a simple, mild salsa fresca of tomatoes, onions and chiles to a subtle and fiery tomatillo sauce that'll break loose the most stubborn cold. It's an all-you-can-eat deal, but be warned: you'll have plenty of competition from other salsa vultures returning again and again to fill their trays with the condiment of the gods. (Also see Best Take-Out, Best Lunch Under $5, Best Casual Mexican Dining.)
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Rosa's Mexican Food, 1750 E. Fort Lowell Road. Mild and garlicky are the two words that leap to mind when we think about the salsa at Rosa's Mexican Food. This fine purée of fresh tomatoes, cilantro and spices is flavorful without overwhelming -- perfect for bringing out the best in the restaurants stellar array of tacos, burritos and tamales (see Best Casual Dining, page 65).
MORE MANIA: The trick to good salsa is to combine the spices, tomatoes and other vegetables to a point where they're blended but don't resemble a can of V-8. The Art: not too chunky, yet with the integrity of the individual ingredients still perceptible. After all, who likes a hunk of cilantro stuck between their teeth? The fire must be present, but not overpowering. Café Poca Cosa, 88 E. Broadway Blvd., serves bowls of salsa that not only pass the test, but surpass. And we mean bowls! They will gladly return to your table again and again and again with a heaping bowl if you take to the stuff as we do.
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