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Nov 2, 2008 06:53 AM

Loteria Stingy on the Salsa

Just had a pollo pipian burrito that had no vegies in it, just rice, beans, mediocre stewed chicken and an admittedly tasty swath of pipian sauce on top, although no discernible salsa inside. So, I asked and was what appeared to me to be grudgingly given one of those tiny plastic 1/4 shot cup thing worth of chopped tomato and onion salsa. After pouring in (under protest) the side salsa given with our side order of chips, I was still left wanting, so as I neared the end of my burrito I asked and was given one more tiny bit of what tasted like a spicy BBQ sauce.

To me, a burrito is in large part a storage vessel for salsa: It is to be slit down the middle operation style and salsa (sometimes different kinds at different sides) poured in. Loteria's stingy salsa policy defeats that purpose (and their lack of even onions or cilantro, just rice and beans) in that burrito is disappointing to say the least.

Don Felix is also stingy on their salsa, but their lengua burrito is delicious so its worth braving the 4 trips to the window to grovel for more (not worth it at Loteria)

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  1. i hate the stingy salsa policy. if they can't afford to provide salsa - fine. but i wish places would just make it known up front so that i would know i needed to buy a side pint of salsa instead of going back 10 times and being annoyed by the cheap-o policy. i have no problem purchasing salsa as a side if i know that's the policy. otherwise, the place should just provide it. i guess b/c they don't have a salsa bar - that might have been a tip off. like king taco - while they are not stingy, they do not have a salsa bar. i always buy two big sides of the red and green salsa b/c i love it so much. that way - i'm all set w/o interruption (and have some to take home too.

    3 Replies
    1. re: dtud

      I'm totally with you. I would gladly pay for salsa as a side if necessary, as I personally like LOTS of it with my food. I like my food saucy ;-)

      Next time the OP is at Loteria, he should inquire about buying a side of the salsa, rather than being disappointed by stingy free sides. In these difficult economic times, I could see why a place would want to regulate salsa rather than having it liberally flow free, but there's any easy answer to that: offer a side of salsa for a quarter or 50 cents.

      1. re: DanaB

        I think they are just being precious about the flavors of their food and, frankly, that chicken burrito needed all the help it could get. I just can't stand paying for salsa. There are plenty of good burrito spots that have salsa bars (Tacos Por Favor, whose red salsa is way better than anything I've had at Loteria, El Abajeno, Tacomiendo) or at least serve you good squeeze bottles full or wooden bowls of it. I don't like El Parian's salsa but at least they serve it aplenty and their carne asada is delicious on its own. I wish any of these were in the Grove.

        I don't see the Korean BBQ places charging for panchan when I ask for seconds, or the sushi places charging extra for my multiple requests for more ginger, the Southern Indian spots grousing about requests for extra mango pickle or the Ethiopian places on Fairfax complaining when I ask for more injera.

        1. re: DanaB

          Interestingly enough I just had the same experience at Loteria a few days ago.
          I will begin to reconsider returning to a restaurant, especially during these economic times, if they start cutting back on portions or things like salsa. Salsa costs almost nothing for a restaurant to make and if their prices for ingredients are increasing they can simply pass it on to the consumer....
          I''d rather they raise the price than start with that nonsense of cutting back.

      2. I think Loteria is a rip-off. Yeah, they are successful, and compared to the competition at the Fairfax Farmer's Market and now up in Hollywood they can serve tiny little portions of what they label upscale Mexican and get the hoity-toity and the tourists thinking they are getting a bargain comparatively. Dress up the tiny little tacos with frou-frou sauces and charge a premium for a couple of bites worth. If the patrons at the Farmer's Market are still hungry they'll order more or go get a donut, and in Hollywood people just don't care because they are drinking and can be part of the scene for cheap. Good business model, not great for food.

        4 Replies
        1. re: nosh

          Word. In the Farmer's Market, Chipotle and even Magee's are better.

          Magee's Kitchen
          6333 W 3rd St Ste 624, Los Angeles, CA 90036

          Chipotle Mexican Grill
          110 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

          1. re: maxzook

            when i last went to a chipotle they, too, limited the amount of salsa they'd give you.

            1. re: westsidegal

              Sheesh. Has the price of tomatoes gone up or something?

              1. re: maxzook

                The price of tomatoes, along with many other goods, have in fact gone up.

        2. Facts: Loteria's salsa is the best in town. Creamy, sweet, good heat. I wish they'd blend it more, but damn, it's good.
          You can buy a soda cup (12 oz.?) of it to go for $5.

          1 Reply
          1. re: flowerofhighrank

            hmm -- not sure i agree. other things at loteria are delicious for sure -- the chicken mole, and the awesome nachos for two. but the salsa always seems to taste really 'cooked' (ie, more like a stew than a salsa to me), and weirdly oily.

            i know it's comparing apples to oranges, but try the salsa verde at el taurino. so, so good.

          2. Jimmy Shaw is a businessman, plain and simple. How do you think he opened a beautiful restaurant from a taco stand? Get a clue, kids.

            9 Replies
            1. re: hobomike

              Is Jimmy Shaw the owner of Loteria? If so, I congratulate him on getting people to pay for what you get for free at scores of other restaurants.

              I'm waiting for some smart businessman to start charging for ketchup and mustard.

              1. re: maxzook

                Pay for Ketchup? Already exists it's called 8oz. Btw you guys are being a bit ridiculous every restaurant owner is a business man, if he's not then it's a failure. AND I don't see anybody saying Loteria charges for extra salsa just that the guy had to ask for it, big deal. Reread his post. Love the food and love the prices, their enchiladas, carnitas in salsa morita, salsa they serve with the chips, love it all. (and J. Gold agrees). I seriously do not get the Loteria haters there is room for all kinds of Mexican food experiences in LA, and thank god.

                1. re: rezpeni

                  Yes, as you say, "every restaurant owner is a business man" but there are many, many ways to do business. Especially in the restaurant business. Ever get anything "on the house"? Goodwill and service, not food, is the number one reason people go to restaurants. Loteria is good. True DF-style food. I'm glad it's doing well. But, I also think it's pricey and can learn a thing or two about service. That is all.

                  1. re: hobomike

                    Maybe most people return to restaurants for goodwill and service, but this is Chowhound and I think for most of us here it's about the food and everything else is second (sometimes a distant second). I really don't find it pricey considering the quality of the food and was especially glad to find they have the same prices as the Farmers Market location despite the fact that there is table service.

                2. re: maxzook

                  I would wager a bet that the rent on a stall at the farmer's market exceeds the rent your neighborhood hole-in-the-wall tacqueria has to pay, especially if that neighborhood tacqueria is not located on the westside.

                  I do agree that Loteria's prices are higher than other places that offer tasty, quality food. However, almost all of the places that are doing what they are doing with Mexican food, i.e. offering authentic regional preparations of Mexican cuisine not as commonly available at the average joint, are on the pricier side. I'm thinking Babita, La Casita Mexicana in Bell, La Huasteca in Lynwood. There are a few more modest places that offer regional cuisine on a budget, like Chichen Itza and La Flor de Yucatan, but they are less common that the ones who are going more for the gourmet angle and charging the prices they need to to support it.

                  I totally get if you just aren't into Loteria's food, but their business model seems appropriate to me, given their location and the quality of food they are attempting to offer. But I do think you should consider the economy and what all restauranteurs are facing trying to stay profitable in this marketplace. I can only speculate that pretty much EVERY Mexican restaurant in town that offers free, unlimited chips and salsa is trying to find a way to continue that practice, or to minimize waste associated with the same practice, without raising prices, given the increases in tomato and corn prices (and products based on same) in the past couple of years.

                  1. re: DanaB

                    I ate lunch for the first time at Loteria on Hollywood Blvd. the other day during my lunch hour. I ordered the plate of taquitos and a side order of vegetables. The taquitos had barely any filling, the vegetables were good but small serving. When I left I was still hungry. The bill came to about $13 with tip.

                    1. re: crema

                      If you re-read previous posts, there's a very wide variety of serving portions for the items, and you just have to know what to order there. I've never left hungry, but I do expect to pay about $15. Is that too much? Yeah, if I did it every day, or went in expecting a $3.50 burrito and a Coke. They're doing something different. Like the sign on Banana Leaf (another good stall) says, "This isn't fast food".

                      What do I get? Enchiladas (suizas) or tacos (mole poblano) plus a side of plantains, with a small agua fresca.

                      Is it worth $15? Not really. Maybe $12. It's similar to Frida (Beverly Hills). Everything is 25% more, but if you know this going in, it's somehow ok.

                      And regarding service, they sometimes get my order wrong, but always accommodate.

                      1. re: crema

                        I'm always hungry when I leave there, so thats why I order chips, which I had to eat all unadorned because I dumped the salsa in my burrito.

                        Loteria in my mind is not in the same league as La Casita or Babita.

                        To me, its food is similar to many other Oaxacan restaurants like Monte Alban, Juquila or El Texate (my fave of the three), just smaller portions and no salsa to spice it up . Its business model just may be the fact that being in the Grove, it is catering to a more upscale crowd who do not usually go out of their way to find this type of food that, in reality, is readily available elsewhere--and in more plentiful portions.

                      2. re: DanaB

                        Everyone who eats out must realize food prices are going up....the restaurant, in order to keep a consistent profit margin, has to pass it on to the customer.
                        I find the food at Loteria to be consistently wonderful...and I hope people continue to consume so places like this weather this economic storm. I'll do my part :).