Las Olas Taqueria: Exeter, NH
We finally got to try Las Olas, and this only after I read that they’re opening a second location in Hampton. I really went with lowered expectation due to some posts on this board and some conversations I’ve had, but must admit I was pleasantly surprised.
I really like the bright, tropical colors of the place. I like the fact they assemble everything in front of you (unlike any other Mexican place in the area). And I also like the fact they carry Jarritos Mexican soda. The fact that they carry two really spicy bottled habanero sauce “El Yucateco” (one green and one red) is also big plus.
I only tried the tacos. The tacos are offered with a choice of white corn tortilla (which is griddled in a panini press) and soft flour (which is steamed). The corn version was served open-faced and the flour was rolled into a little burrito. I preferred the corn taco over the flour as the flour one was a bit soggy and too chewy. The steak and pork tacos were flavorful, the chicken not so much. I also like they give you a choice of every single ingredient that goes in.
One criticism is that I was never asked my choice of tortilla (soft flour was the default). I only knew they offered the corn tortilla by reading the menu. Overall, though, the service was very pleasant. The place was really clean, except they really need to wipe down the hot sauce bottles.
So, how does this place stack up against the local competitors? Well, I think the food at Margaritas stinks, I only go there for the great drinks, chips and salsa, so there’s no competion there. I think Las Olas is slightly better than Dos Amigos in flavor (fresh lime, onion and cilantro are essential). I think Las Olas is pretty much on a par with Chipotle overall, yet not quite as good as Loco Cocos in Kittery. Loco Cocos has a better selection of homemade sauces.
Tried the burritos here the other day, and I must say they are sorely lacking. The steak is not freshly prepared, as at Loco Coco's, but rather it is scooped up in front of you out of a bin, looked like it had been there a long time. Everything just seemed very bland, even the salsas. (we tried them all).
If your only comparison point is local Mexican, maybe this is all you can expect, but its not much of a drive to Loco Coco's, and well worth it.
I will agree that it struck me as very clean, but certainly no cheaper than any typical Mexican fare.