Good Experience at Plaza Azteca Salem NH
Husband and I ate there last night.
The bad, first:
Clueless, wordless hostess, who seemed befuddled by the seating chart. We were rescued by server who shepherded us through the rather maze-like dining area.
Second bad thing...the noise. Acoustics make it such that every whoop of a tequila-ed patron or whiny child is amplified and echoed. Took a while to get used to that. NOT an intimate, romantic spot.
The food: EXCELLENT.
We began with tacquitos, a mix of beef and chicken, served with salsa verde, pico de gallo, and a chipotle tapanade. Lovely.
H had pork fajitas...not sliced pork, but roasted, shredded pork butt. Lovely stuff and gorgeous presentation. Big points.
I had the Vaquero special. It included a chicken cutlet, small sirloin and beans. All very good. I also had side orders of a chile relleno (perfect) and guacamole (not the tableside version, the smaller order...it was excellent, as good as I've ever had).
Our waiter was perhaps too attentive, trying to clear plates that we were still picking at. So apparently the staff needs polish but the food does not. It's there, and it's cheap. We ate amply for under $50.00 (sans tip).
It's worth a try.
Salem, Salem, NH
Since I live in Salem, NH, I visited PA soon after it opened. Although it's in Methuen, MA, it's eerily similar to those NH-Mex restaurants (La Carreta, Pedrazza's, etc.) in many respects. Where it differs, in my opinion, is that there is a larger focus on seafood and chorizo. The Guacamole At The Table is great; you get what you want in the guac, and even control the spiciness via the amount of jalapeno they put in. They also have a large beer selection (including large draft beers) augmented with a pretty good margarita list.
I've had some spotty service a couple of times in the twenty or so times I've been there since they've opened, and in each case, things were set right afterward. (That's not an exaggeration; I'm truly a fan!) Don't be afraid to let your server know if he or she is being too attentive or not attentive enough.
On a lark, I visited the other Plaza Azteca in Worcester (after a trip to WPI for Destination ImagiNation state finals in MA), and the food/experience is similar, although I prefer the Methuen location slightly better.
The La Carreta (NH-Mex) restaurants have better Queso Fundido (appetizer), and their "time to order to time for plates on table" is nothing short of amazing. However, in most every other area, Plaza Azteca excels in taste, presentation, and service. I would have no qualms recommending either chain to anybody who wants to enjoy good Mexican in northern New England.
Due to its proximity to where I live, I would choose PA over the others, but I don't think you can go wrong at either chain. (And by chain, I mean "tiny chains of 2-4 restaurants," not McD's!)
35 Manchester Rd, Derry, NH 03053
Actually, Cafe Azteca in Lawrence has real Mexican food, rather than the NH-Mex food from PA. In fact, when PA was being built, I remember wondering if it had any relation to Cafe Azteca. Unfortunately, it doesn't.
Service, food, and atmosphere in Cafe Azteca are wonderful. The only thing negative about the place is parking.
I have been to both CA in Lawrence and most recently to PA which is on Rt. 28 South at the the Salem, NH- Methuen, MA town line. While I did find CA in Lawrence to be very good and fairly authentic, I wasn't all that impressed. I love great Mexican food was a VP for a high-end restaurant chain and am a bit of a gourmet cook. Many items on the CA menu said something like "topped with a non-spicy green tomatillo salsa" and I'd prefer mine to be spicy. I much preferred the variety on the menu at PA and thought the food and service were both excellent! I had the Quesadilla Del Mar with grilled Shrimp with a side of delicious guacamole and my buddy had the Quesadilla Ranchera which he loved! I live in Beverly, MA and would drive further to go to PA than go to CA! PA is one of the more "authentic than "Tex-Mex"-style of the Mexican restaurants I've ever been to - it's far better than Margarita's or Mexico Lindo in Melrose, MA . I also really like Cielito Lindo in Beverly, MA --- very authentic (A BIG "but" is that there are no Tequila Margaritas, as, sadly, they only have a beer and wine license...)
I've been here four times and I've crossed it off the list for a meal. Food is always too salty, it's usually too crowded, so crowded that the Guacamole Cart cannot be pushed around to the tables, (the gentleman side stepped and weaved his way over to us, leaving the "cart" in a corner.) service has been really spotty - lots of waitstaff "leaning on the walls" but not following up at the tables. Tired of having to get up and ask for something! Also, there are annoying, noisy promotions like a 'balloon' artist that loved chatting up the intoxicated, shrieking, middle aged women and ignored the children on a weeknight; It was pathetic. Drinks were okay - nothing great like at Masa...I guess the only thing I liked was chips & salsa.