At first taste of salsa, spice is just right

There’s no need for bread and butter when you can have chips and salsa — salsa so good that you may find yourself abandoning the chips and eating it with a fork.

At Tortuga’s Mexican Village, warm chips and homemade salsa hit the table before you even have a chance to take your coat off.

‘You pick’ what you want at Tortuga’s Mexican Village in Princeton, but you better bring cash and maybe some alcohol. (Katie Occhipinti / Columnist)
Tortuga’s is located at 41 Leigh St. in Princeton, right outside the hustle and bustle of the main street. A 20-minute ride from campus is not far to travel for the most authentic Mexican food around. When you dine here everyone is a “señor” or “señorita.”

The food at Tortuga’s makes On-The-Border look like McDonald’s. Zagat Survey — the trusted source to help consumers make informed decisions about restaurants — put them on its list of best buys.

Prices are fair and portions are generous. Ordering off the lunch menu will run you about $10-12 and dinner entrées range anywhere from $12 to $20. Expect to see a crowd of Princeton hipsters and intellectuals, or co-workers finally getting a chance to loosen their ties.

Chips and salsa are a solid start to a zesty meal at Tortuga’s. (Katie Occhipinti / Columnist)
Their entremesas (appetizers) include traditional favorites such as nachos, quesadillas and guacamole, which very well could be “the best guacamole north of the border,” as they claim. Some other classics are their chili and their taco salad.

It is hard to go for Mexican food and not order a taco, so don’t fight the urge as it won’t steer you wrong. The “you pick” menu style allows you to pick two or three of your favorite type of tortilla (corn or flour, hard shell or soft shell), then choose a meat, cheese or vegetable filling. Top it off with a mild red sauce, a spicy green sauce or a chocolate nut sauce. The best part is that every entrée comes with Mexican rice and refried beans. If you want to further customize your meal, hopefully you or the person you are dining with has a decent hold on the Spanish language because the staff is just as authentic as the food.

The Carolina blue walls are tastefully decorated with authentic Mexican paraphernalia, a sombrero and ceramic turtles. Windows with clay-colored curtains let in the perfect amount of natural light and windowsills are decorated with live plants. Below the dull roar of happy eaters are the sounds of Mexican Mariachi music.

There are a few things to know before you go, however. They only take cash or check, and if you want a cold beer or tequila with your taco, you have to bring your own. Once you eat here though, you will want to go back with everyone you know.

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