It starts with the chips and salsa. You can tell if the Mexican restaurant is good right from the beginning based on whether the chips are warm and crisp, and whether the salsa is fresh and homemade.
I moved to East Jackson County about six months ago from Central Texas and have enjoyed my share of good Mexican food. So you can understand why I was a little skeptical as to whether I would find a decent chimichanga or a refreshing horchata in South Mississippi.
Not to worry.
La Fiesta Brava in the Singing River Mall in Gautier has recently unveiled a new menu featuring traditional, as well as unusual offerings. The pollo and peppers dish is incredible, as is steak covered with a creamy spinach sauce. Theres chicken and shrimp, and even pasta dishes on the menu (I did say unusual).
On a recent Thursday night, Johnny Mora played guitar and serenaded diners with Latin music, but with some Eagles, Willie Nelson and other American tunes thrown in. With huge margaritas, good food and a relaxing atmosphere, its a festive place to enjoy a fun night out.
But, its not the only local place where you can kick back and dip into some queso and guacamole.
A sizzling plate of steak and peppers set my mouth on fire at the Pascagoula location of La Fiesta Brava.
San Miguels in Moss Point and Aztecas in Gautier both have a great atmosphere, good food and are relaxing places to catch a game while enjoying the before mentioned chips and salsa.
They even offer traditional egg dishes like Huevos Rancheros.
And if I venture a little to the west to El Saltillo locations in Ocean Springs,I can even enjoy a freshing horchata.