Craving good Mexican cuisine? Let the salsa be your guide. It takes a subtle hand to make a good salsa — spiciness, acidity, sweetness and depth of flavor must enrich but not overwhelm. Chefs who get that balance right also tend to make great meals, so I've concluded that wherever there is great salsa, there is also delicious food.
Habañero Mexican Grill
The name may sound intimidating, but the salsa is delicious: tomato and verde versions are thick, just spicy enough, and offered in plentiful quantities to accompany take-out tacos, tamales and tortas. 9101 Quioccasin Road, 750-2020
The salsa here is rich in tomato flavor and full of aromatic spices. It's addictive when paired with a basket of warm tortilla chips and makes an excellent companion for the stellar fish tacos. 4702 Forest Hill Ave., 233-3022
A salsa bar offers a multitude of choices at this Latin market and restaurant. Smoky, sweet and very spicy varieties are accompanied by salsa verde and pico de gallo. It's the perfect place to develop a budding salsa palate. 6925 Hull Street Road, 276-3391
It's a little out of the way, but go to this South Side spot (west of Chippenham Parkway) for take-out, and choose from a fantastically fresh daytime menu that includes a full-bodied, smoky salsa, perfect with a warm gordita. 7461 Midlothian Turnpike, 675-7228
Su Casa is a Richmond favorite, and the restaurant's salsa doesn't disappoint. A fresh, tangy tomato version is complimentary; try the spicy verde and vibrant pico de gallo as well. And don't miss the sopapillas. 4013 W. Broad St., 355-6805