My first patio dinner of the year is always a great moment – even if particularly stubborn cloud cover drove my friends and I to a nifty, curvy booth inside Salsateria after we’d devoured our Super Star nachos!

We were sufficiently starved after hiking around waterfalls and through fields of trout lilies on the Bruce Trail all afternoon, and found no respite (read: restaurants with patios) when driving through downtown Hamilton, which we’d eyed as our original dinner destination.*
Fortunately, one of our number knew that Guelph had no shortage of patios, so we trekked onwards and paused outside Salsateria, caught by the bright colours and lively music playing from inside (and the empty tables on the tiny patio that were currently in the sun.) Our server was quick with the menus and our sodas – we eyed the beer list, which looked both solid and very affordable, but the closest we came to beer was using our glasses of ginger ale and Coke to describe different beer varieties for a curious friend. Once our Rojo Chicken Super Star Nachos appeared, descriptions tapered off. The nachos, covered in tomatoes, cheese, green onions, and tender chicken cooked in a creamy-pimento salsa (faintly orange; very delicious) were a great starter, and though we eyed the trio of dips (Los Trio?) as a second appetizer, once our pizzas and burritos appeared, we were happy we’d saved space.
M and D ordered pizzas, choosing the “One Love” pizza sauce from a selection of four (one Italian-inspired, another Spanish; this one promised spice and mangoes, and I know that M has a weakness for both of those!) while choosing jerk chicken and beef as their proteins respectively (nice to see tofu on the list) and asking for “the works” – including broccoli florets! – for toppings. The broccoli added a jolt of colour and crispness to the pizzas, served on a thin crust that almost seemed like a hardier, chewier phyllo.
K and I went for the burritos (beef and rojo chicken, respectively; again, with “the works” – no broccoli, but green peppers, green onions, rice, beans, and caramelized onions make a stuffed and tasty burrito!) They were served with a small helping of corn tortilla chips and a mildly spicy and very flavourful salsa. Word on the Internet is that said salsa is for sale; though I didn’t see any jars of it at the bar or near the door, I’d be interested in picking some up on a return trip.
Salsateria feels like a place with a history; the drink menu is still labeled with “Van Gogh’s Ear” and some of the art on the raised ceiling panels feels like it may have been left over from this restaurant’s last incarnation – but it fits the primary-coloured, warm, and mildly chaotic vibe. M eyed the stage and sound equipment at the far end of the restaurant with interest, wondering aloud how Salsateria would change in the wee hours, with live music and flickering lights. It’s open ’til 2 AM on the weekend nights, and seems to be a popular late-night/post-club venue.
I suspect we’ll be back to find out.
That said, happy patio season!

* = I mean no offense to Hamilton’s restaurants, but we had our hearts set on a patio, and the direct route through combined with our general lack of knowledge of the area set us up for disappointment. That said – recommendations? ^____^

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