So you’re driving through Salem, Ma and you suddenly become hungry and craving some Mexican food, where do you go? Comida Mexican Taqueria. Located near the Peabody Essex Museum, owner Renny Waldron lets his love of authentic Mexican food made with local ingredients (as much as feasibly possible) shine through. Made fresh from scratch daily you can feel the love in the homemade salsas, mole poblano sauce and the slow cooked meats like adobo marinated beef and chicken.
Comida officially open on September 30, 2010, but was not an overnight success. Renny worked on the plan for a few years, spending a large amount of time looking for the perfect site. One of the reasons Renny decided to open Comida in Salem, Ma was because there was nothing like it around and there still isn’t. There are a couple of burrito joints and Mexican type places, but Comida is a cut above the rest. Comida prides itself on making everything fresh daily and from local and seasonal products as much as is feasibly possible.
For Renny it would have been so much easier to open Comida in Cambridge where he lives, but does Cambridge really need another taqueria? During the planning stages Renny was working at Ole Mexican Grill in Cambridge where his love for Mexican food became almost an obsession. Ole’s longtime executive chef Erwin Ramos mentored Renny over the years in the finer points of Mexican food and running a kitchen. Chef Erwin taught Renny that food and cooking should be looked at as an adventure, a journey whisking you off to a time and place.
Renny like Chef Erwin like to change people’s perceptions about Mexican food. The menu at Comida Mexican Taqueria is predominantly traditional Mexican, with some burritos, burrito bowls and quesadillas thrown in for those not sure about eating real Mexican food. The real adventure begins when people throw caution to the wind and order up traditional dishes like the tacos and the tortas. Most of the items come with the choice of a main filling-vegetable, pork carnitas, carne asada, or chicken. The most popular item on the menu is the chipotle chicken burrito, but Renny is set on expanding people’s food choices one person at a time and having them try something new.
Rennys personal favorite on the menu is the mole poblano torta with sautéed onions and peppers, pepper jack cheese and creamy black bean spread. Tortas are a traditional Mexican sandwich pressed like a panini but made on a bolillo, which is the Mexican version of French bread, crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Out of all the ingredients on the menu, the mole poblano takes the most love and time, but is worth it once you take that first bite. A hint of spice from the poblano peppers and ends with some sweetness from the Taza chocolate, made locally in Somerville, Ma. Finding a bakery to make the bolillo for him was the hard part. Authentic bolillo bread was crucial to everything Comida stands for and Renny visited over 30 bakeries but ended up buying from a surprising source. It wasn’t from a traditional artisanal bakery or a Latino panaderia, but from a big box supermarket that makes them especially for Comida every day.
The tacos at Comida are so authentic you feel like you are sitting in a small plaza in Mexico. Two tacos can make a meal for most people and one of the most popular are the Taco de Pollo which come topped with the most amazing sweet corn mango salsa that cuts through the spicy pepper jack cheese. Soon that corn mango salsa will be made with corn that was grown in New Durham, NH right in Comidas own garden.
Yes you read correctly, Comida has their own garden at the home of Rennys parents, Gary Waldron and Laura Perkins, who are also the gardens caretakers. Towards the end of summer Comida will only be using tomatoes grown in the Comida garden, while they last of course. That means all the salsas made fresh daily will have tomatoes locally grown for them and by them. That in itself is impressive. Most restaurants at the most will have an herb garden, but for Comida to have a vegetable garden for their use, is amazing, even if it is only for a few months a year. Growing along with the corn and tomatoes to be used by Comida are several varieties of peppers, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, epazote (a traditional Mexican herb similar to oregano), mint, and thyme. Earlier in the growing season they were harvesting cilantro (lots of it!!!) and rhubarb which Renny made into salsa, not traditional Mexican, but sounds tangy and delicious all the same. What Renny cannot grow himself he will try and source locally from local farms especially Green Meadows Farm in Hamilton, Ma. Of course Thursdays in late spring through early fall you will find Renny wandering the Salem Farmers Market looking for inspiration.
It is easy to see why Comida Mexican Taqueria is one of the hottest places to eat in Salem and on the cutting edge of technology. Between produce grown in the family garden and everything made from scratch daily, you can definitely see and taste the difference. Throw in the daily specials, the tweets, Facebook postings and the Iphone app and you have the epitome of the modern day fresh and local dining destination. The Comida app is a convenient way to place an order so that it’s ready when you get there, no waiting for your food. The app has been a huge success and is free to download. Not only does it provide convenience, but it also has a customer rewards program-a free burrito after your tenth app order! How great is that?
To keep up to date on everything going on at Comida Mexican Taqueria, including the Comida garden produce they are using, follow Comida on Twitter and Facebook so you don’t miss one day of their specials. You wouldn’t want to miss what color shirt to wear on Wildcard Wednesdays so that you can save 10% on your order.
Comida Mexican Taqueria 131 Essex St Salem, Ma (978)594-8220 www.comidasalem.com
Monday-Thursday 11:30am to 9pm Friday and Saturday 11:30am to 10pm Sundays 11:30am to 8pm