Salem, get ready! Already one Taqueria has opened and ANOTHER ONE is set to open soon. I've checked out Howling Wolf Taqueria twice since it opened earlier this month. It's located down the street from Walgreens and next to the waning video rental store.
From what I gather, Howling Wolf Taqueria was opened by a Salem couple out of a love of Mexican food and the desire to see a restaurant in Salem that had good food with a casual dining atmosphere. Howling Wolf also has a wide variety of Mexican sodas and beers on tap, which is nice and adds to this cozy, friendly atmosphere.
The menu is pretty basic, consisting of burritos, quesadillas, and chips. Guacamole and queso can be bought as extras. With an open kitchen, you can see the employees make your own burrito and build it as you go. Beans? Cheese? Rice? A green salsa? All of these can be added or removed as you please. I also like when you can see the food being prepared for you, because you can see the care and effort put into your meal.
I like that the food has a very fresh taste here. All the food is made fresh on site, including the salsa (big points for that). The first time I went, I had a chicken quesadilla with a side of chips and guacamole. Ricky had a beef burrito. Both were quite delicious and even had a light flavor. (Is that even possible? For burritos to not feel greasy and heavy?) The second time I went I had the queso. This may be my favorite thing on their menu to date. Lookswise, it appears to be just a white cheese sauce with jalepeno peppers in it. I had low expectations, but oh was I wrong. It has a nice cheese flavor, and then the heat creeps up on you, adding a nice balance.
I am a fan of the portions as well, as they do not skimp on burrito size or side dishes. The second time, Ricky's large tortilla broke because of the amount of chicken, beans, and rice inside. They apologized, but Ricky said that this is never an issue. The queso came in a large cup and when I asked for a small side of sour cream to take some of the heat off of the queso, they offered to put it in an equally large cup. I also appreciate that with theses portion sizes come low prices. It's nice that they're not trying to nickel and dime you.
One thing I think could use some work is their delivery and the production line for making burritos, but I am chalking this up to a rookie mistake. The first time we went, was the fourth day they were open, and it felt it. The lines seemed a bit stilted, due to many people behind the line not sure what to do. There was also a "manager" who was more intent on fixing mistakes and schmoozing for the customers than helping cut down on the length of the line. The owner, however, was going from table to table to see how everyone was liking their meals and what suggestions they had for improvement. When we went last night, a few weeks later, lines were in control and the employees seemed to have a rhythm and system built up to make orders in an efficient manner.
I recommend checking out Howling Wolf for it's casual atmosphere and simple, inexpensive, and delicious food. It's a great place to hang out, and I hope that they succeed in Salem.