What’s good here?
Familiar Mexican dishes are listed on this extensive menu; however, there are also standouts, such as Pollo Azado, which is a chicken breast marinated in achiote (a Mexican paste seasoning) and orange juice and served with rice and an enchilada of choice.
There are crabmeat enchiladas, egg dishes, vegetable enchiladas, several unique chicken dishes, and even shrimp, tilapia and salmon dishes.
The Lime Chile Tilapia is served with shrimp, rice, black beans, and a house-made mango salsa. One dish is named for the owner: Magdalena’s Platter, which is a bed of flavorful rice topped with strips of grilled chicken, grilled shrimp, and white queso.
A special taco is Antojitos Mexicano, which has four fired-potato taquitos served with long-grain rice, sour cream, fresh lettuce, and tomato. There are even chicken wings and chicken tenders for those not interested in Mexican. Customers can order lunch specials, salads, appetizers, dips, main entrees, a la carte and from a children’s menu. There are also elaborate, shareable desserts.
How did El Salto get its start?
The Spanish term “el salto” means “to leap.” Magdalena Leon is making her “leap” as a restaurant owner after growing up in the Eric’s San Jose family of restauranteurs. She graduated from Columbia College with a degree in business administration and decided to open her own place in the former Dino’s Greek establishment, which was a fixture on Decker Boulevard for many years.
Leon felt that the thoroughfare, which has been dubbed “international corridor,” would be an ideal location. Last fall, she enlisted Israel Galvan to manage; he had worked at an Eric’s San Jose location for 14 years. Together, they worked with the cooks to create a menu that was both traditional and varied.
What does the place look like?
Galvan is also an artist who grew up in the historic town of Michoacan, Mexico. He drew up interior plans for the restaurant and enlisted a carpenter to carry out those ideas. Small, interior awnings feature the rustic roof tiles that Galvan remembers from his childhood. There are also large hewn beams and items such as a wooden wagon decorating one of the beams. Walls are painted bright colors and adorned with Mexican-themed paintings. Between 40 and 50 customers can be seated comfortably at tables or high-back booths.
Who eats here?
Leon says her restaurant draws many Hispanics living in and around Columbia. However, many working at nearby Blue Cross Blue Shield and other businesses patronize El Salto, especially during the lunchtime hours. In the evenings, groups of families and friends are the main customers.
1801 Decker Blvd., Columbia
PRICES: Entrees are typically in the $6-$8 range.
HOURS: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. every day but Tuesdays.