Lime Fresh Mexican Grill in Arlington
By Becky Krystal
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
It's nearly impossible to wrap your mind - let alone a tortilla - around all the fast-casual, burrito, SoCal-meets-south-of-the-border takeout spots continually popping up around Washington. With a personable staff, a pleasant ambiance and a buffet of house-made salsas, Lime Fresh Mexican Grill may have come up with a, well, fresh, approach to the ubiquitous genre.
When I arrived, a friendly greeter handed me a menu with an offer to answer questions. I declined, choosing to quietly browse the options and admire the decor: orange stucco walls; 3-D lime art in shadow box frames. No generic stainless steel here.
The relatively quick wait for my large order proved entertaining as well. I couldn't help but go a little crazy collecting complementary samples at the salsa bar, which boasts a mix of about 10 regular and seasonal kinds made daily. Bigger containers would have been nice, but that might discourage the sale of larger sizes (cup $1.99; 16-ounce jar $4.50). Other accouterments included cilantro and, of course, lime wedges.
Max Piet, the Florida-based chain's vice president of operations, later told me I had missed the selection of 50 hot sauces (five-ounces, $3.99) next to the salsas.
That's too bad, because a few entrees could have used a kick. Piet said the Lime Fresh philosophy is not to overseason proteins, which jibed with the tame flavor of the chicken in the original taco ($3 each, or three for $6.99) and bacon-and-bean quesadilla (regular $5.99, grande $8.49). It didn't help that the quesadilla seemed devoid of bacon. Even a liberal dose of sauce, however, wouldn't have saved the fish taco ($3.50 each, or three for $8.49). We found the mahi mahi too fishy.
Much more successful was the cantina steak salad ($8.99). The skirt steak was flawlessly grilled to medium-rare, though we were a bit thrown by the salad's mix of raw and cooked vegetables. We liked the heat imparted by the jalapenos in the queso burrito ($7.99), a large wrap with a nicely browned exterior.
Besides the complementary containers of salsa, the burrito and other menu items come with a pile of tortilla chips fried in-house. The flautas (four for $5.99), tightly rolled corn tortillas filled with chicken, beans, corn and cheese, also showed skill with the fryer.
Lime Fresh has 14 locations, most in its home state, with plans to open another Arlington outpost, in addition to stores in College Park and the District, by the end of May.
Piet said the chain would like to use the stores here to gain brand recognition before moving into the more northern markets. Chipo-Baja-Doba Grills, you've been put on notice.