My favorite place to eat in Newport is Perro Salado on Charles Street. I don’t go there very often, because it isn’t the place to bring children, but it is a great spot for a romantic dinner for two or a cozy dinner with a friend or two or three. It’s in an old colonial home where tables are tucked into corners and flames from the fireplaces flicker on the walls. Authentic Mexican inspired dishes are served with fresh ingredients; I usually get one of the specials, which highlight this last feature. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the dessert is the best around I’ve discovered yet.
Imagine my delight when I discovered that the owners of Perro Salado opened a quick serve restaurant on Thames Street called El Perrito Taqueria. “Even though though he ambiance won’t be as charming,” I thought, “Hey! I can take my kids out and enjoy good Mexican food. Alright!” After it had been open an eternity, it seems, I finally made it down to El Perrito with my family today. The atmosphere was actually quite cozy. It’s almost literally a hole in the wall place, in the basement of a building. (There are several shops and restaurants set up this way.) A Mediterranean pocket place used to occupy this particular basement. But the new renters have transformed it so completely that it’s hardly recognizable. The interior designer kept with the dark wood theme of the parent restaurant but implemented a more rustic look. Despite the small size of the place and the dark colors, it has an open feel, with large tables, benches and even a little market to shop for sauces and even produce.
The menu did not disappoint. Just as it’s parents’ menu, the Little Dog’s offerings are extensive, affordable and unique. And, just as it’s parent does, the offspring offers up dishes thoughtfully executed with tender meats, flavorful sauces, soft cheeses, fresh cilantro and the like. Although the ingredients are familar at Mexican restaurants, the final products are unique. The result is savory and memorable. I ordered a chourico and potato taco, a braised short rib topped with mango sauce taco and Yucca fries with chimichurri sauce. The braised short rib is my favorite so far. You can’t go wrong with this tender rib for $2.75. And topped with a slice of mango in a sweet sauce…mmm. The Yucca fries are basically deep fried mashed potatoe sicks; they have a thick, golden crust and taste like Tater Tots. I love Tater Tots but never would have thought to dip them in a spicy green sauce. (I will now.)
Sadly, I did not have enough room for dessert. But I did also have chips — golden fried flour tortillas like Gringo Jack’s, and two varieties of salsa – one sweet and one hot. I also had some Mexican Coca Cola — which, as soft drink afficionados know — is the only Coke to have, as it is made with real sugar. That said, I cannot wait to go back to try the dessert. I just may have to order three more items off the menu as well. Y’know, since I’m already there.