Saguaro's Southwestern Grill should be a sure-fire hit (no pun intended) with its spicy Tex-Mex menu, decent prices, location in the heart of Towson and good-looking dining rooms. First, though, the owners have to work out some bugs.
What possessed them, for instance, to wrap the filling of the vegetable enchiladas in bright green tortillas? Are they going for the eco-enchilada look? And then there's the odd choice of vegetables inside -- including cauliflower and sugar snap peas. Of course, you could ask who would be crazed enough to order veggie enchiladas in the first place, but that's not really the point.
More important, not one of our dishes arrived more than lukewarm; and that was on a slow night at the ranch.
The waitress couldn't locate a fork for one of us. We sat and looked at our food while she scurried around from possible hiding place to possible hiding place.
Everything that could be doused with chili powder was, which gave the meal a certain monotony.
The barbecued chicken arrived at the table the color of raw dough under its sauce. (It did turn out to be cooked once we cut into it.) The fajitas came with thick, cold tortillas.
And yet, this was the same kitchen that turned out a beautiful salad of crisp greens, deep red plum tomatoes, julienne carrots and cubes of jicama with a pleasant honey-lime dressing.
A huge chunk of fresh salmon was encrusted with cornmeal and a bit of chili powder and pan-fried just long enough so it was still moist. I loved its fresh banana and cilantro salsa and the sugar snap peas with white and black sesame seeds.
The flavorful black bean soup was a work of art, with a swirl of sour cream and tri-color matchsticks of peppers.
Chicken quesadillas with melted cheese, pico de gallo and guacamole were delicious. With a salad, they'd make a great inexpensive meal.
Ribs were small, meaty and plentiful, with a good, smoky barbecue sauce and thin, crisp french fries.
All this jumble of good and not-so-good food is served in rooms handsomely done up with exposed brick walls, dark woods, a liberal use of deep green, cactuses and various native arts and crafts on the walls. Saguaro's may not have the best inexpensive Southwestern food in town, but you won't have any complaints about the setting.
Where: 2 W. Pennsylvania Ave.
Hours: Sundays to Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.
Credit cards accepted: MC, V
Features: Southwestern food
Non-smoking section? Yes
Call: (410) 339-7774
Prices: Appetizers, $2.25-$9.50; entrees, $6.95-$17.95