READERS' PICK: Although inspired by the taquerias of Mexico City, La Salsa fills that gringateria marketing niche in the hearts and strip malls of Tucsonans. The skinless chicken and no-lard cooking style have made it an excellent choice for the heart-healthy among us. You won't find deep-fried chimichangas on this menu. The staff is extra-friendly and the service is quick, especially considering the fact that everything is cooked fresh to order. For all you bean counters they offer black as the norm, pinto on request. The prices are all reasonable and even the most expensive things on the menu, like "El Champion/The Big One" with chicken, are only $6.95. Plenty of choices for vegetarians and even a kid's plate appeal over a large demographic cross-section.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Vega's, 3156 E. Ft. Lowell Road. It's certainly taking a chance having a Mexican restaurant in such an odd location as Ft. Lowell and Country Club. But if you build a better chimichanga, the world will beat a path to your door. OK, so they're better known for their chicken dishes, but if you use the phrase, "If you build a better chicken...," you get into all that genetic engineering nonsense, and that detracts from the fact that Vega's is rapidly developing a following usually reserved for South Tucson Mexican restaurants. Lunch specials abound and the food is spectacular.
LOOSE CHANGE: Brooklyn Pizza Company, 534 N. Fourth Ave. The best $2 lunch we ever had was today's, yesterday's and the day before's cheese slice and a Coke at Brooklyn. At $2 even, who can possibly pass up that classic thin slice of divine deliciousness with all the red hot pepper flakes you can handle, washed down by a bubbly refreshement (sorry, it's b.y.o. champagne)?