Apr 15, 2024 - Food and Drink

Mexican restaurants' chips and salsa policies under the microscope

Gov. Brian Kemp dips a tortilla chip in salsa under the shade during a campaign stop in a mixed-use area

Where does Gov. Brian Kemp stand on the Great Chips and Salsa Debate? Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

To many diners, complimentary, endless servings of chips and salsa at Mexican restaurants are as expected as silverware and a napkin.

  • And when patrons are asked to pay to enjoy the pre-meal crunch fest, many scoff, balk and sometimes vow to never return. But should they?

Why it matters: Everyone knows all debates get settled on the internet. Let's do this.

Driving the news: Earlier this year, chef Helio Bernal and new owners unveiled Boca, the reboot of Summerhill restaurant D Boca N Boca.

  • In came new management, a revamped menu with lower prices and "free chips and salsa" to create "a homier, more neighborly atmosphere."

Catch up quick: Bernal opened the Georgia Avenue restaurant in 2022; not long after, online reviewers complained about the food's price points and, in at least one instance, not being served complimentary chips and salsa.

  • We reached out to Boca for more information about the decision and to hear how the reboot's been going.

How it works: Chips are a carb-heavy loss leader that help pass the time while you wait on main dishes — and can even make you even hungrier.

  • Their added cost to the restaurant — which is baked into the other items on the menu — comes with a potential trade-off: that customers will also order high-margin alcoholic drinks to address the salt-induced thirst.

The other side: Dos Burros, which opened in the Ford Factory on the Eastside Trail this past year, charges $5 for chips and salsa.

  • Dos Burros co-owner Skip Engelbrecht told Axios that "free chips and salsa don't pay Beltline rents" and that the laid-back restaurant's customers have rarely voiced any offense.

Yes, and: There are casual Mexican restaurants. Then there are concepts like D Boca N Boca — authentic Mexican cuisine with menus curated for a more focused dining experience.

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