The Baltimore-Washington region has long awaited decent Mexican fast food. It seems to finally have gotten it. Baja Fresh is apparently a California-based chain, and its food is in line with what I would call Cal-Mex (note rice in the burritos - see my review of the Burro).
Baja Fresh is not unlike DC's two homegrown Cal-Mex chains, The Burro and Burrito Bros., except that it is simply vastly superior. The food is definitely fresh, and the recipes take full advantage of the ingredients.
I went to the Baja Fresh in Columbia, MD. New stores are opening all around the region in the next year. The Columbia restaurant was clean, the service was fairly fast. Its not McDonalds fast, but then again the food is made to order. Personally, I'll wait.
I've noted that some other reviewers have rated Baja Fresh poorly for its lack of authenticity. All things are relative. It is probably a fair criticism in Baja's home state of California, but here in the mid-Atlantic beggars can't be choosers. In my former life as a Texan I probably would have panned this place in favor of a local place. In Maryland, however, I've been beaten into submission. This place is the best Mexican food this area is likely to see, at least on the fast food end of the spectrum.
Definately worth a stop for expat Southwesterners starved for a little heat.
Oh, the salsas. They all seem to be made with chipotle (sp?) peppers. These are poblanos that have been dried through a smoking process. They give dishes they are in a kind of smoky flavor. They can be nice in some dishes, but personally I'd rather have a fresher tasting salsa with straight fresh serranos or jalepenos. It's just a personal preference, but one that I think is not uncommon. Given that they have a selection of four salsas, you'd think one would be made with fresh peppers only. Still, this is a small quibble, and since their Pico de Gallo is pretty good, I'll live.
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