13 spots to get free chips and salsa with dinner (because it’s necessary)

Courtesy of Cantina 1511

Just as I look forward to free bread before a meal at Italian restaurants, I also get excited about free chips and salsa when craving Mexican food. While dunking warm tortilla chips in fire-roasted tomato salsa during a recent trip to Superica, I found myself inspired to list all of the places that grace the table with crunchy chips prior to a meal.

If you choose your restaurants based on whether they offer free chips (we’ve all done it), here’s a list to jump-start your dinner plans:

Paco’s Tacos & Tequila

6401 Morrison Blvd. #8a

Vibe: Offering over 100 tequila selections and a menu designed under the guidance of James Beard award-winning Tex-Mex culinary expert Rob Walsh, Paco’s Tacos & Tequila combines vibrant décor and exciting experiences (think: guacamole prepared tableside) to keep guests coming back.

What to order: Enchiladas de Dennis (chicken, spinach, and cheese topped with chili con queso, avocado, and red pepper crema)

[Related: The 15 most incredible salads in Charlotte, ranked]

[Related: 10 unexpected taco combinations, and where to find them]


101 W Worthington Ave. #100

Vibe: Designed with elements of the Old West infused with Tex-Mex flavors, Superica is new to Charlotte, but already serves hot plates of their famous Queso Fundido to hungry Queen City locals. Chips are served with fire-roasted tomato salsa and avocado verde salsa. Dig in!

What to order: Skirt Steak (comes with amazing frothy champagne-infused butter – can’t go wrong there!)

[Related: 13 of the best Tex-Mex spots, from South End to south Charlotte]

Cabo Fish Taco

3201 N Davidson St.

Vibe: Cabo Fish Taco blends the flavors of coastal Mexican cuisine with the healthy mindset of Southern California. Think: laid-back, hipster-friendly atmosphere.

What to order: Carne Asada Tacos (grilled steak, roasted red tomato sauce, peppers, onions, avocado, mixed greens, tomatoes, cheese)

[Related: How you can still be healthy while eating at Mexican, Italian and other international restaurants]

Las Margaritas

4426 E Independence Blvd.

Vibe: From the outside, this strip mall gem seems unassuming, but the inside welcomes you into a homey Mexican eatery complete with vibrant décor and friendly staff. The authentic food is incredible, and the portion sizes don’t disappoint.

What to order: Supremo Burrito (chicken or beef, cheese, homemade red sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, guacamole, sour cream; served with a hefty portion of rice and beans)

Azteca Family Mexican Restaurant

116 E Woodlawn Road

Vibe: This family-owned business prides itself on serving authentic Mexican and American favorites and providing a “fiesta” to every customer that visits one of its four locations. Colorful plates, a welcoming atmosphere, and eccentric drink menus make it a Mexican destination in Charlotte.

What to order: Chorizo con Huevos (Mexican sausage and eggs).

Three Amigos Mexican Grill and Cantina

2917 Central Ave. A

Vibe: This Plaza Midwood gem serves authentic Mexican cuisine in a cozy, cheerful setting. Their enchiladas are a fan favorite, and dishes come complete with a large serving of rice and beans.

What to order: Enchiladas Poblanas (three chicken tortillas covered in signature Mexican mole sauce, cheese, onions, and sour cream).

[Related: The ultimate guide to tacos, from south Charlotte to Lake Norman]

Cantina 1511

4271 Park Road

Vibe: Fueled by a margarita bar scene and a dedication to consistent service, Cantina 1511 prepares authentic cuisine in its three Charlotte locations. The imaginative décor matches the lively atmosphere, welcoming both families and post-work crowds alike.

What to order: Texas Red Chili Braised Brisket (Oaxaca cheese, rajas).


7314 Waverly Walk Ave., Suite E8

Vibe: Known for serving “big as yo’ face” burritos in an Elvis-inspired setting, Chuy’s colors the walls with hand-carved wooden fish and colors their plates with authentic Tex-Mex cuisine. Fun fact: I met the owner during my internship with Disney, and he is the nicest, most down-to-earth individual!  

What to order: Southwestern Enchilada (homemade blue corn tortilla with hand-pulled chicken, cheese, green chile sauce, and a fried egg).


2433 South Blvd.

Vibe: A beachy, So-Cal atmosphere radiates inside this South Boulevard eatery, complete with a menu inspired by California street food. Its proximity to The Music Yard makes it a summer evening destination.

What to order: Half Chicken Tinga (chicken charbroiled in a spicy achiote marinade with quinoa, black beans, and plantains)

Miguel’s Mexican and American Restaurant

4252 Business Center Dr.

Vibe: Miguel’s serves affordable Mexican and American fare, as well as drinks, in a snug, low-key setting.

What to order: Enchilada Suprema (four enchiladas, one beef, one chicken, one bean, one cheese topped with cheese, ranchero sauce, tomato, and sour cream)

Monterrey Restaurante Mexicano

10707-A Park Road

Vibe: Spanish-influenced architecture and Mexican touches make guests feel as though they’re dining in Monterrey, Mexico. This family-owned eatery prides itself on its “must-taste” margarita menu for new visitors – a menu perfected over 28 years.  

What to order: Pollo con Queso (grilled chicken breast in cheese sauce, served with rice, beans, and a flour tortilla)

Vida Mexican Kitchen Y Cantina

210 E Trade St.

Vibe: Serving specialty Mexican fare and its signature Skinny Margaritas, Vida Cantina draws visitors with its trendy patio and menu of over 100 tequilas. Note: Visitors must dine at the Vida Cantina side, not the Vida Vida side, to receive the free chips with a meal.

What to order: Combo Plate #3 (chicken and spinach enchilada, chicken tinga enchilada, and chicken and corn enchilada served with red chile rice and black beans)

Hot Taco

200 E Bland St. A

Vibe: Brick walls and colorful cocktails populate this venue just off the Bland Street light rail stop, a favorite post-work haven for South End residents.  

What to order: Fajita-rrito (shrimp, bell peppers, onions, lettuce, rice, black beans, queso, ranchero, pico de gallo)

[Related: Hot Taco: A cocktail for every occasion (we’re talking 60+ tequilas)]


  1. Superica has terrible service. When you have to ask where are your drinks 15 mins after they are ordered and they have clearly been sitting out the entire time with all that condensation. Plus the food would never make it in TX. Please add onions, peppers, cheese, and other toppings to your fajitas. Meand tortillas are not the only ingredients. Make me feel like I am in TX. Please.


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