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[whitespace] Cheap Eats

By Loren Stein

Baja Fresh Mexican Grill
3990 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
Mon-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 11am-9pm

Other Locations:

1708 Oakland Rd., #100, San Jose

117 Bernal Rd., South San Jose
408. 363.9400

GO INTO any Baja Fresh, and you'll find the place humming with happy eaters. The cooks have to jam just to keep up. Why? Because although the 169-restaurant chain does indeed qualify as fast food, Baja Fresh is the antidote to the Taco Bells of the world, with a large menu of made-to-order dishes that use no lard, MSG, microwaves, freezers or can openers (the chain's trademark slogan). Even the made-on-site tortilla chips are cholesterol-free.

Plus, Baja Fresh's portions are hefty, but the prices are not, ranging from $1.85-$2.25 (for Baja-style tacos) to $5.25-$6.95 for combos. A just-prepared salsa bar with chopped cilantro, jalapeño slices, green onions, fiery salsa Roja, charbroiled tomato-based salsa Baja and other condiments complement the chicken or marinated flank steak burritos, taco chilitos, quesadillas, fajita combos, taquitos, tostadas and other grilled or charbroiled dishes. For the adventurous palate, there are even "wild" gulf shrimp tacos to munch on. Beverages include ice tea, lemonade and soft drinks (with a bin of limes), but no alcohol.

Baja Fresh's popularity has not gone unnoticed. In June, the franchise was scooped up by Wendy's International, the hamburger chain, which expects to cash in on the quick-but-quality Mexican food concept. Expect to see a lot more Baja Fresh's over the next few years. Its new owners hope to open as many as 700 new Baja Fresh's by 2007. Olé.

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From the July 11-17, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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