salsa rosada photo by michelle volansky

First Look: Salsa Rosada in Midtown St. Louis

Salsa Rosada, the new Venezuelan and Colombian restaurant from Mayo Ketchup owners Mandy Estrella and Bradley Payne, opened at 3135 Olive St. in Midtown today, April 18. The restaurant is located in the space that was formerly used by Hugo’s Pizzeria and The Hornet’s Nest. 

The layout of the new restaurant feels like an organic next step for Estrella and Payne, building on what they have already established with Mayo Ketchup. This new restaurant is larger and more spacious, with a full bar and two distinct seating areas, but has much in common with the fast-casual concept that has served their other restaurant well. Just like at Mayo Ketchup, Salsa Rosada customers will primarily order at a walkup counter, but table service will be offered to customers sitting in the bar room. 

Salsa Rosada shares a few menu items with its sister restaurant, including hard-to-resist yuca fries, but those examples aside, the two restaurants diverge. Where Mayo Ketchup celebrates the cuisines of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, Colombian cooking takes center stage at Salsa Rosada. Estrella, Payne and their team have developed the menu in close consultation with members of the local Venezuelan and Colombian communities, hosting tastings, receiving feedback and tweaking recipes as the process has unfolded. 

Arepas are one of the menu’s signature Colombian and Venezuelan items. Estrella said that Colombian arepas are usually filled simply with cheese, or there are variations like the cheese-and-black-bean stuffed “arepa domino.” In contrast, Venezuelan arepas incorporate a broader variety of fillings. “Anything that could go in a bowl or on a plate, [Venezuelans] love to stuff all of that into an arepa,” she said. Made with white corn, all of Salsa Rosada’s arepas are offered either fried, the way Venezuelans prefer them, or unfried and griddled on a flattop as is the convention in Colombia. 

Empanadas are another big part of the menu here. Made in Colombia and Venezuela with yellow corn rather than the flour-based dough typical in Argentinian empanadas. Salsa Rosada’s empanada selection includes ground beef and potato, or a salty white cheese option. 

An order of tequeños will be an essential part of a visit to Salsa Rosada. These sticks of pastry are filled with cheese, and are an addictively chewy, salty treat that can also be ordered with a sweet guava paste. Salsa Rosada will also offer cachitos from St. Charles bakery Pan Pa’ Ti, operated by Venezuelans Jose De Leon and Maria Barragan. Cachitos are soft, doughy bread sticks, stuffed with various ingredients and cut into sandwich-sized pieces for serving. Estrella said Salsa Rosada’s cachitos will include ham and cheese and turkey and cream cheese options. “They’re fantastic,” she said.   

The bar’s 12 taps will be concentrated mostly on beer, but there will be at least one draft cocktail and a red and white wine on tap. Estrella said the beer selection will feature a combination of local beers – Modern BreweryEarthbound Beer and Six Mile Bridge will all have beers available – as well as other draft pours that have been chosen simply because they pair well with Salsa Rosada’s food, including a beer from Kona Brewing Co. and a pineapple Ace Cider

Diners looking for something Colombian to sip on will be able to order the frozen limonada de coco, made with fresh lime and coconut milk. The limonada de coco is non-alcoholic, but Estrella said you’ll be able to order it with rum added for a boozy kick. The bar will also offer tropical and fruity rum cocktails, and Estrella said the barrel aged Manhattan that has been popular at Mayo Ketchup will also be added to the drink list. 

Salsa Rosada is currently open for lunch Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Opening hours and days will be expanded over the next month.