I’m going to try to be objective, but you should know that Ay! Salsa’s back window is accessible from my backyard. Ernesto (one of the chefs) once told me I was the love of his life. And my future husband now recognizes my phone number so that when I call, he answers with “chicken arepa?” before I even utter a word. I’ve had a love affair with Ay! Salsa for a while now.

Nonetheless, I’m going to try to give you an honest evaluation of their new dining room.

If you haven’t been to Ay! Salsa prior to the dining room addition, it was kind of like hopping into a burrito cart with six other people. Sometimes you couldn’t even get in the door because the line could only go four deep. I once saw a girl eating and studying on the sliver of a dining counter; I cried out for her discomfort. In that cubby hole of a restaurant, times were hard and airspace was limited.

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[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”578″ ]

No more! There’s now a spacious L-shaped dining room to serve your needs! Just seat yourself; it’s like a modern, Latin Johnny Rocket’s.

There’s a wall arrangement (let’s call it art) of various hot sauce bottles. The floors are hardwood, and the atmosphere is free from blaring club music like that found at ABP or G-Heav.

The plentiful black, shiny tables are contrasted with stark white serving dishes. Outside of its Styrofoam takeout plate, the arepa gets the artistic presentation it deserves. For a $10 meal, I’d call it straight-up swanky.

Dining in Ay! Salsa is like taking a vacation to a happier, homier world. The hostesses and chefs are so sweet it gives me a toothache.

My favorite member of the Ay! Salsa family is Ashley, a 5-year-old powerpack of joy. I was beyond delighted when Ashley decided to sit with me at dinner the other night. Even better than her company was when she burst out of the restroom, sans pants, yelling for her mother’s help. Classic. Felt like I was at home with my kid sister.

But enough about the feel-good, semi-hip atmosphere. The whole reason for going to Ay! Salsa in the first place is to have your taste buds tickled by what they call “Latin Gourmet” cuisine. I don’t really know what that means, but it’s darn good.

Admittedly, I’ve never been very adventurous with my menu selection. But why fix what ain’t broke? Alternating between the chicken quesadilla and chicken arepa, I’m NEVER disappointed.

The chicken arepa is a corn patty sitting atop a mound of yellow rice; veggies, chicken and special sauces cascade down the mountain. Plantains frame the dish. It’s a sizable portion, sufficient for dinner (if a smidge heavy for lunch), and if you don’t inhale it when it reaches your table, seek help.

Since a dining room encourages a prolonged, multi-course experience, I would recommend testing out some of Ay! Salsa’s appetizers.

The other night, the chefs treated me to a bowl of Honduran ceviche. The chips were slamming. The dip could’ve been thicker, but they threw in a few pieces of popcorn with the dish. So creative, so yummy.

For all you Claire’s fanatics, Ay! Salsa’s rice is vegetarian. They cook it in canola oil, not chicken stock.

A margarita on the side could be the ticket to take this dining room experience to a new level of consciousness, and I’ve heard they’re working on procuring their liquor license. OSH KOSH B’GOSH. Can you imagine? Frat/srat/OxCam row would never be the same.

I obviously give Ay! Salsa’s new dining room 10 phalanges up, so you should probably go as soon as possible. Take a date. Go with a few friends. Or take your laptop and ride solo.

The only thing to remember is to bring cash. They don’t swipe cards … yet. But Ernesto is working on it.