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Walk into Bajio, walk into grill heaven

More good stuff this week. I like that. I visited Bajio (say Bah-hee-oh) in the Riverwoods shopping center in North Provo. Twice, in fact. It was a "gotta-have-more" sort of thing.

As usual, it came as a great referral from a reader who appreciates a little Utah County representation now and then. And there is plenty of good food in those parts, for sure.

My Orem friend said, "Go to Bajio — it's sooo good and sooo fresh." And she was right. To walk into Bajio is to walk into grill heaven: It has an intense roasty, spicy aroma that reels you in by the nostrils. The decor is tasteful and festive. Bajio has the whole package. It's casual, arty, inexpensive, good for take-out or dine in, and the fresh, original recipes are really tasty.

Bajio is set up in a service-line style. Start at the point in the line where freshly made tortillas are being cooked and a large mural-style menu stands grandly before you. Place your order there and move down the line with your chef as he adds black or pinto beans, sweet onion rice or Spanish rice, your choice of meats, your choice of salsas, corn and sweet onions. That's the hot end of the line.

Then you move your plate to the fresh end where you may add veggies, a ranch sour cream, cheese, guacamole and various other add-ons.

Certainly a concept like Bajio is not that uncommon, but I like the way Bajio tastes.

I like the sweet grilled onions you can add to practically anything. I like the tart green salsa. The black pepper-infused black beans play well with every choice you could make, but so do the smoky pinto beans. Whether you choose shredded beef, pork or chicken for your meal, they're all seasoned well with hearty spices.

The fun at Bajio is in the flavorful and distinctive details.

I have a couple favorites from the menu. First the Mexican Pizza. If you're thinking of something wimpy like you get at Taco Bell, erase that. Bajio's is more like a super-stuffed double-decker tostada. It looks nothing like a pizza by the time you get to the end of the line, and to my Western orientation, it's nearly impossible to pick up and eat with your hands. The quality of the tortillas makes most of what Bajio offers excellent. When they're fried or roasted they're flaky and light.

Another winner is the Chicken Green Chili salad. It's got dark leafy greens, the grilled sweet onions, shredded chicken, corn and green chili chutney and other add-ons as you choose.

But beside the above, I tried the (over) stuffed quesadilla, the burrito, the enchilada, the nachos, and the chimichanga, and watched two toddlers put away a kids meal.

At Bajio you can order the works and smother everything to your heart's content, and it's because the food tastes so good that it's an excellent value. When good food comes in a total package like Bajio, you get a smile on your face when you think of it. That's the kind of thing that makes eating out worth it.

Prices for specialty dishes range from $4.99-7.99, tacos $4.99, salads $5.99, enchiladas $4.99, burritos $2.99-5.99, side dishes $.25-2.99, kids meals $1.99-2.49.


Bajio

*** 1/2 (out of five)

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-9:30 Friday, Saturday; closed Sunday

Location: 4801 N. University Ave. (Riverwoods Shopping Center), Provo, 224-6668 Payment: checks, major credit cards

Reservations: none needed

Internet: www.bajioatriverwoods.com

Other services: take-out


E-MAIL: stephanie@desnews.com