Bites Nearby: Moe's Southwest Grill

This brand-new restaurant on Main St. in Waltham is already a big hit.

Southwest Grill at 831 Main St., just across from Hannaford's supermarket, took almost six months to get off the ground, but for fans of this popular southwestern-theme chain, it's been worth the wait.

"We spent nine months looking for the right spot," says local owner Steve Hixson. "First we wanted to be in Boston, but nothing was quite right; so my wife did a lot of searching, and we finally decided on this location."

Moe's Southwest Grill, which began a decade ago in Atlanta, Georgia, now has 444 locations nationwide and seven in Massachusetts. The chain has a 21st-century philosophy, too, which includes fresh ingredients, lots of vegetarian offerings (they won an award for them) and plenty of low-calorie and gluten-free dishes. Also, no trans fats, no MSG, no microwaving and the vegetables are grilled on grills separated from the meats.

"Our goal is to have anyone served within three minutes," says owner Hixson.

What to eat: The tacos are fresh and light (and either crisp or soft-shelled), with more than a dozen choices of add-on ingredients: cheese, sour cream guacamole, beans, corn, tomato, cilantro and more. The ingredients all seem fresh, so you can't go wrong with almost any dish. Carvel soft ice cream is also served in the restaurant.

The vibe: Party-like, with a classic pop and rock music in the background, and lots of different configurations of tables and booths, often filled with local college students and young workers.

Cool factor no. 1: Right now, when you enter, staffers shout out "Welcome to Moe's!"

Cool factor no. 2: The background music is classic yet not timeworn rock and pop tunes.

Cool factor no. 3: The drink dispenser provides dozens of choices of sodas and juices (as well as free water). And it's designed by the designers of Ferrari sportcars (see images). Now that's cool.


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