CalMex in Maine done right

Our plan was dinner at anneka jans,an upscale bistro in downtown Kittery. Foolish me, I thought: rainy, Wednesday night, no prob. Hah. That local gem was packed, with a minimum of a half hour wait for a bar stool, and only the possibility of a cancellation for a table.

Back out into the rain we went, and off to tongue-twister Loco Coco’s Tacos, the li’l takeout that keeps growing. First it added a greenhouse-like bar, and since I was last there, a full-service dining room (nothing fancy, but lots of natural light and bright colors), in addition to a take-out area with seating (again, colorful and cheery).

Locos is another happening Kittery place, with a nearly full lot that almost had us in a panic. We lucked out, in that most folks were getting take out. The lounge still had a few seats as did the dining room. We snagged a tall top and, I kid you not, within 15 minutes of sitting down had our meal.

There’s a reason this place keeps growing and is so busy, or I should say reasons. First, service is fast, friendly, and efficient. Second, the food is not the usual Maine version of Mexican fare–no cheese glopped on brown-sauced food with lackluster salsa.

Let’s face it, you can’t get much farther from Mexico than Maine and remain in the continental United States. No wonder that with only a few exceptions (The Mexican Restaurant in Hancock being another), what passes as Mex-inspired here is usually a far cry from authentic. That’s not the case here. Loco’s serves damn fine Cal-Mex. It’s gorgeous to look at and tastes even better.

“You know the usual story of the Mexican grandmother in the kitchen,” our waitress replied, when I asked her if everything was made from scratch. “Well we’ve got the grandmother, her kids, and her grandkids.” And the proof is in the flavor.

We had a chicken burrito made with marinated char-grilled chicken, rice and beans, jack and cheddar cheese, fresh salsa, lettuce, guacomole, and sour cream; and a Baja-style fish taco: beer battered boneless fish, shreddd cabbage, fresh salsa, avacado sauce, sour cream, and sauce. Our waitress said if we wanted to ramp it up, we could do so at the salsa bar, where four salsas (three medium and one hot; avacado, chipotle, habanero, and one I can’t remember), were available. And trust me, even a couple of the medium-ranked ones had quite a kick.

And the bottom line? Burrito, $7.50; fish taco, $3.75; wine, $5.50. With tip, out of there for about $20. As much as I want to try anneke jans, it’ll be tough not to return here.

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