July 8, 2013

Dine Out Maine: Humble El El Frijoles takes Mexicali dining to joyful height

By Nancy Heiser

(Continued from page 1)

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Sargentville may seem like an unlikely place for a five-star Mexicali dining experience, but that’s what you get at El El Frijoles.

Courtesy photos by Michael Rossney

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DINING REVIEW

EL EL FRIJOLES, 41 Caterpillar Hill Road (Route 15), Sargentville. 359-2486; elelfrijoles.com

*****

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday

CREDIT CARDS: Mastercard, Visa

PRICE RANGE: $2.95 (chips and salsa) to $15.95 (spicy lobster taco)

VEGETARIAN: Yes

GLUTEN-FREE: Yes, including the corn tortillas

KIDS: Very kid-friendly, with a small playground

RESERVATIONS: No

BAR: No; BYOB. No cork fee.

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: An outdoors picnic table may be accessible if the gravel parking lot can be navigated; there's a small step to enter the barn.

BOTTOM LINE: Mexican street food meets the bounty of Maine, merging into one of the best Mexicali restaurants in the state, if not the region. Mix wonderful food with an unusual setting and magnetic owners who work the line as hard as anyone and still make it look easy and fun, and you've got a very special spot.

Ratings follow this scale and take into consideration food, atmosphere, service and value: *Poor  **Fair  ***Good ****Excellent *****Extraordinary. The Maine Sunday Telegram visits an establishment twice if the first dining experience was unsatisfactory. The reviewer dines anonymously.

 

The setting at El El Frijoles is slightly unconventional and definitely fun; even the tomato cages are multicolored. Not surprisingly, the owners were artists in the Bay Area before moving to Maine. Rossney's family has been coming to the area since 1905, so it's by no means foreign to him.

(The eatery's name has nothing to do with L.L. Bean, by the way, although that's how it translates into English.)

Desserts made us swoon -- a creamy and dark chocolate mousse ($2.50 for four ounces, a bargain) that had a touch of extra interest that I couldn't place. Perhaps it was the Belgian chocolate and the fact that it was made with local raw milk, transmitting a particular dairy "terroir."

Chipotle added to the chocolate dough made the cookies sandwiching local Morton's MOO vanilla a special twist on the traditional ($4.95).

Honest food, expertly prepared in all instances, in an atmosphere that verges on joyful -- this is El El Frijoles. Add to that a commitment to wholesome fare made with the very best ingredients sourced with an eye to ecology and community.

There's a satisfying coherence of mission, setting and food. And it's all proffered without pretension, irony or holier-than-thou hipness. Frankly, I found nothing but pure happiness here.

Nancy Heiser has been writing Dine Out Maine reviews since January 2011. She can be reached at:

nancyheiser.com

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