May 9, 2013

Eat and Run: Loco Coco's Tacos, Kittery

Not quite south of the border, this fine authentic Mexican joint is well worth the trip.

From staff reports

Loco Coco's doesn't try to be the hippest taco joint in town. You'll find people of all ages and backgrounds enjoying a range of Mexican fare, from beef tongue tacos to a Tia Margarita fish burrito made the way the owner's family has done it for generations.

click image to enlarge

Loco Coco bartender Michelle Koterba with a ground beef taco topped with cheddar cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo and sour cream.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

LOCO COCO'S TACOS

WHERE: 36 Walker St., Kittery; 438-9322

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday

CHEAPEST GRUB: Tacos, $2.50 to $3.95 each

WAIT: Five minutes

PARKING: Yes

HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes

RATING: **** 1/2

This is a popular spot for a quick but delicious meal in the Kittery area. If you live in the Portland area, stop by the next time you're passing through Kittery, and you won't be disappointed. (Kittery is becoming a nice little restaurant hot spot, with choices such as Tulsi for Indian food, The Black Birch for tapas and Anneke Jans for bistro fare.)

The main dining area at Loco Coco's has 13 tables. Customers order at the counter and grab their own silverware. There's a cooler filled with drinks to choose from, but the restaurant also has fountain drinks, lemonade and bright red Jamaica hibiscus water for those who want a sweet but refreshing Mexican beverage.

If you want sit-down service or something a little stronger than lemonade, just walk through to the attached cantina.

I went with the more casual fare. It was hard to decide what to order from the extensive menu, which includes a choice of a dozen burritos -- actually, 24 burritos, since they come in small and large sizes.

The small versions range from $5.45 for a simple bean and cheese burrito to $8.45 for the Corazon burrito. The Corazon is your choice of any style burrito covered with rojas, verde or mole sauce, then roasted with jack/cheddar cheese. The large versions of these burritos cost $6.95 and $9.95.

The menu includes three kinds of enchiladas, all for $9.25. They come three to an order, and are served with rice and beans. Quesadillas, nachos, tostadas and salads are also on the menu, and two breakfast dishes -- huevos rancheros and a steak and egg burrito -- are served all day.

If you have kids, you don't have to worry about food that's too spicy. Loco Coco's has a small (five choices) children's menu, and it's all just $4.25.

I wanted to try as much variety as possible but had only one meal, so I went with the tacos. Tacos range from $2.50 for a simple ground beef hard shell taco with lettuce, pico de gallo, sour cream and dry ricotta to $3.95 for a Baja fish or shrimp taco. The Baja fish taco is made with beer-fried pollock or shrimp that's been fried or grilled, and it's topped with shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, avocado sauce, something called "zesty sauce" and sour cream.

Customers have the choice of ordering the tacos in threes. Three of the ground beef tacos cost $6.75, and three of the fish or shrimp tacos are $10.95.

I decided to order three individual tacos for the most variety -- a fried fish taco, a barbacoa taco and a "special carnitas" taco. The guy at the counter gave me a special price for my mix-and-match plate, charging me $8.95 for three barbacoas.

The barbacoa was a soft, 5-inch corn tortilla topped with slow-cooked beef barbacoa, cabbage and cilantro, and it came with small sides of guacamole and jalapeno salsa. The carnitas came with pepperjack cheese, spicy salsa, cilantro, onion, pico de gallo and a side of tomatillo salsa.

If you want more salsa, Loco Coco's has a small salsa bar where you can load up on habanero if you like it hot, smoky chipotle or cooler avocado.

This was, to be honest, way too much food for lunch. But it was fresh, and looked great on the plate. Come hungry.

I had no room for dessert, but the choices were tempting: Mexican flan, coconut pudding, tres leches and fried ice cream.

Next time, I'm trying the cantina.

The staff of GO anonymously samples meals for about $10. Ratings are based on a five-star scale.

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