Happy hour, TV, great service and awesome Mexican food make for a lively scene at this Falmouth eatery.

The scene at Bueno Loco on a recent weeknight was unexpected. From the outside, this Mayan-Mexican eatery looks to be another chain restaurant in the middle of a shopping center – Walmart and fast-food restaurants do tend to dominate this busy section of Route 1 in Falmouth.

But Bueno Loco isn’t a chain. The first restaurant of owner Sharon Stark, Bueno Loco has slaked the craving for Mexican food in Falmouth after many years, and on most nights the bar is nearly full. While the crowd consists of local residents stopping in after work for happy hour ($5 house margaritas, $4 glasses of wine, $3 draft beers), Stark says her clientele is a good mix of people from Greater Portland and beyond. She has regulars from Scarborough and Biddeford.

In addition to quality Mexican cuisine, diners are greeted with exceptional service – there were reports of slow service initially, but that seems to be fixed – and a laid-back mood. If you’re a few minutes late to this happy hour, they won’t turn you down. In fact, call ahead and let Eddy at the bar know you’re on your way. He’ll still serve you the discount.

The restaurant is very roomy, with high ceilings and a long, open kitchen that extends from one end to the other. While the colors are vivid and festive, they do little to brighten up the space, unfortunately. The décor is uniform, clean and there’s a good amount of effort – note the fresh tulips in vases at each place setting – to make Bueno Loco seem less like a cafeteria and more like a sophisticated restaurant.

Stark, who has a background in hotel management and hospitality, knew that when she opened Bueno Loco in early 2013, she’d want to retain the clientele that frequented the Stonyfield Café and O’Naturals – the two prior businesses at Bueno Loco’s current location. The Stonyfield Café closed in 2012 after over a decade in business, and served many vegan and vegetarian options.

There isn’t a separate bar menu, but cheap eats that pair well with any of their seven house-made margaritas (all $8 or $8.50), include chips and salsa for $4 (five salsa options), a half order of nachos for $8 (full is $11), or three sliders (burger, pulled pork, fish sandwich) for $9.

Other drinks include a house sangria, mojito and blood orange gin fizz. All cocktails are $9 and under. There are five beers on tap for $6 and under; 17 beers by the bottle, including Dos Equis, Modelo, Sol and Tecate; and a quick list of reds, whites and bubbles.

Bueno Loco sources as much as they can from local farms and aims to have plenty to offer for vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free customers. The dining room is especially family-friendly and the bar is a particularly good spot to have a casual meal or watch a game on one of the two TVs. A welcome addition to Falmouth, Bueno Loco might be here to stay – for good.

Claire Jeffers is a Portland freelance writer.

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