Chicken tacos from El Mexicano in Sanford. Photos by Aimsel Ponti

I’ve been making the trip down to Sanford  from Portland for many years now to see my mother-in-law, Tess, in nearby Shapleigh. What began as a regular visit a few weekends ago ended up a delicious feast when Tess uttered the words my spouse Tracy and I have been waiting for years for her to say: “There’s a good Mexican place in Sanford.”

El Mexicano actually opened in 2017. How did we not know this? With rumbling stomachs and much curiosity, we made our way there and chose to sit in the front bar area by the window rather than in the vast dining area. We were there at an odd time, around 3 p.m., and mostly had the place to ourselves.

There’s no way around it: El Mexicano is in a strip mall and our view was of a mundane parking lot. But the inside of the restaurant is entirely pleasant with chairs fashioned from wooden barrels and plenty of vibrant artwork.

But we weren’t there to scrutinize the view or look at prints of Frida Kahlo, we were there to eat, and per usual, I was muy hambriento (very hungry) as I perused an impressive menu of appetizers, soups, salads and, of course, all of the Mexican offerings you’d expect to find. There was one app in particular that made my heart stop for a moment with sheer delight – one that I’ve only found in a few Mexican spots ever and among my favorite things on the planet: Mexican street corn, aka elote.

Elote from El Mexicano.

I dusted off all of my Spanish for a lively chat with our server and ordered the corn along with some chicken tacos. Cold beverages were enjoyed by all, and before too long, our food arrived.

The elote ($5 and worth every penny) came enrobed in a creamy chili and lime-infused sauce and was topped with Cotija. It was almost too magnificent looking to eat, but don’t think for one second I hesitated before devouring it. The tacos ($3.95 each) were also works of culinary art. My mouth played host to a flavor fiesta of fresh ingredients, and when all was said and done, my plate was clean, and I was ready for a satiated siesta.

Te amo, El Mexicano! Sanford was already home to my favorite Marden’s, and now it’s home to my favorite Mexican restaurant. I don’t need a reason to visit my wonderful mother-in-law, but you can bet on me upping the frequency of those visits and making sure they’re around mealtimes.