The chicken chimichanga at Buen Apetito is worth the drive north on a Friday. Photos by Bob Keyes

WATERVILLE — First impressions are important, and my first impression of Buen Apetito – “enjoy your meal” in English – was positive. The exterior of the building at Railroad Square appeared clean and neat under a scorching early afternoon sun, and the interior felt cool and colorful. I had hoped for a single seat at the bar to grab a quick lunch, but the bar was crowded – another good sign. This place is popular, I thought.

I was given a booth in the dining room and was pleased to see that chips and salsa had already been set out on the table, enabling me to dig right in while contemplating food and drink choices – another nice touch.

The good vibes continued throughout my lunch experience, with courteous and efficient service and a reasonably priced meal that satisfied my hunger and schedule. I was in town to look at the exhibition at the Colby College Museum of Art, “The Beauty We Carry,” and had less than an hour before I was due at the museum. I wanted to try a restaurant I had never been to before, and was craving a burrito or taco. Buen Apetito was the first place that showed up on a Google search of “Mexican food Waterville,” just ahead of Taco Bell. It was an easy choice. Buen Apetito has been a local mainstay for 20 years, but it was new to me, and I am glad I finally found it.

The lunch special Chiquito burrito for $10 tempted me, but I opted for the chicken chimichanga for $14.95, which included rice, beans and sides of sour cream and guacamole. A friendly waitress placed my order, served water and brought my drink in moments. While the bar area was crowded, the dining room was not, which may explain the attentive service. I had the full attention of the dining room staff.

The dining room at Buen Apetito felt neat and clean.

The room was clean, with walls painted in mossy green. The booths and chairs were solid, rugged wood. On the walls were paintings of chilies in dramatic, dark reds. I do not claim expertise in Mexican music, but the music that played on the sound system sounded authentic and original. It grabbed and held my attention, and added to the positive experience.

Within 10 minutes, my food arrived, along with a refill of chips. The platter was filled with a plump chimichanga, which is a deep-fried burrito and a specialty of Tex-Mex cuisine, and large portions of rice and beans, along with a mix of lettuce, diced tomatoes and cheese. The sides of sour cream and guacamole came in small plastic cups, and filled out what was a very hot plate. Continuing a theme, the presentation was clean and neat.

I rarely order chimichangas to avoid fried food, but this chimichanga felt more baked than fried. There was no grease whatsoever. The chicken was diced in small chunks and retained its juices, and the cheese was gooey and stringy. While the plate itself was piping hot, the chimichanga was heated evenly, and I was never at risk of burning my mouth. The rice was light and fluffy and the beans had what I detected as a hint of lemon that enlivened their freshness and heightened their appeal.

I learned later that Buen Apetito is open for lunch only on Fridays and Saturdays. I was there on a Friday and lucked out. My next trip to Waterville also will fall on a Friday, if I have anything to say about the scheduling.

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