If you’ve been to Taco Trio in South Portland over the years, you’ll have no trouble finding its new location. But you may have a little trouble believing it’s the same place.

Taco Trio opened its new location at 60 Ocean St. in late October, in the former Big Babe’s Tavern building. It’s a shiny and bright space with seating for about 90 in a colorful dining area, including a bar that serves a range of agave-based spirits. There’s also a spacious, covered outdoor area that includes take-out windows.

The old Taco Trio space was just a few blocks away on Ocean Street, in a nondescript storefront with seating for 24. Often, before pandemic times, the lines of people ordering or picking up takeout bumped up against people seated at tables. The owners had thought about renovating the old space, but found the cost to be too high.

A champiniones burrito from Taco Trio in South Portland. Ray Routhier photo

Big Babe’s Tavern – a music venue and restaurant – opened in a brand-new building at 60 Ocean St. in January 2020 but shut down two months later because of the pandemic. Owner Ginger Cote put the two-story building up for sale that July. Taco Trio owners Karen Rasmussen and Manny Pena announced this May that they had bought the former Big Babe’s building and would move their restaurant there.

Though Taco Trio has a new, brighter spot, it’s serving the same authentic Mexican cuisine that has earned it praise around Greater Portland. On a recent Friday night, I found that the online order form included all the favorite dishes my family and I have ordered over the years – we live just a mile away – and maybe a few more.

Photo by Ray Routhier

Part of the new bar and dining area at Taco Trio’s new location. There’s more bar to the left and more dining as well. Ray Routhier photo

My wife, Jess, got a champiniones burrito ($12.25) with sauteed mushrooms, onions and jalapenos, plus cheese, rice, black beans and pico de gallo salsa in a flour tortilla. My daughter, Dinah, got a pollo con mole burrito ($13.75), which featured grilled chicken in mole sauce with queso fresco, plus cheese, rice, black beans and salsa in a flour tortilla.

Both were stuffed full, but the tortilla held the fillings well. Both Jess and Dinah really like their burritos and thought about saving half for lunch the next day, but then thought better of that plan.

I had sopes, something I’ve never had anywhere else other than Taco Trio. They are little fried corn dough patties or bowls topped with pinto beans, lettuce, sour cream, Mexican cheese and your choice of filling. I ordered two because they are smaller than a burrito but bigger than a taco.

Taco Trio’s new South Portland location – but still on Ocean Street – is in the former Big Babe’s Tavern space. Ray Routhier photo

One of mine was pescado chipotle, with beer-battered fried fish, orange cabbage slaw, avocado and chipotle mayo, for $5.60. It was very tangy, creamy and delicious. The fish and slaw worked especially well together. I also had a pollo con mole sope, with grilled marinated chicken and mole sauce, for $5.60. I really liked both but probably favor the pescado. Two sopes makes for a very filling meal.

With our order, we got a big bag of Taco Trio’s fresh tortilla chips and six little cups of various salsas – two per order. Taco Trio’s menu includes more than a dozen kinds of tacos and a similar amount of burrito and sope varieties, plus quesadillas, enchiladas and tamales.

Here’s a tip: I used to try to pick up the sopes to eat them, but there are just too many gooey toppings, so now I just cut them with a knife and fork.

I ordered our dinner online – something I’ve gotten accustomed to during the pandemic – around 5 p.m. and chose a pick-up time of 6:15 p.m. When I got there, I found I didn’t even have to go inside, as there was a pick-up window specifically set up for online and phone orders. But I did go in, for a minute, to see the colorful dining space and gleaming bar. The shelves of liquor behind the curved bar were accented with blue lights. The walls are yellow and orange with blue accents, and seats and tables are a mix of the same colors.

Parking is on Ocean Street in the Knightville section of South Portland, fast becoming a foodie destination. Other nearby restaurants, bakeries or food shops that have opened nearby in the last couple of years include Cafe Louis, BenReuben’s Knishery, Judy Gibson, Solo Cucina Cucina Market and SoPo Seafood.

Other popular spots on or near Ocean Street that have been there more than a few years include Foulmouthed Brewing, Verbena and Cia Cafe, plus longtime neighborhood destinations like The Bridgeway and The Snow Squall. Still, I was able to find a parking spot just a block away from Taco Trio on a Friday night.

But even if you do have to park a couple blocks away on Ocean Street, that just means you can eye another restaurant to try another day.


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