The green plastic banner hanging over the front of the door at Bueno Loco said “$8 Express Lunch.” I put the blinker on and headed in immediately. Generally speaking, I don’t brake for plastic banners, but I’d heard good things about this Mexican restaurant in Falmouth, and after Christmas spending, an $8 lunch sounded like a bargain worth exploring.
I did a quick Google search in the parking lot to see what Bueno Loco is known for. It was a few days out from my sister’s amazing tenderloin and Yorkshire pudding Christmas dinner, but I still felt full, so I wanted something light. That’s not necessarily any Mexican restaurant’s specialty, but from MaineToday’s Bar Guide columnist’s visit in 2014, the year after the restaurant opened, I learned that Bueno Loco “aims to have plenty to offer for vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free customers.” I resolved to try something, anything, vegan.
It was after 2 p.m., so there was barely anyone inside, but the lunch special goes until 4 p.m. I sat myself and a friendly server was right there with a menu and a pitcher of water. From the half dozen express options (which included a full burrito), I considered a cup of soup and taco combination, but the soup of the day was a tortilla soup made with chicken. Not vegan. I opted instead for the burrito bowl, with grilled vegetables, and asked my server to hold the cheese and sour cream.
“I do have vegan cheese and vegan sour cream,” she said.
Usually, I’m a snotty purist. I want my cheese and assorted dairy products made with animal fat and milk only. But the other day, a friend was talking about making cheese from cashews, and she said it was delicious, and I know she loves food far too much to ever lie to me about it, so I decided, why not?
My dish was ready in under five minutes. The grilled vegetables seemed to be only green and red peppers and onions and tasted a lot like what you get with fajitas, which is to say, soft and gently spiced and smokey. I gingerly tasted the sour cream, which had the normal texture, but maybe tighter, and all the usual tanginess. The salsa seemed to be made of roasted tomatoes. The beans were black and the rice minimal. In short, a Mexican food lunch that tasted just the way I wanted it to but felt lighter and healthier. I read my book while I ate and contemplated the way that McDonald’s-eating fiend Bill Clinton had become a vegan and seemingly never fallen off the wagon. That wasn’t going to be me, but maybe I’d dig out that Mark Bittman cookbook “VB6,” in which he espouses the virtues of eating vegan before 6 p.m. and then eating whatever one pleases for dinner.
Maybe. This is the time of year when everyone is making commitments around food, or flat-out resolutions. For now, I’m just going to make a commitment to return to Bueno Loco and try a few more dishes.
WHERE: 240 Route 1, Falmouth
INFO: (207) 619-7057, buenoloco.net
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday. Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
WAIT: About five minutes (but at off-hours, may be different at peak meal times)
PARKING: Easy, in front.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes