April 20, 2011

Sangria Flows and Cheese Oozes at New C-Town Eatery

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Located on the former site of whole food haven ABC Cafe, the new Loco Margarita Bar and Grill caters to a very different clientele. In the midst of lower Collegetown at 308 Stewart Ave., Loco seems to be competing with its neighbors The Chapter House and The Connection to lure in the hungry late-night crowd, offering “party” portions of Tex-Mex and booze.

Among the different variations of chip-and-dip appetizers, Loco boasts “Famous Authentic Chalupas” ($8.99). While actual famous or authentic chalupas are probably a rarity in Ithaca, Loco’s version of the classic is pleasantly surprising. A crispy tortilla provides the perfect crunch to complement the texture of refried beans and kick of spicy jalapenos. But the guacamole served on the side of the appetizer is the star of the dish. Chunky enough to prove that what you’re eating was, indeed, once an avocado, Loco’s guacamole has just the right blend of rich and buttery flavors.

Loco’s BIG Burrito ($12.99) is advertised as the biggest burrito in Ithaca, and even an experienced eater would consider it a worthy opponent. Don’t even attempt to pick it up; this is not finger food. With each cut — because you can’t possibly bite — through the burrito, layers of rice, refried beans, salsa, sour cream and cheese emerge. Surprisingly, the monstrosity maintains its shape as it is consumed, instead of deteriorating into a bean, rice and salsa mess. Loco’s creation also avoids a certain greasiness and sogginess common to many burritos. Disappointingly, however, Loco only offers refried beans and no black beans, and though garnished with lettuce, the burrito — and most dishes on the menu — lack substantial vegetables of any kind.

Beyond the usual staples of tacos and quesadillas, Loco also presents some unique dishes. The Chipotle Avocado Flatbread ($9.99) seems a promising new Tex-Mex experiment. The flatbread is topped with a base of chipotle ranch sauce, cheese, tomatoes, red onion and avocado slices. While the thought of flatbread often implies lighter fare, in this dish’s case it seemed mostly a more stylish name for pizza. Disappointingly, the pizza was swimming in ranch sauce and cheese, which overpowered any other tastes. This gooey foray into late-night snacking falls sadly short of hopeful diners’ expectations.

A few haphazardly-placed sombreros do little to brighten up the atmosphere of the restaurant, though light displays add drama after dark. Unless you’re planning a night involving several pitchers of sangria, ordering takeout might be a better idea than eating in. As one of the few Mexican options in Ithaca’s sea of restaurants, Loco Margarita Bar and Grill offers the hungry masses a new alternative for solid late night chow.

Original Author: Claire Cipriani