First bites at LocoMex: You have to visit to see the improved interior — and you’ll find some different spins on a few favorites, too.

First bites at LocoMex: You have to visit to see the improved interior — and you’ll find some different spins on a few favorites, too.

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As with other “sidewalk superintendents” around town, we watched from the street as upgrades were made to 201 Broad St. across the exterior and somewhat through the building’s abundant array of windows. As LocoMex prepared for its Rome opening this week, we tracked the installation of all the required pieces for cafe or sidewalk dining, compete with new tables, chairs and umbrellas. But we really wanted to see what would be done inside to recover from the odd painting scheme of the late J.R. Crickets.

Mission accomplished. While far from the white table cloth elegance of La Marie’s of a few years back as well as those great brunches at Magretta Hall, the operators of LocoMex should automatically qualify for the whatever award the Downtown Development Authority presents for improving an interior (if they even give one).

Even a dreary midday Friday couldn’t keep the bright, open look contained for long. Strong mixes of red, green and gold paint with wall murals and even “name tags” on each break off room are an added plus for downtown Rome’s newest restaurant which opened Thursday.

Properly spaced tables and booths, an easy layout to other dining areas and the bar, and just easy foot traffic makes LocoMex a step up from what it replaced.

But what about the menu, especially as not only another Mexican restaurant in Greater Rome but also the second of three now in play between the Miniyar food court in Cotton Block and the original, El Zarape.

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We placed separate lunch orders, chicken nachos for the teenager and Taco Ranchero for the guy paying the bill.

The ranchero came with three soft shell tacos (only two were identified on the menu) served with a blend of Mexican sausage, scrambled eggs, normally onions (pass) and a few other ingredients. It was served with a side plate filled with Mexican rice. This was a different spin on the traditional huevos rancheros found in most Rome-area Mexican restaurant. It usually is served overcooked and over spiced. Not at LocoMex. This was fresher, a bit lighter on the spice and the soft tacos were a great idea as well. Cost: $7.99 and we guarantee you won’t finish all that rice.

The nachos also were tasty. Ample chicken spread across the chips with just enough toppings. Cost: $6.99.

To open, we at first ordered guacamole dip but passed after learning it was preproduced and they couldn’t leave the onions out. Sorry but we’ve been spoiled by La Parrilla and its trademark made-at-the-table guac. So we went with queso dip, which had plenty of cheese and some spice. $3.50

Drinks: Two waters (one with lemon).

Tax, tag and title came to $19.77 before tip. We went a little higher than the recommended 20 percent as we had very good service throughout. The chips basket was refilled very quickly and the waitress was always attentive, even during the first full day of restaurant operation.

Bottom line: A good lunch and a series of weekday specials will help make it stand out a bit more from other Mexican restaurants. We think the gold standard for Mexican in town is La Mexicana next to the grocery store on Shorter Avenue just before the Redmond intersection. LocoMex is good and we suspect it will add some definitive night life to the downtown district almost immediately. With a broad selection of tequila and other spirits as well as beer, we’ll be back for dinner or a rare happy hour. We’ll close by saying this concept will last longer than others we’ve seen at 201 Broad St. in the past 15 years.

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