BITE-SIZED

North of the BORDER

No passport needed to cure your Mexican food craving

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Roll up to Los Loros Mexican Restaurant for some American-style Mexican. The spacious place is ideal for large groups and can handle rowdy groups of kids, or adults, quite well.

Lively Latin music plays in the background as you review the menu and, trust me, there are plenty of choices. A lovely waitress greets you with a smile and fresh salsa, which arrives at the table in a small carafe (I'd never seen one like this; it was extra-cute) along with a heaping portion of chips.

Los Loros might seem like a national chain mega-restaurant, but every sauce is made in-house. Combo dinners ($8.30, $8.80) include lots of good stuff. For example, No. 29 includes two burritos with a choice of rice or beans, No. 26 has one enchilada, one chile relleno and one chile con queso with beef. With entrées like that, you'll be fat and happy at the end of the meal.

We started with the lunch Steak Fajita ($8.99) with peppers and onions. In terms of taste anticipation, fajitas are such a satisfying dish; as soon as you put in the order, your ears perk up at every noise. Your head turns when you hear that sizzle and snap of meat and veggies in the cast-iron skillet - before you even realize it's yours. When your fajita is finally set before you, you may squeal a little at the accompanying sides: rice, beans, flour tortillas, lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream. The flavorful, tender bite-size morsels of steak are nicely seared with grilled tomatoes, onions and bell peppers. The rice and beans are unremarkable, but the little fried tortilla cup filled to the brim with fresh, chunky salsa is adorable. The tortilla shell keeps it from mixing with the beans and rice, which any good food separator (Sheldon Cooper, we're looking at you) will appreciate. Use the soft tortilla shells for your fajitas, or just dig in.

The Chef's Special Burrito ($7.95) is just as mammoth as you'd expect, and a great price. As it's placed on the table, it's like the heavens opened up and blessed you with a burrito baby. Each forkful of well-grilled chicken and steak is made complete with shredded cheese, peppers and onions. A bowl of housemade tomatillo sauce adds an extra punch.

The Tacos de Puerco trio ($8.50) was uncomplicated and delicious. With flour shells, shredded pork, pico de gallo and lettuce, the only thing I wanted was a little pickled onion to go with it. You do get a side of rice and beans, which finishes the dish nicely.

We were on the fence about dessert until we saw the Churros ($3.99); you can choose a "stuffed" option. Pick either caramel and strawberry or stick with plain. We opted for caramel because it seemed the most traditional to me ... I have some dignity, you know. Each order includes four churros hot out of the fryer.

Delightfully crisp with an appropriate amount of filling made it nearly impossible to share.

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