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Toro Loco

Local mexican haunt is dependable and reasonably priced

A Mexican restaurant with charmingly kitschy pre-Columbian décor, Toro Loco is a 20-year-old South Orange institution that seems to suit the tastes of families and tequila lovers equally well.

The restaurant is nothing if not adaptable, and everyone from families ordering tacos and chimichangas off the kids menu to Seton Hall students to old married couples can be found there – especially on weekends, when there’s often a wait.

The same Mayan-style ceramic wall panels wrap about most spaces in the restaurant, but the bar area is murkier and more atmospheric, with TVs on two walls showing whatever important game is on and a few candlelit high tables with a more intimate feel than the main dining area.

The restaurant is also open for lunch and has outdoor seating off the Valley Street entrance when it’s warm enough.

When it comes to ordering food, be advised that portions are abundant, and many of the dishes are served on steaming-hot plates that servers often warn diners not to touch. To have a chance of seeing the bottom of your plate, the trick is to not fill up on the chips and salsa set down on every table at the beginning of a meal and replenished as much as needed.

The menu is thorough – with meat, seafood and vegetarian sections – but the food is dependably good. For maximum dramatic effect, choose one of the fajitas: either shrimp ($16.95); chicken or marinated skirt steak ($14.95); or all three together ($18.95). They’re served in sizzling two-tiered cast-iron serving ware and can be heard being whisked out of the kitchen much sooner than they can be seen.

Toro Loco is well known locally for potent frozen margaritas ($6), which come in strawberry, banana kiwi, melon, peach, pineapple, papaya and mango flavors. (The regular variety, rimmed with salt, is extremely satisfying, however.) And beer drinkers will find a solid selection of Mexican brews – including Dos Equis, Tecate, Sol, Pacifico and, naturally, Corona.

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