Linda

We’d read about a place that serves great Mexican food in Milbridge and set our sights on trying it last year. Unfortunately, when we arrived, they had just closed for the season.

It is surprising to find great ethnic food in a town this small. And this really is authentic Mexican food. You’d probably have to search hard to find many of those in our state.

Vazquez Mexican Takeout is open every day but Sunday for breakfast and lunch. Usually, when enroute to and from Lubec, we come through Milbridge on a Sunday. But we’ll be changing that now that we’ve eaten there.

The Vazquez family came from central Mexico three decades ago. They served migrant blueberry workers for many years from a food truck. Thankfully, they opened their very nice takeout, and the word is out. The place was very busy when the lunch crowd descended on a recent Monday.

The first thing I noticed was the top menu featuring American food. Yes, there is something for everyone here: burgers, steak , cheese subs and even hotdogs. But we were there to try the food they are famous for. I saw a good variety of items on the menu (including one I’d never heard of) and noted the low prices. Have you ever seen freshly prepared food items for as little as $1.75?

They serve tacos, quesadillas and burritos along with harder-to-find items such as chimichangas and tamales. I was so happy to see tamales, as I fell in love with them when we were in Arizona in April. For $2 you can choose from their five meat options: beef, steak, pork, chicken or chorizo. The tamales are surrounded by a masa, or corn, dough, then steamed in a cornhusk. The combination of meat with a soft corn covering is perfection for me.

When I went up to the window to pick up our order, I asked if they had green salsa. The girl replied, “Yes, all our salsas are green.” We tried the mild and medium, and both were good, but I knew not to try the hot.

The guarache was something I’d never heard of. It was a homemade oval flour tortilla topped with beans and meat, along with lettuce, cheese and tomatoes — sort of a cross between a burrito and a tostada. It required a fork and knife and was yummy.

We chose pork for all of our items, knowing that it is the most traditional meat. Next time, we’ll branch out, but the pork filling was terrific. Our order included a chimichanga that was the heartiest item, quite a lunch all by itself for just $5. It was also great as leftovers.

I noticed some people ordering items cold so that they could heat them at home later. Duly noted, just in case it isn’t mealtime when are traveling through Milbridge.

George

The story of Mexicans in Washington County is a particularly inspiring and enlightening one. Today, the Latino community in Milbridge and surrounding towns is 350 people strong. Quite a few are parents who moved to Washington County as kids. Many of these first generation Mainers have left the cycle of seasonal employment that brought their families north. As bilingual graduates of area high schools and colleges, they are able to stay in the region by working in healthcare, education, food service or social services.

Thanks to these good folks, Milbridge businesses have grown. The local supermarket expanded and now stocks lots of Mexican canned and boxed foods. Most folks in the community have welcomed these wonderful people who have made a positive economic impact, when given the chance to succeed.

That is certainly true at Vazquez. The menu is extensive, so we chose to share three items. My favorite was the huarache, loaded with meat. I can only describe it as an open taco with the meat and veggies on top. With three salsas available, I opted for the medium, and it was plenty hot. Drink offerings include soda and Mexican Jarritos.

The place was packed on a Monday, with lots of locals, but it’s also right on U.S. Route 1, drawing lots of tourists. There is plenty of seating, including outside picnic tables and a covered area of tables. Amazingly, our entire lunch cost only $14.75. When I saw the prices, I assumed the portions were small, but they are not. And here’s more good news: They serve Gifford’s ice cream, a perfect finish for a nicely spiced Mexican meal. We both enjoyed cones of pistachio.

All of our future trips to and from Lubec will be timed to include lunch here. It is that good.

UPDATE: Dancing Elephant

We rarely get to return to our favorite places, given that we must have a new column every week, but we’ve been back to the Dancing Elephant in Fairfield twice since we wrote about it February, including for dinner a few weeks ago. Owned by a family from Bangladesh, and featuring Indian cuisine, this is a special place. We urge you to visit, because we want them to succeed and be here in central Maine for a long time.

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed by town in the “Best of Maine” section.