The Boston Globe's Devra First reviewed Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar this week, and she slaps the new Southie spot with one-and-a-half stars (out of a possible four), along with the critique that "just because it's fun it doesn't mean it's good."
First backtracks a bit — the space is welcoming, the staff kind, the menu appealing. "But the food can be a mess, sometimes literally." First finds the biggest problems on the entree menu, with invariably dry, bland, and ugly-looking dishes. "Is [the half-chicken] supposed to look like a tossed salad? ... Is [the skirt steak taco] supposed to look like it was hit by a gale-force wind? ... Is [the crispy sea bass] supposed to look like a drunken maniac dropped the ingredients onto the plate from a great height?"
Highlights for First are the basic guacamole and chips; the savory churros; a "creamy, bright, smoky, and satisfying" vegetarian taco; and a root beer-braised chicken taco that "flirt[s] with sweetness without being cloying." (A different soda-soaked taco misses the mark, though: "Cola pork carnitas are too sweet, and the meat is dry.")
On the crudo side of things, First was disappointed in the sea bass ceviche, which "lacks balance, punch, and salt." She also criticizes the raw bar presentation, saying a limited selection of oysters arrive at her table "mangled." But she knows Loco isn't for sticklers and allows that the experience is fun and fits its neighborhood perfectly.
Proprietor Eric Cormier welcomes guests to his four-booth shop with homemade onion strings and a "pleasingly spicy remoulade sauce," which also tops his crusty sandwiches. Like the space itself, the menu is small but done very well. Cormier owns property in New Orleans and brought that cuisine to Newtonville. Golden-fried and nicely-seasoned seafood, sourced from reputable purveyors such as Captain Marden's and Ipswich Shellfish Fish Market, generously fill each baguette. The two-and-a-half year old shop "feels like it's been there forever." Here's something to get you stoked for summer: Cormier bought a 1951 truck and plans to spruce it up as a roving po' boy shop this summer.