North

LOCAL FARE

Amigos is worth the trip across the border

The gluten-free Citrus Chicken Tacos are a bright combination of citrus-marinated chicken breast, Pepper Jack cheese, tropical salsa, and avocado slices.

WHO’S IN CHARGE Laurie and Michael Heeney are longtime Mexican food fans. But when they tired of traveling far from their Milford, N.H., home to find good fare, they opened their own place, Amigos Mexican Cantina, in 2004.

“We figured there were probably other people who thought the same thing, and were looking for a different type of restaurant to go to,” said Michael Heeney. “We feel like we’re part of the community now.”

Though their first venture into the restaurant business, the Heeneys hit on a winning formula. Thirteen years later, they’re still going strong on the edge of Milford’s downtown oval.

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“We’re leaning more toward the Tex-Mex, and we have our own kind of spin,” said Heeney. “We do a lot of hamburgers, things like that. We try to have a lot of varieties for everybody. And we were doing gluten-free before everybody. Almost everything on our menu is gluten-free.”

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THE LOCALE Low-key and rustic, Amigo’s isn’t fancy. And that’s just the way Heeney wants it.

“The building is very old, built around 1900,” said Heeney, 57. “It was the image we wanted. I didn’t want it to look like every other Mexican restaurant.”

The red-brick exterior has an Old West vibe, with an interior to match. Wide, wooden floors, festive decorations on the walls, and a solid wall separating a lively bar from the open dining room provide two distinct spaces.

“We just wanted a place where it’s friendly, and people can come and feel comfortable,” said Heeney. “We want families to come, and be able to bring their kids here, and just enjoy themselves while they’re here.”

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ON THE MENU Amigos offers choices, choices, and more choices. Our group of six kept our poor waitress waiting, because we couldn’t decide from the wide-ranging menu. So, to buy some time, we started with margaritas.

My wife, sister, and sister in-law all opted for the Fish Tacos ($11) featuring two shells – your choice or hard or soft taco – layered with fried beer-battered Norwegian cod and adorned with shredded cabbage and a zesty white sauce. All three enjoyed the dish – my sister MaryEllen rated it a “6” on a 1-to-10 spicy scale – though my wife, Lauri, commented she’d like to see an option with baked cod.

My brother, Sean, also went the taco route, but elected to get the gluten-free Citrus Chicken Tacos ($13). Served with two sides (he opted for Mexican rice and black beans), the plate featured a bright combination of citrus-marinated chicken breast, Pepper Jack cheese, tropical salsa, and avocado slices. He added a third taco for $2.

The Pollo Rellino.

Chuck, my brother in-law, ordered the Pollo Rellino ($14) and could only finish half the dish. The fresh green pepper stuffed with roasted chicken, black beans, onions, corn, and a combination of Jack and cheddar cheese, topped with a spicy red pepper sauce and more cheese, was enormous, with a big taste to match.

I took Heeney’s Tex-Mex concept to heart. Although tempted by the Mexican Mac and Cheese ($15, with penne pasta, bacon, tomatoes, grilled chicken, and spinach tossed in a creamy Pepper Jack cheese sauce), I chose the Alamo Burrito ($14) with Amigos’ Chalupa beef, rice, tangy caramelized onions, plus Jack and cheddar cheese surrounded by a soft flour tortilla. It was topped with a sweet barbecue sauce, peppers, onions and — you guessed it — more cheese. Mexican comfort food at its finest. Like Chuck, I struggled to finish the dish, but not for lack of trying.

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None of us left Amigos hungry, or disappointed.

Amigos Mexican Cantina, 20 South St., Milford, N.H. 603-673-1500, amigosmilford.com.

Brion O’Connor can be reached at brionoc@verizon.net.