La Loma Mexican Restaurant

Hendersonville has seen great change, as have many of the suburbs of Nashville, but the change here has been especially striking. The expanding city has brought in new chains and concepts focused on bringing the new and hip to the places where many new houses and developments are springing up. In that context, the tiny hole in the wall along main street known as La Loma has survived even as new competitors have arisen. The spot sticks to its guns with a local fan base that favors large groups, but the end result didn’t impress.

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La Fogata Grill

The development of the Pickerington area east of Columbus has brought it a huge number of new and proper restaurants, with most of them catering to suburban sensibilities of simplicity and reasonable prices. La Fogata Grill, a stop just off I-70, offers Tex Mex favorites and the works in a bar and grill setting that typifies rest of the neighborhood. It’s one of two locations for the chain, the other being closer to downtown Columbus. The food I tried was good and overall the spot was a positive experience.

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El Meson

You won’t be in Dayton for very long before you hear the name “El Meson.”

Indeed, the expansive West Carrollton restaurant south of the city along the Interstate 75 corridor is one that’s hard to forget even after one visit. Not just for its colorful and vibrant interior decoration, but for the equally large menu of tapas and other dishes that can’t be found on any other menu in the city. In short, El Meson has long been considered a unique option in the city — one of the few places you can really go for something different. Even with the influx of new restaurant concepts, this spot continues to deliver.

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Taqueria Mixteca

Just east of downtown Dayton, Taqueria Mixteca is a hole-in-the-wall that you’d hardly notice if you drove past it. It’s far from the nicest parts of town where the gourmet chefs dream of $100 wine bottles and Michelin stars, but Taqueria Mixteca is the epitome of the service of online reviews: everybody seems to love this place. The glowing reviews are many. Having read them after the fact, I’ve found a lot of the strengths and weaknesses that so many others have acclaimed all have merit. This place makes some seriously good ethnic food.

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Casa Lopez

Right on Athens’ eastern edge of town, the colorful façade of Casa Lopez is one of the first things you will see driving into town. A small but festive locale, Casa Lopez has a large menu and a cult following among locals;many swear by it as the best place for tex-mex in town. Regardless of its sheer volume of competition, Casa Lopez does seem to distinguish itself from the rest; its Facebook fanbase seems aglow over great service and a family friendly atmosphere that keeps them coming back.

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Gran Ranchero

Another more recent addition to the Athens restaurant lineup, Gran Ranchero opened in February 2010 as the second franchise of a restaurant based in Parkerberg, West Virginia. Owner Emanuel Morales, one of five owners of the chain, told reporters he opened his second restaurant in Athens after so many people drove from there to Parkersburg just for the food. I’m convinced this place has attracted quite a following, but I’m not sure I’m about to join the flock.

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