Bigger isn't usually better when it comes to restaurants, but sometimes it's just as good. That's what I came away thinking after visiting Cuco's Taqueria recently.

Bigger isn't usually better when it comes to restaurants, but sometimes it's just as good. That's what I came away thinking after visiting Cuco's Taqueria recently.

Cuco's opened 13 years ago as a Mexican grocery store sporting a little eatery. When word spread about its destination-worthy, affordable food, Cuco's kitchen operation expanded and the retail aspect was downplayed. That trend informed several renovations, including the latest in 2014, which resulted in even more seating, a much bigger bar, a new patio and the grocery "store" being reduced to a single aisle.

Apart from Cuco's carpet collecting more crumbs from the unlimited free chips left by the teeming crowds the place now accommodates, this growth appears to be only positive. The avocado-green-and-turquoise-painted space with Mesoamerican-inspired decorations and beer-advertising piñatas is noticeably roomier, and I haven't noticed a significant drop-off in the restaurant's food quality or speedy service.

And Cuco's fantastic Tapatia cocktail ($9 for a goblet) is still the benchmark for a margarita in Columbus. With its rush of fresh lime juice balanced by Hornitos tequila, Patrón Citrónge and "sugar cane honey," it's how a margarita is supposed to taste.

Terrific, almost meal-sized starters come both hot and cold if you order the homey and delicious Chicken Soup ($5.50) and the lively Shrimp Ceviche ($11). The sizable bowl of soup stars a soothing, real-deal chicken broth rife with pulled chicken and rice and accented by diced tomato, onion and long slices of zucchini.

On the other side of the coin is the vibrant, chilled ceviche. Plump, firm, good shrimp bathed in fresh lime juice are further flattered by cilantro, diced tomato and onion in a presentation that echoes the colors of the Mexican flag and looks as bright as it tastes.

Cuco's also does a fine job with Carnitas ($11) - a Mexican classic of slow-cooked pork shoulder lightly fried in its own rendered fat. Cuco's version features sautéed onions atop big pieces of juicy meat glistening with pig oil that'll make your tongue so happy that your legs might not mind jogging off the calories afterward.

The hefty entrée includes warm corn tortillas, a guacamole salad (fresh avocado mashed with lime and tomatoes atop iceberg lettuce), a blistered jalapeño, above-average Mexican rice and an irresistible little fried tortilla bowl filled with refried beans and melted cheese.

The gargantuan Bistec Tampiqueño ($13) is another killer deal. An enormous, skillfully seared, lean, nearly tender and delicious steak arrives generously topped with sautéed onions and mushrooms plus salsa ranchera. Add sides of refried beans, rice, tortillas and a guacamole salad, and you've got dinner for two - or three.

If a combo platter is calling, La Mexicana ($11) is a chicken-athon that likewise guarantees leftovers. Along with Cuco's standard sides of Mexican rice and that edible mini-bowl holding refried beans and cheese are three chicken-packed items: a chile relleno with a puffy batter, an OK enchilada and a flavorful tamale with a house-made-but-dry masa-dough frame. Rampant salsa ranchera, melted cheese and all that poultry mean everything tends to blur together, but it's unquestionably a decent bang for your peso.

Alternately, you can fashion your own combo with à la carte taco truck-style items such as a nice fried Fish Taco ($3), a juicy pulled beef Barbacoa Taco ($1.80) and a $3.25 Gringa (a puffy flour tortilla with melted cheese, marinated pork chunks and grilled pineapple).

Good Mexican food isn't nearly as uncommon throughout Columbus as it was when Cuco's opened. If that makes this old favorite less of a destination restaurant, it doesn't make the bigger, roomier and still-solid Cuco's any less fun.