The restaurant at 3263 Howlett Hill Road, Camillus, looks the same on the outside. The no-frills dining room, with long tables topped with brightly colored plastic tablecloths and seating for about 80, is the same.
The lines out the door morning and night? The same. The food? It’s the same, too — or almost the same. They’re working on that.
Welcome back after a brief hiatus, Boom Boom Mex Mex. It’s not easy for a newcomer to take the reins at a beloved restaurant with legions of diehard fans, but new owner Gino Laurenzo is rising to the challenges.
“It’s a learning process,’’ Laurenzo says, “but we’re getting great feedback from our customers. Everyone has been very supportive and very appreciative that we’re here. People are giving us the thumbs up and telling us we’re doing a great job.’’
The news earlier this year that Boom Boom owners Tom and Lupe Bryan wouldn’t reopen their popular seasonal eatery in the western suburbs left diners devastated. The Bryans had operated the restaurant since 2005 and prior to that operated a stand at the New York State Fair and gained a following as mobile vendors under the name Boom Boom BBQ.
Laurenzo, meanwhile, grew up in the Mexican food business in Houston, and for 15 years has owned and operated Rio Grande Tex Mex Grill in New Hartford. That restaurant is now operated by two of his sons; his wife and another son work with him in Camillus.
Laurenzo had never been to Boom Boom, he says, but a customer and friend who frequents both restaurants told him about Boom Boom’s closing and “made the connection’’ to the Bryans. Discussions began and a business deal was reached. “I quickly realized what an institution this place was and what a responsibility I have to the community,’’ Laurenzo says.
Laurenzo spent several weeks in the kitchen with Lupe Bryan, cooking with her, learning her recipes, and getting a knack for her spices, seasonings and techniques. “Everything is homemade, from scratch,’’ Laurenzo says. “It’s almost a feel thing. It’s hard to explain. You have to feel it out to get it right.’’
The new Boom Boom opened on Sept. 16 — Mexican Independence Day — and diners have been flocking to it ever since. The menu and approach to serving is essentially the same: Tacos, burritos, quesadillas, taco salads, Mexican combination platters and more are built to order, cafeteria-style, at a long counter.
“Everybody has their favorites,’’ Laurenzo says. Best-selling items so far, he says, are the chipotle chicken (grilled diced chicken breast in a mild-medium heat chipotle sauce) and the pork al pastor (diced grilled pork in a deep brown chile sauce, seasoned with cumin and cloves, with a hint of sweetness from pineapple). For dessert, there’s several kinds of flan and specialties like tres leches cake.
Laurenzo plans to extend the season a bit, staying open until mid-December and reopening in mid-March “if it’s not zero degrees with six feet of snow.’’
For now, the restaurant opens at 11 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and at noon Saturdays and Sundays. Closing time is somewhere between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m.
“If you’re here and you’re in line,’’ Laurenzo says, “you’ll get served.’’
For more information, call 315-673-1151 or visit its Facebook page.