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Real Mexican food - Tampa

  • m

Help! My husband and I recently moved here from New Mexico and are dying for some true Mexican food - not what passes for tex-mex here that we have found so far. I understand we are in the land of Cuban food but it is no where near the same and the chiles are calling me!!! That said, we have tried Don Pablo's (Blech! that is NOT true mexican) etc. Please help!

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  1. Monique,
    I recommend that you try Casa Tina on Main Street in Dunedin. They serve delicious and reasonably priced Mexican cuisine. Their menu includes several healthful and vegetarian dishes. I have found this tiny spot to be far superior to the chain restaurants. I have enjoyed every meal that I have had there, and it has been a hit with my friends as well. I especially liked the pollo molé verde and the chayote relleno (though the latter is not on the regular menu).
    I've never been to New Mexico, so I can't compare this restaurant with what you are used to. I'm sure though that you will find it an interesting and tasty trip out to Pinellas County. A welcome bonus is that downtown Dunedin is a quaint little shopping district, within walking distance of a marina on the intracoastal waterway. You can find there several good restaurants, plus antique and specialty shops.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Renee G
      Margaritaville Dan

      Here, here!! I've been there a few times (a few years ago) and I still remember how wonderful it was. Casa Tina's is well worth the time and effort to get there. First time I ever had a mole and was blown away by the heat. Didn't think that chocolate could be hot.

      Been out of the country for a few years (teaching English) and now that someone has mentioned Casa Tina's I think that's one of the first places to eat at once my wife and I get back to Safety Harbor.

      Oh!! Before I forget, just up the road a bit are a few great seafood restaurants. They are throwbacks with a lot of charm and good food. One is Molly Goodheads and the other (I forget the name) is cattycorner to it. Great smoked mullet with cheese grits. Man-oh-man. My mouth is watering right now. If you don't mind the heat, if they still have the patio which overlooks the gulf, sunsets are spectacular. Enjoy!

      Wastin' away again in Margaritaville

      Margaritaville Dan

    2. I'm sorry, but there is very little in way of decent mexican around here. most of it is overpriced garbage. I only have one small find that may be able to scratch the itch.

      La Calenita is on Busch blvd somewhere between 30th and 56th on the south side of the road. One woman makes good simple foor out of a trailer. There are picnic tables, but no indoor seating and no waiters. Very simple tacos/burritos, but it ios the closest I've found to real mexican. There is no cheese on the tacos, only a coarse guacamole. It isn't cheap, but not really expensive either. Call ahead with your order if possible, because this one lady makes everything on a little griddle. worth the wait, tho.

      I wish I had more recommendations for you, but I don't. other suggestion: get into the Latin foor that we DO have, like Colombian (see my write-up of antojitos), Peruvian, Cuban, and Puerto Rican. There's a whole bunch of good chow on Armenia between waters and Busch.

      one more suggestion: get an "entertainment guide" at Eckerds drugs. This guide is a thick book of coupons that get you 2 for 1 dinners at all kinds of restaurants and discounts for other attractions. It is my chow bible taht encourages me to eat around at new places. It costs about $30, the coupons (hundreds!) are good for a year, and you can save hundreds of dollars. I didn't get one last year and it was sorelt missed. but hurry! they only sell at the beginning end of each year!

      1. There was an article in today's Tampa Trib that may interest you: "Mexican Dishes Are Works of Art" By Mary D. Scourtes found at http://ae.tbo.com/index.cfm?fuseactio... or just look in the food section Jan 3, 2002 Tampa Trib - it should be in the actual newspaper as well as online. The restaurant she reviews, Viva la Frida Cafe y Galeria at 5901 N. Florida Ave, Tampa, sounds worth trying. If you go, let me know how you liked it.

        1. Try Estella's on Davis Island. http://www.estelas.com/. I go there about once a week. I'm no expert, but it seems more authentic than other mexican restaurants.

          1. Not "real Mexican" but not fake either... worth the trip and excellent food: Red Mesa in St Pete. 4th St just north of 54th Ave.
            South Western cusine and great mole's

            1. Try Viva la Frida on the east side of Florida Avenue between Hillsborough and Hannah. Not authentic Mexican, per se, but imaginative Mexican-themed dishes in a funky family-owned place. It was BYOB last time I was there.

              I also like Vallarta's on 56th just north of Busch.

              1. Try Pesos in Plant City. The chips and salsa were fresh, of very high quality and best of all free. And they make some very decent authentic mexican food. My rating 6/10.

                1. I went to this restaurant and they have great food,it's called Vallarta's.they have three diff. locations.the first one is on 9255 n.56th st.,#2-13731-37 n.dalemabry hwy.,#3-is in zephyrhills.They have a huge menu and the service is great,everything is homemade and its a great place.here's the phone numbers if you need them-(813)-987-2720,(813)-264-7691

                  1. We are also from New Mexico and if you still are trying to find authentic NEW MEXICAN foods, you must drive to Sarasota! El Toro Bravo on Stickney Point Road. The owners lived in Roswell and understand "red or green"! They get the chile's from Hatch mostly and it is the only place we have found that serves this special type of cuisine. I hope this reaches you because your original post was in 2001... It is a family run place with very sincere service. We eat there several times a week. Chile Colorado and the Rellenos are our favorites...We understand how you feel!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Tryn2grin

                      This is great to hear. My wife grew up in Carlsbad, so I know what you mean about the food there. Agave's chie relleno reminds me of the ones I've had in NM. The VIP Lounge also has good food, on Treasure Island. Red Mesa in St. Petersburg is really the only southwestern/New Mexico restaurant in the area. Sadly, no sopapillas like the ones I first had at the Cortez in Carlsbad. Yum!

                    2. whatever you do, don't listen to the people that say Vallarta's and Estella's are good!!! they are probably the WORST mexican you can find in Tampa, i prefer Taco Bell over those! I dont know how authentic Jalapenos De Ybor is but it's the most decent place I've found for Mexican.

                      1. Having good friends and a godson in Taos, I am addicted to "red or green" chile also, but have found a few good mexican places in the Tampa Bay area--try Agave in St. Pete Beach on Gulf Blvd (great tacos al pastor) or Cabana de Tio in Clearwater--great homemade tortillas. Estellas is more tex-mex and no where near as authentic (although the margaritas are good...although not a match for Maria's in Santa Fe) The thing I miss most are the sopapillas...