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Jul 31, 2009 06:55 PM

Taqueria Monterrey - Tampa

Has anyone been to the new location near USF? The new location is at 2320 E. Fletcher Ave in Tampa, near the corner of Bruce B Downs. Just went to check them out this evening for dinner.

Their salsa bar is wonderful - I didn't find a single one there that I didn't like but the one they serve with their chips was by far the best. A salsa roja with a wonderful smokiness and just the right amount of heat for me (a slow heat that built and lingered.) It was addictive. Also on the bar were extra toppings for your meal including radishes, cilantro and pickled jalapenos.

I ordered two corn tacos - their vegan chorizo and their poblano with mushrooms. I didn't care for the chorizo - no bite, a bit mushy and a taste that was more earthy than spicy and greasy like I would have liked. Yes, it wasn't real chorizo and I knew that while ordering. I was not anticipating a porky-substitute but I was anticipating something chewy and smoky with the spiciness that is the calling card of chorizo. The rajas were much better - I added cheese to mine. The mushrooms and peppers were a nice combo especially with some cilantro and some of that addictive salsa from the bar. My SO had their guacamole appetizer and two chicken corn tacos. He loves avocados while I generally can't stand them. We both enjoyed the appetizer which surprised me. It's freshly made and is a combo of avocado, onion, tomato and cilantro. He raved about the fresh tortillas and the chicken in the taco. The chicken had a smoked quality that was not expected but well received. We both love the chicken tacos at the Taco Bus and I don't think he was expecting anything different. Same set up veggie wise - tomatoes, onions, cilantro and possibly lime as well but what a difference that smoky flavor in the chicken made!

Drinks - My husband had their Horchata - rich and creamy with all the spices of a great rice pudding. I had their ague fresca de melon. Fresh cantelope - perfectly sweet and very refreshing. These drinks were all the dessert we needed. They also had pineapple and hibiscus.

They serve flour and corn tacos (corn tortillas are made on site), quesadillas, tortas and it seemed like just about anything else that was made with a tortilla. Fillings included barbacoa, lengua, chicken, rajas, al pastor, chorizo, vegan chorizo and I'm sure there were more.

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  1. I thoroughly enjoyed a pastor burrito. The work was moist, and the pickled onions at the bar added a wonderful bite to the savor. The salsa bar is brilliant, with some nice variants and toppings. The flour tortilla was blistered, with a little elastic chew. The pork wasn't too fatty as it often is at the bus. I hope the experience augurs well for this restaurant. We badly need worthy Mexican around USF. The lunch crowd was considerable on Wednesday.

    1. I can't wait to get there...
      I will go soon, and I will order too much....

      1. Is this the place on Fletcher owned by the owners of the Taco Bus/El Taconazo off Hillsborough? Is this the place we've been hearing about that took over the space formerly occupied by Malena's?

        2 Replies
        1. re: gfr1111

          correct. Rene has been there a lot lately, as you'd imagine. I think he's going to do very well there, especially once the students return. I look forward to exploring the menu.

          He may start making small tamales. It was all I ate at Tacobus for a while. If you've ever had them at TacoBus, you know they're a meal in themselves. I know a friend who was on a kick with those. He'd eat four during the first half of every Bucs game and sleep through the second half...

          1. re: andy huse

            If they make chicken tamales and bring over those delicious coconut cookies, I'd be in heaven.

        2. Check out this recent Creative Loafing blog post by Erica Miller:

          1. Taqueria Monterrey is just fabulous. I've eaten at the Tampa location at least a dozen times since they've opened and had almost every item on the menu. Rene is a terrific guy and I'm glad he thought it financially viable to open an ambitious, dedicated taco place in Tampa. Taco Bus is terrific for a lot of reasons, but they just don't have the space to do tacos right. Monterrey, on the other hand, has a lot more kitchen space, so they can make corn tortillas from scratch and cook em up right on the flat-top. And the variety of meats is outstanding: Authentic, slow-cooked pastor, chicken in green tomatillo sauce, pork in red chile sauce w/ cactus leaf, chorizo made in-house, and all the regular meats (steak, chicken, etc) make for an impressive amount of options.

            And the salsa bar! So many different approaches. The one served at the table is nice and has a mellow smokiness from the roasted peppers. The other salsas at the bar attest to Rene's belief that Tampa customers are willing broaden their understanding of Mexican food. Plus the salsa bar has excellent pickled onions and cabbage that are great simply by themselves or on the tacos.

            The burritos are pressed, cut at an angle in the middle, and a bit more slim than the version at Taco Bus. They're certainly not bad, considering the fillings one has as available options, but the big sloppy monsters at Taco Bus win on this front. Haven't had the quesadillas, tortas, or tostadas, but, again, I can't see any of those turning out badly on account of the meats available.
            Most of the other items are terrific as well. The horchata is best in the city; its a bit better than the too-sweet recipe at Taco Bus and smoother than the gritty version at Cali Tacos. The gringas, piratas, and campechanas are kinda stoner-foodish but good as well. As for appetizers, the frijoles charros is decent, but uninteresting and the guacamole is bright, fresh, and vivid, as guac should be.

            Haven't had taquitos dorados, camarones asados, or the desserts, but I would assume those items are fine. Definitely interested in trying the potato-and-beef-filled taquito.

            I hope to god they succeed on Fletcher Avenue. Considering their location and the fact they offer plenty of Vegan options (honestly respectable vegan chorizo being one of them), this is the kind of place that should become a University-area legend. College towns always have student and faculty attended restaurants that become identifiable members of the community and this place is perfect for that kind of role. Tampa food scene is synonymous with mediocrity and I'd hate to see a place that actually cares about doing something unique have to close due to lack of interest.

            I advise to just go there with some friends, order a lot of food, and marvel at the astounding brightness, color, and vividity of the food on the table. It's honestly picture perfect and eating it is culinary sublimation. Tampa residents and USF students/faculty, give this place your money.