Thursday, August 20, 2015

bartaco – Tampa, FL

Hyde Park Village was one of my favorite places to spend time when growing up in South Tampa.  Sadly, for awhile it turned into a bit of a ghost town, but in the past several years it’s started to revive!  Several new businesses have opened their doors in Hyde Park, and half a dozen more are scheduled to open in this next year – including Buddy Brew Coffee, Goody Goody Burgers, On Swann, and Sur La Table. 
One of the latest new arrivals was bartaco – a California beachy-vibed Mexican restaurant that took the Cactus Club’s old abandoned space on Snow Ave.  We finally checked it out this week and it definitely lived up to all the great reviews I’d heard so far!
We expected that going on a date night on a Tuesday wouldn’t be a problem, but this place was actually packed – not sure if it’s just the newness, but it seems that it’s the popular place to be.  We snagged some seats at the bar, which was fine for just the two of us.  Their atmosphere feels laid back yet upscale at the same time – I guess I’d describe it as sophisticated surfer.  The employees all wear blue and white checkered button-up shirts.  Our bartender, Raul, was super friendly and informative.  He seemed pretty excited that we were checking out the restaurant for the first time, so he went over the whole concept for us. 

Clearly their main focus is tacos.  They’re pretty cheap – just $2.50 or $3.50 each – and not just your standard beef or chicken flavors.  We ordered one each of baja fish, pork belly, spicy chorizo, curry shrimp, and sesame ribeye tacos.  We also ordered a side of their grilled corn with lime, cayenne, and cotija cheese.  You fill out the menu by ticking off how many of each menu item you’d like (sort of like at a sushi restaurant). 

While we waited for our food, we sipped on a mojito and margarita.  I think they offset the inexpensive food prices with pricey drinks, but they can definitely justify doing that because they were amazing. The margarita was one of the best I’ve ever had – they squeeze the lime juice right there in front of you, so you know it’s fresh, and it wasn’t sickly sweet like the pre-made mix that a lot of Mexican restaurants serve.  They have an entire menu just for different types of tequila (if you really wanted to go all out, you could try their tequila flights – we weren’t quite that adventurous). 

I’d recommend pretty much everything we ordered.  The corn was traditional Mexican street-style – which I’d never had before, but now I don’t want corn on the cob any other way.  I think our favorite tacos were the pork belly and chorizo. 

We finished off with something sweet – churros with chocolate dipping sauce.  When I was a kid, there used to be a churro truck that parked outside our elementary school, so they are a nostalgic food for me. 

It’s kind of a loud atmosphere, so if you’re looking for a quiet date night, this isn’t your place.  But if you want a fun night out with really tasty modern takes on Mexican food, go check them out! 

bartaco has several locations around the country.  The Tampa one is located at 1601 W Snow Ave, Tampa, FL 33606 and is open 11:30am – 11pm Sunday through Wednesday and 11:30am – 1am Thursday through Saturday.

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