BRANDON — Feras Abdel was in Guadalajara, Mexico, at a food expo when the idea hit him for his first restaurant.
He and a large group were standing in line at a food stand that he described as having a "pile of meat" with an appearance that was "nothing special."
"It was worth it," said Abdel, who waited 45 minutes for an authentic taste of Mexican food. "That's how I came up with the idea to have an open kitchen."
That was more than a decade ago. Since then, Abdel has grown his Taco Rey Mexican Grill concept throughout Hillsborough County, including his newest location in Brandon at 401 S Parsons Ave.
That adds to the original in Dover, a second in his hometown of Plant City and a fourth he plans to open near the University of South Florida.
Because Abdel was eager to expand, he quickly moved into the location across from Brandon Regional Hospital that Dos Manos Latin Diner had formerly operated for less than a year. Prior to that, it was the Copper Bell Café.
Abdel said because of the kitchen layout that has a large range hood, the open kitchen concept won't be present but he may consider expanding the service window.
Taco Rey offers tacos starting at $1.50 and combo platters with rice and refried beans for $6.99. Abdel said special requests are welcome, including items that are off menu.
The restaurant is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday to Sunday. Huevos rancheros and other egg platters highlight the breakfast offerings.
"We stick to our concept of 100 percent authentic Mexican food," said Abdel, 37, who also owns Stars Auto Sales in Dover. "You order; we cook. That's how we do it."
Because of the made-to-order approach, customers can expect to wait at least 10 minutes. Save time by calling your order in ahead of time at (813) 330-7944.
Wawa opens in Valrico
Hoagies via built-to-order touch-screens, free digitally dispensed air for your tires and Philly pretzels at the checkout counter are now available in Valrico.
Pennsylvania-based Wawa continued its Florida expansion last week with the grand opening of its newest store at 2224 Bloomingdale Ave. As part of its opening promotion, the store is offering patrons free coffee through Sunday.
"We could not be more excited to be setting the tone for 2014 with a new store right here in Valrico, expanding the Wawa experience to more customers than ever before," said Chris Gheysens, Wawa's president and CEO.
Wawa, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, plans to have 56 stores in Florida, including 24 in the Tampa Bay area, by the end of the year.
The next two local Wawa stores slated to open later this year will be on the corners of State Road 60 and St. Cloud Avenue and on U.S. 301 and Causeway Boulevard.
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