ST. PETERSBURG — Love was in the air this Valentine's Day and it smelled like fish tacos.
After months of delays and endless hype, the St. Petersburg Taco Bus tapped the brakes and opened its window for business in the Grand Central District to throngs of Mexican food lovers.
The line quickly swelled to around 50 people and stayed there for hours on Monday afternoon, appeasing those residents who have heard of, or are already hooked on, the original Seminole Heights locale.
"We've been waiting for you for so long," said Theresa Thomas, 60, of Clearwater.
People came from across St. Petersburg, from Seminole, from Clearwater — even from Tampa. They walked, biked and took taxis to the bright orange taqueria at 2324 Central Ave. that took the place of a former used car lot.
Tammy Adams, 39, already had the heart-shaped chocolates, the sweet card.
But her fiance had another Valentine's Day treat: split a beef burrito at the new St. Petersburg Taco Bus.
"We heard this one was opening and we couldn't bypass it," said Scott Hedge, 40, who is stationed at MacDill Air Force Base.
Newcomers stood in line throughout the afternoon and hoped that food from the belly of a bus would live up to the hype.
Old-timers remembered that first bite.
"A friend of mine gave me a burrito that she had gotten at Taco Bus and I had a taste of it," remembered Brian Madrinan, 34, of Largo, "and I've been hooked ever since. Everyone I've sent there has been hooked on it."
People talked about how good it was for St. Petersburg, for the area, for them. They suggested additional locations — mainly where they lived — and talked about the food.
"I think every bus should be a Taco Bus," said Megan Milanese, 21, who sported a light blue shirt with a taco message, heart-shaped red glasses and a black sport coat.
The Taco Bus has a Facebook page with more than 2,400 fans, many of whom pepper the page with constant questions about its opening date.
A few previous opening dates were announced but then moved because of inspections and other snags.
Some employees walked around Monday with shirts that read "Grand Opening: January 2011."
Owner Rene Valenzuela said he was pleased with the number of people who came out for the opening. "It is a huge compliment," he said. "It is very overwhelming."
Russ Pacheco, 49, of Seminole arrived shortly before the opening and was the first to place an order — one steak taco, one chicken taco, $6.40 with tax.
"Between this opening today and the Hooter's in John's Pass opening, this is a great day," Pacheco said.