505 N Franklin St., Tampa, FL 33602
Cost range: 1.0-10.0
Alcohol: No alcohol
More in this neighborhood: Downtown Tampa
It's unclear whether Rene Valenzuela is a marketing genius or the ultimate surfer of the zeitgeist. His restaurants have been featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on Food Network and Adam Richman's Man v. Food on the Travel Channel. He has his original location in Seminole Heights as well as others in St. Petersburg, North Tampa, downtown Tampa, which opened in 2012, and, later in 2013, Brandon. It's gutsy, healthy, order-at-the-counter Mexican food with plenty for carnivores (lengua, barbacoa) and vegetarians (butternut squash taco) alike, with weekend late-night hours that have cemented it as the post-party place for affordable sustenance. Beyond this, what Valenzuela may be responsible for is jumpstarting the food-truck trend in the Tampa Bay area — 2012 was the year of the area's first rallies, the year Tampa's Mayor Buckhorn's own Food Truck Fiesta got swinging, and food truck guru Todd Sturtz even started offering classes in how to start your own food truck business. Taking his mobile cafe to major events like Tennessee music festival Bonnaroo, Valenzuela's efforts are an extension of his street corner taco stand as a kid in Mexico. But it has certainly caught on, with dozens of food trucks now logging miles in our area.
This is part of Times Food Critic Laura Reiley's 25 Top Affordable Restaurants in Tampa Bay.
Hours: 7 a.m.-3 a.m. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-3 a.m. Sun., online ordering available.