Make us your home page

These Tampa Bay taco shops serve authentic Mexican food

Fetish foods. We all have them. The kind your mind drifts to in idle moments, the kind you'd squander untold gallons of gas in the name of, the kind your significant other knows to bring you when seeking your forgiveness. • For me, one is the taco. Not the Ortega crunchy shell with the orange-ish ground beef (although I like those, too), but the study-in-simplicity Mexican taco, just a warm homemade corn tortilla, a flurry of crisp-at-the-edges carnitas, then white onion and cilantro. That's it. Maybe a squeeze of lime. • Funny thing is, some of the seriously fetish-worthy tacos in the Tampa Bay area aren't in restaurants per se. The tacos are an afterthought, a side gig, at some of our Mexican groceries and shops.

La Unica Michoacana

Specializing in Mexican paletas (ice pops) and helado (ice cream), this little shop in Tampa was opened a few years ago by Arturo Martinez and his wife, Dailys Bravo. Savory food was a late addition, and in fact there's not much room to hang out and enjoy the goods. Three little tables along the front windows are fit in between the ice cream case and the ice pop reach-in. But you'll want to eat this stuff immediately, so don't do takeout.

There are a handful of fillings: steak with onion and cilantro, chipotle chicken, cochinita pibil (pork with red onion, lemon and habanero — the best one), bistec a la Mexicana (steak with jalapeno, tomato and onion), potato with spicy sausage, and chicharrones en salsa verde (pork rinds in green salsa). These you can have on a taco ($1.86) or in a trio of sopes ($7.47), either way divine.

The tortillas are housemade, warm and pliable and fragrant, as are the sopes, thick, crispy masa cups that you will eat with your hands with mixed success (you will be presented with too many napkins; you will use them all). They make five tamales ($1.86) as well, but they don't have all flavors all the time. If you are handed a warm squeeze bottle of housemade hot sauce, proceed with caution. The contents can cause a hole in the space-time continuum.

Acapulco Mexican Grocery

Not too many blocks away from La Unica, Acapulco Mexican Grocery has a whole wall of pork rinds. It has got snack food and canned goods and a small produce case. You might not even see the cafe in back. And that would be a shame.

My first visit (I was buying corn husks and masa for tamales) was a Saturday, the view of the cafe revealing a whole lot of Spanish-speaking people not speaking and hunching over wide bowls of menudo. I didn't have time for the dusky, spicy-looking tripe soup, a weekend-only offering, but I zipped back another day for tacos ($1.75 and $2) and sopes (three for $8).

The sopes here are wider and not quite as thick, like little crispy masa pizzas on which to heap lengua (beef tongue) or buche (beef sweetbreads). Spring for an extra 25 cents to double the tortilla on your tacos, because the two-ply seems better equipped to handle the generous serving of meat, whether it's the chili-pineapple-inflected pork or the sultry chipotle-fired shredded chicken.

Mexico Lindo

With pumpkin-orange walls and a television tuned to photos of the adjacent grocery stores (an odd choice to show an already captive audience, but the pictures of rows of canned goods are strangely mesmerizing), this is a regular go-to place for Pinellas bargain lunchers.

The beverage case is packed with Jarritos sodas and Jumex juices, yet a nearby dispenser of horchata seems to have lots of takers for its milky, cinnamony allures. Order at the counter and then find a seat at one of eight tables. The menu is broader here, with a full lineup of platters ($7.99 and $8.99), quesadillas (most $5.99), burritos ($5.99) and tacos ($1.75).

Don't get distracted by the tortas (Mexican sandwiches) and fries. You're here for tacos: The Campechano is irresistible, even once you find out that it is crispy pork skin mixed in with lush carnitas (really Mexico's answer to confit, the pork shoulder cooked slow and then fried in its own fat). A few lime wedges provide just the right acidic counterpoint.

A pair of gorgeous tacos for $3.50 or a trio of gorditas for $5.99 (fat masa rounds griddled, split and filled) — as far as fetishes go, I can think of worse.

Laura Reiley can be reached at, (727) 892-2293 or on Twitter at @lreiley. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.


La Unica Michoacana

2800 N MacDill Ave., Suite E, Tampa

(813) 870-3513

Cuisine: Mexican

Hours: noon to 8 p.m. Sunday to Friday, until

9 p.m. Saturday

Details: V, MC; no reservations; no liquor

Prices: $1.86-$7.47

Acapulco Mexican Grocery

1001 N MacDill Ave,

Suite E, Tampa

(813) 873-3665

Cuisine: Mexican

Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday, until 5 p.m. Sunday

Details: V, MC; no reservations; no liquor

Prices: $1.75-$8

Mexico Lindo

6050 Park Blvd. N,

Pinellas Park

(727) 548-8721

Cuisine: Mexican

Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday, until 6 p.m. Sunday

Details: V, MC; no reservations; no liquor

Prices: $1.75-$8.99

These Tampa Bay taco shops serve authentic Mexican food 11/14/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 17: Think 11 miles of nothing but straight trail and open, flat fields sounds easy? Think again.


    Day 17: Villarmentero de Campos to Lédigos: 33.5 km, 10.25 hours. Total for Days 1-17 = 394 km (245 miles)

  2. Tom Sawyer with a revolver? Twain house has live 'Clue' game


    HARTFORD, Conn. — Was it Tom Sawyer in Samuel Clemens' billiard room with a revolver?

    In this July 14 photo, actor Dan Russell, left, portraying the character Arkansas from Mark Twain's book Roughing it, responds to a question from 10-year-old Emma Connell, center, of Arizona during a "Clue" tour at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn. The tour allows visitors to interact with Twain characters while playing a live-action version of the board game. [AP Photo/Pat Eaton-Robb]
  3. Until this song, Alan Parsons Project stood on much higher ground


    Listening to yesterday's Keats song made me pine for more Alan Parsons Project music and today we dig deeper into their catalogue with Standing On Higher Ground.

  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 23


    Marie Antoinette: Freefall 411: A contemporary look at the historic pariah looks at Marie Antoinette through the lens of society's obsession with celebrity. Through August 13. A brief talk prior to the performance provides insight to the production. 1 p.m., show starts at 2 p.m., Freefall Theatre, 6099 Central …

    Lucas Wells as King Louis XVI, left, and Megan Rippey as Marie Antoinette in Freefall Theatre's "Marie Antoinette."
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 22


    Snooty the Manatee's 69th Birthday Bash: Snooty, documented by Guinness World Records as the oldest known manatee in captivity, turns 69 and celebrates with children's games, art activities, cookies, drinks , interaction with Snooty the mascot and reduced price museum admission. 10 a.m., South Florida Museum, 201 …

    Snooty the manatee poses for a photo Thursday morning while three young manatees are unloaded from Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa Thursday morning at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton.
PAUL VIDELA/ 12/20/07