Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Senor Taco

We've learned that when you reside in Florida, the lure of the beaches and the coast is a strong one, even if you're not necessarily a sun worshiper like myself. Thousands of snowbirds arrive every fall from much less temperate parts than these to bask in the glow of eternal tropical warmth (which is a bit of a myth, as it turns out - the outdoor temperature in Tampa as I write this morning is a brisk 46F), snapping up rental properties that are within a block or two of the shore. I'm even met a surprising number of year-round residents who felt the need to get in on a coastal condo development or timeshare so that they had access to a weekend retreat of their own. Unable to resist the siren's call (but also because we simply like the idea of the thing), the missus and I have started ever-so-informally looking at real estate in the beach town of Indian Shores, having thus far toured a spectacular luxury apartment orders of magnitude beyond our price range (the kitchen sink was too small) and a much-more modest two-bedroom unit in a condo hotel development that vaguely resembles a Howard Johnson. Anyway, perhaps our best discovery thus far has been a Mexican restaurant on the road to Indian Shores called Senor Taco (6447 Park Boulevard, Pinellas Park), which shares space in an old motel complex with, among other things, a massage parlor and a one-room church.

While the setting may be a bit unconventional, Yelp reviewers have pretty much posted nothing but platitudes about ST's "Mexican food with a Mayan touch" as the owners describe their cuisine (they're from Progreso, a port city in the Yucatan region of Mexico). Along with the usual suspects (burritos, enchiladas, tortas, etc.), you'll also find a few coveted Yucatecan specialties such as cochinita pibil (roasted pork with pickled onions). We began with a very tasty queso fundido dip before perusing the entrees - we nearly ended up picking "La Tablita" a feast for two that included grilled steak, grilled pork, chorizo, chicken enchiladas, salad, rice, and beans, but thought better of it and opted to select individual tacos instead. This, as they say, was a good move.

What you see above is a platter of three tacos: a carne asada, a carnitas, and a cochinita pibil, all washed down with an ice cold Dos Equis and all of them simply fantastic, from the corn tortillas (made in-house) to the perfectly grilled meats (crunchy in some places from the flattop) to the fresh toppings (onions and cilantro).

Amazingly, things get even better when you consider the house's specialty tacos. This is what they call an "El Tri" (decorated to vaguely resemble the Mexican flag), an unctuous collection of grilled ham, bacon, and chorizo, plus onions, peppers, cheese, salsa, crema fresca, and guacamole. Yes, it's as decadent as it looks. Mrs. Hackknife selected two others, including a "ChoriQueso" (basically the queso fundido dip in a soft taco) and something called a "Machete", grilled pork, mushrooms, and onions topped with cheese, tomatillo, and crema fresca. I tried them both and found the Machete to be so good, I didn't care that there were mushrooms somewhere in that mix (about the highest possible compliment in my book).

I should note that just about everything else we ordered (including horchata and churros for the kiddies) was also terrific. We haven't eaten a ton of so-called "Mexican" food in the greater Tampa area as of yet and most of the local love goes towards the Guy Fieri-approved Taco Bus, but I have to say that Taco Bus got one-upped by Senor Taco (which now gets my vote for best tacos in town). If this is what the road to Indian Shores holds for us, we'll be buying that beach condo if for no other reason than to cut down our commute here...

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