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STP - Sloppy Taco Palace

STP tacos

You might expect one thing from a place that refers to itself as STP. You’d definitely expect another once you knew that the initials stand for Sloppy Taco Palace. You get both at this fun little place in South Orlando. The walls are covered with assorted signage, some of which would bring to mind the motor oil company, and the menu filled with tacos, sloppy or otherwise.

You won’t get a palace, that’s for certain. STP is decidedly a bar. Think Johnny’s Fillin’ Station but with tacos instead of burgers. There are some hightop tables, but this is the sort of place that if you walk in and there are places to sit at the bar and no one sitting at tables you’d be considered odd not to hop onto a barstool.

Which is what I did on my recent lunchtime visit.


Chuys hubcapsWhen it was announced, in January, that Austin-based Chuy’s would be opening a restaurant in Central Florida, fans of the Tex-Mexery were enthusiastic. Many of the commenters were ex-Texans (extans?) who bemoaned the lack of good, authentic Tex-Mex food in Central Florida.

As someone who moved to the area from the Southwest, I can understand the disappointment with some of the restaurants that foist what they call Tex-Mex -- or worse, “authentic Mexican -- food but which is really no more than some tortillas with refried beans and melted cheese. It’s the equivalent of a cook boiling up some pasta, dumping some tomato sauce on it and proclaiming, “That’s Italian!”

But in the 25 years since I moved here, restaurants have moved beyond Flori-Mex and learned the nuances of Tex-Mex. Amigo’s under the original owners is one example; Cocina 214 in Winter Park would be a more recent one.

Rocco's Tacos and Tequila Bar

Rocco wallIt took four visits to Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila Bar before I was able to sample the food. The first time I didn’t even make it out of my car. The restaurant had announced its grand opening -- and the promise of free food -- and the Sand Lake Road complex where Rocco’s is located was so jam-packed that there weren’t any parking space even at the neighboring strip mall. I don’t need free food that badly.

Taqueria del Sol

sol bar“Low Country” Southern-fried chicken isn’t the sort of thing you expect to see on the menu of a restaurant with a Mexican name. And you don’t expect to see a full bar in a fast casual concept.

But there they both are at Taqueria del Sol, a new restaurant brought to town from Atlanta by local Five Guys burger franchise owners BRMGRP LLC. TdS opens today (Monday, Oct. 1, 2012) in a space that was originally occupied by the now defunct O’boys barbecue on South Orange Avenue.

I stopped in a few days ago to have a look and a nibble, and I liked what I saw and tasted.

Taqueria del Sol was started, in 2000, by Atlanta restaurateur Mike Klank and chef Eddie Hernandez, a native of Monterrey, Mexico, who had collaborated previously on a restaurant called Sundown Cafe, a full-service, dinner-only restaurant. The Taqueria was a response to requests that the two serve a casual lunch. There are now four TdS locations in Georgia, and franchises are opening in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.

Azteca d'Oro


It's shredded lettuce, not hair, on the chest of the Macho Burrito.
OK, I admit it. One of my favorite pig-out foods is Tex-Mex. I can visit just about any other type of restaurant and no matter how good it is control myself from eating too much. But after a meal at Tex-Mex restaurant, I leave stuffed and bloated.


Of course, I could blame the (usually) complimentary chips and salsa that are the custom of Tex-Mexeries. And I do. But that doesn’t explain the utter loss of constraint i’m somehow able to maintain at other types of restaurants with, say, a mere bread basket. I just keep shoving those little triangles into my face.

But that doesn’t stop me from going whole hog on the entree, hog being the operative word. More often than not I’ll get a combination platter, something that will include rice and refried beans, because I don’t get enough carbs from the chips, not to mention the flour tortillas that are more common than the corn variety at most T-M’s. I think the reason I enjoy Tex-Mex so much is that I don’t have to think too hard. There is very little nuance. Heck, most of the items on any menu are the same four or five ingredients just presented in different order. For a critic, there isn’t a whole lot to do.

Saturday, 28th March 2015

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