Mucho is a better name than The Worm. Mucho better, as a matter of fact.
The Worm was the original name of the new, ostensibly Mexican tequila bar and taco in the condominium complex at 101 S. Eola Drive in downtown Orlando. The Worm was to be a paean to the agave worm that is sometimes bottled in mescal. Mescal is a generic term for any distillates of the agave plant, also known as maguey, of which tequila is included. The worm is actually the larval stage of a butterfly that lives in the maguey plant. The worms burrow into the plant and some get cooked up in the process of making mescal -- some contend that they are actually essential to the flavor and color of mescal. But placing one in the bottle was strictly a marketing ploy.
The practice of placing a worm in mescal bottles dates back only to the early 1950s, though consuming the worm for its supposed aphrodisiac properties is said to go back to ancient Aztecs. Whatever. The thing is, most of the worms placed in bottles of mescal or tequila for marketing reasons aren’t even the right type of worm. The agave worm is reddish; the bottled worms are usually white and are found on the leaves of the plant instead of inside it. There is no lore regarding the Viagran qualities of the white worms, so my advice is that if you want to eat larvae insist on the real maguey.
But few people want to eat worms let alone think about them when they’re eating. And, luckily, smarter heads prevailed when it came time to put a name on the place. (The process was far enough along that the phone number is 407-the-worm.)
And Mucho is more appropriate because the restaurant and bar is much more than I was expecting. It’s larger than you’d think from the outside, the decor is fun and thoughtfully moody, and the menu has more options than only tacos.
But it was tacos that caught my attention when I first visited. Well, the tequila got first focus.
As you might expect, Mucho’s bar features a long list of tequilas of varying types and qualities. Aficionados could spend days going through them all. (Try to do it in one night and you might end up spending days in a drunk tank on 33d Street.) I took the easy route and just ordered a house margarita. I was surprised when my server brought my drink and announced that it was two-for-one night. I looked at the size of the mug and thought I might not want two of these. But the mugs must have thick walls -- there wasn’t as much ‘rita in it as I thought. Two of them caused barely a buzz. There wasn’t anything singular about the drink, but it was sufficiently tasty with a good mix of sweetness and tang, plus the salt from the rim.
Tacos are offered prepared in a variety of styles, from the Mucho, which has pico de gallo, onions and cilantro, to the Pueblo, a fiery hot version with grilled jalapenos and adobo peppers. I selected a Mucho with chicken and an al carbon (grilled scallions, pickled cucumbers and chipotle salsa) with roast pork. Tacos are priced individually at $2.95 ($3.95 for steak or shrimp) but you can upgrade to a platter with rice and beans for $1.75. That seemed like a good option.
The tacos are folded in large, soft flour tortillas (corn tortillas were not offered as a choice). They’re ample servings, and I liked the flavors of both. The pickled cucumbers in the al carbon added an interesting tang.
The rice and beans were both rather bland and had no distinguishing characteristics. I probably wouldn’t waste another buck-seventy-five unless they are improved.
Chips and salsa are offered upon seating; those were better than average and the salsa was good and pulpy. Service was friendly and helpful.
Mucho was busy the night I visited, and a full restaurant can be rather loud. But it’s appropriate for this place. It’s more than just a bar that serves food but it’s still primarily a bar. That means lots of big groups and people looking to have a good time. With the big screen television, I’m thinking this might be a fun place to watch the Super Bowl.
Mucho, which is owned by Beacon Hill Group (the former Beacon and the current Stardust Lounge and Cigarz on Orange Avenue) is at 101 S. Eola Drive, Orlando. It’s open daily at 4 p.m. and 11 a.m. on Sundays for brunch. The phone number is 407-843-9676. Here’s a link to Mucho’s Web site.