Written by Scott Joseph on .

Bugambilias birria

Bugambilias isn't the sort of place you'd just wander into, not unless you live in the vicinity of Lancaster Road between Orange Avenue and South Orange Blossom Trail. If you do live in the area, you know there are myriad Mexican restaurants, many as authentic as you're likely to find in the area, to choose from. Bugambilas would be a good choice.

Though it isn't a guarantee of authenticity, it's a pretty good indication of it when one has to ask if a menu is available in English. (One was.)

While I was still trying to navigate through the Spanish version, I was drawn to the Pozole, a favorite of mine. But when I failed to notice it was available only on Saturdays and Sundays, I figured I'd better switch to my first language. (Not that there's a second one, mind you.)

Instead I chose the Birria, shown at top, which is available todos los dias. Birria is basically a beef stew and is a traditional dish from the Jalisco region, which is home to Guadalajara. This isn't a stew like American versions -- there are no carrots or potatoes or peas. But on the other hand, it isn't made with goat or mutton, as it might be in Mexico.

Tacos el Rancho: Part of Central Florida's Taco Takeover

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Taco Ranchos wide

The tacofication of Central Florida continues.

No food trend has held quite as strongly as tacos. Not that tacos are new. The taco as it's known from its roots predates the arrival to Mexico of Spaniards, who apparently were able to just walk in because there was no wall to keep them out. And some of those early tacos were just as creative in their fillings as some of our tonier craft tacomongers, with such things as whole, small fish in a tortilla wrapper.

There are few rules involving tacos. As long as you have a tortilla as your base, what you put inside is up to you. Corn tortillas are a bit more traditional, but you're more likely to find white flour tortillas in today's taquerias. I am thankful that few have taken to using the godawful hard-shell variety. Those have no place in the discussion.

Just look at the proliferation of taco vendors in the recent past. We've seen places like Black Rooster, Hunger Street, Tin & Tacos, bartaco, Four Rebels, Rocco's Tacos, not to mention a fleet of food trucks that specialize in tacos.

Recently, Kasa, a restaurant in downtown Orlando, rebranded itself as Chela Tequila & Tacos. Tin & Tacos announced that it will open a second location in SoDo, not far from where Gringo's Locos just opened a new restaurant. Garp & Fuss, which opened recently in the former Bistro on Park Avenue space in Winter Park, posted a taco special on its Facebook page recently.

El Pueblo

Written by Scott Joseph on .

El Pueblo food

Only one other customer came into El Pueblo during my dinnertime visit, and he wasn't even there to eat. And he couldn't have been sorrier.

From what I could gather from his apologia to the young woman taking the orders and to the cook who also acknowledged his arrival, he had been outvoted by his family regarding dinner. He had been sent for takeout, but his family chose pizza as the food to be taken. So, apparently, he placed the order at a nearby pizzeria then popped in to El Pueblo for a beer while he waited. And maybe a side order of the Mexican rice to go.

But what he really wanted was No. 8 on the menu. "I don't even know what it's called," he said, without getting an answer. He just knew it by number.

For the record, the No. 8 is Pechuga de Pollo Asada, or grilled chicken breast with beans and salad, and of course the rice that is better than pizza. But you can just call it No. 8.

Reyes Mescaleria

Written by Scott Joseph on .




Reyes exterior

That space that for many years was Citrus Restaurant, long before the neighborhood it sits in became known as the North Quarter District, has been transformed into Reyes Mezcaleria, a Mexican restaurant that brings street food inside to a fun and comfortable atmosphere.

You’d be hard pressed to find any of the old Citrus in the place. As reimagined by Sue Chin, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Jason, the space is more open, especially the bar area, thanks in part to a clever move of the restaurant’s main entrance, which also netted some additional patio seating.

String lights give the impression of outdoor dining inside, and small touches like faded frond stencils on worn and cracked terrazzo give an impression that the building is older than it is. I knew I would like the decor because Chin also designed the likable Osprey Tavern’s interior.

Mesa 21

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Mesa21 interior

Most people will likely gravitate directly to the patio at Mesa 21. They might not even enter through the front door, instead walking through the short gateway just behind the valet stand (more on the valet later).

The waterfront seating with a view of Lake Ivanhoe has long been the draw of this space, ever since the building was erected, circa 2004, and Gargi’s moved into it from its closet-sized restaurant across the street. Sitting on the patio at sunset helped one overlook shortfalls with food and service.

Gargi’s is gone, the owners retired, and Mesa 21 has moved in. While some now grouse that the view across the lake is marred by the ongoing construction related to the I-4 updates — what’s it been now, 15 years? — they probably assume the patio is the place to be.

Hunger Street Tacos

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Hunger Street sign

There’s brisket at 2103 W. Fairbanks Ave. again.

That Winter Park address, you’ll recall, was the site of the first 4 Rivers Smokehouse, before it outgrew the space and moved and multiplied.

In January of 2013, B&B Junction, a burger concept, moved in, and while it had its share of loyal fans, they apparently weren’t enough to sustain it. B&B closed late last year. Now it’s the home of Hunger Street Tacos.

Speaking of loyal fans, something else has returned to the corner of Fairbanks and Formosa Avenues: parking problems and teed off neighbors. As was the case when 4 Rivers had lines out the door, Hunger Street Tacos, too, is causing taco fanatics to cruise the surrounding blocks in search of parking, much to the consternation of the neighbors. (Printed signs on telephone poles and the windows of the restaurant admonish customers to not park in the surrounding streets, but what else are they to do?)

Los Generales

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Generales chips 1

The little restaurant space on Curry Ford that La Fiesta vacated recently didn’t stay empty very long. And it was replaced by another Mexican restaurant, to boot.

Los Generales moved in to 2901 Curry Ford Road after La Fiesta moved to a bigger space across the street. The name might sound familiar — it did to me — because there was a Los Generales in south Orlando that we visited several years ago (it was even one of the featured options during a Magical Dining Month), which is now closed.

But the name is merely coincidence.

Taco Twist

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Tacotwist exterior

Taco Twist is a small restaurant on West Colonial Drive that specializes in tacos. With a twist.

The twist is that in addition to your standard run of the mill Mexican variety, TT also offers a Korean version.

Of course Korean tacos aren’t that twisted themselves. One of the area’s older food trucks, Korean BBQ Taco Box, made them mainstream for Central Floridians.

At Taco Twist the tacos are available as an either/or option. You can have them in either the Mexican version or the Korean version.

I chose both.

Colibri Mexican Cuisine Sodo

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Colibri interior

I never think about Colibri when I think about Baldwin Park restaurants. Part of the reason is that the Mexican restaurant sits at the end of New Broad Street, apart from most of the other businesses. But it also doesn’t come to mind because its cuisine and the general dining experience are so forgettable.

Unfortunately, Colibri’s new location, in Orlando’s Sodo district, is just as unmemorable. It’s a lovely space — it took over the Egg & I and made it a bright, colorful and comfortable place. But the food just doesn’t excite; it’s remarkably bland. And service on a recent visit was inexplicably slow, even in a mostly empty restaurant.

And what Mexican restaurant worth its salsa runs out of pork before 7 p.m.?

But that sort of thing happens. A better question: Why would anyone put ceviche on top of a tostada?

La Fiesta Mexican Grill

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Lafiesta sign

For those who said they’d never cross the street to eat at La Fiesta Grill, there’s news: it has crossed the street so you don’t have to.

It took a little over a year for the move to occur, but the Mexican restaurant has finally taken over the space that previously was Southern Moon (Holy Smoke barbecue before that and an Eckerd Drug Store in the beginning). The announcement was first made when Ocean Sun Brewing announced it would begin making beer in an adjoining space. Ocean Sun opened in March.