Tin & Taco SoDo

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Tin and Taco case

When it opened in downtown Orlando, in early 2017, Tin & Taco did little to elevate the "things in a tortilla" category. I wasn't overwhelmed by what I tasted; I wasn't underwhelmed, either. I was just whelmed.

So I was a bit bemused to learn that T&T would be opening a second location, in the SoDo district less than three miles away. What could they possibly have learned in a short time to warrant a second location?

A lot, it would seem.

Agave Azul Winter Park

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Agave Azul sign

I like Agave Azul in Winter Park. And if I sound slightly surprised when I say that, it's only because I never cared very much for the original in Orlando.

Then again it's been over seven years since I visited the Kirkman Road location. And I rather liked its sister restaurant, Saint Anejo Mexican Kitchen + Tequileria when it opened a year and a half ago in Winter Springs.

Like Saint Anejo, the newer Agave leans a tad more to the Mexico side of the border in the Tex or Mex question, though a full section of Fajitas, an American invention, has it straddling the wall.

But everything I tasted was good. Though in the case of the Taco Shooters it was good taste in an odd presentation. But how could I pass up something called Taco Shooters?

NEW: Watch a video version of this review. Click the image below.

Taco Maker Mexican Grill

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Taco Maker tacos

Taco Maker Mexican Grill had me at goodbye. As I walked out of the fast fooder across the street from the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, the manager and her young staffer behind the counter both called after me, thanking me for coming in and hoping that I enjoyed my food. Hospitality management, indeed.

Unfortunately, everything before that wasn't so hot.

California Tortilla

Written by Scott Joseph on .

California Tortilla ext

I find the name California Tortilla unmemorable. It's generic. Non descriptive. And the logo for the chain restaurant that opened recently in downtown Orlando isn't very helpful: it's an avocado. Also, the specialty is burritos. Oh, and despite the California designation there don't appear to be any locations in that state.

Then again, there isn't much else about the place that's all that memorable, either. Certainly not the staff, most of whom barely acknowledge a customer's existence.

Cilantro's Taqueria

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Cilantros counter

It's Taco Tuesday. And also Fat Tuesday. So I was hoping for some Fat Tacos. Taco Gras, if you will.

So I headed over the the area of town that is still not officially designated the Hourglass District to try out a new place called Cilantro's Taqueria. It's in a small group of storefronts that also holds the oddly named businesses Hair Partners and Ambrose the Printer. The latter always makes me think of a medieval scribe.

Cilantro's is charming. I have no idea what was in this space before, even though I've passed by this corner several times a week for more than 25 years. It might have been a wonderful business, but even without knowing, I'd say Cilantro's is an improvement.

F&D Cantina Lake Mary

Written by Scott Joseph on .

FD Cantina bar

To understate it just a bit, I wasn't all that impressed with F&D Cantina when it opened in mid 2016 in Waterford Lakes. Besides being served food that was at a temperature lower than what could legally be considered warm, the service was lacking and the surroundings offered nothing to enhance the experience.

That location has closed.

But another F&D Cantina has popped up in Lake Mary, not far from F&D Kitchen and Bar, which causes a bit of a problem itself. I arranged to meet an associate at F&D Cantina, but Google Maps sent him to F&D Kitchen, which is not far away physically but is a logistical challenge. Thank God one of us wasn't in Lake Mary and the other in Waterford Lakes.

And thank God, or the chef, that the F&D Cantina in Lake Mary is good enough to put the Waterford Lakes location a distant memory.

Chela Tequila & Tacos

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Chela interior

This week's review of a taco restaurant is Chela Tequila & Tacos in downtown Orlando.

Until very recently, this restaurant was known as Kasa, which did not focus on tacos. It did, however, specialize in small plates, but there wasn't anything about the experience I could recommend.

I can recommend Chela. The food is good, the service is personable, and while the atmosphere is a bit cold and institutional it at least reflects the urban environment in which it is located.

Hourglass Brewing and Wako Taco

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Hourglass

With just a little over a week left to vote for Best Craft Beer in our Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants (voting ends at midnight Aug. 23), I've been out doing some practical research. Very demanding, but I insist on it.

To that end, I met a friend at Hourglass Brewing in Longwood recently.But for some reason I hadn't gotten around to visiting it until now.

It's a big place and a big operation in terms of its brewing facilities. A big, boxy space, sort of like a warehouse with a bar set up in a corner, there's plenty of room for tables and stools and still space for brewing tanks, seen behind tall windows behind the back side of the bar.

They keep the beers rotating, as a good brewer should. In fact, the available beers listed on the website are under the heading Live Menu; currently they're featuring anniversary drafts with such variety as Auld Clootie (old ale), 'Round the Riverbend (farmhouse ale), Rusty Barnacle (American wild ale), and Apricaustic (fruit beer), which was concocted for the fourth anniversary. This year's commemorative brew is Giant Giant Braggot that blends two stouts blended in bourbon barrels and apple brandy barrels.

Pepe's Cantina Church Street

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Pepe church platter 1

Pretty soon, I'm going to have to start writing reviews in Spanish.

Or Spanglish, perhaps.

In case you haven't noticed, we've had a lot -- A LOT -- of Mexican, Tex-Mex and tacomongers open lately. So many that it was a factor in Mucho Tacos and Tequila's decision to close and make way for Muddy Waters, a New Orleans style restaurant (which we could certainly use more of).

But el market will supply what el dining public demands.

Tin & Taco

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Tin and Taco ext

Now comes another player in the craft taco game: Tin & Taco, a downtown quick-server hawking “Craft Tacos. Craft Beers. Craft Soda” from a small storefront on Washington Street just west of Orange Avenue.

The Tin of the name apparently refers to the metal trays the food is served on, the sort of conveyance usually seen in George Raft prison movies.

The Taco part of the name refers, unstartlingly, to tacos, though not exclusively. You may also get your chosen ingredients wrapped within a burrito or in a bowl with rice or served in a bag of Doritos.

Most of the selections are $8, which gets you two “tacos.” It’s nice, however, that you’re allowed to get different varieties to make up your twosome. I chose the Taco Bomb and the Tacosaurus and went conventional taco with both, though I was tempted by the bag of Doritos gimmick (and if it had been 2:45 a.m. on a weekend there would have been no question).