Chela Tequila & Tacos

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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.

Chela bar

A friend and I stopped in for a late night meal at the beginning of the weekend and found a couple of empty seats at the bar. After getting some drinks from the friendly bartender (who made some very nice recommendations) we placed a quick order.

Chela tacos

We ordered a Drunken Fish taco, which apparently is not so named because it wandered in off of Orange Avenue. Instead, it featured fish sticks in a batter modeled with Modelo beer. It was, as are all the tacos here, set upon a platform of a flour tortilla, albeit one that had been grilled to take the chill off. Shredded red cabbage, pico de gallo and a cilantro tinged cream sauce finished it.

We also had the Brisket Taco, which included grilled onions with the meat as well as red sauce and crumbled fresh cheese.

Chela chips

Both tacos were good, but we also found ourselves cramming down the chips and salsas that we had also ordered after seeing a nearby party enjoying them. The corn chips were served with three salsas: pico de gallo, a red and a green. We decided after a hefty sampling that the salsa roja was our favorite.

Chela cauliflower

The Crispy Cauliflower appetizer sounded better than it turned out to be. It was a small head doused with aioli and toasted almonds with a bit of cilantro sprinkled about. Something about it just didn't work, and as a menu item it seemed out of place with the theme. And no, I'm not suggesting it be served in a folded tortilla.

Chela, by the way, is Mexican slang for beer, so the name essentially means Beer Tequila and Tacos.

Chela occupies a large corner space in the Plaza building that has a high ceiling and walls of windows. The dining room has rounded booths that look as though they've been thrown off a Tilt-a-Whirl and sheets of corrugated metal, which is seldom a warm decorating touch.

But those are small niggles. I'm happier about the quality of the food, and I'm pleased to add Chela to the list of downtown restaurants worth visiting to grab a bite.

Chela Tequila & Tacos is at 183  S. Orange Ave., Orlando. It is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday and Sunday and for dinner Tuesday through Sunday. The phone number is 407-985-5272.