I first heard about the Taco Bus in Tampa a few months ago from one of Tampa Bay’s best food blogs: Carlos Eats. I ate there last Saturday and liked it so much I found myself standing in line at the brand new St. Petersburg location within a week’s time. This place is the talk of the town. Apparently they opened on a Monday and had to close Wednesday and Thursday to regroup from the overwhelming demand. As I write this, even their website is down from the traffic influx. And I’m glad. St. Pete needs more food places that are authentic, accessible, and inexpensive.
I arrived hungry from an afternoon of meetings and eager to dive into a Styrofoam box full of tacos. At 5:30 when we queued up, there were about 20 people in line. When we left there were about 50. The line was studded with a wide variety of people: hipsters, families, couples, and of course, the rich old St. Pete guy in a tacky shirt who thinks he’s the life of the party. His jokes seemed to be the funniest things he’s ever heard.
The wait wasn’t too long though considering the size of the queue. The night’s weather was beautiful and everyone really seemed to be excited and in good spirits.
My trusted dining companion and I ordered three cochinita pibil tacos. Apparently cochinita pibil is a Mayan dish involving slow roasting pork in banana leaves. They were fantastic! The pork was succulent, tender, and bursting with strong anchiote flavor. And they didn’t go Chipotle style with a few sad shreds. Each taco was packed with pork. They came piled high with tomatoes, cabbage, cilantro and red onions. All of the veggies tasted bright and fresh. They weren’t sitting in their own juices waiting to destroy a perfectly good tortilla with their wetness. The tacos were well-constructed and held together nicely.
I had two fish tacos as well. I keep convincing myself that I need to like fish tacos because all of the cool kids like them. I’ve never liked a single one that I’ve tried until the Taco Bus. These were solid, as well, though didn’t quite reach the levels of greatness that the cochinita pibil did. The fish was well-cooked, and again, plentiful.
I got my slew of tacos with a side of refried beans and Mexican rice. Refried beans are one of those foods that can go south fast. But instead of the canned brown paste served at many a Mexican restaurant, the kind I can feel finding itself a nice warm corner of my arteries to settle into even before I finish the first spoonful, these beans were a revelation. They were smooth, creamy, and authentically beany. The sprinkling of grated cheese was nice as well.
The rice was also a hit, especially with my trusted dining companion. She mooched way more than half of my serving, even after being asked if she would like her own order. Chicks man. They’re the worst.
The red salsa, I enjoyed thoroughly. A little on each taco added another great layer of flavor. The green salsa was also good, although much more spicy. I’m a wuss when it comes to heat, so a little bit of the stuff went a long way for me.
I also ordered a horchata which may as well have been served in a bucket. The thing was huge. I didn’t come close to finishing it. I am currently running laps around my neighborhood, typing this post on a laptop in an attempt to burn off some of the sugar. I think a few more hours will do me.
Our five tacos, rice, beans, and horchata came to $19.87. A steal!
Overall, my experience with the St. Pete Taco Bus was a blast. The food looked gorgeous and it tasted even better. I cannot wait to go back and start perfecting my order. Next time, some cheese, maybe a little sour cream. Perhaps some carne asada. The sky’s the limit. If you have any interest whatsoever in Mexican food, you need to hightail it down to the Taco Bus, Speedy Gonzalez style. I’d say tell you’re your friends, but I think I’m the last person in the bay to find out about it.
2324 Central Avenue
St. Petersburg, FL 33712