Friday, January 14, 2011
I sit here, completely sated and calm. My Mexican food addiction, in check for now. It has been over a year since I had proper Mexican food in a restaurant. Since moving to the U.K. last year, I have struggled to find authenticity in Mexican cooking. The closest I came was Wahaca, which actually shouldn't be called Mexican at all, but Tex-Mex, with London prices. It took a trip to the good 'ole U.S. of A. in order to get my Mexican fix. Like a drug addict, I crave Mexican food on a daily basis. And it was the Taco Bus in Tampa, Florida that acted as my Mexican drug dealer. Pushing authentic, high quality Mexican food, served out of a converted bus. The Taco Bus is open 24/7, which is incredible considering the location. Not exactly prime Tampa real estate.
It's one of the coldest January's in Tampa history, but there stood an army of loyal Taco Bus followers, who were, just like me, waiting in line for their fix. There is a hand written slogan on the bus, which reads: Taco Bus - Broken English, Spoken Perfectly. The bus itself is tired, rusted and dirty. I was in heaven. An older Mexican woman exited the bus and started taking orders from the hungry men and women waiting patiently in line. We had to act fast. I quickly scanned the menu and ordered for the three of us.
To the side of the bus are about six outdoor tables. Each adorning two large plastic containers of hot sauce; green and red. At the front of the bus, on what used to be the grill, sat a large stainless steel sink and to the left of that a soap dispenser. We waited no more than 10 minutes for our food before it was brought out to us on Styrofoam plates, with plastic cutlery. I dove head first into it. I don't remember eating anything so quickly in my life.
My Beer Battered, Fish Taco, with Crema and Chile de Arbol Sauce on the side instantly relieved my wild craving for authentic Mexican food. It was gone in ten seconds and I was onto my next dish. The Beef Tongue Taco with Tomatoes, Onions, Cilantro and Shredded Cabbage made me want to stand up and dance like a Mariachi. It was that good. And so was the Carne Asada Taco, which is Grilled Steak with Mexican seasonings that has been diced up and placed into the perfect delivery system for Meat, the Soft Corn Taco Shell.
Tacos are not the only thing awe inspiring about this no frills, rough and tough restaurant. The Puerco Asado Burrito with Grilled and Seasoned, Diced Pork was one of the best Burritos I've ever had. If not the best. The Meat was so flavorful and the tastes so fresh, I don't imagine it will ever be topped by anything outside of Mexico. And lastly, my wife's staple, a Chicken Quesadilla, with a mountain of Onion, Cilantro, Tomatoes and Cheese.
The Taco Bus in Tampa is one of those restaurants that redefine your expectations of what a particular food should taste like. It has raised the bar on what I expect from Mexican food. If I was a harsh critic before, this certainly will not help those poor restaurants in England that serve sad, lifeless, expensive Tex-Mex.
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