By Chelsea Bello
(Tampa, FL) I have decided to review three Mexican restaurants: Roccos Tacos, Vallarta’s, and Chipotle in order to find the best one. Mexican food has influenced Americans heavily, especially in the last half of the 20th century. Most Americans have integrated Mexican food into their daily eats, as it can be found readily available through fast food such as Taco Bell.
To begin, I went to Roccos Tacos with five of my friends after work. Their website classifies them as late-night comfort food, so thank goodness we got there pretty late! There was ample room to park, enough spots for everyone and more since it is located in front of International Mall which you can find in my home town, Tampa, Florida. We got there at around midnight, but sure enough they still had a party going on! There was a live DJ playing loud Spanish music- almost too loud for my friends and I to communicate. We were sat with their “late night menu” which consisted of tacos, quesadillas, and some appetizers. There were decorations all up and down the walls as well as colorful paintings of Mexico since this was a Mexican restaurant. Looking around, it seemed as if the people around us were there to celebrate. We were sat by several other parties of people that seemed to have been taking shots all night. Once the waitress arrived, she poured us all waters and asked if she could grab us any other drinks. We did not get free chips and salsa. After reviewing the menu, I ordered 3 chicken tacos. The prices were cheap, about $3.50 for 1 taco. That’s 10 tacos for $35! It didn’t take long at all for the tacos to be sitting in front of me, and once they were, I pretty much attacked them. They were just the right size and fully loaded- I finished all 3. Once we were done eating, our server did the right thing and offered us dessert which I politely declined because I was so full. I would recommend this to people who love delicious tacos and love a lively and loud environment to eat in.
Moving on to Vallarta’s: I arrived on a Friday night to the Carolwood, Florida location and the restaurant did not seem to be busy. Their founder, Juan Acosta, set on a mission to create a revolution of fresh, fast, and good fast food Mexican dishes. We were promptly seated and approached by a man that gave us chips and salsa. I tried to carry on a conversation with him, although he did not speak any English. When the waitress arrived, she barely spoke English as well. I really do appreciate this because it proves the authenticity of the restaurant! I looked around the menu and was pleased with how extensive the menu was. The prices were high. Once ordering, our waitress gave us plates for a salad bar that was included with our meals. Something interesting I could point out: the lettuce for the salad was shredded lettuce; like for tacos! Once I constructed my salad I sat back down and ate up. The food arrived shortly after. It was hot, absolutely delicious, and most importantly: authentic. While enjoying my food, I had the opportunity to look around. Each and every chair was decorated with colors and paintings of pretty birds. They also had a mariachi band walking around a performing at various tables! At the end of my meal, the waitress silently gave us our check, in which we had to pay for at the front of the restaurant. This experience was great, and much more authentic than Roccos Tacos which I can very much appreciate.
Lastly, Chipotle. Chipotle is fairly new, a chain that was founded in 1993, but fully divested by McDonalds by 2006. I went to the location in Tampa, Florida for a quick lunch one day. Upon walking in, I realize it has a layout of an assembly style with someone behind the counter helping you out as you desire. The menu is above the assembly line featuring some vegetarian options, as well as steak, chicken, carne asada, and other Spanish options. After speaking with some of my friends and family, everyone agreed their burritos were monstrous! So of course, I needed to test their theories. The staff was very friendly in helping me order, making the process smooth and quick. After I paid the reasonable price, I sat down with my chicken and guacamole burrito. I went to take a bite when I realized I would need a fork and knife in order to get into it! After biting into it, it turned out to be perfect as expected. While analyzing the place, I came to the conclusion that this is the least authentic place out of the three that I had been too; I probably should’ve noticed this when I saw the whole staff working was still in high school. With a modern design, and no chips and salsa, Chipotle is classified as most casual from the three.
To compare and contrast all of the restaurants in a nutshell: Roccos Tacos is much more modern for a younger crowd, Vallarta’s is much more authentic and family oriented, and Chipotle is something quick and on the go. Each place was delicious and a nice time in their own way, and I anticipate returning to each.
Header photo by Tampa Bay Times.