The Taco Bus (here) is a Tampa legend that serves delicious authentic Mexican fare from the side of a bus. It has tons of vegetarian options and is open nearly 24/7 to satisfy cravings at all hours of the day. Recently the owners of the bus have expanded to St. Pete and more traditional restaurants (you know the ones with walls and floors) in Plant City and the University of South Florida area. The restaurants have been dubbed Tacqueria Monterrey #1 and #2.
My first experience with Tacqueria Monterrey #2 (the one by USF) was in December when I headed out for my birthday dinner. Our original destination was Trang Viet but when we arrived we found the doors locked and lights out (they no longer were open on Sundays). We moved a street over to Tacqueria Monterrey #2.
I was immediately impressed by the menu because there were a number of vegetarian options including vegan chorizo burritos (which I ordered). They were not quite as good as the tofu ones at taco bus but they weren't far behind.
A few weeks ago we returned to Tacqueria Monterrey #2 (twice in the span of one weekend) and a lot had changed about the menu. No longer were chorizo burritos available. In fact, their vegetarian fare had been slashed a lot. It took me about ten minutes to find something I could eat. I went with rajas con queso which were roasted poblano peppers with corn kernels, queso fresco and cream. J-Fur chose the potato flautas.
As we waited for our orders we were treated to bottomless baskets of tortilla chips and fresh salsa. Tacqueria Monterrey #2 also features a salsa bar with ten or twelve different salsas that you can choose from. After tasting all these my overarching reaction was why? Why have ten or twelve tasteless salsas. If you aren't going to make them worthwhile, don't make them. The house made salsa that is placed on every table is a hundred times better than anything at the salsa bar.
The House Salsa
It isn't too strongly flavored with cilantro or spiciness which is nice because both J-Fur and I can eat it and enjoy (of course she has to pry it from my hands first). Our friend Hollie ordered a bowl of guacamole which was also very good and further illustrated why the salsa bar does not matter.
I filled up on chips and salsa (like I normally do) and had only enough room for half of my burrito. On first bite I realized that I had forgotten to ask for the burrito without cream. It isn't that I can't eat cream, I just am not particularly fond of it so I usually go without. When I returned the next day, I ordered the burrito without cream and the waitress gave me a hard time saying 'We can't do it without cream.' Somehow, magically perhaps, the cook figured out how to make the burrito without cream. I wish he hadn't as it was not very good. While I liked the burrito fine enough, I can't completely get behind something that requires me to eat cream in order for it to be good. There is just something wrong with that in my opinion.
Rajas Con Queso (with Cream)
J-Fur's Potato Flautas
J-Fur's Flautas (fried tortillas with potatoes in) were pretty good, though I haven't yet been to a restaurant that can botch them because they are so basic. The flautas were doused in cheese and cream (which she also forgot to remove the first day) and surrounded by lettuce and tomato. They were served with a side of rice and beans.
Tacqueria Monterrey wasn't anything special. When I heard that it was a relative of the Taco Bus, I expected much more than I got. I think I will continue to drive the extra twenty minutes to the original Taco Bus when I get my Mexican craving.
When I get my craving for 70's style singalong rock peppered with roadhouse twang I turn to Natural Child and their single "Yer Birthday." Perfect for a post that begins with a birthday meal.
I've had Folkster Supreme's "Young Forever" in my pocket for a while. It just never seemed to fit. Where does one put a dusty phone call interpretation of a Jay-Z song that reminds me of gardening with my grandmother? In a post about a restaurant that is a dusty interpretation of its predecessor? That's why we are here.