Taqueria Monterrey Mexican Grill
Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on April 7, 2011
the taco bus had a baby, and they named it taqueria monterrey. actually, it had two of them. but let’s focus on the younger, more attractive one. so much more full of life. not yet weighed down by the harsh realities of life. and so very sexy.
taqueria monterrey mexican grill is tucked into a small strip mall on fletcher, with a tattoo parlor on one side, and an abc liquor on the other. an excellent location, if i do say so myself. as a result, the clientele at this restaurant is primarily bikers and sailors. …’cause those guys drink and get tattoos. right? amirite? no? moving on.
as soon as you get in, you’re greeted by a giant SALSA BAR! this self serve behemoth packs a ton of salsas, sauces, pico de gallos, and slimes. delicious slimes. and maybe some peppers and onions and limes and shit. they got it all. but you must resist planting yourself head first into the bar. youmustresist. it’s for topping! that’s not the meal.
you will probably go up to the ordering counter when you go in, and then they’ll tell you you can go take a seat anywhere. it’s cool. don’t feel stupid. sit down, place your order, and get ready for excellence.
start off with a cool, refreshing jarritos brand drinky-pop. they are all the rage among hipsters! probably. they have real sugar, and a million different delicious flavors. always good.
taqueria monterrey also features a number of different homemade drinks and coolers, stationed near the counter. i don’t believe i’ve ever ventured to try any of them, which is probably a huge mistake. agua de jamaica? yes. next time.
we went ahead and ordered ourselves some of their queso while we waited for our meal. it comes out in this sweet black bowl thing, which lends it the legitimacy of authenticity, and also provides the basic structure necessary for keeping it off the table. it’s got peppers and other stuff in there, giving it a bit of a zesty kick. it’s really quite good, and getting it allows you to a.) have a whole bunch of chips you can try out the different salsas on, and b.) throw the queso on your burritos or tacos or whatever else you order. and then you’ll feel cool.
my friend ordered a(n) horchata, and i grew enraged/engorged with jealousy. that lasted a few seconds, then i ordered one for myself. oh god yes. it was smooth, creamy, and above all, sweet. it was packed with vanilla and cinnamon. and it was awesome.
while we waited for our food to arrive, i made a quick trip to the salsa bar. every time we go here, i do this, and end up getting way more salsa and sauces than we need. but i feel okay with this. i mean, it’s free, right? that means “please waste this”. cause that’s what i do.
honestly, this visit was so long ago, i don’t even know what the majority of these are. some of them are sweet, some of them are spicy. some of them are overflowing. but their salsas really don’t have a wide range of spiciness. their most spicy is completely tolerable to almost anyone. the variety comes in the different ingredients they use to make up the salsas and sauces. each one is extremely fresh, and tastes exactly like the few ingredients they are comprised of. they are all very good, though.
the one i do remember specifically is the left most sauce pictured – the black one. that’s not an issue with the lighting or the camera… this sauce was actually black. it was a chipotle sauce, and carried a dark, smokey bitter flavor. it was very interesting, and quite good.
i ordered two tacos and a tostada, as is the custom of my people. this time around, i was a bit experimental (not… not too much, though). pictured here, left to right, is taqueria’s magical chuza taco, an al pastor taco, and a carne asada tostada. now, before i get into the individual items, i must note that on this particular visit, we seemed to be cursed with… not so good food. now, that is not to say the food was bad! far from it! and compared to most, it was still tops. but they were not on their A-game.
let’s start with the tostada. this was pretty average as far as they are concerned, a crispy corn tortilla topped with refried beans, meat (carne asada here), cabbage and tomatoes, and cheese (i don’t remember it having sour cream before this visit). i used this as the base for a lot of sauce experimentation. they have decent steak, but i feel like ordering the steak without trying any other meats would be a big mistake. misteak. all of their seasoned meats are so unique that the steak just falls behind. that being said, i almost always get something with steak when i go here.
the chuza taco, on the left, is something i’ve never tried before, but it’s supposed to be a bit of a specialty of theirs. it features home made chorizo(!), smoked pork, onions and peppers, and cheese. it’s all melted together, packed onto a corn tortilla (you can choose whatever you’d like your meat to be packed into… i feel the corn tortillas are the best, for both taste and consistency). the taco was pretty good, but i was expecting a little more. more spice, really. the meats were still excellent, though. i did end up putting salsas on this as well. the black chipotle worked well here.
and finally, in the middle is the al pastor taco, my personal favorite. it is a marinated pork, with a sweet sort of flavor. and it is the best. they don’t serve this at the taco bus, so i make sure to get it every time i come here. they throw on a little cilantro (or a lot of cilantro), some onions, and a few pieces of pineapple. my biggest complaint about this visit was the fact that they just stuck one big chunk of pineapple on there. come on! that’s not gonna last the whole taco! but when done right, the pineapple plays perfectly against the lightly sweetened pork, and the cilantro and onions add a great balance to the flavors. i usually eat this as is, or maybe just put a small bit of sauce on it. but it is complex enough on its own to be left alone. beautiful.
so the ambiance and atmosphere may not be up to snuff with the original taco bus, but it’s a great place, and the salsa bar makes it worth checking out. it’s location is a lot more convenient to students or university employees, so that’s a plus. and the al pastor. worth a trip just for that.
UPDATE: this beautiful piece of ass is closed now, and in the middle of a transformation into a BRAND NEW TACO BUS!! which i guess maybe we needed another of? i dunno. i hope they keep the salsa bar. )`:
5 Responses to “Taqueria Monterrey Mexican Grill”
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.