Taco Bus – Tampa, FL

I might need an intervention of the Latin persuasion. I can’t stay away from Mexican food! It’s so stinking delicious and even better, it’s cheap! You’ve heard me rave about taco stands and Mercados lately, and I’ve been bombing Instagram with snapshots of  Tortas and Lengua Tacos. Hoarding over Horchata and slurping down my Agua Fresca like it was the last Liter of Crystal Pepsi in existence. If you ask me to meet you for lunch, dinner or a late night snack, I guarantee one option will be some sort of taqueria. More often than not, I’ll use reverse psychology to make you go along with me if I see the slightest hint of resistance. Well, after the Bourdain-Ripert performance, I received 0% resistance when I suggested a trip to the Tampa Taco Bus to satiate our famished bellies.

For over 20 years, long before street food and food trucks became the hip trend, The Taco Bus roamed the Tampa Bay area. Now though, they don’t need to seek out the people, we come to them! The bus is still around but it doesn’t move. The flagship site sits stationary in a convenient spot just off the interstate, so all the desquiciados clamoring for Tacos don’t accidentally get run over.

No matter what time of day you go, there will most certainly be a line, especially since people sometimes order food, get their order, and then jump back in line for more. Case in point this fine gentleman was caught on film devouring a burrito while waiting to order 3 fish tacos. Brilliant! I want to party with that guy! The biggest draw is always late Friday and Saturday nights, as the hipsters empty out of the bars and clubs, hopped up on Quaaludes looking for grub. You can find it here cause they don’t close.

I love the menu. It’s really simple, but allows you to create and infinite ways to customize your experience. You have one part for the vessel, one for the filling and then a board for everything else. Since, the line is usually quite long, you’ll have plenty of time to formulate your order to perfection instead of cracking under pressure and ordering something without thinking. Be honest, that happens more than you’d like to admit.

On this trip I already had an idea of what I wanted. It had been about 12 hours since my last meal and I had 3 gin and tonics earlier in the evening so I was beyond hungry, ravenous even! I ordered a torta with pibil as my filling. I love pibil at Taco Bus for a few reasons. First of all, it’s packed with achiote chile and sour orange flavors that separate it from plain old roast pork. Most importantly, as far as I know, it’s the only place that makes t in the area. The torta is filled with all the traditional condiments. I really like the pickled jalapeno Taco Bus uses because of the wonderful crunch, kind of the same as if you were eating a Vlassic pickle, mixed with a sweet heat from pickling with sugar.

By the looks of it, you’d think I was full since I paired the torta with a nice large cup of pineapple Agua Fresca.  Well you’d be wrong.  Throwing logic out the window, as I often do, I also ordered a lengua quesadilla with guacamole inside. When you think quesadilla, I bet you picture meat and cheese and not much else. At Taco Bus, as with everything else, they keep it traditional. It’s closer to what you would consider a soft taco in shape, but three times the size and filled with wonderfully charred grilled veggies, queso blanco, pico and sour cream. Don’t forget to get guac too!

Let me wag my tongue on lengua for a few moments. If you don’t like lengua due to fact that you have not tried it because you can’t stand the thought of eating tongue, I have nothing to say to you. If you don’t like lengua because you’ve tried it and it’s just not for you, I can respect that. I would venture to guess that you sampled a poorly executed tongue. I beg you to try it at a place that knows what they’re doing, that can transform a less than desirable piece of animal protein into something special. Taco Bus knows what they’re doing on all fronts. My only critique, which my table shared, was that the guacamole was pretty bland. Maybe if you hit it with some acidity and a few shakes of salt, it would be just right (Jimmy: “and garlic!”). I don’t know, maybe I was too drunk to notice. I really like having a place within driving distance where I can graze at any hour of the day. They aren’t the best I’ve ever had, but I think they do a wonderful job. I’m not being down on them at all though. I would suggest that if you’re in Plant City, their sister restaurant Taqueria Monterey owned by the same family, is even better with an even more authentic feel. Not only can you get shredded pork belly by the pound, but they also have the most amazing salsa bar I’ve ever had the privilege to sample. Just be careful, or you’ll get a spicy introduction to the town of Scoville.

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