913 E. Hillsborough
Tampa, FL 33604
When I heard we would be coming to Tampa to start our vacation, I immediately went to the Internet to see what restaurants have been featured on TV. For the most part we usually have good luck with restaurants that have been featured on the Food Network, Travel Channel, or any other network that showcases restaurants. Taco Bus has been featured on two of my favorite restaurant related shows, Man V. Food and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, so it was a slam dunk that we would be showing up at the Taco Bus during our Tampa stay.
Taco Bus is becoming a Tampa institution. They started 20 years ago serving their food on the streets. This was long before the food truck craze of today. Now they have four permanent locations around the Tampa area, and still have a thriving catering business. With some locations being open 24 hours a day, there is always an opportunity for hungry Tampanian's to get their taco fix. Now it was our turn to see if all of this attention has been warranted for the Taco Bus.
Sabrina and Anthony's flight did not get into Tampa until 10, so we got to Taco Bus pretty close to 11. We were also going to be meeting my good friends, Mike and Kim, who live in Tampa. This is the flagship location of Taco Bus. They have numerous buses parked on this large lot, many of which I assume are their catering trucks. Throughout our visit, there was a steady stream of customers, but not as busy as I had imagined. Mike said that the line grows longer late at night, because that's when the bars close. Lucky for us we did not have to deal with any drunken fools, so we ordered our food at the window and waited for it to be brought out to us. After about five minutes this is what had appeared.
I wanted to get a wide variety of food, so I started with three different varieties of tacos. The best of the three was the Fish Taco from Guaymas ($2.99). This fish taco could easily go up against any fish taco in Southern California. The Swai fish was battered and fried perfectly, the white cream sauce was on point and the cabbage added some nice texture. The Pollo Taco ($2.99) was the next best. I usually shy away from chicken in Mexican restaurants because it gets overcooked, but this was not the case here. The chicken was juicy, tender and well seasoned. The tortillas were pretty legit as well. They held all the contents, and you could tell that they were homemade. Solid chicken taco. The worst of the bunch for me was the Barbacoa Taco ($2.99). Whenever I eat barbacoa I always expect big flavor, and this one failed to deliver. The braised beef was barely tender, and definitely left me wanting more out of this taco.
Katie got two items to try as well. The Carne Asada Quesadilla ($6.79) was filled with a good amount of meat, but was way over-priced at nearly seven dollars. I never understand why quesadillas need to be so expensive, not just here, but in all places where they are offered. Kind of a pet peeve of mine that will have to be discussed at a later time. Katie was most excited about her Butternut Squash Taco ($2.99). Here the squash is topped with pico de gallo, cotija cheese, and cilantro. This veggie-centric taco really got Katie going. She liked the freshness of the vegetables, and felt this taco was a great alternative to people that wanted to forgo meat items. I tried a bite of this, thought it was okay, but not really my thing. I will not be turning vegetarian anytime soon.
Sabrina and Anthony shared a Two Taco Meal Deal ($8.89). Sabrina had the Barbacoa taco we mentioned before, while Anthony had the Lengua Taco, which he found to be pretty good. What we did not find to be good was the beans and rice here. The beans and rice needed to light a flare gun off, because they were so lost here. Both side items failed to impress any of us.
After eating at Taco Bus, I can definitely see why they are so popular. The main food items are all pretty good. This is not the best Mexican food you will have, but it is really solid. Taco Bus could easily be transported to Southern California to open up shop and fit right in. I think part of the popularity of Taco Bus is a geographic thing. Tampa is over 1700 miles away from Mexico, so the lack of great Mexican food really showcases the Taco Bus. Mike said that this is basically the only good Mexican food in town. Being from So Cal, he tries to eat here as often as he can. We all enjoyed this restaurant and can see why it has been highlighted by so many television programs.
Out of five crossing guards, (because where there are school buses, there are usually crossing guards close by), five being best to zero being worst, Taco Bus gets 3 crossing guards.
For more information about Taco Bus, check them out here: http://www.taco-bus.com/#!