Tacos & Tequila Cantina: Authentic? Maybe Not, But Lots of Fun

Authentic? Maybe Not, But Lots of Fun

This lively new place in an under-reconstruction shopping center in a less than glamorous corner of this well-to-do southwestern Florida community promises "Funky unconventional Tex Mex at its best with popular Americana sprinkled into your favorite South of the Border treats" — and delivers nicely.

Tortillas, both corn and flour, are made in-house and cotija, queso Oaxaca, and other real Mexican-style cheeses are employed, but Tacos & Tequila makes no claims for authenticity. Instead, they seem to be going after fun. The easy-going atmosphere does part of the job (and there's frequently live music), but the food is just plain enjoyable, too. There are "traditional tacos" with things like chorizo, carnitas (really good), and grilled shrimp, served on soft corn tortillas with clantro, onion, lime, and cotija, but the house specialties involve flour tortillas filled with things like fried chicken with tequila-pickled jalapeños and queso blanco (fried chicken tacos are a terrific idea, I'd say); barbecued pork with caramelized onions, fried pickles, and Makers Mark sauce; and Shiner Bock beer-battered fried or grilled mahi=mahi with jalapeño slaw and avocado crema. There's also "that taco your mom made" — "Ortega-style" seasoned ground beef, shredded lettuce, tomato, and cheddar cheese in a crispy taco shell.

There are burritos, enchiladas, and fajitas, similarly gussied up, as well as Florida corn with ancho chiles, aioli, and cotija, excellent refried beans with a smoky overtone, and dense, medium-spicy guacamole that isn't bad at all. And next time, I have to try smashed potato taquitos with guacamole and tomatillo salsa.

Prices are friendly here — tacos are $3.50 to $5; the most expensive item on the menu are the generously portioned grilled tequila lime shrimp fajitas. I wish they didn't use sour mix in their margaritas (that's what the fresh lime juice is for, hombres), but there's a good range of tequilas avalable, from my go-to standard, Cuervo Tradicional, at $7.25 to Kah añejo at $14. And for $29 you can have any three tacos with three shots of a daily special tequila.