The last time I was in Hyde Park, I saw numerous windows filled with advertisements for restaurants-to-come in the village. Bartaco was one of them. To be honest, my first thoughts were “it’s just another Mexican restaurant”. Just within South Tampa, there’s Green Lemon, Urban Cantina, Taco Bus, Tijuana Flats, Chipotle, Miguel’s, and probably a few others that I’m forgetting. It was certainly a risk to add another one to the mix. Nonetheless, I wanted to try it out before really judging it.
This place is anything but another Mexican restaurant. Walking in, I instantly forgot it was 6:30 on a Monday based off the wait list and filled seats throughout the entire restaurant. Although I called ahead, we decided to eat at the bar after I fell in love with the ambiance. Right in front of me were fresh herbs, ginger root, assorted citrus fruits, sugar cubes, and all other necessary tools for handcrafted cocktails. It took a lot to not jump behind the bar and make my own drink because it was that enticing. When they say they have fresh-squeezed juices, they mean that they hand-squeeze the lime as you order your margarita. Everything is simplistic. The menu is on a small piece of paper that unfolds from the drink menu to the entrees, you order food with a pencil and paper (similar to sushi restaurants), and it all comes on trendy metal trays. I knew I was at the right place when my margarita came with Sugar In The Raw for a sugar rim (I’m obsessed with that sugar). My next cocktail was the Port Chester Reviver. Gin, cucumber, mint, and mango nectar… don’t question it. Just do it. I believe a Mexican restaurant is only as good as its chips, salsa and margaritas are. This place gets an A+ for all three. We split 6 different tacos: pork belly, baja fish, chicken, mahi mahi, and cauliflower. Yup, cauliflower tacos–am I healthy yet? And the pork belly tacos… If I could have infinity, I think I would be happy. This place has got it all. I’ll be frequenting it on many days outside of “Taco Tuesday”. Things to know: They don’t accept reservations but have a call-ahead list (highly recommended). Also, free parking is available in the parking garages nearby.