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Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014
Food & Dining

TacoSon menu is worth a trip back for takeout

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 07:49 PM
ST. PETERSBURG -

We woke up craving the tamales and queso at TacoSon Authentic Mexican Grill, part of a wave of new restaurants serving south-of-the-border food here.

The family-owned Tampa restaurant opened its St. Petersburg location in December, taking over the former Panchero's Mexican Grill on 22nd Avenue North. We stopped in for lunch recently — and were so impressed that I found myself heading back for takeout the next morning.

TacoSon's thick and creamy queso is not to be missed. Don't bother with anything but the large size ($4.50), and take home the leftover sauce for a late-night snack.

The tamales, which are incredibly moist and full, are another menu standout. On our first visit, we ordered ones filled with rajas con queso — roasted strips of poblano peppers with cubes of cheese in a sour cream sauce — and pineapple. That's right: pineapple. This reminded me of a pineapple upside-down cake, only made with corn masa. For $2.25 apiece, you can get two.

The rajas tamale was also good, with a nice smoky flavor. On a later visit, my wife tried the pork tamale, which also had good texture and flavor.

For a small operation, TacoSon boasts an extensive menu. In addition to the dishes you'd expect on any fast-casual Mexican restaurant's menu, you'll find shrimp ceviche and shrimp octopus ceviche, grilled shrimp, several varieties of agua fresca , lengua (beef tongue) and chicharrones (pork rinds) in green sauce. Specialty dishes include menudo (weekends only) and daily specials such as chicken mole, pork cooked in a red chile sauce and fish tacos. The restaurant also serves breakfast.

Speaking of the tacos, they come stuffed — to the point where they can be tough to pick up. This is a good problem. You can eat out some of the filling with your fork, then use your hands for the rest. My wife tried and enjoyed the puerco asado (grilled pork), cochinita pibil (marinated, shredded pork) and the carne asada (steak). All the meats were tender and flavorful.

The vegetarian taco was also good, and came stuffed with black beans, rice, cheese, sour cream and colache — a traditional Mexican side dish of stewed zucchini, onions, garlic, cilantro and spices. Getting black beans instead of the more-common refried beans is a treat and makes a meatless taco more interesting, as does the colache.

Good salsa really sets off a taco, and TacoSon offers three exceptional varieties: a medium-heat dark-roasted salsa, a spicy green salsa and a very hot roasted red salsa with a nice tang.

The ceviche — in this case, the shrimp ceviche — was very mild. It has a strong tomato taste and is "cooked" in tomato juice instead of citrus juice. For my wife — a true ceviche enthusiast — the flavor was OK, but it was missing that lively citrus taste you expect.

Forgettable dishes included the torta, a Mexican sandwich that would have been better on a more substantial bread, and the refried beans, which were boring. That said, nothing we tried here was bad.

One other issue is that all the food was served on Styrofoam, whether eating in or taking out. Changing that would improve the experience for people eating at the restaurant.

TacoSon's menu offers several desserts, including flan, rice pudding, pastel tres leches (three milk cake) and carrot cake. We enjoyed the rice pudding, which is thick, creamy and sweet. And, of course, the pineapple tamale is a sweet way to end a meal here, even though it isn't officially listed as a dessert.

The prices at TacoSon are incredibly reasonable, so you can explore the extensive menu — and not feel bad about taking home some queso and tamales.

TacoSon Authentic Mexican Grill

Bottom line: Tasty Mexican food at good prices

Where: 7521 N. 56th St., Tampa; 2510 22{+n}{+d} Ave. N., St. Petersburg

Credit cards: All major

Reservations: No

Children's menu: No

Alcohol: Beer at the St. Petersburg location, no alcohol in Tampa

Wheelchair access: Yes

Prices: Entrees range from $1.99 to $8.49

Contact: (813) 989-2080 (Tampa) or (727) 851-9800 (St. Petersburg)


jscullin@mindspring.com (813) 259-7305

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