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Mexican restaurant bartaco will add spice to Hyde Park Village

Soon Hyde Park Village will again have a funky, social Mexican restaurant.

 Connecticut-based restaurant group bartico has signed a lease for a wedge-shaped, glass-walled space in the open-air shopping village, taking the exact 5,000-square-foot space where the Cactus Club operated for years before closing in 2003.

Company officials emphasize that the restaurant name is lowercase "b" and one word — “bartaco.”

“Their ethos is not to take itself too seriously,” Louis C. Masiello, vice president of development for WS Development, which bought the property last year. “It’s a taco-themed restaurant, very fun, high-quality food and at a pretty reasonable price point ... We have a pretty good mix of restaurants in Hyde Park now, and this will be a great, casual addition.”

Unlike so-called “fast casual” restaurants like Chipotle where customers order at a cashier, this will be a table-service restaurant, though the design is a mix of upscale affluence with relaxed, beach-side surfer vibe. The menu is split between “tacos” and “not tacos.”

The food genre is West Coast, or California-style tacos, which are priced at $2.50 each, and typically sold in sets from a variety lineup: Baja fish, pork belly, spicy chorizo, falafel, fried oyster, curry shrimp and sesame ribeye. Non-taco items include guacamole for $5, pork tamales for $5, gorditas for $4 and gaspacho for $5. Deserts range from the $5 spiced chocolate pudding to the $3.50 gelato.

Drinks include the “Pisc-eau Sour” with the South American liquor Pisco with apricot, lemon, egg white and tiki bitters for $11.50 and margaritas come for $9.50 a glass. The tequila menu includes 13 varieties.

This will be the sixth location for bartaco, and the first in Florida, as the other locations are in Port Chester, New York; Stamford, Westport and West Hartford, Connecticut; and Atlanta.

Mexican is suddenly a hot genre for new restaurants coming into the Tampa market.

The Tijuana Flats restaurant that closed its Platt Street location two years ago now has plans for two new locations, according to the company. One is at 4055 S. Dale Mabry Highway across from Britton Plaza, and another is at 1617 W. Platt St. in the space where a franchisee had run a Stacked Burger location.

At the very upper end of the price scale, Besito Mexican will open soon at WestShore Plaza shopping mall in the former Palm Restaurant space.

The new owners of Hyde Park Village, WS Development, have been working to lure in new tenants for the complex, focusing on perhaps lesser-known brands that have wanted a Tampa presence, but didn’t feel at home in a traditional mall setting.

Just this week, WS Development officials confirmed that the New York-based high-end retailer J. McLaughlin will move into a retail space later this year. The long-range plan for the village likely includes taking down the now-empty wedge along Snow Avenue to make way for a new two-story retail row, designed to fit the historic theme of the Hyde Park neighborhood.

Officials with bartaco confirmed plans to open at the site, but said they could not provide an opening date. However, Masiello of WS Development said construction could begin this autumn.

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