Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Taco Joint with a West Coast Vibe

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Taco Joint with a West Coast Vibe

Article excerpt

Does Sarasota really need another taco joint? We have a solid sit- down restaurants specializing in torilla-ed cuisine, plus any number of higher-end spots that make space for fish or seafood tacos on their menus. So have tacos jumped the shark? Perhaps.

But as cliched as the trend has become, if you can make a rich, flavorful taco at a reasonable price, my heart will forever be yours.

So while we may not need another taco restaurant, and while I certainly don't need to consume any more tacos in my lifetime, here I am at California Tacos to Go, which opened up on Bee Ridge a few weeks back, in the strip mall space that used to be occupied by Viva Sarasota Cafe. Sarasota may have a glut of taco options these days, but Cali Tacos is exploring a new niche in the genre, serving up its Latin America-derived cuisine with a hearty helping of West Coast stoner attitude.

When I order a bunch of goods for me and a media friend I'm meeting for lunch, the guy behind the counter laughs after every phrase, radiating good vibes to me and the other customers in line. Above him hangs a long surfboard emblazoned with the restaurant's logo, while a sign near the front door advises, "Guys: No Shirt No Service. Girls: No Shirt Free Drinks." To clinch the ambiance, Cali has stuck a big poster of Guy Fieri along the back wall. And yes, indeed, the goateed and pierced one visited the Tampa branch of Cali Tacos last year. "That's a taco like you would find in Cali," declared he of the frosted tips. (Watch the full clip at ticketsarasota.com.)

But let's not get to the famed fish taco too quickly. We start with pork rinds ($2), which are unlike the thin, wafer-esque kind you can find everywhere from 7-Eleven to David Chang's Ko. Cali's are thicker, meatier, denser, with a fatty chew. Today's serving has perhaps been sitting in the deep fryer just a few moments too long, burning the fat a bit, but I salute the restaurant for trying something new.

There's nothing new about Cali's super nachos ($4.99), which are just non-fresh purple, green, red and yellow tortilla chips buried beneath pico de gallo, sour cream, shredded cheddar and long thin strands of cabbage. …

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