Taco Bus, Tampa, Fla.
Getting good Mexican food in Florida is hardly a surprise. Getting good Mexican food out of a school bus? OK, that’s a little different. But that’s what you have with Taco Bus, a Tampa-area restaurant that offers authentic Mexican served either in a fixed location or from the streets, but both from that familiar yellow bus that we all rode to school decades ago.
What makes Taco Bus so excellent is the quality and authenticity of what you’re getting. Taco Bus’s owner grew up in Monterrey, Mexico, so there is no Tex-Mex in this place. Having once been to a real Mexican place in Nogales, that’s the only thing I can say compares to the tacos here. For filling, you’ve got steak, beef, chicken and fish available to you, but if you really want to try something special, go for the pork.
Their cochinita pibil is slow-roasted pork shredded and marinated in achiote and bitter orange, which really comes through to make this flavorful. It’s further wrapped in banana leaves and smoked, which they say is based on a 5000-year-old Mayan recipe. I don’t know how true that is, but the results are unquestioned. Throw some cheese, cabbage, cilantro and pico de gallo on it and you’ve got one incredible Mexican experience. Complete the meal with beans and rice, and it’s perfect.
Not feeling the tacos? They offer quesadillas, burritos, the usual stuff you’d expect from a Mexican place. Pretty much the only American thing on the menu is the drinks, but even those aren’t all American, as they serve Mexican Coca-Cola.
What’s more, if you’re just not feeling the usual fillings, they offer special fillings served only one day a week along with the standards. Maybe you show up on a Wednesday for some chicken mole, for example. There’s always a new option available to you at any time of day, because this place is open 24 hours a day. I love places that do that.
For the atmosphere, it’s basically street eats. At its restaurant location, Taco Bus offers seating on the patio, but this is not a typical restaurant and you shouldn’t expect it to be one. It’s a place that offers great food with some open-air tables available for your convenience. Just find the yellow bus and you’ve got some great Mexican coming.
Time to go: Anytime, although I wouldn’t recommend going late at night. I’d guess the line would get long.
Wait during my visit: Very short, served almost immediately
Location: You can find them at 913 East Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa, in the northern part of the city. They’re also located in downtown Tampa and over the bridge in St. Petersburg.
Cost: Very reasonable, paid under $10 for lunch.
Parking: Readily available
Website: Taco Bus
Signature items: Cochinita pibil tacos