Best Mexican & Latin Restaurants
St. Pete/Clearwater is steeped in the cultural, architectural and culinary traditions of Spain, the Caribbean and Latin and South America. But nowhere are the influences more obvious than in the area's many Spanish-influenced restaurants. Sample their menus to experience truly creative takes on classic south-of-the-border cooking styles and add both spunk and spice to your travel experience. "Ole!" will be on the tip of your tongue as soon as you take a seat.
Nuevo Latino Cuisine at the Habana Cafe
At Gulfport’s Habana Cafe, culinary wizard and author Josefa Gonzalez-Hastings celebrates her Cuban heritage with nuevo Latino recipes from her award-winning "The Habana Café Cookbook." Try the “Camarones Borracho,” a piquant treat of shrimp sautéed in olive oil, white wine, fresh garlic and heavenly mojo sauce (ask for plenty of fresh Cuban bread to soak it up). The sweet, tender fried plantains make a perfect sidekick to the shrimp. The cream cheese flan won Southern Living’s “Best Signature Dessert,” so don’t leave without a heaping forkful.
Beer and Tacos at Casita Taqueria
With three locations in St. Pete, Casita Taqueria is a locally owned and operated taqueria that makes everything in house: from homemade corn tortillas to salsas and guacamole. Their tacos, taco bowls and burritos are full of fresh ingredients and you'll find creative specials featured daily.
Street-Style Latin Flavors at Bodega
Typically the line down the sidewalk is the easiest way to spot this walk-up Bodega nestled into the Edge District of Central Avenue in downtown St. Pete. Well known for their Cuban sandwiches, soda Frescas and fresh juices, this popular spot cooks rustic, Spanish food with fresh ingredients. Enjoy your meal at the tables lining the street or on the hidden back patio.
Hot Food & Music at Ceviche
If you're on a quest for authentic tapas and sultry Flamenco music, Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant in downtown St. Pete is the place. The passionate sounds of Spanish guitar and a menu offering more than 100 cold and hot tapas will tempt you to linger here for hours. The “Ceviche de la Casa” (shrimp, scallops, squid and fish) washed down with a bottle of cava, champagne’s sparkling Spanish cousin, is but one highly recommended combo. Try topping it off with “Crema Catalana” (akin to crème brulee). A second location, the more centrally located Ceviche Clearwater, provides a similar ambience with live music, an in-restaurant bakery and eclectic art from the old country.
Modern Mexican at Red Mesa Cantina
Situated in the heart of downtown St Petersburg, Red Mesa Cantina, a modern Mexican taqueria and ceviche bar, offers Latin-inspired small plates, ceviches and a raft of unique and traditional tacos (all inexpensive and on delicious housemade corn tortillas). With indoor and outdoor dining, two full bars and live music outside, the place is always hopping. Late night hours and Saturday and Sunday brunch provide plenty of opportunities to try the Cantina.
Romance Español at the Columbia Restaurant
This hot spot on Clearwater Beach's Sand Key is a veritable recipe for romance: Sit at a table with a view of the luminous Intracoastal Waterway, ten add a bottle of sparkling Spanish cava, a plate of crab croquettes to share, Columbia’s classic “Paella a la Valencia” for two and a bottle of hearty Roja wine. Gaze into each other's eyes and turn up the heat. Before locking lips, make sure they savor the decadently sweet “Moros y Cristianos,” a rich chocolate mousse with Spanish custard. Al amor!
Catch the Taco Bus
You’ll find The Taco Bus in both Treasure Island and Clearwater Beach. Both meat eaters and vegetarians alike will find dishes to love; everything at this bright yellow bus stop is made from scratch with fresh ingredients. Authentic Mexican street food and house specialties like the Cochinita Pibil, based on a 5,000-year-old recipe of marinated shredded pork wrapped in banana leaves and slow roasted in a smoker, have given rise to the Bus being featured in segments of the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives and Man v. Food.
Creative Mexican at Casa Tina Mexican Grill
Husband-and-wife team Tina and Javier Avila have put their heart, soul and creative culinary expertise into Dunedin’s Casa Tina Mexican Grill. Their menu is an inventive mix of traditional and nuevo Mexican fare. The mango quesadillas burst with jalapeno cheese, shrimp and mango, ginger and cilantro. Entrees like the chayote relleno (steamed squash packed with breadcrumbs, garlic and almonds) will please vegetarians. On weekends, families pack the place to watch aerial acrobats work their magic.