*newfoodBy Gary Nager

There’s no doubt that the Vallarta’s family of independently owned authentic Mexican restaurants — with locations in Land O’Lakes, Carrollwood, Temple Terrace, the Wesley Chapel Village Market and of course, the New Tampa location in the Publix-anchored City Plaza at Tampa Palms shopping center — all offer large portions of delicious Mexican fare at great prices. Vallarta’s is they type of place that sends everyone home happy, satisfied and usually, with leftovers to enjoy.

Like all Mexican restaurants, Vallarta’s will celebrate Cinco de Mayo on Tuesday, May 5, and yes, you can expect a crowd on hand to enjoy some great food and drink specials. But, Vallarta’s is where you can enjoy everything from my favorite Vallarta’s dish — the Steak a la Mexicana (which is topped with sautéed onions and fresh tomatoes, as well as sliced jalapeños, to add a zesty kick;  there also are several other steaks on the huge menu) — to taco, enchilada, burrito and chimichanga combination platters any day, any time. 

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For more authentic tastes, try the Chiles Poblanos (poblano peppers stuffed with cheese) or the carnitas (pork tips with onions) dinner. For something new, there’s a grilled shrimp burrito Vallarta, grilled tilapia, the Molcajete (a new mixed grill entree, served in a steaming lava rock dish, with chicken, shrimp, steak, cheese, a Ranchero {semi-spicy tomato} sauce and cheese, plus new lunch items such as the steak tacos (tacos de asada), huevos con tocino (scrambled eggs with bacon, onions and tomatoes), a new meat and rice soup and so much more. The most expensive item on the entire dinner menu is my other new favorite, the Parriladas, which combines beef, chicken, pork, chorizo & shrimp fajitas (we held the shrimp so I could enjoy it) for $18 for one person or $24 for two.

Also new on the menu is the Vallarta’s tossed salad with grilled chicken pictured on this page. Our GM Nikki Bennett called it “pretty awesome.”

Other favorites our office recently tried were the chicken fajitas, a three-taco combination plate and the fajita chicken salad in a large tortilla shell that sales rep Mary Dorey called “really delicious.” Graphic designer Nate Ciurla said he had never eaten at Vallarta’s before, but now he might become a regular. And, all of us agreed that the house-made tortilla chips and puréed salsa were addictive.

And, Vallarta’s has decadently delicious desserts, too, including crunchy, cinnamon-infused churros you can’t get at a fair with fresh whipped cream, ice cream in a sweet tortilla shell, a truly delicious homemade flan and so much more.

So obviously, if you’re in the mood for reasonably priced (most lunch items cost just $6-$10 and most dinner entrées are $8-$15) Mexican fare with a full liquor bar, frozen margaritas and great Mexican beers (I love the Dos Equis, Modelo and Pacifico on draft), you can’t beat Vallarta’s!

For more information about Vallarta’s Tampa Palms (16023 Tampa Palms Blvd., in the former location of Ciccio’s Lodge), call 978-3761, visit Facebook.com/LosVallarta or see the ad on page 55. For the Wesley Chapel location, call 907-5161.

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