Camila Jaramillo (left), Maria Burbano and Melissa Acosta serving up chips and salsa, the popular chicken fajitas and a steak burrito during lunch at Cantina Mexican Grill & Bar.

1. Cantina
10032 Cross Creek Blvd
(813) 406-4856

Owner Yecid Cardenas opened Cantina Mexican Grill & Bar six years ago with the idea of filling what he saw as a hole in New Tampa’s dining options with a fusion of old Mexican cuisine with what he says is “new era” Mexican cuisine. After some mixed results when he first opened, Cardenas now has achieved one of his goals:

Cantina is this year’s top choice with our readers in the Latin category of our annual survey.

Cantina rose to the top of the charts this year with an improved and packed menu, and the consistency also was much improved. Cardenas also says many more people were exposed to the restaurant (which is tucked away behind a Shell station on the corner of Cross Creek Blvd. and Kinnan St.) due to a pandemic-influenced increase in to-go orders, and more customers equaled more votes.

“We try to do the same thing every day,”  he says. “We want to be consistent. These are ‘Grandma’ flavors here, with new era fusion.”

The menu is extensive and varied. One of the stars of the menu is the 12 oz. ribeye served up a handful of different ways — you can get it topped with ranchero chile sauce or chorizo and fries, for example. The carne asada steak is another of the most popular dishes, along with the fajitas, and of course, the tacos and burritos. There are a host a seafood choices available, as well.

A bar with 12 different Mexican beers and, of course, tasty margaritas, complement your meal, which according to our readers, is the best Latin choice around. — JCC 

2. Las Palmas
6431 E County Line Rd #104
(813) 803-3903

Las Palmas has now had two locations in New Tampa — three if you count the food truck it currently is operating out of after a fire late in late 2021 damaged its County Line Rd. store — and it has always remained something of an under-the-radar local favorite, thanks to its award-winning Cuban sandwiches and a variety of delicious Latin-infused pork and chicken dishes.

The roasted pork entrée is a favorite, and you can try the vaca frita, or crispy beef (although “fried cow” is the literal translation) as an entrée or in a taco. And, while owner/chef Ramses Garcia says the menu at the truck is being expanded, the sides — yellow rice, black beans, plantains, etc. — are still the perfect complements to whatever meaty dish you choose, and don’t forget a Tres Leches dessert.—JCC

3. Tijuana Flats
17501 Preserve Walk Ln #103
(813) 975-0483

For a large chain, Tijuana Flats has a pretty simple recipe but is regarded for having some pretty good food. The regular burritos and dos tacos (hard or soft shell) are good, the nachos are enough for two and the chicken tinga burritios and tacos have a little extra kick. 

Speaking of a little kick, one of the fun things about Tijuana Flats is the wide variety of different salsas, which are always worth trying out and comparing.

Locals also are raving about Tijuana Flats’ new wings, available with red chili rub, “bangin’” sauce, chipotle BBQ and smack jalapeño lime varieties.

Although tucked away off Bruce B. Downs Blvd., just north of I-75 in Highwoods Preserve, Tijuana Flats continues to draw a good local crowd, and is always a fun spot to be on Cinco de Mayo. — JCC 

The rest of the 2021 Latin Favorites with our readers:
(4) Chipotle
(5) Lima
(6) Don Julio
(7) Moe’s
(8) Chili’s
(9) Cross Creek Deli 

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