Rafael Jarnica serves up a combo platter, taco salad and burrito at Vallarta’s Mexican Restaurant in the Wesley Chapel Village Market plaza, which is one of our area’s oldest restaurants and consistently one of the most popular with its huge menu of Mexican and Latin cuisine options.  (Photo: Charmaine George)

1. Vallarta’s
5335 Village Market
(813) 907-5161
Wesley Chapel has an ever-growing number of Latin restaurants, from Mexican and Tex-Mex to Puerto Rican and even Venezuelan options, but the one that’s been around the longest and always finishes at or near the top of our readers’ list is Vallarta’s Mexican Restaurant in the Village Market plaza.

Vallarta’s is part of an extended-family-owned local mini-chain where you always get good value for your money. Its entrées like tacos, burritos, enchiladas, sizzling fajitas and other Mexican specialties are always served with rice, refried beans, which means you’ll never go home hungry.   

Vallarta’s features great appetizers like a variety of nachos, guacamole, bean dip, taquitos and even a Mexican shrimp cocktail. There’s also large entrée-sized salads and a deliciously spicy Mexican chicken soup. Lunch combos start at just $6 and offer everything from tacos to chile rellenos, and from chalupas to quesadillas. There also are 30 different $10 combination plates available.

But, my favorite dishes at Vallarta’s are the variety of steak options, including the carne asada (thin-cut ribeye topped with grilled onions), the batter-dipped milanesa and the spicy steak a la Mexicana with fresh jalapeños, tomatoes and grilled onions.

Vegetarian tastes will appreciate the variety of veggie options, from bean and potato burritos to vegetarian fajitas. And, save room for the authentic churros, flan and fried ice cream.

Vallarta’s, which features a full-liquor bar, also is know for its “as big as your head” margaritas and variety of Mexican and domestic beers. — GN  

2. Rice-n-Beans
27405 Wesley Chapel Blvd.
(813) 803-7974

For those in Wesley Chapel who prefer Puerto Rican cuisine to Mexican, the relocation of Rice-n-Beans from its much smaller former location on S.R. 54 in Lutz to the former location of Remington’s Steakhouse and Cody’s Roadhouse on Wesley Chapel Blvd. was a revelation.

This much larger, sit-down restaurant with full premium liquor bar and live entertainment (Wed.-Fri.) has only been open for a couple of years, but it has attracted a loyal following of those who crave chicharrons (fried chicken or pork), mofongo, fried whole snapper (photo), Puerto Rican-style empanadas and more.

Also be sure to ask for the daily lunch specials. — GN

3. Capital Tacos
27209 S.R. 56
(813) 973-3777
Capital Tacos, located in the Cypress View Square plaza, takes your traditional tacos or burritos and turns them on their heads.

Instead of a tortilla (or bowl) stuffed with the typical meat, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese, you can choose from delicious slow-cooked pork, carne asada, shaved steak, chorizo sausage, fried chicken and vegetarian options, complemented by Texican BBQ sauce, dirty potatoes, corn salsa, Chihuahua cheese, carmelized onions and spicy slaw, to name a few. 

Capital Tacos, now with five locations, bills itself as “Tex-Mex Done Right,” with hand-crafted and hand-spiced favorites like quesadillas, crazy fries, epic nachos and Mexican street corn.

Rest of the 2021 Latin Top 10:
(4) Latin Twist
(T5) Cantina Laredo
(T5) Chuy’s
(T7) Tijuana Flats
(T7) Chipotle
(T9) Taco Sun
(T9) Señor Tequila
(T9) Taco Bus. 

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