By Gary Nager

Cinqo de Mayo will be held this year on Saturday, May 5, which means that popular Mexican restaurants like Vallarta’s Restaurante Mexicano in the Wesley Chapel Village Market (on Bruce B. Downs Blvd. at S.R. 54) will be even more packed than usual that Saturday night.

But, why wait until May 5th to check out Wesley Chapel’s most popular and most affordable Mexican restaurant, when Vallarta’s is open and serving huge portions of great food every day (except Sunday) for lunch and every day for dinner?

My buddy Fabian Jimenez at Vallarta’s, which is celebrating its tenth Cinqo de Mayo in the middle of its eleventh year at the same location in the Village Market, knows he will be packed for that most famous of Mexican holidays, “So, we hope everyone will visit us before Cinqo de Mayo.” The place is already crowded for dinner most nights (and is getting known for being a quick, value-conscious lunch, too), but Fabian says Cinqo promises to be “crazy fun.”

Fabian’s uncle started the original Vallarta’s on N. 56th St. in Temple Terrace and is a partner with Fabian in two of this Tampa-based family “chain” of seven restaurants all using the Vallarta’s name. Among the other locations are two in Lutz, U.S. Hwy. 19 in Palm Harbor, N. Dale Mabry Hwy. and Anderson Rd. in Carrollwood.

Fabian says he is proud of the number of regular customers the Wesley Chapel location has who come back multiple times each week for the atmosphere, the cuisine and the great prices.

Although I try to limit my intake of hot tortilla chips, Vallarta’s puréed tomato salsa is never overpowering (some people I know add a little hot sauce to it) and washing that down with an ice cold Dos Equis or Modelo cerveza (and/or a shot of an upscale Don Julio or Patron tequila) is definitely required for me at Vallarta’s, which boasts a premium, full-liquor bar and also serves a variety of frozen drinks.

Among the appetizers I enjoy at Vallarta’s are the huge Grande Quesadilla (stuffed with chicken and half with beef tips, plus refried beans and served with guacamole & sour cream) and the shredded pork tacos de carnita. I never order nachos myself (too filling and fattening for my taste), but one fellow patron at the bar said she always comes back with a girlfriend to share the nachos with beef and beans.

Yes, Vallarta’s has very popular enchiladas, burritos, tacos, combination meals, vegetarian entrées and child’s plates, but this meat lover keeps coming back to the great chicken and steak specialties, from combo fajitas to my current favorite dish, the “Vallarta’s Special” whole ribeye steak, which is topped with onions, tomatoes and bell peppers, and served with rice, beans and flour tortillas. I also enjoy the grilled pollo a la parilla, which is perfectly grilled and served with rice, a guac salad and tortillas, and the batter-dipped pollo empanisado, which doesn’t need its side of nacho cheese dipping sauce.

In other words, you really can make any day Cinqo de Mayo at Vallarta’s of Wesley Chapel! Enjoy the fiesta!

Vallarta’s is located at 5335 Village Market, near Beall’s Outlet. For reservations and more info, call 907-5161. Or, visit to reach other Vallarta’s locations.

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