The eighth location of Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar arrived in Tampa this week, and brought with it quite the party alongside some delicious food that will be a hit on International Plaza and Bay Street in the spot formerly occupied by Blue Martini.
Rocco's isn't your average taco joint as there's a "Wall of Tequila" that extends to the roof and a DJ spinning tunes while you munch on fresh Mexican. As with most quality Tex-Mex, most of the menu is made from scratch, including the tableside guacamole that's prepared in front of you in a mortar that oozes delicious. It's also got a nightclub vibe, with the half-price shots of certain tequilas after midnight adding to the Ultra-lounge feel. You'll see people dressed as if they're heading for VIP bottle service sitting right next to tourists in flip-flops. But both can enjoy what Rocco's provides.
The "Wall of Tequila."
Rocco's is the brainchild of owner Rocco Mangel, known for his name on the door as well as pouring tequila into the mouths of customers while standing on top of the bar. All his previous locations were in South Florida before the one in his hometown of Brooklyn that appeared just before the arrival in Tampa. His concept turns up a typical taqueria to 11, and succeeds in both atmosphere and culinary execution.
The tacos al pastor were full of flavor, with the cilantro and lime balancing out the protein perfectly.
As for the guacamole, this is no appetizer-sized ramekin of smushed avocado, and the freshness with how Rocco's creates it makes it a bargain. You can watch it prepared right in front of you, which helps to blend anticipation with all the fresh flavors. And if you'd like a different vessel than chips for the green goodness, there's a vegetable plate you can add for mortar-to-mouth conveyance.
The drinks are your standard issue for a Mexican spot, but my Strawberry Basil Margarita was balanced and bountiful. It looked rather pretty too. The inscription on the bar you can see behind the beverage is from Rocco to his daughter Charley, and it sits in a beautiful big bar with plenty of room to dine or imbibe.
A buddy that's known Rocco for awhile also swears by the Ranch Water, which is just Patron Silver mixed with soda water and fresh-squeezed lime juice. It sounds simple, but my sip was delicious, and apparently it's a hit with those looking to drink on a diet too. "A Skinny Girl margarita for guys" seemed an apt description.
The line for the public grand opening of Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar ran from the entrance on International Plaza's Bay Street all the way to the valet stand. But Rocco himself made it worth the wait by bringing a bottle of Patron out to serve the yearning masses their tequila directly!
With the lines already that long, as well as plenty of evangelists coming from Rocco's home base on the other side of the state, it seems a safe bet Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar will be a hit in Tampa on the #BestCoast of Florida too.
Rocco's Tacos is open until 2 a.m. on weekdays, and 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Lunch is also offered on Saturdays and Sundays.