Urban Cantina is cool. Before even walking in, you can tell this Downtown Tampa Mexican restaurant had a team of trendy designers and conceptually minded restaurant officials before it became what it is today. Cool, cartoon-y like luchador logos line the interior and exterior of the place; chic, industrial decor covers the walls; and a young, jubilant staff make Urban Cantina, by the looks of it, on the trendier side of things when it comes to restaurants and bars in Downtown Tampa.
Which is cool and all, but here at Taste Tour of 813, we're, as you might guessed, all about the taste. A place like this almost becomes suspect because it seems like they're trying to make up for a lack of something else with a chic, cool atmosphere.
But alas, Urban Cantina is actually pretty good. There's undoubtedly better Mexican food in and around Tampa, but Urban Cantina knows what they're here for and remain humble, doing what they do well, but never quite shoot for the stars when it comes to a seriously delicious plate of Mexican food.
Tacos are the name of the game at Urban Cantina where guests can choose from a handful of them, each incorporating other textures, flavors, and ingredients found throughout the rest of the menu.
The best, by far, is their carne asada taco. Filled with fat-tinged flecks of grilled skirt steak under a layer of onions, cilantro, queso fresco, and avocado, it yields a perfect balance of flavor and texture that can't be matched. The other two sampled tacos - carnitas (pork) and shrimp - were nothing to write about. The carnitas was a tad dry while the shrimp felt rubbery, a tad overcooked, but elevated by the accompanying sauce and toppings.
From this experience, it seems like Urban Cantina's got the look down to a science. The food's still getting there, but the progress thus far is definitely a good sign of things to come.