Brandon has recently acquired a new, semi-precious gem in the form of Taqueria Doña Maria. Tucked away in a non-descript strip mall at the corner of Lumsden and Lithia Pinecrest, it could be easily overlooked...but shouldn't be.
While it did have that somewhat sterile "fast-food" vibe upon entry, we began to really appreciate the warm service, gleaming open kitchen and high-quality aggregate tables after settling in. We were there for "lupper" at around 3:00 PM, which explains the dearth of fellow diners. The place was filling up nicely by the time we left. I shouldn't fail to mention that we received excellent service and menu steering from Xiomy.
These guys don't yet have their liquor license, so they do graciously provide their patrons with a beer or glass of sangria (or two) on the house...which pretty much made them my forever friends right away. Sangria was lovely, fruit-laden, spicy and delish. My beef empanadas were some of the best I've had in Tampa Bay. Almost too hot to handle upon delivery, they did not fail to thrill with their crispy, freshly fried crust and savory filling. I tend to favor picadillo (throw in some tomato, peppers and green olives) in my "emps", but these were damned fine.
UD hoovered down his Pozole (a 100 year old soup recipe consisting of what looked to me like half a hog swimming with hominy in a savory broth). Complementary add-ons of chopped radishes, cabbage, limes and tostadas were presented on the side. Simply fabulous and uber hearty.
While my Chicken Tamales didn't quite meet expectations as far as the ratio of masa to chicken was concerned, they were tasty nonetheless and had a respectable kick of heat. Beans and rice were both exceptional and the addition of queso fresco is always appreciated.
UD's Sopes (thick, lightly- fried corn cakes topped with refried beans, shredded chicken, lettuce, zippy tomato sauce and queso fresco) were lovely and did not disappoint.
Decadance time! Chocolate cake is the most boring dessert imaginable in my world. Underdog, however, doesn't share my view so he ordered it. What appeared was a completely forgettable ball of something that tasted like it had just been purchased from a 7-11 and removed from its plastic sleeve. Quite dry, it was smothered in a waxy blanket of "chocolately goodness" reminiscent of a Hostess Cupcake topper...the only uninspiring aspect of the meal (but bear in mind that this is coming from someone who probably wouldn't like chocolate cake even if Thomas Keller made it with his own hands).
Redemption appeared in the form of one of the best cupcakes I've ever eaten in my life...Mango-Lime with Cream Cheese Frosting. This thing was so moist that it brought tres leches cake to mind. The fruit flavors paired perfectly, it was liberally studded with juicy mango bits and the frosting was sheer perfection (nobody scooped this out of a can). Bonus points for the green sparkles on top!
Final tab with two glasses of sangria, one bottle of beer was a paltry $35 and we took about half of it home with us to enjoy the next day. Taqueria Dona Maria is a welcome addition to the Brandon dining scene. Okay, Brandon doesn't really have a "dining scene", but it's a welcome addition nonetheless. Their fresh ingredients, authentic tasting cuisine, friendly service and affordability garner two paws up from me.
My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.