After the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts lured us to downtown Tampa on a recent Sunday, I needed an afternoon snack after a few hours of being jostled and swept along by the broad swathe of humanity also attracted to the event. A girl can hardly be expected to subsist on merely a footlong corn dog, a jumbo cinnamon sugar pretzel and a couple of 16 oz. cold ones after such an active day. God forbid I ever have to go down a pants size.
We wandered around downtown a bit (which is finally beginning to resemble a "real" city where life actually exists on the weekends and after 5:00 PM on weeknights) looking for something new and interesting to try. Urban Cantina seemed to fit the bill. There were enough clientele present at 4:00 PM on a Sunday afternoon to make us feel like it must have something going for it without being overly noisy and crowded.
The atmosphere definitely falls into the "Sports Bar" category, which doesn't turn me off...especially when I'm just looking for a snack and an icy draft beer. I have to say that service was friendly, but overly slow and somewhat inattentive. We didn't really notice that complimentary chips and salsa were being dispensed until ours finally arrived...right after our table had been cleared and we'd requested the bill. Oopsie.
I went all Gringo with the $7.99 El Chango (two chicken enchiladas and a taco of your choice....chicken, frijols, carnitas or carne asada). I elected the Carne Asada taco which was right tasty and the enchiladas verde were fine as well, although not really the style that I'm accustomed to. They were a little more like tacos with sauce poured over them. UD, who spent several years living and working in Mexico City, proclaimed them "authentic", however. Of course, it was all flanked with the requisite rice and refried beans. While my taste buds weren't ratcheted to new heights of ecstasy, it was a respectable $8.00 meal and I have to give kudos to the lovely texture and flavor of the tortillas.
My better half ordered a trio of tacos and was quite pleased with all of them. One Carne Asada (chargrilled skirt steak topped with onions, cilantro, queso fresco and avocado), one Al Pastor (chile rubbed pork grilled with pineapple and topped with onions, cilantro and queso) and one Shrimp (fresh shrimp, cabbage, pico de gallo and secret sauce topped with red onions).
Of course, it's almost impossible to go wrong with warm churros, caramel drizzle and ice cream. These disappeared in veryshortorder.
While I wouldn't consider it a "destination" restaurant, Urban Cantina is a decent spot for a casual bite and the prices are tough to beat. Service glitches were relatively minor and did not particularly detract from our overall experience. A couple of beers, two generous entrees and a shared dessert set us back around $35 before gratuity.
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.