10 Best Mexican Restaurants in St. Petersburg FL 2018

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Must Eat Mexican Treats in St. Pete

If you search this site for "Mexican", you may notice that I do all of the Mexican restaurant reviews, rather than Lori. Why? It's because I love Mexican food so much that I could literally eat it every day for a week straight. (I actually have done that before.) Two and a half decades ago when I traveled all over the country in sales, I would try a different Mexican restaurant in every town—going to a new town every day. Something else I'd like to mention is that I have been to Tijuana, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Zihuatanejo, and Cancun—although I'm not sure Cancun counts.

I mention my Mexico travels because it came up in the midst of discussions in our Facebook Group. I was asked if I ever went to Mexico because my iteration of "authentic" was being questioned. We learned something interesting while posting our Mexican restaurant reviews. The word "Authentic" tends to trigger an avalanche of criticism and disagreement. It reminds me of the "Slowly I Turned" sketch - a popular vaudeville sketch wherein a character is relating a story and is triggered into violent outburst when the listener inadvertently utters a triggering phrase. - Wikipedia (My favorite is Abbott & Costello's Niagara Falls.) To try to put the "Authentic" issue to rest, I asked, what is authentic American food? There's more than one style. Just look at all of the different types of Barbecue for example. Just like there are different regions and styles in the US, the same goes for the United Mexican States.

Ok, on to the list! These ten Mexican restaurants are all so good, that this is NOT a ranking list. These are the 10 Best Mexican restaurants in the St. Pete area in ZIP CODE ORDER. It was impossible to rank them as they are all great, but also they are all different with their own unique styles that it's not a fair comparison for a contest. Solution: Try them all!

The 10 Best Mexican Restaurants in St. Pete, FL for 2018
(ZIP CODE ORDER - SEE ABOVE PARAGRAPH)

1. Red Mesa Cantina

Cantinita Ceviche

Cantinita Ceviche (Photo by Barry Lively)

"Cantina" (as we call it) is a fun, laid back space with a large outdoor courtyard with a fountain and whimsical décor. (There is indoor seating as well.) It's located in the heart of downtown St. Pete and has a little bit of a party atmosphere. There is traditional Mexican restaurant fare, such as tacos and burritos, along with other favorite cuisine blends, such as the Sirloin Chorizo Burger—one of the best burgers in St. Pete. They also have the largest collection of tequilas and mezcal in the southeastern U.S. Recently, they took over the 2nd floor and rooftop, which used to be Push Ultra Lounge, and created two more unique spaces. Following are links to a couple of our reviews, and a feature on the new spaces.

Party Time! Mexican Style!
¡Red Mesa Cantina’s New Menu Items are Sabroso y Delicioso!
Red Mesa’s Cantinita & DeSanto Debut in Downtown St. Pete

Red Mesa Cantina
128 3rd St South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 896-8226
http://www.redmesacantina.com

2. Nueva Cantina

Pork, Shrimp, and Pescado Tacos

Pork, Shrimp, and Pescado Tacos (Photo by Barry Lively)

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"Nueva" (as we call it, so as not to get confused with Red Mesa) is not what anyone would call authentic... but who cares? It's awesome! Some of their items, such as the tacos pictured above, along with enchiladas, quesadillas, and tostadas, are a little more traditional, and others are really delectable, Mexican-Cuban, Mexican-Italian fusions. For example, there's the Beef Picadillo Taco (Mexican-Cuban), and the Pollo Milanese (Mexican-Italian)—both of which are excellent! Also, get anything that has the Mole sauce. It is out of this world, not totally traditional, but super delicious. Make sure to order the guacamole as it's made fresh table side. Here are a couple of our full reviews.

MORE FOODIES READING  ¡Red Mesa Cantina's New Menu Items are Sabroso y Delicioso!

Nueva Cantina – That Mexican Place is Muy ¡Delicioso!
Nueva Cantina’s New Menu is Scrumpdillyicious

Nueva Cantina
1625 4th St South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 851-9579
https://www.nuevacantina.com

3. Red Mesa Restaurant

Filete - Ancho chile rubbed filet mignon, avocado risotto, ancho chile sauce, and queso fresco.
(Photo by Barry Lively)

Red Mesa Restaurant was the first of the three, opening over 20-years ago. All Red Mesa's; Cantina, Restaurant, and Mercado have the same ownership and same Executive Chef, Chris Fernandez. Chris was born and raised in Oaxaca, Mexico, and he makes great Mexican food, but he also loves to mix it up with all kinds of fusions, mostly Mexican-Asian, but sometimes some Puerto Rican as well. Chef Chris is one of the most talented chefs in St. Pete, and likely one of the most humble with the lowest profile. All three Red Mesas have completely different menus and styles. Restaurant is a small, quiet family place with somewhat more upscale and creative dishes. They do not have liquor, like Cantina, but they do have some great sangrias. There is a new special every week that is always extremely enticing. Check out the review to see some of the eclectic Mexican-Asian fusion items.

Red Mesa Restaurant Holding Their Own at 20-Years Old

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Red Mesa Restaurant
4912 4th St North
St. Petersburg, FL 33703
(727) 527-8728
http://redmesarestaurant.com

 4. Red Mesa Mercado

Combination Platter With Spanish Rice - Pork Tamale - House Made Wrapped In A Corn Husk With Pork In Red Chile - Beef Empanada - Crisp Taco - Corn Tortilla With Lettuce, Cheese, Tomatoes. Ground Beef - Refried Beans

Combination Platter With Spanish Rice - Pork Tamale - House Made Wrapped In A Corn Husk With Pork In Red Chile - Beef Empanada - Crisp Taco - Corn Tortilla With Lettuce, Cheese, Tomatoes. Ground Beef - Refried Beans (Photo by Barry Lively)

Red Mesa Mercado is the Mexi-Cali Street Food that we all crave. It's simple with a walk up window and an outdoor seating area reminiscent of a picnic area. When they first opened they had a small Mexican market inside, hence the name "Mercado". Unfortunately, the market didn't work out, so that space is indoor seating now. (At least I can still buy the excellent Red Mesa hot sauce at Cantina.) This location also houses a small tortilla factory where they make fresh tortillas every day to supply all Red Mesas, along with a handful of other St. Pete eateries. Even though the market is gone, you can still buy fresh tortillas here. Here's the review and fast-action video of the tortilla factory in operation.

Red Mesa Mercado is Takin’ it to the Streets

Red Mesa Mercado
1100 1st Ave North
St. Petersburg, FL 33705
(727) 954-7430
http://www.redmesamercado.com

5. Agave

Enchilada de Pollo (Chicken) Filled with a Green Chile Tomatillo sauce

Enchilada de Pollo (Chicken) Filled with a Green Chile Tomatillo sauce (Photo by Kevin Godbee)

Agave has been around for over 12-years, and is run by a Mexican family that brought their recipes from their homeland. Two of my most respected chefs in St. Pete both told me confidentially that they consider Agave to be the most authentic in St. Pete. Their food is excellent and reminds me of what you might get at a good restaurant in Mexico outside of the tourist areas. It's a small hole in the wall on St. Pete Beach. Parking is an issue, so if you're not staying on the beach, you might want to spring for an Uber, as you should do anyway if you want to enjoy imbibing on their tasty house margaritas.

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Authentic Mexican Food: Agave St. Pete Beach

Agave
6400 Gulf Blvd.
St Pete Beach, FL 33706
(727) 367-3448

6. VIP Mexican Restaurant & Lounge

Sinfully Delicious Beef Tamale

Sinfully Delicious Beef Tamale (Photo by Kevin Godbee)

VIP on Treasure Island has somewhat of a cult following. It is a unique experience, and the two most important things you need to know are: 1. Go early. 2. Get the Beef Tamale. Although the tamale doesn't look pretty in the above photo, it is so so good! This place is so small and so good that there is always a wait. We went at 5:00 pm on a weekday during slow season and had a 40-minute wait. You can't be shy or claustrophobic here as it is so tight, you are right on top of each other and there is no such thing as a private conversation ... yet there is a wait every night ... for good reason.

Review: VIP Mexican Restaurant & Lounge

VIP Mexican Restaurant & Lounge
10625 Gulf Blvd
Treasure Island, FL 33706
(727) 360-5062
http://www.viplounge-fla.com

7. Carmelita’s

Authentic, Spicy & Delicious Menudo at Carmelita's

Authentic, Spicy & Delicious Menudo at Carmelita's

Here's another Mexican family using their recipes from home serving up the St. Pete area for 34-years. This one is quite authentic too. When they have Menudo on the menu, it's a good sign. You can also tell that the salsas are made fresh every day.

Carmelita’s Uses Family Recipes for Authentic Mexican

Carmelita’s
5211 Park St North
St. Petersburg, FL 33709
(727) 545-2956
http://www.carmelitas.net/

8. El Toro Negro

El Toro Negro Tacos

This is another one that is a small hole in the wall, owned and run by a Mexican family, and quite authentic. Everything is fresh and homemade.

El Toro Negro
5780 54th Ave N
Kenneth City, FL 33709
(727) 541-4901
https://www.eltoronegromex.com

9. Mexico Lindo

Chicken Tacos at Mexico Lindo

Mexico Lindo is a little place behind a Mexican grocery. It's another small, and authentic place run by Mexicans for Mexicans. The tacos are excellent.

Mexico Lindo
6050 Park Blvd N
Pinellas Park, FL 33781
(727) 548-8721

10. El Huarache Veloz

Tacos at El Huarache Veloz

Tacos at El Huarache Veloz

El Huarache is the real deal. It's a small place with only seven tables, and they are here to feed the blue-collar Mexican workers in the neighborhood. This is the food you would likely get if you went to someone's house in Mexico. Aside from me, every patron was Mexican, and speaking Spanish. The menu is even in English and Spanish. They open early at 10 am, but they also close early at 8 pm, so keep that in mind when planning your visit.

El Huarache Veloz – Mexican Food for Mexican People (Gringos are Allowed too)

El Huarache Veloz
7100 49th St N, Pinellas Park, FL 33781
(727) 525-6028

Red Mesa CantinaRed Mesa MercadoNueva Cantina
128 3rd St South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
727-896-8226
1100 1st Ave North
St. Petersburg, FL 33705
(727) 954-7430
1625 4th St South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 851-9579
Red Mesa RestaurantEl Toro NegroEl Huarache Veloz
4912 4th St North
St. Petersburg, FL 33703
(727) 527-8728
5780 54th Ave N
Kenneth City, FL 33709
(727) 541-4901
7100 49th St N, Pinellas Park, FL 33781
(727) 525-6028
Mexico LindoAgaveCarmelita’s
6050 Park Blvd N
Pinellas Park, FL 33781
(727) 548-8721
6400 Gulf Blvd.
St Pete Beach, FL 33706
(727) 367-3448
5211 Park St North
St. Petersburg, FL 33709
(727) 545-2956
VIP Mexican Restaurant
10625 Gulf Blvd
Treasure Island, FL 33706
(727) 360-5062

UPDATE FEBRUARY 20, 2018.

After receiving feedback that we did a grave injustice by not including Casita Taqueria, we paid them a fresh visit and add them here as a +1 to the list. Casita Taqueria Review

MORE FOODIES READING  Review: VIP Mexican Restaurant & Lounge

Honorable Mentions

Chile Verde is a new place that recently opened in a converted gas station, and they have had an avalanche of great reviews on social media.

Chile Verde Authentic Mexican Food
2801 22nd Ave North
St. Petersburg, Florida 33713
(727) 800-2679

NuMex Chile - not Mexican, but New Mexico cuisine, as in the southwestern state. If you like Mexican, you should like this, and it's a nice change-up.

NuMex Serves Up Delicious Traditional New Mexican Fare

NuMex Chile
2710 Central Ave
St. Petersburg, Florida 33712
(727) 592-4326
http://numexchile.com

The Grateful Taco on St. Pete Beach is still in the works from last year, and should be opening in the spring of 2018.

Chef / Co-Owner of Gratzzi to Open The Grateful Taco

The Grateful Taco
5955 Gulf Winds Drive
St. Pete Beach, Florida 33706

10 Best Mexican Restaurants in St. Petersburg FL 2018
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DISCLAIMER: Kevin, Lori, Abby, & Haley do not dine anonymously (this would be impossible) and we sometimes get free food (though never expected). However, we dine with the locals and we support our own. You will always get honesty in a respectful manner.
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3 Responses

  1. Nueva Vallarta on 19 up in Pinellas Park has some great Mexican food too.
  2. I lived in California all my life and moved to Florida 3 years ago. I could never find good Mexican food here. (Or anything that intrigued my palate. I thought it was the water, different soil, regional things like that). Today we tried Chile Verde and loved it. What a treat. I told the man at the counter it was the best Mexican food I’d had since leaving California. Where from? He asked. Sacramento, I said. Then he laughed and told me he had moved from Elk Grove which is about five miles down the urban sprawl road from where we lived! Needless to say I am so happy to find a little slice of my past in Florida now. And the best Mexican food that I love! I’m also curious though if this regional palate theory of mine is myth or has some validity.

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