Registry Tampa Bay

I don’t recall ever having a bad burrito — and I’ve eaten plenty. What’s not to like about a dinner-plate-sized tortilla piled high with rice, beans, meat, veggies and other goodies, then wrapped tightly into a flavor bomb?

I suppose a restaurant could mess one up, but I’m not anticipating that in this week’s episode. If anything, I’m curious to see if two restaurants can make notably different versions. Our contestants are: Casita Taqueria on 4th Street in St. Pete and Muchachas at Armature Works in Tampa.

CASITA TAQUERIA

It was hovering around 50 degrees when we pulled up around 7 p.m. Saturday. Bonnie and I were bundled up in lined jackets for our 20-foot walk from car to door.

Casita Taqueria’s interior was crowded, but we managed to score a two-top next to a wall. The vintage American blues pouring from the sound system at a moderate volume seemed incongruous, but I had no complaints.

We ordered at the counter. The base burrito is $7.99, and you can select from 11 meats and veggies with different prices. We chose Barbacoa (+$1.99) and Pescado (cod, +$2.99). We added a bag of corn tortilla chips ($2) and a small container of salsa ($1). I got a Negro Modelo bottle ($3.75). The meal cost $23.96, not counting the beer.

Appearance

The chips came in a brown paper bag, which flashed me back to my days of toting lunch to school — although my usual two PB&Js and sleeve of Chips Ahoy back then did not produce the grease stains that dotted this one.

A counter person brought the burritos to our table, which is far more polite than hollering out a name or number. The burritos came wrapped in aluminum foil on a plain metal tray. We opened them and cut ’em in half with a plastic knife. These fatties looked mighty enticing.

Texture and Taste

Bonnie and I took one half of each. The two burritos made a good pair.

The Barbacoa — braised, shredded beef — had a potent, sweetish tang and a touch of spicy heat that stood out but did not overpower. The meat was supremely tender, not the least bit ropy like some shredded beef can be.

The cod was mildly blackened, and could have been more so. Both of the proteins danced well with the rice and black beans, making for a balanced flavor. I should’ve asked for sour cream because the thin layer of crema left me wanting.

Both burritos came with chips, so we could’ve done without our extra bag, which we left half full. My compliments to the salsa — mild, finely textured and refreshing.

MUCHACHAS

It was mid-afternoon Tuesday, the first T-shirt weather in what seemed like several weeks.

We paid $10 to park. Wait what?! Our reaction fell somewhere between surprise and shock, with a side helping of indignance. Look, Armature Works — a converted street car barn dating back to 1910 — is a nice amenity for Tampa, but the place is essentially a glorified food court with a river view. Ponying up a ten spot to park for 90 minutes was … Too. Damn. Much. Okay, rant over.

Muchachas’ counter people were friendly and eager to help. I ordered a Birria Beef — the closest they had to barbacoa — and Bonnie got Chicken (they had no fish), both $16, with a $3 up-charge for the queso we added to the chicken.

Then we walked down the small Subway-style line and picked out all manner of extras — starting with and rice and beans and moving on to plenty of other goodies that I won’t list here. A woman had to put a lot of elbow grease toward rolling all that stuff into burritos. I also got a Mexican Coke ($4).

Appearance

These burritos showed up much the same way as at Casita Taqueria, and we prepped by cutting them in half. They looked a tad bigger and plumper. We sat at a picnic table outside. After a while, the sun shone through and warmed my back. What a strange feeling.

Texture and Taste

The beef was tender, although the seasoning didn’t come through. I appreciated the grilled peppers and onions, plus chopped raw onions — which added crunch — and, especially, the roasted corn. Can’t go wrong with corn.

The chicken got lost amid the serving-line add-ons, although on their own the small cubes were moist and nicely seasoned. Bonnie appreciated the finely shredded cotija cheese and the queso.

Both burritos had red beans, rather than black.

And the Winner of the Tampa vs. St. Pete Big Ol’ Burrito Battle Is …

Casita Taqueria.

A close call. The character of the beef and fish at Casita ultimately won out. And I preferred the black beans to the red. We liked the build-your-own concept at Muchachas — although we probably overdid it.

As far as atmosphere, you be the judge: a cramped two-top on a chilly night or a picnic table under partly sunny skies, 70 degrees and breezy.

A note on value: The Muchachas meal cost $11 more and did not include chips and salsa.

Planning an Event?

Join The Charity Registry!

Promote your events on our website, membership directory and social media accounts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *