Tampa Bay Food Monster

…eating food since 1985.

Red Mesa Cantina

Posted by Tampa Bay Food Monster on January 4, 2011

in celebration of the new year, my friends and i all went out to st. petersburg for new year’s eve. in addition to all the dangerously excessive, unhealthy drinking we planned on doing, we knew we had to get something to eat. so we settled on red mesa cantina, a mexican restaurant that may be considered ‘too cool for school’. i mean, half of the place was a club. full of *shudders* people. and they were dancing! to LOUD MUSIC!

red mesa interior

okay so i’m freaking out too early. let’s start at the beginning. we called ahead, assuming that it would be packed on new year’s eve, but hoping to make reservations. the people we spoke with said we shouldn’t need reservations, and we should be sat pretty quickly. this is a group of seven. so we said whatever and just showed up, expecting to look like fools. instead, we were actually sat without any delay at all. immediately! that was pretty impressive.

the place was really hip looking, with a lot of sexy grown ups eating food and flirting and stuff. needless to say, i felt a bit out of place. there was really loud music pumping in from the club “portion” of the restaurant, which was right next to our table. luckily, it wasn’t so loud we weren’t able to talk. the waiter was nice, and made suggestions of his favorite items, which i found helpful. we ordered red sangria for the table, which was very good, and all ordered our food.

chicken taquitos

my friend ordered some of their chicken taquitos as an appetizer for the table, which didn’t work out too well because there were only three of them. they were fairly large, though, so we were able to split them in half for everyone to try them. they were nice and spicy, with a very crisp outer shell. the meat inside was well seasoned, being drenched in some sort of taquito… sauce (FOOD BLOG!). it was quite nice.


i ordered three different tacos. their menu was filled with a lot of exotic sounding new takes on traditional mexican meals. i settled on the tacos, feeling i could get the most variety and best sampling this way. the tacos were a decent size, about what you’d expect for a more traditional taco, and they all cost around four or five bucks apiece. a bit pricey, but judging from the atmosphere, that was to be expected. i ordered the steak fajita taco, the duck taco, and the chicken taco (pictured above, from left to right, in that order).

i first went for the chicken taco, which came with chicken, seasoned peppers and onions, jack cheese, and pico de gallo. all the tacos came on a corn tortilla (adequate, a bit soggy). the toppings were all pretty decent, nothing exceptional, but the chicken was noticeably bland, and a bit stringy. it was as though they didn’t season it at all, and just expected the toppings to get the job done. it… it didn’t quite cut it. i was hoping it was just a chicken issue, but i found it to be much the same with the other two tacos. the steak fajita taco, with the same toppings as the chicken minus the pico de gallo, was just disappointing. i had ordered a side of jalapeño cream sauce because i was intrigued by it (unfortunately nothing special), and ended up dousing my steak taco in it (as well as their hot sauce, which was very good).

the duck taco was, of course, the most exciting. it featured grilled pineapple, goat cheese, cilantro, and red chile jelly, and of course roasted duck. as i said before, the meat was completely disappointing. i rarely have duck, but when i do i always find it to be nice, dark, juicy and savory. this was… well they may as well have used chicken. the toppings were good though, at least providing something more interesting to eat. the red chile jelly was especially nice, a strong sweet flavor playing against the creamy goat cheese. i would have liked the pineapple to have been more prominently featured, but there wasn’t much of it. generally, a better taco, but not what i was hoping for.

so all in all… i didn’t really care for the place. i don’t plan on going back there. they had good drinks, but their food was very disappointing to me. their meat was all bland and lacked the seasoning that i expect from any mexican place, no matter how nontraditional the menu. and i never care for the club atmosphere. at one point, i had to go to the restroom, and i was directed out to the club. after weaving my way through a huge crowd of people in pursuit of the dangling “men’s room” sign, i was led to an open alleyway. i uh… i don’t think that was right. maybe it was my own fault (definitely my own fault), but i wasn’t drunk enough to excuse them for having a difficult bathroom to get to. i wound up wetting my own pants, and became the laughing stock of the dance floor. i tried to leave, but a hostile group of break dancers blocked my way out. fourty-five minutes i spent out there, chilled by my own urine-drenched trousers.

…not the worst new year’s eve. not by a long shot. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Red Mesa Cantina on Urbanspoon


6 Responses to “Red Mesa Cantina”

  1. Jess said

    Motherfucker, you saw Weezer in LA? Was it their Pinkerton/Blue Album tour?

    • YES! my god it was incredible. first and last time i’ll see them live. they performed as though it were 94/96… rivers wore the same clothes he would have then, played all the solos, etc. it was like time travel. the most memorable concert experience i’ll likely ever have.

  2. Rion Sabean said

    I’m very sorry for the loss of your friend. In lieu of flowers, I’ll send food.

  3. Paul said

    The best way to enjoy Red Mesa Cantina, for those over 35, is OUTSIDE for lunch on a beautiful day. They’ve got a fountain, brass sculptures, no loud music, and the overall ambiance is just great. If you go for dinner on a weekend night, the music and noise level will force you to shout through the meal. It’s all about timing. The food is always delicious!

    • wow that sounds much preferable! that’s exactly the kind of experience i enjoy. i wish i had known. of course, there was really no way around partying when i went (new year’s eve). if i ever get around to it, i’ll give them another chance.

      thanks for the tip!

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