Something's missing from those forearm-sized burritos served up assembly-line style in chain restaurants. It can't be found in those taco salads with the deep-fried, edible bowl, either.
And as for the ball game nachos drenched in fluorescent orange cheese sauce? Forget about it.
To Roberto Santibanez, the New York-based chef behind Rosa Mexicano restaurants and other eateries across the country, Mexican food has much more to offer than those cliched crowd pleasers. He'll visit Hillsborough next week to prove it.
"When people think of Mexican food, they think of something red — it's always red — drowning in cream and covered with cheese," he says. "Mexican cuisine is just as sophisticated as European cooking, and there's a lot of diversity and history surrounding it that many people aren't exposed to."
Chef to share contemporary Mexican dishes loaded with flavor
By Candace Braun, Times Correspondent
In Print: Friday, October 2, 2009
Seminole Heights’ Taco Bus owner Rene Valenzuela, left, welcomes his friend and New York-based chef Roberto Santibanez, who will conduct Mexican cooking classes in Tampa and Brandon. Classes are expected to sell out in advance.
By KENNETH KNIGHT, The Tampa Tribune
May 23, 2012
A Taco Bus restaurant is about to roll into the University of South Florida area.
A sign announcing the upcoming arrival of a Taco Bus recently appeared in a window at the site of a former Taqueria Monterrey, a Mexican food restaurant on East Fletcher Avenue west of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. The eatery is expected to open by the first week of June, said Rene Valenzuela, president and chief executive officer of Taco Bus Inc.
Valenzuela decided to replace the Taqueria Monterrey, which his company owned, with a Taco Bus to better serve the needs of nearby college students and hospital workers, he said.
By Nicole Hutcheson, Westchase Patch
March 10, 2012
Westchase teen Ben Weiner organized the community's first food truck rally, which raised $800 for the American Heart Association.
By Alexis Quinn Chamberlain, 83 Degrees Media
January 31, 2012
Taco Bus, one of Tampa's most beloved food trucks, has ditched the wheels, calling downtown Tampa home. Celebrating the storefront restaurant's grand opening on January 25th, Taco Bus' new downtown location at 505 N. Franklin St. brings about the restaurant's third location. The original still sits, as a bus, at 913 E. Hillsborough Ave. while a second wheeled location opened in St. Petersburg at 2324 Central Ave. nearly one year ago. “We're getting busier and busier and we figured it made sense to kind of disburse things around,” says Aviva Bowman, Taco Bus' marketing director. “Downtown is a great location with so many businesses. We know a lot of people would like to visit us for lunch but don't have time, so this is really great because it's a run in, run out kind of thing.”
By Susan Thurston, Times Staff Writer
Friday, January 20, 2012
The Taco Bus opens in downtown Tampa on Wednesday. There's not a line yet - we think - but there will be soon. That's what happens when the Taco Bus sets up shop. People squeal, swarm and swoon. This Tampa-based eatery has become the 'it' place for fresh, Mexican fare. It began as a mobile taco vendor long before food trucks were hip and put down stakes in a not-so-trendy spot along Hillsborough Avenue. St. Petersburg finally got its own last year. The new location on Franklin Street marks the Taco Bus' first attempt in a storefront restaurant. There's no bus, except in the name. Order takers will be at eye level.
Michael Newcomer, junior at Tarpon Springs High
The term was completely foreign to me two weeks ago. Why would anybody want to eat a taco from a bus? There’s a perfectly good Taco Bell right down the street, and it’s cheaper, too. I heard from many that it was the best authentic Mexican food around. I was so pumped when I finally stepped onto the sidewalk after the long journey to St. Pete from my native Tarpon Springs. Then I saw the line.
By Carole Liparoto, St Pete Times Correspondent
June 17, 2011
Too often, the meal options at music venues and festivals lack substance. You know the stuff — bad combinations of fried dough and single-serving condiments, all for ridiculously inflated prices. Last weekend at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, however, a Tampa Bay restaurateur took a big leap to change the mind-set.
By Jim Webster, Times Food Critic
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
After a short wait in line — it's drizzly out, which is the only time you can really expect a short line — a woman gets to the window of the Taco Bus on Central Avenue and places her order with the man in the bus. "I'd like a ground beef taco in a crunchy shell, with lettuce," she says with all the confidence of someone who has ordered this very meal before. Just not here.
By Linda Hersey, Patch.com
March 14, 2011
ST. PETERSBURG – Before you even turn on the TV Wednesday night to watch Tampa Bay's own Taco Bus star in "Man V. Food," make sure you get a burrito or taco to go from the yellow school bus to stave off cravings at home. Viewers will need to feast on a Taco Bus delicacy as they feast their eyes on a Travel Channel profile of the little school bus that could. Rene Valenzuela's Taco Bus will be front and center on the popular cable TV food show at 9 p.m.
By Linda Hersey, Patch.com
March 14, 2011
Venturing to the open-air eatery on Central Avenue is worth the hassle of waiting 20-40 minutes to place and get your order. The place is super casual, and just getting your food requires some initiative. When we arrived on Saturday afternoon, there was a line along Central Avenue, even though it was getting late in the day. We observed the startup businesses that seem to be opening around Taco Bus, at 2324 Central Ave., since it attracts crowds of people at all hours of the day and night. All of a sudden, this Grand Central block did not seem like such an outpost from downtown.
By Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Times Staff Writer
March 2, 2011
The Food Networks's Guy Fieri has visited some of America's best out-of-the-way-places for the channel's popular Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Add Tampa's Taco Bus to the list. If you were wondering why the popular Mexican joint was closed to the public Tuesday afternoon, it was because owner Rene Valenzuela was inside with Fieri and a film crew for an episode of the road-food show.
By Laura Reiley, Times Food Critic
Sep 27, 2011
Adam Richman must like Tampa Bay. For the Travel Channel's Man vs. Food, the host visited the area in February to pit himself against a 12-inch Cuban sandwich at Aguila Sandwich Shop, a hot wing challenge at Rapscallions in Land O'Lakes and a grouper Reuben and gator ribs at Skipper's Smokehouse. And now he's back. At 9 p.m. Wednesday, an episode airs starring Tampa's Taco Bus.
"At first I didn't want to do the show because I didn't have a challenge for Adam. That's not what we're all about," says Taco Bus owner Rene Valenzuela. On most shows, Richman tries to down a gargantuan amount of food, such as a 5-pound burger or a stack of pancakes taller than a 12-inch ruler.
In The News
Broken English, Perfectly Spoken