Monday, June 8, 2009

Great local Mexican eats - and a good story, too!

The economic downturn has swallowed quite a few retail and restaurant chains since the slope in 2007.

Don Pablos Mexican eatery was one of the casualties, pulling out of the Tampa Bay area and closing the doors on their five locations. The popular, usually-busy Brandon spot actually shut down two days after Christmas 2007, leaving many workers without jobs.

Former managers Joe Morales, Anthony Mundi and Andrew Purdy were in the same boat it seems - until a unique opportunity presented itself. They pulled themselves up by the boot straps, pooled some funds and bought the place.

And out of the ashes of the defunct Don Pablos rose Tres Amigos Cantina, Mexican kitchen and bar. Their philosophy is quite simple: make good, authentic meals in a relaxed atmosphere, and make it easy on the wallet.

I stopped in there on Sunday to see what all the buzz was about, and the smell of sizzling steak and chicken cooking on the grill pulled me right in. Fajitas are Tres Amigos' speciality, and you just have to order them to see why.

They do them five ways, mesquite grilled chicken or steak, a combination of both, the Amigo house special combo which includes all of the above and bacon-wrapped BBQ shrimp, and a quite unusual veggie variation with squash, spinach, peppers, carrots and corn.

I couldn't hardly wait when that sizzling, dancing platter came out of the kitchen, all of that good stuff flanked by grilled onions and poblano peppers with all the trimmings! It's way too much to eat in one sitting, so be prepared to split it with some good dinner company.

My husband had their other special dish, fish tacos. Home made tortillas with grilled tilapia, fresh veggies and trimmed in a mango-pepper sauce. Oh, baby.

And even though we were stuffed, dessert was not to be passed up - not with this menu! Fried ice cream, sopapillas and more.

I won't even get to the margaritas ... there just aren't enough words.

Tres Amigos Cantina is in Brandon nestled in the middle of the town center at 2025 Brandon Blvd, (813) 689-6476. You can peek at their menu at tresamigosbrandon.net. Come hungry!

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