Catrinas Tacos and Tequila Bar is coming to Tampa next month

Serving up Mexican cuisine and revealing a speakeasy.

click to enlarge Catrinas Tacos and Tequila Bar is coming to Tampa next month
JENNA RIMENSNYDER

You may remember Catrinas Cocina Y Galeria stationed on MacDill Ave., which served up fresh Mexican dishes out of a building that was dressed in folk Día de los Muertos art and colorful decor, not to mention a tequila bar with over 500 spirits

Since closing its doors on MacDill in 2017, owners Karol Ortiz and Tisbeth Mejia explored the Sarasota restaurant market. Although successful, the real estate was expensive, and the two were itching to head back to Tampa. 

Lucky for us, and them, they are home, and ready to serve up their signature dishes, like guacamole topped with shrimp, tacos and fat burritos. 

Since February of this year, the duo has been furiously renovating a 1,500-square-foot space, located at 1611 N. Howard Ave. 

"We are ready to establish ourselves in this up-and-coming area," Ortiz explains. She is also excited about filling the need for a taco spot in the area.

The restaurant will be named Catrinas Taco and Tequila Bar. With inspections in the near future, Ortiz and Mejia are hoping to debut in late July. 

This go 'round, the pair have something different in mind. The restaurant will be fast-casual with bar and table seating, but they are hoping the limited space will invite guests to talk and feel a sense of community. 

The women-owned eatery will incorporate an open-kitchen concept, which is a very important aspect for Ortiz and Mejia. 

"We want you to see a woman behind the counter making you fresh corn tortillas," Ortiz says. 

"Today, people want to know where their food is coming from. You can put in your order and immediately see us go to work creating the meal," Mejia explains. 

Fresh tamales will be made daily. With an emphasis on serving the freshest products, all meals will be first come, first served and will be available until they sell out for the day.

The tequila bar will be on hold for the first few weeks or so of service, as the restaurant is in the process of acquiring its liquor license. But don't sweat it, tequila tastings are on the horizon. Until then, Catrinas will offer beer and wine. 

The concept will also be debuting a connected speakeasy that can only be accessed with a reservation and password. Since the restaurant is located in a former National Bank of Tampa, they have access to two vaults. One has been converted into a wash/prep area, and the other has been transformed into a speakeasy. The limited space for the speakeasy event area can accommodate up to 10 guests, who will have access to private tastings and a specialty menu crafted by Chef Mejia. Ortiz wants to keep the decor of the speakeasy under wraps until the first guests are able to experience the ambiance. But we can tell you one thing — it offers dimmed lighting for intimate occasions. 

Catrinas will have its signature flair when it comes to decor, but the owners are set on keeping as much of the original architecture intact. Mejia, who doubles as the chef and creative director for the concept, has been creating new pieces for the walls, constructing light installations from driftwood and refurbishing fixtures. 

More details to come as Catrinas passes inspections and announces official opening date.

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