Guac replaces O Cocina with casual Tex-Mex menu in South Tampa

Most of the dishes will remain under $20.

click to enlarge South Tampa's Guac has a more comfortable vibe than its modern Mexican predecessor, O Cocina. - JENNA RIMENSNYDER
Jenna Rimensnyder
South Tampa's Guac has a more comfortable vibe than its modern Mexican predecessor, O Cocina.


Ready to Guac? It's the latest purveyor of tequila and tacos to take shape in South Tampa.

Earlier this week, the Guac team, from servers to bartenders, were feverishly putting final touches on the laid-back Mexican joint before opening day at 3 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20. Local artist Kaylin Hovance was there, too, finishing one of her many murals within the 4,000-square-foot space.

Guac has replaced O Cocina, which shuttered at 4110 Henderson Blvd. over the summer. After what seemed like an abrupt closing announcement from the late restaurant on July 10, O's new owner — Michael Disser of Disser Hospitality, who's now behind Guac — told CL that O, specializing in modern Mexican cuisine, was destined for an early closure due to its weak foundation.

"I bought the place on April 26, 2018, and closed on July 10. It was fundamentally flawed from the top down," Disser said. "The staff didn't understand that it was going to close anyway because the bills were getting paid."

Former employees of O took to Facebook to express their grievances, alleging they weren't notified that the restaurant was calling it quits — and were only informed of the closure after they'd shown up for their shifts and the doors were locked.

When asked if these claims were true, Disser said he's been in the industry long enough to know that staffing issues arise when an eatery is closing.

"I was worried that people wouldn't show up for work," he said. "It was abrupt, but it wasn't meant to punish anyone — that's just the way it is."

Disser has recruited an entirely new staff. They're fresh faces to Guac's home base in the Palma Ceia West neighborhood, but they've also worked in his existing establishments, including Soho Saloon and Bel Mar Tavern.

Focused on the beloved taco, Guac essentially serves up Tex-Mex, though the menu is billed as "traditional, casual Mexican comfort food." There's also an emphasis on fresh ingredients, which are incorporated into 10 types of tacos alongside burritos, bowls, ceviche, salads and elote-style corn.

One burrito weighs in at a whopping 4 pounds. If diners manage to tackle this monster, they score a free T-shirt (and get to live out their Man v. Food fantasies, of course).

What's more, most of the dishes — with the exception of special shareables like Borracho Nachos — will remain under $20.

click to enlarge Local artist Kaylin Hovance at work. - JENNA RIMENSNYDER
Jenna Rimensnyder
Local artist Kaylin Hovance at work.

At the center of Guac is a full bar offering a curated selection of tequila, signature margaritas and other craft cocktails from Nicki Tini, who previously served as a bartender at SoHo's The Lodge. Guests seated here receive a free shot at 5 p.m. daily, in addition to the regular and late-night happy hour.

Disser decided to say goodbye to the popular and photogenic succulent wall that O was known for. However, the decor is equally Instagrammable. Hovance has created some bright, playful artwork throughout Guac over the last couple of weeks — think Lucha Libre masks and kitschy sayings like "guac is extra like me."

Sports fans weren't forgotten, either, as 15 TVs are planted around the space.

According to the owner, he hopes the more comfortable vibe encourages diners to make Guac their go-to hangout.

"Everything is under $20," Disser said. "We want guests to pop in two to three times a week."

Guac will operate 3 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday. Weekend brunch is planned, as well as weekly live music and an occasional DJ.