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Eating with Emma

Where to find the best tacos in Sarasota, Bradenton

Treat yourself to the area's most taco-rific taquerias.


Pork Al Pastor ($4), my personal favorite in town.
Pork Al Pastor ($4), my personal favorite in town.
Photo by Emma Burke Jolly
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I go back and forth between what love language defines what I need, or rather what I want.

Millennials are always craving reassurance so words of affirmation seem like a good fit. But no, thanks. 

Over the last year, my husband instituted day-date Saturdays where we put our phones away, listen to music all the way up with the windows all the way down and try tacos all over town.

Then it hit me: My husband found a love language that speaks to my soul more than any other — tacos.

Here is my love letter to the places “shelling” out the best tacos in town.


Casa Masa

2773 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota; 941-922-8226; CasaMasa-SRQ.com

Located on Bee Ridge, this outdoor space is transforming. New mural work, updated furniture and fire pits to come.
Photo by Emma Jolly

Let’s Taco 'Bout It: Inspired from his travels to Mexico, owner Rob Disilvio flies in authentic Oaxacan cheese, makes blue corn tortillas from scratch daily and fires up flavors that floor my foodie heart, stomach and soul. The use of blue corn in their tacos, chips and pizzas (yes, pizzas) elevates each bite. “The essence of a sandwich is the bread; the essence of a taco is the shell. It’s a labor of love,” says Disilvio, who has been in business  six years. I would go for breakfast, lunch and dinner if I could. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Top Taco: Pork Al Pastor ($4). This is by far the best in town! Sweet, delicious pineapple paired with vertical-cooked shards of pork that perpetuate my passion for pastor tacos.

Pork Belly Mexican Pizza ($11 – $16) that will guac your world.
Photo by Emma Jolly

Spec-Taco-ular Second Place: Pork Belly Mexican Pizza ($11 – $16). I was going to tell you to get the camarones taco ($5.50), but that was before Disilvio delivered a dish that dazzled my delectable dining experience beyond measure. Pork belly, black bean paste, black garlic crema, salsa macha, red onion, micro cilantro — all on a pizza made of that blue corn beauty. Deliciosa!


Los Primos Taqueria

1111 Manatee Ave. E., Bradenton; 941-744-9299; LosPrimosTaqueriaFL.com

Let’s Taco 'Bout It: Don’t drive too fast going down Manatee Avenue or you’ll miss the next stop on our taco travels. Located next to a vacant gas station, the four-table authentic Mexican eatery below a bright green roof prepares plates that please my piehole more than most places. Mouthwatering handmade tortillas, vibrantly colored spicy salsas and marvelously marinated meat served by a staff that makes you feel like family — except my family doesn’t serve tacos like this.

Chicharron, Pork Grinds ($1.75+) at Los Primos are perfection.
Photo by Emma Jolly


Top Taco: Chicharron, Pork Grinds ($1.75+). Los Primos' pork grinds are phenomenal. Each bite is crispy, jam-packed of crunchy skin that also feels delicate at the same time. I can’t wait to go back and enjoy this pristine pork!

Spec-Taco-ular Second Place: Carnitas, shredded pork ($1.75+). Please don’t stop with the pork, Los Primos. This shredded pork is perfectly praiseworthy!


Bitia's Taqueria

3436 17th St., Sarasota; 941-366-8081; Facebook.com/BitiasTaqueria

Bitia's tacos are authentic, appetizing and way above average.
Photo by Emma Jolly

Let’s Taco 'Bout It: Finding a table at Bitia’s at any time on any day is like finding a spot in the long-term parking lot at SRQ Airport — best of luck and off to the cellphone lot for you. But before I lose you, let me tell you this authentic Salvadorean and Mexican establishment is worth the wait. Or if you don’t have time to fight for a seat, order online or check the wait time.

Top Taco: Barbacoa, shredded beef ($1.50). Looking for a hard-shell taco with shredded American cheese, sour cream and stuff? Turn your car around and go to Taco Bell. Bitia's tacos are authentic, appetizing and way above average. The juice from the barbacoa seeps into the shell and the cilantro complements each mouthful. Once it was gone, I immediately wanted another.

Spec-Taco-ular Second Place: Buche, pork belly ($1.50). You want a succulent taco full of tender, velvety and buttery notes? Look no farther.


Reyna's Taqueria

935 N. Beneva Road., Suite 701, Sarasota; 941-260-8343; 8201 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; 941-271-4624; ReynasTaqueria.com

Let’s Taco 'Bout It: This feature would not be possible without my love affair with Reyna’s Taqueria. When that whole COVID thing started, I ordered Reyna’s at least once a week. I justified my addiction by reassuring my husband, “We’re helping the local restaurant industry. But the truth is I wanted — no needed — these tasty tacos and not just on Tuesdays. Once I went to the actual restaurant and realized they had sangria, draft beer and margaritas as well as churros— it was game over for this corn sandwich connoisseur.

Rib eye and chorizo: Name a better duo — I’ll wait.
Photo by Emma Jolly


Top Taco: Campechano: rib eye and chorizo ($3.99). Name a better combo — I’ll wait. Savory ribeye with the slight heat found in chorizo (seasoned chopped or ground pork sausage) is a match made in taco heaven.

Spec-Taco-ular Second Place: Sopes ($5.75). Just another crazy yummy corn-based vessel for the Campechano (or steak, barbacoa, pastor, chicken, carnitas, lengua, fish, shrimp, chorizo, tinga or vegetarian option).


BirdRock Taco Shack

1213 13th Ave., W, Bradenton; 941-545-9966; BirdRockTacoShack.com

BirdRock Taco Shack's new location at 1213 13th Ave., W, Bradenton.
Photo by Emma Jolly


Let’s Taco 'Bout It: Located in Village of the Arts, the new location of BirdRock radiates eclectic entertainment both in restaurant vibes and in your mouth with its flavorful food. There are vegan options, gluten-free choices and plates perfect for foodies wanting to post on their social media pages. In business for eight years, owner and chef David Shiplett and his team curate a magical menu that I will eat my way through if it’s the last thing I do.

Top Taco: Tie between cold water lobster with smoked chile mayo, cabbage, lime and corn tortilla ($12) and beef short rib with Korean barbecue, tomato pico, fried onion and flour tortilla ($9).

Cold water lobster ($12) and beef short rib with Korean barbecue ($9).
Photo by Emma Jolly


Spec-Taco-ular Second Place: The Thai peanut, Brussels sprouts, caramelized shallots, chile taco with a flour tortilla ($8) has been a staple of BirdRock for years. Now I know why. Shiplett said he knew it was going to be a hit when non-vegan diners were requesting the dish time and time agin.


The Spot Tacos and More

2303 First St., Bradenton; 941-741-2011; TheSpotTacos.com

Vibrantly decorated and family-friendly, The Spot is serving sensational food off 41.
Photo by Emma Jolly


Let’s Taco 'Bout It: Once dishing delectable cheesy goodness from the Bradenton Flea Market, this taco joint now has its own brick-and-mortar establishment attached to Robin’s apartments off U.S. Route 41. Vibrantly decorated and family-friendly, The Spot's menu has me wondering why I took so long to walk through those doors. On a Saturday afternoon, the entire restaurant was packed. There were noticeable authentic smiles on each patron as they shared a meal with their loved ones. I found out quickly why everyone was so happy…

The Spot Tacos and More dishes out delectable cheesy goodness.
Photo by Emma Jolly


Top Taco: Birria Tacos ($2.99 each or three tacos and consummé for $11 or four tacos without consummé, $11). Dripping in broth, crisped to excellence and filled with the tastiest beef, cheese, diced onion and cilantro, these beautiful birria masterpieces made all of my worries wander away. I will dream about the cheesy, creamy yet crunchy, creations whenever I hear the word taco from here on out.

Spec-Taco-ular Second Place: Tinga, chicken ($2.50 for corn, $3 for flour). I suppose if you aren’t into what was previously described, the chicken tacos also guac-ed my world.


Rocco's Tacos

243 N. Cattlemen Road, Sarasota; 941-477-8226; RoccosTacos.com

Shrimply the best savory dish at Rocco's.
Courtesy photo

Let’s Taco 'Bout It: You can’t talk tacos without the talk of the town, Rocco’s Tacos, which just opened at University Town Center on March 6. With daily happy hours and special happenings like Margarita Mondays, Taco Tuesdays and a full brunch menu, the elevated and entertaining space provides quite the fun environment. Just look at these photos from the invitation-only party last month. Between the robust aromas and the attractive atmosphere, Rocco’s assures an appetizing and amusing time for every foodie.

Top Taco: Macha shrimp tacos ($20). Filled with crispy shrimp, peanut salsa macha, shaved cabbage, avocado, pico de gallo and sesame seeds, these tacos, offered with handmade tortillas or lettuce wraps, are shrimply the best savory dish.

Spec-Taco-ular Second Place: Vegan al Pastor ($19). Yummy in my normally-not-plant-based belly. The plant-based protein mixed with pineapple salsa, onion, cilantro and lime provides not only a vegan option at the new space, but is also gluten-free.

 

author

Emma Burke Jolly

Emma B. Jolly has worked at Observer Media Group for five years as the digital fulfillment specialist with previous experience at Sarasota Magazine, Harper's Bazaar and even "The Jerry Springer Show" (yes, that's right). In her spare time, she enjoys doing anything near or on the water, being a cat mama and, of course, being a foodie with her new hubby.

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