This past Saturday for lunch we decided to check out El Toro Negro in Kenneth City. I had previously read an online message board debating the best "real" Mexican restaurants (no Tex-Mex) in Tampa Bay and El Toro Negro was a consistent favorite. For those of you scratching your heads about Kenneth City, it's a small town between St. Pete and Pinellas Park.
Let me say up front there is nothing fancy about El Toro Negro. It's a no-frills neighborhood Mexican restaurant and grocery. After grabbing a booth, our server greeted us, took our drink order and invited us to help ourselves to the complimentary chips and salsa bar in the back.
Traci and I are both fanatical about sauces so we were quickly in pig heaven at the bar trying the different salsas. While the salsa set-up at El Toro Negro is very humble, Tijuana Flats, Moe's and Chipotle could all take lessons from El Toro's great selection of flavors.
I ordered beef enchiladas in red sauce (each plate also comes with rice and refried beans) and Traci ordered three chicken gorditas (get the bastardized Taco Bell image of gorditas out of your head, read about the real deal here). We also shared chicken quesadillas as an appetizer. This ended up being more food than we could eat thanks to all the chips and salsa we scarfed up.
My enchiladas were very tasty and I had fun trying more of the different salsas on my rice and enchiladas (I told you I am a sauce junkie!). Traci's gorditas came out piping hot and were delicious. Each gordita was stuffed with chicken, beans, lettuce, sour cream and cheese. I think the gorditas taste best when they're still hot and before the corn tortilla has had a chance to cool.
Service was friendly and the owner checked on us after we were served to make sure that we were happy. Happy was an understatement. Great food and big portions for a small price in an authentic setting- what's not to like. We'll definitely be back. When I hear Kenneth City now I'll think of El Toro Negro (before all I thought of was Kenneth City's notoriously ticket-happy cops).
Let me know what other Mexican joints in Tampa Bay you think I should check out.
Bottom-line: If you're looking for authentic Mexican food made with lots of love in a no-frills setting that is light on the wallet and big on taste, check out El Toro Negro in Kenneth City.