Fresh Flavor in North Naples
Tacos & Tequila Cantina, 8971 Tamiami Trail N., Naples, (239) 254-8226, tacosandtequilanaples.com
WHY WE LOVE IT: There’s no pulling a sombrero over anyone’s eyes. As the name suggests, there are two house specialties—and special they are. The pockets of deliciousness couple with margaritas that’d make a mariachi exclaim, “mamita!” The original location opened a few years back on Davis Boulevard, but now there’s a much bigger (and arguably better) new location in the Pavilion in North Naples.
IDEAL MEAL: If you wanted to write an encyclopedia of tacos, this menu could serve as an outline. Traditional? Carne asada with strips of grilled skirt steak. Nouveau? Braised short rib with sautéed onions, chimichurri and cotija. Funky? Fried shrimp with sriracha mayonnaise, red peppers and jalapeños. They’re priced at just $3.50 to $5 a piece, so our suggestion is to order with abandon. The dips, including three kinds of silky, salty melted queso and a generous portion of guacamole, are category bests in town, but the (free) salsa that’s dished out in mason jars with individual serving cups may take the prize. It’s made daily with fresh herbs. Many people bypass the short list of entrées, but they, too, are satisfying, with options like enchiladas, fajitas and burritos. And don’t miss the churros with a dusting of cinnamon and a rich chocolate dipping sauce.
VIBE: From colorful sugar skulls to wire star-shaped lanterns dangling over tables, it feels like you’ve ventured far outside of Naples. The new location, in particular, distills the hipness and fun (minus the raunchiness) of the fictitious Coyote Ugly with an authentic south-of-the-border warmth. With its wide-open dining room and mile-long bar, it’s a great pick for a coworker’s birthday fiesta or even just a round of after-office drinks.