Cilantro Tacos

January 10, 2014

Cilantro Tacos in Newberry is the best example of a true mom and pop restaurant. This isn’t like the Mexican restaurants you’re used to in Gainesville, and frankly…none of them are really any good. At Cilantro Tacos, you won’t find giant margaritas with hats, and you won’t find neon walls lined to the ceiling with colorful garbage meant to distract you from the puddle of sadness on your plate. What you will find is some mighty tasty authentic Mexican cuisine in a no-frills, completely family-run atmosphere.

Since Lupita’s over on Tower Road closed a year ago, I haven’t been able to find a good authentic soft taco. I’m talking real Mexican street tacos. It’s real simple, take some carne asada, fresh cilantro, chopped onions, and put it all in a delicious corn tortilla (none of that flour nonsense) and you’ve got yourself a simple, amazing taco. So when I heard about Cilantro Tacos and all the wonderful things people had to say, I had to make the short trek out to Newberry to give it a try. I was not disappointed.

The restaurant is in a small space off Newberry Road, just west of Newberry Backyard BBQ, look for the bright green sign out front. The building is no-frills, with a simple sign out front, and the interior is no different. A single counter with a TV menu, and a handful of tables adorn the relatively small space. You are quickly greeted by an incredibly friendly staff who are very attentive and wonderful to talk to. While you look over the menu, the standard bowl of tortilla chips arrives along with two very delicious homemade salsas (red and cilantro).

There are a variety of tacos available. For $1.89 each, you can get carne asada, pork (highly recommended!), barbacoa, chicken, ground beef, or shrimp with your choice of toppings. All of which come on a 4” corn tortilla as it should. For a little bit more ($2.50 to $3.00), you can have shrimp or fish as well. Though I recommend going with just cilantro and onions over carne asada with a generous dollop of hot sauce. Other items include the Burrito Grande ($6.89), stuffed with your choice of meat, rice & beans, lettuce, cilantro, tomato, onions, cheese, and sour cream. There’s the Nachos Grande ($6.49 - corn chips layered with beans, cheese, choice of meat, lettuce, tomatoes, and cilantro) and the Mexican Hot Dog ($3.99), a hot dog wrapped in bacon and covered with tomatoes and jalapenos. Quesadillas, fajitas, and tostadas are all available as well.

But the one menu item that will stand out to most of you is the All Meat Burrito. All you Ron Swansons out there should take notice, because this thing is awesome. I’ll repeat it again; All. Meat. Burrito. For $7.89, you can get a burrito stuffed with meats and nothing else. Feeling a chicken, steak, and pork burrito? Go for it. Pining for a steak and shrimp burrito? Sure. Or you can just ask for every single meat available piled into one tasty tortilla sleeping bag for your pleasure. They will do it for you, and it’s pretty flipping awesome.

The owners moved from the San Diego area a little over three months ago and opened Cilantro Tacos in Newberry because they felt there were too many Mexican restaurants already in Gainesville. What they didn’t realize is their product is unlike most of the Americanized stuff we already have. Aside from La Tienda and La Pasadita, it’s all just giant margaritas and quesadillas made with cheese that tastes like melted lunchboxes. This is one restaurant worth the extra drive for a visit, and I hope you do.

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© 2014 by Ken Peng & Ken Eats, LLC. Title image courtesy of Jesse Adrian Scanlon Media.

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