Yecid Cardenas knows he is in for a challenge by opening a new restaurant on the fringe of Clearwater’s somewhat sleepy downtown district, especially in this still recovering economy.
But he hopes that by offering tasty, traditional Mexican meals and all day 2-for-1 drink specials, people will soon flock to his Tequila's Mexican Grill & Cantina at 401 S. Fort Harrison Ave., a spot that was home to Harrison’s Grill for many years.
“We serve authentic Mexican food with the focus on lunches, since we know we have a good lunchtime crowd around here,” Cardenas said. “We have 22 different dishes for lunch at special prices, and you can get them seven days a week.”
Cardenas has made many sacrifices to open the restaurant. He moved with his wife from North Carolina, where he worked for a security company, and brought his buddy, Eugenio Martinez, down from Tallahassee to partner with him.
He also recruited a friend from Charlotte, NC, to be his chef, a man with 10 years' experience in the restaurant business and a deep knowledge of authentic Mexican food.
As a result, Tequila’s menu is extensive and packed with Mexican favorites. In addition to unique items such as carnitas and papa rellena, Tequila’s also serves standards like burritos, enchiladas and, of course, tacos.
The tacos come in hard or soft shell with either beef or chicken filling and are topped with lettuce, onion, green onions and tomatoes. The meat is tasty and moist, while the salsa on the side is homemade and offers just the right amount of kick to make it a cut above others.
Wash it all down with a 22-ounce draft of Modelo or Dos Equis or one of Tequila’s signature margaritas, and you have the makings of an excellent midday meal, which should go a long way toward making Cardenas' place a success.
“I know we’re taking a lot of risk opening a new restaurant here, but I believe we can make it work,” Cardenas said. “We’ve received good comments from people so far … and most people have been scrubbing their plates clean, so I think that’s a good sign.”
Tequila's Mexican Grill & Cantina
Address: 401 S. Fort Harrison Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday