It's a rare day when I will turn down Mexican food. Fortunately, if I want something more than Taco Bell or Moe's, we have a nice family-run alternative in Lakeland, Tapatios.
The decor has some fast food seating that makes me think that it was a Burger King in its previous life, but what comes out of the kitchen now is much more palatable. Ed and I have visited four times now and have been pleased with almost all the traditional favorites we've ordered.
For instance, their beef and cheese nacho starter is piled high with taco seasoned beef and topped with shredded queso blanco. It's placed under a salamander and the fresh tortilla chips become slightly brown, the cheese almost completely melts and the family gobbles it up. The queso blanco gives it a nice flavor that sets it apart from nachos served at chain restaurants. Tonight, Chef told us he's getting his own plate next time.
We've sampled different basics each time. Game Teen got quesadillas, which you can order with shredded chicken or beef. His were just cheese and he declared them stunning, which is high praise indeed from the picky eater in the family. Ed went for the pork mole (I'd had the chicken mole on a previous visit). The mole sauce had a nice, complex flavor of chocolate, a hint of cinnamon and cumin-but no heat. The pork and the chicken each had a nice flavor, slightly salty from a light marinade and each shredded easily. This entree is served with fresh soft tortillas, beans and rice, but you may run out of tortillas before you run out of mole.
Chef got the beef taquitos this time, shredded beef topped with guacamole, tomatoes and sour cream and served with beans and rice. There are two very large taquitos and it's obvious they're made in house, as they're larger than any I've seen before. Chef is our big eater and he barely finished one, so large are the ones on his plate.
I went for the enchiladas supremas, a plate with four enchiladas: one each of beef, chicken, cheese and bean. They're topped with plenty of guacamole, sour cream, lettuce and tomato. This is good if you have a big appetite. For me, I ended up eating two (chicken and the cheese, yum!) and I left more for tomorrow's lunch. The beef is filled with seasoned ground beef, the cheese with more of that queso blanco. My plate also had a small side of refried beans.
Take note: if you like heat, what comes out of the kitchen has great flavor, but little fire. I think that reserving some of the hot salsa that comes to the table with fresh tortilla chips might be a good option if you can't live without a little burn in your Mexican food. (As for me, I may just pack my own Cholula or Valentina's!)
On the desert front, the fried ice cream has come out with stale corn chips twice, but the tres leches cake is worth taking some to go if you're full from dinner. Ultimately, if you're looking for an alternative to the fast food options in town, Tapatios delivers on flavor.