CARMELITAS MEXICAN CANTINA


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Carmelitas Mexican Restaurant
5211 Park Street Location near Tyrone Blvd
St. Petersburg,  Florida  33709

Carmelita Lopez has owned Carmelita's Mexican Restaurant for 32 years, serving up "Mexican food in real Mexican style.” But this St. Petersburg eatery at 5211 Park St. N. had an unappetizing inspection report lately.  Rare for them,  but a strategic piece of equipment failed.

Statement:  Obviously, it’s disappointing to us. We don’t want to have any kind of bad comments or bad remarks,  Carmelita said. On April 1, 2015, inspectors found tamales at 47 degrees, Quesadillas at 53 degrees, flan at 52 degrees, cooked greens at 45 degrees, and raw fish at 47 degrees in the cooler. 

Those are all dangerous temperatures as cold food should be 41 degrees or below.  Over 10 pounds total had to be tossed, and it’s not the first time.  Another stop sale in July of last year had the restaurant throwing out more flan, raw shell eggs, whipped cream and cheese because of improper temperatures.  Carmelita blames it on bad equipment and buying used coolers.

"Were you a little shocked when they issued you another stop sale and made you throw out more food?" asked ABC Action News anchor Wendy Ryan.  "Yes, we were very disappointed. But that very day we got rid of the cooler, and we bought an upright cooler,” Carmelita said.

But she promises those bad inspections are a thing of the past.   "In your opinion, do you feel like these issues are behind you now?" asked Ryan.  "Oh yes, definitely," Carmelita said with confidence.

LATEST INSPECTION BY COUNTY HEALTH

Carmelitas Mexican Restaurant  
Inspection #5223570
  
No violations found in this record.  Inspection:  Full (Call Back - Complied)


A TAMPA BAY TRADITION
Carmelita's is more than a restaurant. I’ve known the family for years. It is a unique experience of delicious authentic Mexican cuisine, exceptional customer service and an inviting atmosphere the whole family will enjoy

They were founded in 1983, Carmelitas has established the standard in quality Mexican Food that's been hard to beat for over two decades. Since the restaurant's inception, founders Vincent and Carmen Lopez have used their vast collection of traditional family recipes as the cornerstone of the Carmelita's experience. 

Their locations are family-friendly in atmosphere. They know what it's like to be part of a big family so they encourage you to bring yours. The  children's menu is packed with kid-favorites and our full liquor bar offers a variety of drinks to satisfy adult tastes


AL’s KITCHEN OPINION

Twice a month I go to Carmelita's and each time it's a friendly warm (Chilis and Hot sauce do that) casual experience.  I have been going to Carmelita's since they opened back in the eighties and they have grown in spite of the economy with five locations and great food year after year.

The  original location on Park street is still swamped most weekends and busy at lunch and dinner during the week. But they do turn a crowd fairly quickly. My favorite dish is the Del Rey Burrito or Enchilada Verdes.   


MY OPINION - TOUGH CALLS

One of the toughest categories of food to judge is Mexican Food because as my friend Julio puts it and he is from Mexico, you wouldn't eat some of the stuff they might prepare for you in Mexico.  It might blow your head and possibly the other end off. Thats why some of the comments and reviews made by some have to be taken with grains of Salt...lemon or lime juice, Tequila and Cointreau. Thats a Margarita.

And many of the dishes here are so Americanized you might not relate them to pure Mexican faire. I see it as a choice of taste. "Authenticity" means nothing as something is authentic only in it's own environment.  Next door the same dish might be different and that makes it "slightly differently authentically". If you saw your Taco cooked on a hot rock, authentic might take on a new meaning. 

Also what is Mexican food?  As I break it down into Mexican-Mexican, Tex-Mex, and American- Mexican. In addition we have Moe's Southwest Mexican, whom I rated mediocre because I didn't understand what they were doing there.  Prepaid semi-buffet? And the food was nothing I cared for and of course there is Taco-Bell which is from another planet.  Even Klingons won’t eat there.

HEAT A BIG WORD IN MEXICAN FOOD

It is easy to make mild food hot. The reverse is difficult. in general we have to take into consideration they serve families here.  If the folks who want nuclear would tell the waitress or waiter to make it hotter, no problem, they will accommodate you.  

When I read comments and reviews about a place, I discard about 50% because some said the food was too hot, and the same dish by another critic was too mild. And another compared it to a place back home 1500 miles away, and the same dish looks different. Just proves my point why I discard many critiques and go there myself a few times.

The salsa and chips are free. The standard salsa is flavorful tomato and chunky and not hot. The optional hot salsa is available and comes in a glass crucible like Aqua-Regia.   It’s hot, trust me,  I mix a half teaspoon with the plain stuff and thats enough for me.  

Then there’s some green stuff that was shipped from the Nuclear Arsenal in Nevada overnight by Brinks as they were afraid it would eat through the floor of the regular truck.   One guy complained the salsa wasn’t hot enough,  just ask for hot,  and you’ll get what you want.

He probably didn't see, or hear that the waitress offered you the little side dish they give you with the 115 octane stuff you can mix with the salsa to increase lower tract discomfort and then blow your head off.  They ask you if you wish the El Diablo, most refuse, a few show off.  You can spot them begging the waitress for more water and then heading for the mens room. 


NOTE:  TAMPA BAY IS A TOUGH AREA ON MEXICAN FOOD
Of course there are the Peyote Induced selections from Taco Bell whom on the basis of food, personnel and cleanliness we told you to AVOID their stores. The food is just sub par, cheap prices, cheap food.  Hopefully they will get better.  Two of the larger Mexican chains in this area folded, Tia's might have still have a store in Tampa, and after eating at Tia's I know why they folded.  

When you eat in Carmelita's you feel at home, when you ate in the big chains you felt like a tourist. And they were theme park joints, average food, average help and the experience ended the first and last time you went there.

They have grown to five locations.  All their locations are good.  I’m still dialed into the one on Park Street. Hard to change after decades.   They do have specials on some days.  They don't shortchange you on specials, rare in the food business. I do not walk out hungry, sometimes my friend needs a doggie bag.  She has a cat, it's not for the cat.

Most family operations go middle of the road. I have eaten in all of the different style places within 100 miles of my home and they play relatively safe here. At Carmelita's the portions are nice sized the menu is very large, and the chips and salsa are complimentary. The food is not overly hot unless you tell them, like on the Enchilada Verdes. They ask mild or hot.  Again, t’s rumored the chef loves to eat raw Jalopena’s and Habaneros, so don’t overdo the hot part.  You can add heat, its hard to remove.




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