Wednesday, 15 August 2012 12:48
Walking up to Boca Fiesta, you're greeted by a green outline of a dinosaur, welcoming you to perhaps the only Mexican restaurant taking flavor deep South of the border.
Tucked into a corner of downtown near the Hippodrome Theatre, the restaurant is a lot like Gainesville: It's a little bit classic, a little bit Southern and a whole lot of quirky.
By Shayna Posses
For co-owner Jacob Idhe, the taco is his canvas. Every month, Jacob comes up with something new. Really new. One of his recent creations was a rattlesnake taco with baked beans.
"It was everything a cowboy in the west would eat," he says.
There are plenty of creative menu items for adventure-seekers, but Boca offers many traditional aspects and flavors as well.
The steak taco is as classic as you can get, featuring perfectly cooked meat covered in shredded cheddar and accented with fresh cilantro and veggies. The fish taco is vaguely Asian-inspired, with blackened tilapia paired with cabbage, Baja sauce and a tangy lime-cilantro dressing.
If you were ever curious about Mexican barbecue, the pork taco is your best bet, with well-sauced pulled pork topped with Mexican cheese crumbles and served in a crunchy or soft tortilla.
"I like the pork," Jacob says. "It's getting better every year somehow."
Meat tacos are served with two per platter ($10.50) with two Southern-inspired sides, ranging from the warm jalapeño cornbread to the surprisingly savory mashed sweet potatoes. There are also multiple options for herbivores, like tempeh and okra ($9.50).
Everything But Patron
Boca has 30 types of tequila, including a $45 bottle that two customers come in for religiously every week.
For $5, you can get Boca's signature margarita, which is made with pure agave tequila and fresh citrus, like Florida key limes, to make a drink so refreshing, sitting outside is almost manageable. The restaurant also offers house-infused tequila with flavors like cucumber and lavender.
With all this variety, Jacob gets a little sad when people come in and head straight for the Patron.
"If someone orders Patron, I always ask, 'Are you sure you don't want to try something else?'" he says. "There are cheaper, better bottles."
He just created a new drink menu for the restaurant, with offerings like the Silly Rabbit, a mixture of carrot juice, ginger and vodka. There's also a homemade Kahlua made with grain alcohol and super strong coffee.
"It wakes you up and makes you drunk," he says.
Jardín de Cerveza
Attached to Boca is the Backyard, an outdoor seating area, movie theater and hangout spot.
While it's always open as a sort of Mexican beer garden, the Backyard also hosts a variety of events.
The third Wednesday of every month is Wensgays, a gay and queer-friendly dance party.
Boca's owners also like putting on shows, harkening back to the building's roots as punk club Hardback Café.
Jacob himself is a musician, as is co-owner Warren Oakes, former drummer for Against Me!
"We don't rely on shows," Jacob says. "It frees us up to be like, 'I don't want to hear your crappy band again.' I want to get excited about our shows."
Hours: Sun, noon–11pm; Mon-Thurs, 4pm-2am; Fri-Sat, 11am-2am
Address: 232 SE First St.
Phone: 352-336-TACO (8226)
Price Range: $$ (out of $$$$)
Dress Code: Come as you are.
Delivery/Takeout: Gainesville2go; yes.
Outdoor seating: Plenty
Drink Specials: Lots