Rocco's Tacos

Bar-slash-restaurant is big on libations, but falters somewhat on straight-up Tex-Mex fare

Rocco's Tacos is one of those places that begs the question, "Is it a bar, or is it a restaurant?" Here to answer that question is the helpful Mr. Obvious: "Well, let's break it down: There's a bar outside near the entrance, a large bar when you enter, a sizable bar opening out to the back patio, 330 types of tequila ranging from $6 to $250 a shot; a DJ rocks the house every night of the week; and the joint stays open until 2 a.m. Oh, and owner Rocco Mangel drops by every now and then to pour tequila down the throats of his patrons."

Thank you, Mr. Obvious. Now on to the business of tacos. Yes, Rocco's serves tacos (thanks again, Mr. Obvious), but whether they're worth suffering the middle-aged crazies crowding this 10,000-square-foot space is a question dependent on the Devil's Water: namely, how much you've ingested. I imagine if you were legless, the carne asada, slow-roasted pork or chicken adobo tacos (all $2.95 each) would have you swearing to their rightful place in a Mexico City taquería; in actuality, they're soberingly dull, bland and, in the case of the carne asada, tough. Sloshed or not, however, the hongos (mushroom), spicy ground beef and chorizo tacos ($2.95-$3.95 each) are worthy of downing.

Serving tableside guacamole is a now-common practice among higher-end taco joints, but Rocco's $12.50 price tag, shockingly, tops even Cantina Laredo's $9.99 toll. This is not a place to consider if you're counting centavos. (If your wallet's thin, head to the Border Grill, 3.6 miles northeast of here, according to Google Maps.) If you refuse to fork out the $12.50 out of principle, consider the esquites ($5) instead – grilled corn on the cob slathered with a mix of cotija cheese, cilantro and chile d'arbol. Sharing it can be an issue, but the frugal have their ways. Since we're on the subject of thrift, I should mention that chips and salsa here are not complimentary – that'll run you an extra $3.50.

From the long list of mains, the pulled pork enchilada rojo ($13) fared a whole lot better than its taco counterpart, thanks to a smoky red guajillo sauce. The platter comes with a heap of refried beans and a substantial mound of rice. The other dish we sampled – pollo mole poblano ($17) – lacked richness. The sauce was a homogenous blend, devoid of the complex layering that serves to animate the varietals of chilies and spices in that pool of Mexican chocolate. To make matters worse, one of the two chicken breasts was undercooked, and sending it back just seemed a pointless exercise.

But we soon found ourselves forgetting such First World problems when a plate of freshly fried churros ($5) was set before us. Yes, the 10-minute prep time was a slight negative and the vanilla ice cream, while nice, wasn't necessary, but that didn't stop us from relishing every fluffy bite of these towering doughnuts. Our other sampled sweet, a Mexican chocolate pie ($6) with a coconut crust, was almost as gratifying. It may be a tad sugary for some palates, but it'll certainly placate any chocolate craving.

Pumping music and plenty of decorative masks, painted longhorns and Day of the Dead doodads help sustain Rocco's cheery atmo, but the most appealing facet may be its lakeside patio. It offers an ideal vantage point for eyes and ears to feast on the unfolding scene inside, though ultimately, it's our mouths that are left wanting more.

Rocco's Tacos

7468 W. Sand Lake Road

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