Tequila’s City Brings Genuine Native Mexican Delicacies and World-Class Tequila Bar to Jacksonville – Information – The Florida Instances-Union
Jacksonville residents will soon be able to discover authentic regional Mexican cuisine as well as traditional Tex-Mex favorites and enjoy a world-class tequila when Tequila’s Town opens in a few weeks.
The restaurant is slated to open in the first week of August at Harbor Village Shopping Center, 13475 Atlantic Blvd., on San Pablo Road and Atlantic Boulevard.
As the first tequila town in northeast Florida, the restaurant is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
A close-knit group of family members and friends started the upscale but casual restaurant and tequila bar in Savannah in 2013. The Jacksonville location connects the two already opened in Savannah and another for the neighboring Pooler.
“We really strive to be traditional and celebrate different aspects of Mexico, not just food from the border, what people here know with the Tex-Mex that most of the people here are exposed to,” said Melody Rodriguez, restaurant co-founder.
Tequila’s Town has made a name for itself with authentic regional Mexican cuisine and Tex-Mex dishes made from the ground up using fresh, all-natural meat, fish and seafood, vegetables and fruits – locally sourced whenever possible.
“No mole out of a glass or chili out of a can. … We’re sticking to natural foods,” said Rodriguez. They focus on the quality of the ingredients, traditional cooking methods, authentic spices and avoiding processed foods.
They don’t even use prepackaged lettuce. Instead, they hand chop heads of iceberg lettuce daily, just like they dice fresh whole tomatoes and chili peppers that they use in their dishes, Rodriguez said.
“We’re doing everything as close as possible to what food should be natural. We’re all about quality versus the amounts that many tacos are served in. We really want to be able to meet that quality standard,” said Rodriguez.
They promise the guests healthy, tasty dishes, which are made from innovative, traditional recipes together with fine tequila, margaritas and other cocktails and are always served in a relaxed, optimistic atmosphere.
The menu includes a selection of street-style tacos as well as starters, starters for lunch and dinner with fresh fish and seafood, chicken, beef and lamb – either grilled, blackened or slow-roasted depending on the dish.
His specialties include barbacoa tacos made from minced, slowly roasted lamb with coriander and pickled onions; Chile Colorado, an Asada steak marinated in a mild, inexpensive chili cascabel sauce; Huachinango, a Veracruz-style red snapper, seasoned, scored and fried whole head and tail; and ceviche, freshly diced seafood “cooked” in lime juice.
There are also a variety of Tex-Mex favorites such as burritos, enchiladas, chilirellenos, quesadillas, and tamales. Desserts include sopapillas, flan, and chocolate churros. Mexican cheeses like Queso Fresco and Oaxaca are used in many of their recipes.
The tortilla chips, salsas, soups, moles and other sauces are also homemade. The guacamole is made on the table side and served in lava stone bowls. They even make their own chicken broth and vegan broth for soups and sauces.
“We had fun experimenting with the menu,” she said.
This menu also offers a variety of vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and pescatarian dishes.
“I’m the vegetarian in the family so you will find lots of vegetarian and vegan items, as well as lots of fish dishes,” said Rodriguez.
The restaurant lives up to its name and has an extensive, well-stocked tequila bar, including its own brand “Tequila Blanco”, which is made from 100 percent premium agave. You launched the Tequila label for the third anniversary of the restaurant in 2016. The bar also has brands of mescal which are usually difficult to find.
Inspired by their travels and memories of home cooking, a close group of family members and friends started Tequila’s Town six years ago.
The restaurant, they said, “reflects more than 50 years of combined food industry experience and five years of dreams and plans.”
Pepe Ortiz is the owner and general manager of Jacksonville Restaurant. His brother Temo Ortiz is the company’s president and chief executive officer and Rodriguez’s husband. Her brother Sergio Ortiz is the vice president and head chef. The family’s longtime friend, Sergio Calderon, is their business partner.
They shared a shared vision of a casual but modern Mexican restaurant known as a place for great tequila and a good taco. The goal is also to “create a culture of love and appreciation for traditional Mexican food that is honestly prepared and sourced.”
“We love food and travel, and we experiment with flavors to create amazing bites that happy customers will come back with,” they said.
The trip in the form of a Christmas shopping trip to Jacksonville last December inspired her to open a restaurant here.
She said Jacksonville has several Mexican restaurants, but none like Tequila’s Town. They found it interesting that Jacksonville doesn’t have a restaurant like theirs for a city as big as theirs, Rodriguez said.
“We found a lot of taco bars, some of your traditional Mexican restaurants that are more of the ‘mom and pop’ restaurants that are really more Tex-Mex than authentic local Mexican food that we are focusing on,” said Rodriguez.
She said the other restaurants “didn’t offer a tacos menu that we believe is representative of Mexico and all the different regions and the foods we have.”
“We consider ourselves casual dining, but we’re a little more upscale. We’re certainly not good food, but we defined ourselves as some top-notch casual that we really haven’t seen in Jacksonville,” said Rodriguez.
She said a few places in Jacksonville have tequila bars, but none represent what Tequila’s Town is about.
They explored five potential locations before settling at the Harbor Village location when they decided to expand to Jacksonville.
“It just happened that way. Out of the blue, that opportunity came with the room and we saw that we had nothing there that represented the market, so it all came together,” said Rodriguez.
The new restaurant is in the space that previously housed Peppers Mexican Grill & Cantina and the Empire City Gastropub in the mall. It is adjacent to the Woods & Queens Harbor Yacht & Country Club.
Like its sister restaurants, the Jacksonville Restaurant will have sleek, modern decor – meaning there won’t be any stereotypical sombreros or cacti, she said.
The restaurant with an area of 400 square meters can seat 160 people indoors and a few more outdoors on the terrace. It will employ around 25 people.
The Jacksonville location will be the third restaurant. It joins the flagship restaurant at 109 Whitaker St. in downtown Savannah, while its second location is at 7360 Skidaway Road in the Sandfly community of Savannah. A fourth is planned for Pooler, Ga.
Customers on Yelp.com and Trip Advisor have given high marks for the food, tequila, service, and atmosphere at Savannah restaurants.
“This place was amazing. From the atmosphere to the super fresh guacamole (as cooked here and there at your table) and the phenomenal food – everything was great !!” raved about a dinner by the online name Krothermel said a week ago on Trip Advisor about downtown Savannah. “Any kind of tequila you could want. Lots of beers to choose from. I could have eaten there a hundred times! The staff were very, very friendly too. I would love to come back.”
Tequila’s Town was recently voted “Savannah’s Best Mexican Restaurant”, “Best Margarita” and “Best New Restaurant” by Connect Savannah readers. Meanwhile, Savannah Magazine readers voted it “Best New Restaurant” and “Eat It and Like It” readers voted “Best Mexican Restaurant”.
To explore Tequila’s city and its menu, or for more information, visit Facebook.
Teresa Stepzinski: (904) 359-4075