CARMELITA’S



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.  STRIKE ONE

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 — GOING DOWNHILL —
Carmelita's is more than a restaurant. I’ve known the family for years. It was a unique experience of delicious Americanized Mexican cuisine, exceptional customer service and an inviting atmosphere the whole family will enjoy.  That was then

They were founded in 1983, Carmelitas had 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 were 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 — Not Like The Picture!
Twice a month I used to go to Carmelita’s and each time it’s was 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 four locations and good 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 Wet Burrito or Enchilada Verdes.   But Mexican food is a tough market. Since most of it is Americanized,  it sort of dilutes the great flavors and intensity of the culture and the cuisine.


MY OPINION - TOUGH CALLS ON MEXICAN - AMERICAN FOOD AND HEAT

  • The toughest category 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 your 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.

  • Again many of the dishes here are so Americanized you might not relate them to pure Mexican faire. I have friends in Mexico and have eaten both local dishes in small towns and highly specialized gourmet dishes….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. 

  • What exactly is Mexican food?  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 Chipotle chain who can seem to keep Salmonella out of it’s food.  who 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 gladly 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.  Doesn’t count, I go there three times and do my own opinions.
  • 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.  
  • 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. My workers all green cards from Mexico went with me to a Taco Bell and laughed.


Unfortunately Carmelitas is Not What It Used to Be  —

  • 12.03.2020 —  Our food was burnt, under portioned, we ate what we could, and left.  I do not complain, it’s my policy, Mrs. Lopez got a letter the next day.    STRIKE TWO
  • 06.08.2021 —   Next Time…
    • The food at this time with the pandemic slowing is now just par,
    • Prices on the menu have skyrocketed
    • Portions are smaller.
    • Example  She had Two Fried Tacos, rice and beans.  I had three small tiny long Sushi sized Chicken burritos with rice and beans.  The rice and beans were no more than an ice cream scoops worth, being generous…
    • Two tablespoons of sour cream for the Tacos was $1.25 extra.
    • The bill came to 26.39 and a four dollar tip. Over thirty dollars.
  • Hopefully they will get better.  Two of the larger Mexican chains in this area folded, One left and they might have still have a store in Tampa, and after eating at Tia’s I know why they folded.  Simple, lousy stale food…
  • When you ate in Carmelita’s you used to 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.

But Carmelitas has not weathered the storm, They have grown to four locations.  I have one location  two minutes from my house and their food dropped in quality, STRIKE TWO-B, so we went back to the origional store on park street and disappointed for the third time.   Thats THREE STRIKES… I’m thought the origional store would have held its charm, but changed after decades but something like a pandemic can do things and I’m looking for a new place to get Mexican-American food.

It might involve getting my friend to come over and making our own….It’s not rocket science…
 


06/04/2021   aljacobsladder.com