I love Mexican food and since Melbourne doesn’t have many options, I am always looking for new places when I travel. I have found that my go-to places in St. Petersburg are Red Mesa Cantina and Red Mesa Mercado. A full service restaurant and a fast casual restaurant respectively, these spots serve some of the most flavorful Mexican cuisine I have had! I decided to discuss them together on this blog post since they have a lot of similarities, but I would recommend going to both at some point! There is also a third spot, Red Mesa Restaurant, that I look forward to trying in the future.
Red Mesa Cantina – The Restaurant and Bar
I have only been to Red Mesa Cantina, the full-service restaurant, for brunch, but I plan to go back and try more of their menu. This was my first experience with the Red Mesa restaurants. We found this spot right in the middle of downtown and it seemed like the perfect foodie brunch. They had a great selection of Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas which is a brunch must for us!
They are open for brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11 AM to 3 PM. The brunch menu features most of the regular menu items and some special breakfast options. Our party all ordered off the breakfast menu as it was our first meal of the day. However, we were starving since it was 11 AM so I did not get many pictures. We were seated in the garden terrace area and I wish I had taken a few photos to show how pretty this eclectic outdoor area was. They had lots of lush plants as decor with some southwestern art.
I got the Eggs Benedict because that is my usual go-to. I substitute the fruit for the potatoes to make it a more a hearty meal. The presentation was delightful with two perfectly placed poached eggs on gorditas, which are like thick corn pancakes. In addition to the eggs, there was bacon, queso fresco, and a chipotle cream sauce. It was such a savory brunch and I was in heaven. I know a couple members of the group ordered the huevos rancheros and both thoroughly enjoyed them as well. I believe Andrew ordered breakfast tacos, but neither of us can remember. We do remember loving the food though!
Red Mesa Cantina is open from 11 AM to 11 PM (2 Am on Friday and Saturday) every day, but the brunch menu is only available on the weekend. The regular menu includes a variety of classics, like tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and enchiladas. There are a lot of unique dishes as well, including some Mexican Caribbean fusion options. The seafood mofogo sounds very intriguing, as does the duck quesadilla made with goat cheese and pineapple! I think I could dine here ten times and still find something new to order!
At night, Red Mesa Cantina is one of the best spots for nightlife downtown. They have two bars with a huge selection of tequila and a special late night bites menu. I would love to go here after a few bars and wind down with some chips and salsa! This is another reason why this place is a huge hit with the locals.
Red Mesa Mercado – The Order Window
On my recent trip to St. Petersburg, I planned to go back to Red Mesa Cantina for dinner. However we ended up missing our reservation and still craving Mexican food. It is advised to make a reservation if you are going for dinner or brunch and do not want to wait. I decided to see if there were any fast casual spots around and that’s when I realized Red Mesa Mercado was owned by the same people. We headed straight there for a quick, outdoor dinner.
My parents were a bit bummed they did not have margaritas because that is their guilty pleasure with Mexican food. They do have beer and wine, however none of the beer they serve is local. I would recommend bringing your food to-go to Green Bench Brewing across the street if you want some craft beer with your meal!
Burritos and Bowls
The menu consists of burritos, bowls, tacos and a few other Mexican classics. Everything sounded so good that I had such a hard time choosing! They will sub out ingredients if you like, but it’s definitely not as flexible as Chipotle where you pick exactly what you want. For that reason, I decided to get the Chicken Fernandez bowl because it had a little bit of everything.
I frequently eat burrito bowls, but this one blew me away with its taste and quality. All of the flavors worked really well and I couldn’t resist eating the whole thing! Red Mesa adds rice, refried beans, chicken and rajas as the main parts of this bowl and then spices it up with a chipotle cream sauce and pico. The rajas, a creamy poblano pepper, is something I have not seen before in a burrito bowl and I loved this addition.
Believe it or not, my sister got an even more delicious burrito bowl. She went with the Frito bowl which had a base of Fritos! Then they were topped with pinto beans, Pork Colorado, cheese and sour cream. Pork Colorado is a pulled pork in a tomato chipotle sauce and Red Mesa’s was extremely tender. The Fritos as a base ended up giving the dish a surprising salty crunch that was addicting! This reminded me of a Taco Bell meal, but ten times better quality.
Andrew was also i the mood for the Pork Colorado so he got it in a burrito. It did not have Fritos as a base, just rice and some sour cream and cheese. He ended up adding beans since how can you have a burrito without beans? This was an excellent meal and the pork also tasted great with the fresh tortilla. If you prefer burritos to bowls, then you can choose from seven different options from a chimichanga to a grilled shrimp one.
Quesadillas and More
My parents shared a burrito bowl and a chicken quesadilla. The quesadilla was yummy and well made, but nothing special compared to the rest of the menu. They also have taquitos and nachos. We ordered a side of chips, salsa and queso and found the queso to be extremely decadent! It was very creamy with a hint of spice, and I found myself adding a little extra to my burrito bowl to make it even cheesier! I am sure the nachos would be excellent with this queso on top.
None of us tried the tacos, but they sounded great if that’s what you are in the mood for! I love that they have so many varieties. There’s chicken, ground beef, fish, shrimp, tofu, and multiple kinds of tortillas and toppings. They are also open for breakfast and looking at that menu makes me regret not going back the next day! The breakfast burritos and huevos rancheros sound like the perfect start to a day in St. Pete.
What I like about both of these restaurants is how high the quality is for the price. At Red Mesa Mercado, I found the food to be just as good as a restaurant, but all the entrees cost less than $10. And Red Mesa Cantina was very affordable, especially for brunch where the Bloody Mary’s were only $4.50! All the appetizers here were under $10 and almost every entree was under $20. Considering what an enjoyable atmosphere this restaurant has as well, I consider this to be a deal.
There are tons of excellent restaurants in St. Petersburg, but for all the reasons above, I think you have to include a visit to Red Mesa. The fact that there is a fast casual and a sit down means you can choose whichever one fits your budget and schedule and be guaranteed a delicious South of the Border style meal. Whether you are in the mood for traditional of fusion (including Cali-Mex), you can definitely find something to like on these menus. I’ll be sure to post a review when I get around to trying the Red Mesa Restaurant, but for now I can promise you won’t be disappointed at Red Mesa Cantina or Mercado.
Are you a burrito or a bowl person? Or tacos? I tend to stick with bowls as I think they can be mixed together better!