Catrinas Mexican restaurant to reopen in old Fourth of July Cafe building in West Tampa

After a brief vacation, Catrinas Tacos and Tequila is coming back to Tampa and staking claim to an iconic building in an upcoming neighborhood -- the old location of Fourth of July Cafe at 1611 North Howard Avenue in West Tampa.

Certified Tequila Connoisseur Karol Ortiz and Chef Lisbeth Mejia first opened Catrinas in South Tampa in 2012, and soon established the brand as one of Tampa’s finest high-end Mexican restaurants, serving an assortment of tacos and over 400 brands of tequila. But when their lease ran up early in 2017, the co-owners began searching for a new location in a more affordable emerging neighborhood.

“We wanted to open something smaller, less complicated,” Ortiz says. “Something casual, like an open-kitchen concept.”

The owners of Piquant, a popular local French bakery and restaurant, had recently relocated from South Tampa to North Howard and urged Ortiz to pursue the former Fourth of July Cafe venue at the corner of West Main Street and North Howard Avenue.

Ortiz and Mejia began leasing the property in July 2017. They've been refurbishing the inside ever since, saying they're aware of the historic significance of the building and are making an effort to maintain its original character.

In December, Catrinas opened a location in Sarasota, where Ortiz says the response has been good. She hopes to open the door to Catrinas Tampa in the next few months.

“In the past five years we've had an evolution and also a lot of bumps in the road, but we believe in our brand,” she says. “We have a lot of followers and are doing well in Sarasota, but Tampa is our home so we need to reopen back in Tampa as soon as possible.” Ortiz says they have about 30 percent more to do in renovations.

Ortiz is bracing for competition upon reopening. Nueva Cantina, a Saint Petersburg staple, recently opened a new location on South MacDill. And her friends at Piquant have moved into the Mexican street food domain with a concept called Xilo at The Hall on Franklin.

"A lot of taco places have opened up," Ortiz says with a laugh. "It's going to be a bit of a battle." 

Read more articles by Dyllan Furness.

Dyllan Furness is a freelance writer and born-again Floridian based in Tampa. He covers the Tampa Bay Area’s development boom for 83 Degrees, with an eye out for sustainable and community-driven initiatives. 
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