To see Hector Alvarez working at Plaza Mexico Restaurant Bar & Grill is not unusual. Alvarez is one of the owners at Plaza Mexico, the kind of family owned restaurant where the owners lead from the front and work alongside their employees, to ensure professionalism and quality control
“Not only do the employees work here, but the owners also work here,” Alvarez said. “At most places, the owner just opens the restaurant. They let the people work for them, but here the owners work in the restaurant. That’s one of the things that people like. We have two or three owners working at a time, to make sure that everything is done very professionally.”
Plaza Mexico specializes in traditional Mexican food. There are five locations in Florida and North Carolina, all with authentic furniture and decorations from Mexico. At the Zephyrhills restaurant, the owners departed from their usual brightly colored décor, and opted for a “Day of the Dead” Mexican theme, giving the restaurant a softer and more romantic ambiance.
“One of the things we have that’s different from other Mexican restaurants is that we try to do things very professionally, like the décor and how the servers dress,” Alvarez said. “The menu is really long, so we have a lot of different choices. We have one page of just seafood. We have a lot of vegetarian dishes.”
The menu contains authentic versions of the usual Mexican favorites: tacos, fajitas, burritos, quesadillas and enchiladas. The food is made fresh daily, and some of the recipes have existed for generations within the family. One dish — a popular house special that can be ordered for one or two persons — that Alvarez is particularly proud of is served in a molcajete.
“Molcajete is volcano stone, and we serve the food inside the stone. We put in chicken, steak, shrimp, chorizo—a Mexican sausage—and onions, jalapenos and cactus. Cactus is a traditional food in Mexico. It comes with rice and beans, and a salad. It’s a big plate.”
Seafood lovers have plenty of options to consider, from crab quesadillas and white shrimp enchiladas, to camarones (shrimp) Hawaiianos and cerviche.
“The cerviche is probably one of the plates that is most traditional with Latin people, like Cubans and Peruvians,” Alvarez said. “All of them have cerviche. They make it different from us, but we like to make it spicier. It can be fish or shrimp. We cook it here before we put it on the lime. Traditionally, they just cook it with lime.”
In the mood for something different? Try the mole poblano, a seemingly incongruous combination of chicken and chocolate sauce that proves irresistible to many people.
“The mole is a tradition in Mexico,” said Alvarez. “The mole poblano is a sauce that’s made with chocolate and poblano peppers, so it’s kind of sweet, and it’s probably the only sauce that’s sweet compared to the other sauces. The mole ranchero is made with tomato sauce, so it is not sweet. That’s the difference.”
A popular appetizer is the guacamole made fresh tableside from a pushcart decorated with a picture of a bull and matador squaring off.
“One thing that we have different from other restaurants is our own cart that’s going around to every table to offer fresh guacamole,” Alvarez said. “We have the lunch portion and the dinner portion. It’s a really popular appetizer for large groups that come here, because it’s made fresh and in front of you.”
Every other Sunday evening, a mariachi band brings a fiesta atmosphere to the restaurant. Plaza Mexico has a private room available for parties, and a full bar with happy hour Monday to Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with two-for-one drink specials.
One of its most popular drinks at Plaza Mexico is the margarita. On Saturdays, margaritas are the special of the day, served in a 42-ounce glass that is nicknamed “the fish bowl.” According to Alvarez, Plaza Mexico has won “best margarita in town” at their Port Charlotte location the last five years. The partners and owners tightly guard the recipe, but you can enjoy it any time you feel like wasting away again in Plaza Mexico.
38361 County Road 54, Zephyrhills • 813-355-3627 • wwwPlazaMexicoBarandGrill.com