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Tequila Made Me Do It

La Santa Tacos and Tequila

2405 Tarpon Bay Blvd, Naples, FL

For those of you who have children under the age of 10, or remember what it's like to have a child under the age of 10 (which if you have kids is actually kinda screwed up if you don't remember that, like, what kind of horrible parent were you?) you know that eating food that isn't coated in sugar, made entirely of starch or comes in some sort of plastic tube, can be a challenge. Getting protein into your child can be a Sisyphian task and you end up with a major victory if you can get your child to eat bacon or start to justify their pasta intake with "well, powdered cheese is SORT of like protein."

Dining out with such an offspring can be a challenge, especially when the only place they want to go is Turco Taco. Now don't get me wrong, I love me some Turco, and who doesn't love a reconstituted Dairy Queen a-frame (btw, for those of you who complain that Turco isn't authentic, they literally talk about the Middle Eastern history of Al Pastor inside, so get over it and evolve...besides, it's damn delicious), but when you're running a single parent running errands and you're determined to NOT serve her Annie's Organic Shells and Cheddar for the 8,761 time, you want to at least TRY to have her try something new. Because of my Topo Chico Hint of Lime fetish and World Market being the only spot that has it, this is how we ended up at La Santa Tacos and Tequila in the Super Target shopping center off of Immokalee.

Visually, the La Santa is an instagrammable fever dream. Lots of skull paintings, an entire wall of wooden (I hope) skulls and the now-standard neon-over-ivy sign with a message that encourages alcoholism (a la Hampton Social's "Rose All Day") or discourages treatment and uses it as an excuse (at La Santa it's "Tequila Made Me Do It....I assume "it" is akin to the now departed Meat Loaf's "that").

The room is massive, one of the largest restaurants I know of, but the vibe is curious as North Naples tends to be a bit older and I'm not sure how much Instagramming is going on among the silver-fox-and-those-that-love-them set.

I don't know who these people are but I hope they had a nice lunch.

It was a lovely day outside so Boogs and I opted for the outdoor patio, which is very large, spread out and decorated with care in a manner that caused Boogs to wonder how they got the streamers to hang from the fake astroturf on the ceiling. "That's looks worse than hanging Christmas lights" she surmised.

For a Mexican joint the menu is vast and varied. For those salaryman (or woman) types there's a pretty good lunch special and there's a nice mix of classic tacos, burritos and combo plates as well as seafood and a very large appetizer menu, perfect for happy hour. They also have the requisite kids menu that comes with crayons.

We're big fans of Mexican street corn and it turns out they have both on the cob (boo! bad tooth thing ) and off the cob (yay!) which is called esquites. If you can teach me something about Mexican food, then you're doing a good job, and this was a new word for me, so well done, La Santa.

So we ordered that and the classic queso for our appetizers because you can put queso on your chonies and it would taste good (I do not condone eating your chonies, but just making the point that putting queso on them would render them edible...and not the kind you find at places named Adam and Eve, or The Pleasure Chest). The queso was...queso. I'm pretty sure it was American cheese melted, but it was delicious as melted American cheese is. Sometimes simple is best. The equites was actually very good. Light on the creme so that it was more about the corn and the chili powder and the tang that the lime brings out in the dish. So far so good...

Btw, you may be wondering "What about the service?" To me, service is like the direction or the score in a movie, or announcers while you're watching the game; if you notice it, it's either spectacular beyond belief, or absolutely awful, otherwise they're doing a good job, so if i don't notice anything, then it's probably pretty good.

Anyway, so we ordered our mains. Boogs got her standard beans and rice and chicken taco with cheese and I opted for the Camarones Mojo De Ajo.

This is where things were a little off flavorwise. Mojo de Ajo loosely translated means "Garlic gravy" which means it should be buttery and tangy and awesome. The shrimp were quite fresh in my dish (considering gulf shrimp are pretty great, that's really the only way they should be), but there was nary a hint of garlic in this dish. It felt more grilled shrimp than anything else. It wasn't necessarily bad, but it was just kinda there and I felt a pining for the dish I thought I was getting.

Boogs wasn't too thrilled with her chicken hard shell taco with cheese either. I took a bite and it was a little wet, rendering the hard shell a little soggy, and it needed a little bit of salt.

The same went for the refried beans and rice that we ordered, though Boogs wolfed it down, talking about how we should be frying everything more than once. I was just surprised at the difference between the big flavors of the apps and the blandness of the main

All in all, La Santa is a worthy, if hit or miss addition to the growing Mexican vibe in SWFL. One suggestion to them though is that come Cinco De Mayo they should charge $5 for pictures of that "Tequila Made Me Do It" sign. I guarantee not only will there be more duck lips and peace sign pics to help promote the restaurant, but they'd probably make some bank too.

Tell La Santa's security guards that Mr. Bites sent you.

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