Taqueria La Chona in Tavares Marries Authentic Mexican Food and Giving

3.5 min read| Published On: March 1st, 2024|

By Amanda Valderrama

Taqueria La Chona in Tavares Marries Authentic Mexican Food and Giving

3.5 min read| Published On: March 1st, 2024|

A heartfelt legacy

Founded by Ricardo Banales and Rosario Nolasco, the restaurant hosts an annual fundraiser to give Thanksgiving meals to migrants and those facing homelessness. 

But it doesn’t stop at Thanksgiving. If you donate the cost of a taco to the restaurant, Taqueria La Chona will match it, and donate a taco, too. 

“My dad was always the type of person that would help everyone,” says the owners’ daughter Jessica Banales. “If he could, he would.” 

Taqueria La Chona offers a variety of made from scratch tacos, tostadas, burritos and quesadillas. It’s located in the Dora Canal Plaza Shopping Center and opened on September 30, 2023. 

While looking for locations for their restaurant, the Nolascos, who relocated to Sorrento from Jalisco, Mexico, came across their space in Tavares. The family noticed that there wasn’t really a place in the area that served the type of Mexican cuisine they knew and loved. According to Jessica, her mother wanted to create a menu with more authentic dishes, less Tex-Mex style. 

Unfortunately, Ricardo passed away during the early stages of renovating the building, leaving lots of work to do. 

But in a short time, the family came together and finished what was started in honor of Ricardo. He was the one who knew the most about the restaurant business, so this was a challenge for Rosario and her two daughters, Jessica and Vanessa Banales. Still, they rose to the occasion. 

“It was my dad’s dream to open a restaurant. He wanted this, so we decided to continue moving forward with it,” says Jessica. “We had to open it ourselves not fully knowing the business just yet.” 

Co-owner Rosario Nolasco
Late Co-Owner Ricardo Banales

Today, Rosario runs the restaurant’s day-to-day operations. Jessica helps with bookkeeping and Vanessa assists with marketing. Both women fill in as servers at the restaurant when extra help is needed. 

During a recent visit with my friend William Santiago, I really appreciated the laid back, quaint atmosphere. The interior is casual with a touch of festive, simplistic décor. The paneled walls and chair cushions are a calming shade of olive green that stands out among the wood tables. A few high-top seats line the windows next to the front entrance. A whiteboard near the cooler displays server tickets showing how many tacos have been donated. 

My favorite touches are the woven sombreros that hang as light fixtures and the tiny cactus salt and pepper shakers. Several wooden frames of vintage Mexican artwork hang among the walls of the restaurant. 

The waitress kindly informed us to sit wherever we would like before she went to grab us a basket of homemade tortilla chips and salsa. 

You can tell by the crunch of the chips that they were made fresh in house. The salted chips balanced nicely with the flavorful spices in the salsa. 

I ordered three of the carne asada tacos with rice and beans and Will ordered three carnitas tacos. 

Glancing around, I observed a few steady groups of customers. You can tell this is a popular spot catering to small groups looking for a quick bite. As I looked around the restaurant, I had the feeling that this was the type of place to grab a fast lunch if you’re in a time crunch. 

“I would think of our location like an upscale food truck, you come in if you only have 20 minutes and we make something quick for you to grab and enjoy,” Jessica says. 

The tacos arrived quickly, and we were ready to indulge in a fiesta of flavors. The yellow rice was cooked with just the right texture. Ditto for the refried beans. All the ingredients tasted freshly made. I drizzled some green salsa verde over top to really enhance the flavors of diced pieces of steak. They were topped with chopped onions and cilantro to tie it all together. Each sip of my favorite agua fresca, orange Jarritos, was a perfect parallel taste that complemented the savory tacos.

I often crave something sweet after a meal so I had to check out the dessert freezer display next to the register. The restaurant offers several different flavors of paletas (popsicles) and nieves (ice cream scoops.) I went with two scoops of butter pecan ice cream, and it did not disappoint. The smoothness of the vanilla ice cream and the buttery pecans had the perfect amount of sweetness. 

Will and I both agreed that our tacos were very filling and truly hit the spot. The portions are a decent amount for a very fair price. 

This was an experience that I would recommend when craving a Mexican dish with sensational taste. 

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About the Author: Amanda Valderrama

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