La Primavera Mexican Food
901 N. Washington Blvd., Sarasota
This is the umpteenth entry in a weekly column dedicated to eats that are cheap. If you have an idea for a place to feature in Cheap Eats, comment below, email me at email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter:@LeveyBaker.
I'm rekindling an old love affair this week, revisiting Bianca's Mexican Store, or at lest the restaurant that now sits where Bianca's used to be. Bianca's was a longtime favorite of mine; near an old office, it was the kind of place you went to when you and your coworkers got bored with subs and pizza, the kind of place you didn't even need to really invite people to. "Bianca's?" you'd ask, the name a question all by itself. "Bianca's," came the reply, the name an answer, too.
But then it closed. Earlier this year, eating across the street at Gyros & Seafood Express, I noticed Bianca's had been shuttered, with a sign posted promising it would reopen soon. I dropped to my knees in the small, 301-fronting parking lot, and tore my shirt from my chest, shaking my fists at heaven as bitter tears of rage dripped down my cheeks.
Well, OK, maybe that's an exaggeration. But bummed I was. That sign, though, did promise that the spot would reopen, and reopen it has, under the name La Primavera Mexican Food. The setup remains largely the same: restaurant counter up front, adjacent to a humming tortilla machine, with a supermarket filling out the back of the building. But the space has clearly been spruced up, with bright orange-yellow walls and red trim and mottled green tables with patio-style aluminum chairs. Piñatas line one of the walls; an aloe plant dangles in a corner by the front door.
That tortilla machine is still operating, cranking out the small rounds of corn below a giant sign with the restaurant's new name. A tall glass hot box on the counter in front is filled with fresh pork rinds you can order by the pound. To the left, I find an enormous hanging menu with countless choices, and helpful photos that give you some idea of what "cabeza" might be if you, like me, are Spanish-ignorant.
I have to try my old standby, the gordita ($2.50), to properly measure Primavera, so I snag one with chicharrónes. But the beauty of Primavera, like Bianca's before it, is that you can mix and match to your heart's content. Pick a protein platform: taco, torta, gordita, sope, huarache, burrito, quesadilla, etc., then pick whatever style of meat you'd like. Again, like Bianca's, Primavera's carne selection runs from the well-known, even commonplace, like pastor, carnitas, steak, chicken, to more unusual goods like tongue, cabeza (which I later learn is head meat—yum) and tripe.
The gordita bun is fried and a bit greasy, with delicious chew and corn flavor. The chicharrónes are outstanding, neither just the pure fat you might expect nor just a bland hunk of fried-ness. The torta ($5.99-$6.99), meanwhile, is closer to an American sandwich, with bread that's almost sweet, like a Hawaiian biscuit, hugging the braised pork of my carnitas. It comes loaded with mayo, lettuce, onion and tomatoes, with hot green sauce on the side. Also on the side? A bag of Primavera's freshly fried tortilla chips ($1.50) are a must. Thick and impossibly crunchy, they retain a strong corn flavor. While they're salt-free, the shaker on the table rectifies that real quick.
In addition to the smaller items, the restaurant also serves up a variety of platters ($6.99-$9.99), with the same proteins dressed up in different preparations and served alongside rice and beans. To wash it all down, grab a chilly glass bottle of Jarritos ($1.19) from the fridge in the market.
Honestly, my only complaint about the new Bianca's? They took away the small counter where you could fill up on hot sauce, limes, chopped white onion, diced cilantro and more. Now you have to ask for all those goodies. Which, hey, if that's my biggest complaint about a reborn favorite—that's what I call nitpicking.