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Cocina 214: a taste of Tex-Mex in Orlando

Chips and House Salsa
Chips and House Salsa
Brittany Davies

Cocina 214

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Whether it’s Cinco de Mayo, or just needing to satisfy a fierce guacamole craving, Cocina 214 in Winter Park is the perfect stop for fresh and fiery Tex-Mex. With patio seating, bar area, and dining room, the restaurant has options for any mood from casual group dinner to romantic tables for two. They also offer take out for those at home fiestas.
Cocina 214 is open daily for lunch and dinner serving everything from tacos to ceviche. The name combines the Spanish word for kitchen with 214, the Dallas area code. The idea of the restaurant came about when the owners missed the authentic Tex-mex and Mexican food they had grown up eating, and wanted to bring the fresh, quality flavors to Winter Park. Step inside and personalize one of the rocks at the hostess stand, or see how others have decorated the stones.
As is expected of any Mexican restaurant, complimentary chips and house salsa are served shortly after being seated. These are standard fare, smooth and not chunky, but if that’s not enough, Cocina 214 offers three other salsa varieties: a mild fire roasted salsa, a medium pineapple habanero salsa verde, and a hot coconut habanero salsa. For those craving creamier dips, the restaurant serves hot queso blanco with optional chorizo, queso fundido, guacamole with optional vegetable sticks for dipping, and the guacamole trio with blue cheese, mango pineapple, and habanero varieties. The creamy queso blanco leaves a not-unpleasant cheesy film over the tongue, with spikes of salt and crunch from the crispy chips, and guac is fresh and bright with kicks of lime and cilantro. It films over quickly, so be sure to give it a good stir every so often, or eat it fast!
The house margarita ($9) is fresh with no heavy taste of mix, just lime, salt, and tequila, a great compliment to chips, salsa, and guacamole! Can’t choose between a margarita or sangria? Try El Diablo ($9)! Don’t worry, it’s not as fiendish as the name implies, but it is devilishly good. Also known as “The Swirl,” this icy concoction mixes the 214 frozen margarita with sangria in a delicious and beautiful cocktail. Other beverages include domestic ($4) import and craft ($5) beers as well as Corona Light, Dos XX Lager, Modelo Especial, and Negra Modelo on tap ($6). Cocina 214 boasts an impressive array of tequilas, wines, specialty cocktails, mojitos, and margaritas frozen, dressed up, or on the rocks. Coke products are also available. Happy Hour is Monday through Thursday 4:30-6:30pm with $5 214 Rocks and Frozen margaritas, $3 draft beers, and $5 wells. Wednesday is Ladies Night from 5-7pm offering $4 margaritas frozen or on the rocks.
The outdoor patio is a great place to sip a margarita and feel the night air, although it can get a bit loud, especially on busier evenings. Relax to the sound of the trickling fountain near the patio entrance and the greenery separating diners from the bustling on the street. For a cool and flavorful starter to compliment the margaritas, the ceviche combines seasonal fish with jalapeno, red onion, tomato, avocado, and citrus. The fish packs a citrus punch and has bite without being spongey.
The Cocina 214 menu, comprised of all the expected dishes: quesadillas, tacos, and fajitas, also holds some surprises like sandwiches, salads (not just taco salad either!), and surf and turf. Vegetarian options appear in every category, so there are plenty of options for the herbivores out there. Vegetarian and Gluten Free options are plentiful and clearly notated on the menu. The shrimp comes highly recommended, and after trying the Rock Shrimp Taco, it’s easy to see why. The three tacos arrive hot and bright with meaty popcorn-size shrimp topped with crunchy slaw and a creamy sauce with a building heat. The Carnitas Tacos, equally satisfying, are filled with texture from the bite of the meat to the fruity slaw and pops of cilantro. Although traditionalists might be tempted to stick with the rice and beans on the side, the accompaniment doesn’t offer much in the way of flavor. Instead, try the sautéed spinach or mixed veggies.
Traditional sweets end the meal with choices like vanilla flan with caramel sauce, Mexican donuts with cinnamon sugar and honey or powdered sugar, Tres Leches cake, or the American favorite skillet brownie with ice cream. The Tres Leches cake or “three-milk cake” is so moist it drips with sweet milk when pressed with a fork, each bite liquefying on the tongue. The milky cake is topped with a light frosting and sweet strawberry sauce. Reminiscent of moist strawberry shortcake, it is the perfect dessert on a hot, summer night.
Cocina 214 is a great place for almost any occasion, especially if that occasion is satisfying a craving for delicious Tex-Mex. Take note though, parking is limited in prime Winter Park locations and on busy nights, expect to walk a little ways. Also, the servers, though attentive, do not wear nametags, so make sure to remember the servers name in case their attention is needed.
Dining Hours at Cocina 214 are Monday through Saturday 11am-10pm and Sunday 11am-9pm with a special brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 3pm serving Tex Mex inspired breakfast dishes like huevos rancheros and breakfast burritos along with $3 mimosas. The bar is open late on Friday and Saturday nights.
For full menus, pricing, and restaurant details and upcoming events, visit Cocina214.com.