Admittedly, I kind of have some beef with fast casual taco joints. In my experience, they can be super hit or miss. It’s a disappointment to go running for a taco stand only to end up with a sad, floppy taco with too much sauce and not enough filling in a sloppy flour tortilla. But then there are true hits, where fast meets fresh, and counter ordering doesn’t translate to depressing tacos. Tako Cheena in the Mills50 district is firmly in the latter category; a true hit and one I’ll return to next time I’m in the area.
The Mills50 district is one of my favorite nooks of Orlando. It’s the perfect mix of hip and urban, with street art adorning the buildings and affordable, quality eats found at every turn. Locals describe this area, among others, as the real Orlando, and I tend to agree. Venture slightly away from the theme parks and tourist hot spots, and you’ll find a community-oriented culinary scene thriving in and around the heart of downtown Orlando.
Tako Cheena is located amidst all the action. While the current location can be easily missed the first time you drive by, it’s worth locating this hole-in-the-wall taco spot best described as Latin-Asian fusion.
The interior reminded me of a cross between Coyo Taco in Wynwood/Miami and Tijuana Flats, both of which have graffiti/art on the walls and a fast-casual ordering system. The interior is loud (decoratively speaking) with local art, lots of color, and interesting light fixtures.
Unlike your typical fast-casual restaurant where you order at the counter and then pick a table, the waiters at Tako Cheena come to you to take your order. As a result, the service feels more personal. Everyone I spoke to was really friendly and attentive.
Tacos are $3-$4 each and come in a medium-sized soft flour tortilla with plenty of fresh fillings. 3 should be plenty to fill you up if you’re visiting for lunch.
After brief deliberation, I decided on the Thai Peanut Chicken, Chinese BBQ Char Slu Pork Belly, and the Tom Yum Mojo Shrimp. While all were good, the Thai Peanut Chicken was a cut above the rest with light and crunchy cabbage, cilantro, scallions, finely crushed peanuts, and a peanut sauce with just the slightest hint of spice. I could have easily eaten three of them.
The mash-up of Latin and Asian flavors is what really sets Tako Cheena apart. While the tacos may look typical at first, tasting tells a different story. Nearly every dish on the menu offers a fun culinary twist, from avocado and wasabi sauce to ginger and apple empanadas.
Despite scarfing down three tacos, dessert was calling my name so my sister, Amy, and I decided to split an order of the Sopapilla Chips. At first bite, they tasted a bit like a crispy funnel cake, but the key lime/butterscotch cream on top took things up a notch. We couldn’t help dipping our fingers in the sauce – it could easily be a dessert on its own.
All in all, my sister and I spent $20 on 4 tacos, an empanada, and dessert – great value for what you get.
The location also adds to the experience. After grabbing a bite to eat, we wandered the streets to admire the graffiti, wall murals, and various street art projects while simultaneously burning at least a few of those lunch time calories.
The only drawback is that the current space is small. We visited at lunch time and the closer it got to 12pm, the fuller the restaurant became. Luckily, Tako Cheena will be opening an additional location just a few blocks down the street within the next few months which should ease the flow of traffic. More tacos are always a good thing!
For taco lovers on a budget, Tako Cheena has the Steph’s Taco Blog stamp of approval.
Steph’s Taco Blog Report Card (ratings from 1-5):