If you are looking for tacos and tequila, Mexican street food or just a great night out with your friends, you are going to want to check out the new Irma’s Tacos, Craft Beer and Tequila Bar in Wellen Park. Wellen Park is an up and coming residential community on the border of Venice and North Port. It is conveniently located off of Tamiami Trail just north of River Rd and will surely be the center of a new hot spot for this area’s younger generation.
Irma’s Tacos, Craft Beer and Tequila Bar in Wellen Park
Personally, I have been anxiously awaiting this opening for a long time. Over the last several years, I’ve been privileged to get to know the owner of this new restaurant in Venice, Tommy Villani. He also owns Off The Wagon Brewery & Kitchen, and has a third location called Barrell and Bean that opened this past September (and other concepts are in the works!) Tommy embodies what a restauranteur is by definition. He is passionate about his restaurants, cares deeply for his community, treats his staff like family and never hesitates to take the extra mile to ensure his customers are more than just satisfied, they are truly happy with their experience.
It all started when Hurricane Irma swept through our little slice of paradise in 2018. After Tommy and his executive chef, Mike Leopold, met to examine the status of Off The Wagon, they were relieved to see that not only was there minimal damage, they also had power and running water, the only downside was their inventory only left enough ingredients to make tacos. That’s when they transformed their menu to be “Irma’s Taco Bar”. The majority of our area had lost electricity at a minimum or were left with damaged homes. Off The Wagon became a spot of hope and relief our community desperately needed, including gathering supplies to help those in need. It was also the birth of a new concept that just needed to happen.
I followed along on social media for over a year as Tommy traveled to Mexico trying different street foods and drinks, looking at potential locations, and then the build-out of the space in Wellen Park. Just when you think the story of a restaurant born from a hurricane can’t get any crazier, the pandemic threatened everything, including Off The Wagon itself. But there must be some kind of magic brewing in these kitchens because Irma’s is not only celebrating its grand opening, everyone is loving it and they are crushing it!
What are the cocktails like?
Just as the name suggests, Irma’s has an extensive list of tequilas and craft beer on their menu. In addition to having a fully loaded bar, they boast having over 120 tequilas, 10 mezcals and a 10 craft beers from Off The Wagon/3 Bridges Brewing. Aside from regular cocktails, they have also created a list of specialty cocktails ranging from $9-$14 that offers a playful tequila twist on some old traditional favorites. For example, instead of a Bloody Mary, they have created the “Bloody Maria” for $13, which is their house bloody mary mix blended with Patron Silver Tequila and garnished with celery, a lemon wedge and black sea salt around the rim. There’s also the Jose Mule for $9, a take on the Moscow Mule made with Day of the Dead Traditional Silver Tequila, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, ginger beer and aromatic bitters.
As for me, I’m not a heavy drinker and decided to only have one drink. Anyone who knows me can tell you that margaritas are my favorite drink, and anytime blackberries are involved, that’s my go-to. So I chose the namesake, Irma’s Blackberry Lime Margarita, and it did not disappoint. In fact, it goes down so smooth, I could put it in a juice box. Don’t let it fool you though, after 2, I felt 21 again.
Is there a Happy Hour at Irma’s Tacos?
That may be the best part, Happy Hour is EVERY day 2-5pm and ALL DAY on Tuesday! They offer $4 house margaritas, wines and well liquors, as well as $3.75 Station Light Lager drafts. In addition to an all day happy hour on Tuesdays, they have also dubbed it “Nacho Ordinary Taco Tuesday” with $9 build your own nachos and $1 off select tacos.
Are there appetizers and side dishes?
Absolutely! They are listed as “snacks” on the menu, but from what I’ve seen, I could make a nice lunch out of any of them! The most popular so far seems to be Elote or Mexican street corn. Sadly, they were out of corn before I arrived so we couldn’t try it, but it’s definitely on my list to try next time. There are also the Sonoran Hot Dog, Queso Fundido, Wings, and Coctel de Camarones y Pulpo (Mexican shrimp & octopus cocktail). As for side dishes, there are the usual sides like tortillas, rice or a side salad, but there are also Drunken Pinto Beans and a line of 7 different salsas that range from mild heat to dangerously hot.
They were completely out of chips and corn when we arrived, but our amazing server Alexis managed to score us one of the last baskets. Forgive me, as I’m not sure which salsa she brought us, but it was absolutely FIRE. Not just delicious in flavor but also ramped up in heat. It’ll leave a nice tingle on your tongue for a while.
The last side dish on the menu that deserves all the praise is the grilled watermelon. Let me tell you, I will NEVER eat watermelon any other way again. Take away any preconceived flavor you have in your head, this is so refreshing, The blend of queso fresco, habanero salt, honey, lime with the juicy undertone of watermelon is unlike anything I’ve had in the past. I’d order that every. single. time.
What Are The Tacos Like?
On to the tacos (which is what you really want to know about anyway… They range in price from $4-$5 each, so we were excited to be able to try a few different ones.
Jason ordered the Irma, Emily and a basic oyster taco. I went with the Don and the Cindy all on their house-made flour tortillas (corn tortillas are also an option!)
The Irma is an adobe rubbed lamb should that they slow cook in banana leaves making it crazy tender and packed with flavor. That is topped with radish, onion, watercress, avocado, salsa verde and queso fresco for a balanced bite of crunch and spice. The Emily was his favorite. It’s a tender and juicy shredded duck, with watercress, pickled onion, salsa roja and queso fresco. He complimented how the rich flavor of the duck was lightened up with the fresh ingredients without taking away from the duck. As for the basic oyster taco, he was happy with it for what it was but the other two completely outshined it.
I had the Cindy first. As with the other meats, it was full of flavor, tender and juicy with cooked down peppers and onions and a rich queso. Definitely a taco for someone who likes more traditional tex-mex flavors. Then I had the Don. Chipotle BBQ pulled pork that is tender yet has some crispy bits with a subtle sweet heat, topped with Irma’s slaw which added a creaminess balanced by the house pickle and then the richness of the queso. (Can you guess which one is my favorite?)
Comment below with your thoughts on Irma’s! I want to know if you’ve gone and what you’ve tried or what you want to try once you get there!
Irma’s Tacos, Craft Beer and Tequila Bar
12221 Mercado Dr, Venice, FL 34293