In 2017, chef Gino Calleja, formerly of Mattison’s City Grille, took over the kitchen at Siesta Key Oyster Bar, overhauling the menu at a Village staple then best known for its raw oysters, cold beer and laid-back live music. A year later, while still keeping his gig at the oyster bar, Calleja partnered with his husband, José Viera, and his sister, Leticia Calleja, to open Reyna’s Taqueria, where Viera serves as general manager and Leticia as chef de cuisine. Reyna’s is a fast-casual joint that replicates the recipes of the Callejas’ mother, known as “Doña Reyna” in the town of Matamoros, southeast of Mexico City.
The Callejas’ menu follows the traditional taqueria pattern, with tacos ($2.50-$3.25), sopes ($3.50-$4.50), quesadillas ($8.50-$9.50), tortas ($10-$10.75) and tamales ($3), each ready to be packed with whatever proteins you prefer. Go for the seafood. A shrimp taco combines tender shellfish, cubes of avocado and a shower of slaw made out of red cabbage. The fish taco highlights the same fixings, but with deep-fried cod instead of shrimp. Both are vibrant and fresh.
The pork al pastor, meanwhile, wins plaudits for coming with a long slice of charred pineapple, a traditional touch, but the meat is otherwise a bit bland. Campechano combines ribeye and chorizo. Better, but I’ll stick with the seafood when I return. Reyna’s also deserves kudos for its vegetarian offerings. A torta packed with zucchini, sweet peppers, onions and cactus is more than just a throwaway concession to vegan eaters.
Also: Don’t pass on the tortilla chips and guacamole ($8). The chips are freshly fried, thick and warm, and while the guacamole could use more hot chilies, it’s smooth and rich. Mom would be proud.
Reyna's Taqueria is located at 935 N. Beneva Road, Suite 701, Sarasota, and is open 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more info, call (941) 260-8343 or visit the restaurant's website.