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Urban Cantina Looks to Cash In on South Howard Ave.

The popular downtown lunchtime eatery is expanding to South Howard in an attempt to garner night-time business and add another element to South Tampa's Mexican cuisine scene.

It's been five restaurants in five years, but the location at the corner of Howard and Platt may be on the verge of finding a permanent resident.

Urban Cantina, owned by 26-year old Chris Rivas, will inhabit the building that was left abandoned by at 223 S. Howard Ave. The restaurant, which already has a downtown Tampa location, will serve authentic Mexican cuisine to the bustling South Howard night crowd.

"In downtown we do good numbers for lunch and special events, but over here we'll get a strong night time crowd," Rivas said. "It's good for getting the name out there, and this is a good location nestled between a lot of South Howard businesses."

The new location is something that Rivas hopes will raise Urban Cantina's profile as the business continues to grow. He aims to eventually open a third store as he builds a brand.

"We just did the Taste of Tampa and of the 1,800 people there, 90 percent had no idea where we were located," Rivas said. "Hopefully being over here will help us build up the name. I think being down here with the younger crowd and bringing our food to the area will allow us to do that."

Rivas opened the first Urban Cantina in downtown in 2009 at the age of 23. It took him some time get the business going as he realized that running a restaurant was much harder than he thought.

"I had a friend who had two restaurants and he never worked, but I didn't realize his parents did everything for him," Rivas said. "It's actually pretty hard 'cause I have very little help, so I'm always busy. But I like the business. I eat Mexican food everyday, and I wanted to have a place that served the food my parents make."

Rivas is a Tampa native and will soon be a USF graduate with a degree in finance. He is familiar with the area and has no fear of a location that has seemed cursed at times.

"It's not that there has been something really good here that didn't survive," Rivas said. "It's always come down to bad management or a lack of time or experience. We have good food, and we're running a good business with awesome food already in downtown. I'm not trying to make another bar or club, we're just going to serve good food at a decent price at a location where the roads around it are busy, and we're between a lot of stuff, so I think we'll do well."

The new Urban Cantina is on schedule to open its doors on May 1, with a grand opening party for Cinco de Mayo being planned. For more information on Urban Cantina, visit its website, urbancantina.com.

Jaime April 27, 2012 at 05:40 PM
I'm down I will be there for sure! Good luck!
Manuel August 09, 2012 at 04:38 AM
They already open the place, the food is amazing, the service is great, cold beer, nice wine... ! Urban Cantina is a real piece of México in the heart of Tampa, the favorite place for us lovers of tasty Mexican cuisine.

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