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How Taqueria del Mar is serving the Peachtree Corners community

Since opening Taqueria del Mar in Peachtree Corners in 2013, owner Andrew Hoppen has regularly heeded calls to help the community. CONTRIBUTED BY LIGAYA FIGUERAS
Since opening Taqueria del Mar in Peachtree Corners in 2013, owner Andrew Hoppen has regularly heeded calls to help the community. CONTRIBUTED BY LIGAYA FIGUERAS

Pay what you can, tacos for doctors, take-and-bake casseroles for home cooks

Editor’s note: As the coronavirus disrupts the restaurant industry, the AJC has changed its dining coverage and suspended its restaurant reviews. Instead, we are publishing a new column called Atlanta Orders In, which looks at the challenges faced by Atlanta restaurants and serves as a guide to ordering takeout. Look for bylines from Ligaya Figueras on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; and Wendell Brock on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

Is there a restaurant you want to see featured? Do you have feedback about the new column? We want to hear from you. Send your comments to ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

When a restaurant consistently takes action to make a difference in the community, its patrons take notice. That is certainly the case at Taqueria del Mar, a Mexican restaurant in Peachtree Corners owned by Andrew Hoppen.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia

“Andrew is a part of the community and looks for progressive ways to support the community,” wrote AJC reader Elizabeth Jordan.

Since unlocking doors to his eatery in 2013, Hoppen has regularly heeded calls for help from nonprofits and charities. And, amid the current crisis he has amped up his attempts to make a difference.

In mid-March, he started a Pay What You Can initiative aimed at helping feed those with limited means to pay for a meal. “If you are in need of a full meal, come to Taqueria del Mar and pay what you can,” he said when he announced the program. “We would also like to offer those that can pay it forward the chance to give back. While some will have needs, others will have abundance.”

The Burrito de Pollo Tamarindo is a popular seller at Taqueria del Mar. CONTRIBUTED BY LIGAYA FIGUERAS
The Burrito de Pollo Tamarindo is a popular seller at Taqueria del Mar. CONTRIBUTED BY LIGAYA FIGUERAS

While the program was initiated as a way to help some of the employees that Hoppen had laid off, it has since been expanded to include anyone. “If you need food, come here,” Hoppen said. “Anybody who needs to eat can come by.”

» DINING TEAM: How coronavirus will change dining coverage

In addition, when Hoppen and his team aren’t scrambling to fill takeout orders, they have been packaging up tacos and other menu items and donating those to everyone from heathcare workers to senior citizens. “We took 50 tacos to an emergency room in Lawrenceville last night,” said Hoppen during a phone interview Sunday. “We’ve been taking meals to shut-in elderly people.”

Taqueria has numerous safety protocols in effect. Customers coming to pick up an order will find hand sanitizer at the entrance. The restaurant will also provide curbside takeout to patrons upon request entrance. CONTRIBUTED BY LIGAYA FIGUERAS
Taqueria has numerous safety protocols in effect. Customers coming to pick up an order will find hand sanitizer at the entrance. The restaurant will also provide curbside takeout to patrons upon request entrance. CONTRIBUTED BY LIGAYA FIGUERAS

To better serve the many families who regularly patronize the restaurant, Hoppen’s kitchen team is preparing take-and-bake dishes. Available in two sizes – large serves 6-8, small serves 3-4, the dishes are not necessarily Mexican, but rather “comfort-style” casserole dishes like chicken tetrazzini. “We’ve had a good response. People like the idea of a meal in one package and to feed multiple people out of one pan,” Hoppen said.

Sales aren’t the same as before, but they are better than what Hoppen expected. “Business is down about 30-40%. I was anticipating 60-80%. That has certainly been a blessing.”

The 90-seat dining room at Taqueria del Mar has become a storage area for the products it needs to provide delivery and takeout orders to customers. CONTRIBUTED BY LIGAYA FIGUERAS
The 90-seat dining room at Taqueria del Mar has become a storage area for the products it needs to provide delivery and takeout orders to customers. CONTRIBUTED BY LIGAYA FIGUERAS

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Hoppen employed 18 full-time and 10 part-time workers. Now, he’s down to an eight-person team that is slammed, especially during peak meal times. Takeout used to make up 5-7% of the restaurant’s business. Now, it’s all takeout. “Taking orders on the phone or online at a dramatic pace as everyone wants to order at the same time - that has been a challenge,” he said.

Still, he’s grateful. “We are getting great support. Patrons have been generous with the servers. It’s certainly been heartwarming.”

A take-out order awaits pick up. CONTRIBUTED BY LIGAYA FIGUERAS
A take-out order awaits pick up. CONTRIBUTED BY LIGAYA FIGUERAS

TAQUERIA DEL MAR 

Menu: Full menu

What's new: Take and Bake: limited, rotating selection of casserole-style dishes (Large - $39, Small – 19) Must place order for take and bake via phone; Pay What You Can (free or reduced-cost meal for those who cannot afford to pay full price, option to add more to bill for those who can afford to pay extra)

Alcohol: Bottled beer and wine. Call for details.

What I ordered: Large take-and-bake dish (chicken tetrazzini), Burrito de Pollo Tamarindo,  Tres Amigos Enchiladas, Enchilada de Mar with smoked brisket and citrus cream sauce

Service options: Carryout (curbside upon request) and delivery. Delivery available through Uber Eats. Restaurant also has its own drivers who deliver within 5 miles of the restaurant. Place orders via phone or through the Taqueria del Mar app, download from any app store.

Safety protocols: Hand sanitizer at entrance. All social distancing protocol in effect. Kitchen staff limited to 2-3 people who are maintaining six-foot separation. "We are insanely clean," said Hoppen. "Washing hands, sterilizing tools and equipment. We have certainly increased the frequency of all that we do (to stay clean)."

Address: 5075 Peachtree Parkway N.W., Peachtree Corners

Hours: noon-8 p.m. daily

Phone: 678-820-9836

Website: taqueriadelmar.com

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