Call it authentic Mexican with a classical French pedigree. Rreal Tacos from chef/owner Adrian Villarreal opened in December near the corner of Sixth and Juniper streets in Midtown , offering tacos with a variety of creative sides, many of which are made with local and organic ingredients.
Villarreal, who was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, trained in Paris and came to Atlanta in 2002 to take a job at Joel. Later, he landed at TAP, and most recently served as chef de cuisine with chef Richard Blais at the Spence .
One recent afternoon at Rreal, Villarreal laughed as he talked about his fine dining background as a prelude to deciding to open his first restaurant, which is unabashedly fast-casual and neighborhood-focused.
“I was in fine dining in Paris and for years at Joel, and then I switched over to gastropub cooking at TAP, and went back to fine dining at the Spence,” Villarreal said. “But the dining scene in Atlanta has been geared toward smaller and more casual for a long time.”
Asked what distinguishes Rreal from other taco concepts around Atlanta, Villarreal said it’s the level of authenticity coupled with the sourcing of ingredients.
“There are places that taste just as authentic. There are places that take care of their ingredients,” he said. “But both of them together isn’t that common. Here you have real pork trompo that tastes like real pork trompo. And on top of that, it’s heritage Cheshire pork or another breed from a local farm. For me, that’s the niche. It’s what I want to cook and have people try.”
All Rreal tacos are priced at $2.99 and served on soft corn tortillas with organic cilantro, onion and lime, and a choice of red or green salsa. Beyond spit-roasted pork trompo, better known as al pastor, there’s adobo grilled chicken, marinated grilled beef, grilled fish, pork carnitas, chicken a la Veracruzana, beef barbacoa, and veggie with crispy avocado.
For starters or sides, you won’t find chips and salsa or guacamole. But you will find the likes of the Rreal salad with local greens, guajillo bean soup, roasted local sweet potatoes, and braised turnips in salsa borracha.
“That’s where I give myself a little more leeway to not be 100 percent authentic, although I do have staples like pork empanadas,” Villarreal said of the sides.
Most unusual, perhaps, is a family favorite from Villarreal’s Italian side. Known as fideos secos a la Mexicana, it’s a spaghetti-like dish with Mexican short pasta stewed in tomato and chipotle, and topped with pico de gallo and crema.
Margaritas, beer and sangria will be on the drinks menu when the liquor license is approved. In the meantime, there’s a selection of Mexican soft drinks, and house-made aguas frescas, including Jamaica (hibiscus), Horchata (made from rice), Tamarind and daily features such as organic beet and carrot.
“What I think I bring to the table is good tasty Mexican,” Villarreal said, summing up the thought behind Rreal. “I don’t want to do anything crazy or come up with new exotic tacos. I just want to do solid authentic food in a happy atmosphere where people say, ‘Thank you. See you tomorrow.’ ”