First Look: Alma Cocina, Atlanta

Maybe that’s a riff on the song by the Doors. Or a clue to what kind of food executive chef Chad Clevenger aims to conjure. However you take it, the combination of contemporary Mexican/Latin American cooking and swanky surroundings is a little different from anything else in Atlanta right now.

Fifth Group’s other places include South City Kitchen, Ecco, La Tavola and the Original El Taco. Each has a unique setting and personality. But with its heart-of-downtown location on the ground floor of One Ninety One Peachtree Tower, and across the courtyard from the Ritz-Carlton, Alma Cocina has the presence of a serious big-city restaurant.

The look: Three different dining areas, including a courtyard cafe with its own bar, offer a choice of seating environments. In the main room, heavy-duty design elements, such as reclaimed wood, steel panels, concrete block and terra cotta tiles, along with some whimsical lighting, create an atmosphere that feels both substantial and warm.

The scene: So far, downtown workers and Atlanta visitors have made Alma Cocina a crowded lunchtime destination. One relatively quiet weekend afternoon, a friendly server seemed rather surprised that there was a party of intown Atlanta residents in the house. “How did you find out about us?” he asked.

The menu: Clevenger’s menu goes from appetizers, soups and salads, such as Little Gem lettuce with pickled tomatoes and charred avocado ($9), to main plates, such as snapper mole Amarillo with Swiss chard, roasted hen of the woods mushrooms and citrus salsa ($28). But there’s also huaraches, soft corn masa tortillas with toppings such as rock shrimp ($11), small tacos, including fried avocado ($7), and ceviche, such as bay scallop with blood orange juice ($12).

The drinks: Not surprisingly, tequila stars at the bar. Some concoctions feature a selected tequila paired with infused ice. On the less complicated side, Just Wear Black is Herradura silver, agave syrup and fresh-squeezed lime juice ($10). There are plenty of other cocktails made with Pisco, Cachaca and Mezcal, too, as well as selections of Latin and American beer and wine.

The extras: Every afternoon from 4 to 6 p.m. there are five $5 drink and five $5 appetizer specials, with red and white wine, a couple of draft beers, and a featured margarita, along with tacos, tostadas and huaraches. At lunch, look for taco plates with rice and beans or a side salad ($8-$10) and sandwiches, such as barbacoa-braised short rib ($12).

Dining out

Alma Cocina, Atlanta

Lunch: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. daily. Dinner: 5-11 p.m. daily. Bar open late.

Starters, soups and salads, $6-$10; tacos, huaraches and ceviche, $6-$14; main plates, $15-$28.

191 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta, 404-968-9662, alma-atlanta.com

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