Empanadas at Taquería La Costeñita feature a thick tortilla stuffed with meats or vegetarian fillings like sauteed nopal (cactus), flor de calabaza (squash blossoms) or huitlacoche (corn smut) along with cheese, folded in half, and grilled on the flat top. Accompanied with Mexican rice, frijoles and a lettuce salad, it makes for a filling, affordable meal. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LFIGUERAS@AJC.COM
You can get quesadillas, but instead, try the empanadas and sincronizadas. The former feature a thick tortilla (as opposed to flaky pastry dough) stuffed with sauteed nopal (cactus), flor de calabaza (squash blossoms) or huitlacoche (corn smut) along with cheese, folded in half, and grilled on the flat top. The latter sees those same fillings, or more familiar ones like chicken or carne asada sandwiched between thin tortillas, grilled, cut into quarters and served with a side of crema. Accompanied by Mexican rice, frijoles and a lettuce salad, these make for a filling meal all for about $7.50. For an open-faced rendition, try the huarache with whatever protein pleases you. If you really want to carb-load, order the torta de tamal, a sandwich made by stuffing a tamal inside the telera roll.
La Costeñita’s breakfast menu is available daily until 11 a.m. Among offerings is the ranchero breakfast burrito (pictured) and the Desayuno Centro Americano of scrambled eggs, frijoles, fried plantains, a couple of wedges of firm cotija cheese and a side of tortillas. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LFIGUERAS@AJC.COM
La Costeñita has a separate breakfast menu, available daily until 11 a.m. It was surprising to see at least nine of us piled into the dinky space on a Sunday morning. The ranchero breakfast burrito is a fill-‘er-up number, but it wasn’t high octane enough. (It was the one menu item that needed a wake-up from one of the house-made salsas — green and red are both thick, viscous and laden with heat — or a shake from one of the bottles of Cholula scattered around the place.) The Desayuno Centro Americano is a south of the border ploughman’s morning platter that comes with scrambled eggs, frijoles, fried plantains, a couple of wedges of firm cotija cheese and a side of tortillas. This desayuno is special in its simplicity.
Specials are something that the restaurant is experimenting with. I happened to show up the first day that La Costeñita was testing a ceviche. With only tilapia among proteins, it was bland, but also dry, offering none of the pot liquor-like leche de tigre liquid that makes finishing off a bowl of ceviche so satisfying. The weekends-only supersize bowl of menudo satisfies, especially if you like a heaping amount of tripe and a nuanced, sinus-clearing broth flavored with red chile peppers.
The signage out front reads: La Costeñita Taquería & Wings. The wings section of the menu is one you can bat away. If you must give alitas, as they are known in Spanish, a try, ask for them with “Valentina,” tossed in a mix of the house salsa roja, habanero sauce and Valentina brand Mexican hot sauce.
That will require a swig of something.
The restaurant could just as well stock bottled drinks or direct you to the beverage coolers on the Shell side of the building, but instead, you’ll find freshly pressed pineapple juice, house-made horchata and hibiscus-flavored agua fresca.
Buford Highway is always a great place to explore cuisines from around the world. Come to find out, even a gas station on BuHi is worth a culinary pit stop. Just don’t come looking to fuel up on pork.
TAQUERIA LA COSTEÑITA
5 a.m.-1 a.m. Sundays-Thursdays; 5 a.m.-3 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays. 3799 Buford Highway, Brookhaven. 404-957-8038. Facebook: Taqueria La Costeñita.
Recommended: Shrimp Taco. Barbacoa Taco. Empanada or Quesadilla with Nopal (Cactus) or Flor de Calabaza (Squash Blossoms). Menudo (weekends only). Sincronizada (with Jamon y Queso). Jugo de Pina (fresh-squeezed pineapple juice).
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