Three tacos from Strange Tacos in Lawrenceville (left to right): lamb, duck and migas. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
Photo: For the AJC
Photo: For the AJC

Humble tacos in metro Atlanta a blank canvas for seemingly all the flavors of the world

The taco, I believe, is on the way to becoming as ubiquitous as the hamburger. In the near future (probably next week), this humble Mexican workhorse, so amenable to allowing proteins, salsas and condiments of all nations to ride in its little tortilla saddle, will be a fixture of the casual American menu.

For better or ill, the taco has become a vehicle for delivering a global pantry of ingredients that reflect who we are as cooks and eaters today.

After Monterrey, Mexico, native Eddie Hernandez moved to Atlanta in 1987, he began to develop his own style, mashing up the food of his ancestors with his new world discoveries. Taqueria del Sol (multiple locations, arrived in 2000, and Atlanta soon got hooked on the chef’s American South-meets-South of the Border creations: fried fish tacos with poblano tartar; Memphis-style pork ‘cue with spicy slaw; fried chicken with lime-jalapeno mayo, iceberg and tomato. Hernandez — whose first cookbook, “Turnip Greens & Tortillas” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Rux Martin Books, $30), is out this week — is an original recipe who still rules that genre, though he has been widely imitated.

RELATED: The AJC shares some recipes from “Turnip Greens & Tortillas”

Offerings from ATL Taco, a new restaurant from Shaun Doty and Lance Gummere, include ATL Hot Chicken Taco and Chili Marinated Chicken with El Buckhead cocktail. CONTRIBUTED BY MIA YAKEL
Photo: For the AJC

Today you can spot Southern-inspired tacos at every turn, the latest being Shaun Doty and Lance Gummere’s ATL Taco (3393 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta. 404-841-7559, Tucked into a quiet Lenox Square cranny, the newcomer offers fried catfish with comeback sauce; a ground-beef and queso “cheeseburger” taco; a hot chicken taco, etc. Like so many taquerias, ATL Taco would be well served to griddle its tortillas before topping them.

Heirloom Market BBQ’s tacos are made with smoked, gochujang-marinated pork and dressed with kimchi slaw, jalapeño, cilantro and spicy Korean barbecue sauce. CONTRIBUTED BY HEIRLOOM MARKET BBQ
Photo: For the AJC

Pig and cabbage are two of the most versatile components in the freewheeling, cross-sampling taco universe. You can easily see a link between American barbecue and slaw and the Korean pork and kimchi tacos that have started to border on the banal. (Talking to you, Takorea.) At Heirloom Market BBQ (2243 Akers Mill Road SE, Atlanta. 770-850-1008,, chefs Cody Taylor and Jiyeon Lee make some of Atlanta’s best tacos. They hack up their heavenly smoked meats and top them with kimchi, spicy Korean barbecue sauce, cilantro and jalapeño. These generously dressed beauties sit on a double layer of super-soft soft corn tortillas — El Milagro brand but they taste hand-made. The obvious choice here is the gochujang-marinated pork, but I also really dig this taco with Heirloom’s intensely smoky brisket. Happily, they let you mix and match.

Yumbii has expanded from food trucks to a Buckhead storefront where easy, casual lunch can be enjoyed on their small patio or in the store. Asian rib-eye beef tacos are a classic Yumbii option available. CONTRIBUTED BY JENNI GIRTMAN / ATLANTA EVENT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photo: For the AJC

Yumbii (1927 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta. 404-975-3444,, a purveyor of Mexican-Asian fusion tacos, arrived on the scene in 2010 as a food truck, making it Atlanta’s answer to L.A. chef Roy Choi’s Kogi. I enjoy stopping by Yumbii’s brick-and-mortar, which opened last year, for decent Asian rib-eye and panko-crusted fried tilapia tacos, though I wouldn’t mind a lighter touch with the romaine, guys.

Taqueria Tsunami offers 13 tacos combining Asian and Latin favors. Among the best from our visit to the Roswell Road location are (clockwise from top) Korean barbecue short rib with cucumber salad; Vietnamese pork with Asian slaw; and Baja-style tempura-fried fish with Asian slaw and Sriracha mayo. Also shown are a side of tater tots with queso dipping sauce and the house margarita. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK
Photo: For the AJC

Billing itself as a Latin-Asian kitchen, Taqueria Tsunami (multiple locations, has 13 tacos on the menu, with influences as disparate as Vietnam, Thailand, Mexico, Korea and Hawaii. A tsunami, indeed. I like the Baja (tempura-fried fish, Asian slaw, and Sriracha mayo) and the Korean-style short rib, topped with a stack of crisp pickled cucumbers. The Rising Sun is where the metaphors get really mixed. Though the name would seem to be a reference to Japan, the menu specifies Vietnamese pork and Asian slaw. Yet the chopped, smoky ‘cue was more the stuff of Southern pig pulls than lemongrass and garlic marinade. That said, Tsunami (which has locations in Atlanta, Roswell, Marietta, Woodstock and Athens) is a solid operation that makes delicious tacos at a good value.

For the 2018 AJC Spring Dining Guide, we sat down with some of the leaders in Atlanta’s new fusion revolution. (Erica A. Hernandez/AJC)

This brings us to Gwinnett’s Strange Taco Bar (225 W. Crogan St., Lawrenceville. 678-869-5220, Facebook: Strange Taco Bar), which builds some of the most dazzling fusion tacos I’ve had. Though the kitchen could stand to tone down some of the seasonings (the “jerk cream” sauce and wasabi aioli, for instance), it uses high-quality ingredients to come up with some real winners — like migas (scrambled egg with pepper jack, pico and tortilla strips); braised lamb (with cucumber, pickled red onion and a cilantro-cream sauce that reads like Middle Eastern yogurt); and ginger-braised duck. Never met a Strange Taco I didn’t like.

<<Take a tour of Atlanta’s new fusion revolution:

10 metro Atlanta mashup restaurants to try

Why Viet Cajun food in Atlanta is opposite of fusion

Humble taco a blank canvas for seemingly all the flavors of the world

Nontraditional ramen worthy of its own tradition

Collards go global in metro Atlanta

Creative condiments add zing to meals at Atlanta restaurants

Even fries and tots are getting the fusion treatment

Pizza takes a spin around the world at these metro Atlanta restaurants

Wrap your hands around these global mashups

8 cocktails that stir up global flavors at metro Atlanta bars

Global flavors rise and shine on breakfast menus around metro Atlanta


Inside Blaxican’s fusion cuisine

Inside Bon Ton’s fusion cuisine

Korean and Thai fusion cuisine in Atlanta

<<For fun:

We tried prime rib potato chips -- find out what we thought

Vote: Would you try these crazy food mashups?

From cronuts to Piecaken, these are the food hybrids that made a splash

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