Wrapped in paper and stuffed into a bag, it’s a delicious, nostalgia-dripping $1.75 hard-shell taco, indeed. It is meant to be devoured on the spot, perhaps at one of the picnic tables beside this Southside walk-up. Or ordered by the half-dozen, zipped home and scarfed down with a cold beer, possibly in the company of friends you just retrieved from the airport.
Soft-shell steak (front) and chicken tacos are good bets at Taco Pete in East Point. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK
Taco Pete’s soft-shell tacos, quesadillas and hot dogs are delicious, too, especially when compared to the slap-dash fast-food options that are the norm.
Why’s that? I think it’s the cooking technique that makes the difference.
Here, soft tortillas and buns are “grilled” to order on a scorching hot flattop (just like the weenies and hamburger patties), then carefully dressed with fillings, fresh toppings and house-made condiments.
Our chili-cheese dog was a smashup of gooey goodness and a gently charred all-beef link, all encased in that delicately toasted bun. An all-American icon, frankly.
Of the soft-shell tacos, I really liked the steak and chicken, dressed with lettuce, tomato, cheese, onion, cilantro and tangy-hot house taco sauce. (The shrimp’s not bad, but I’d probably stick to the basics.)
Not being much of a wheat-tortilla kinda guy, I generally tend to find quesadillas and even burritos rather blah and uninteresting, unless the fillings are stellar. For the most part, that’s the case here.
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Taco Pete’s beef quesadilla is a good reason to check out the East Point carry-out restaurant, where you can sit at picnic tables outside or take food to go. CONTRIBUTED BY: Taco Pete
Taco Pete’s “stuffed” quesadilla, filled with all of the above plus your choice of meat, was wonderful. Sliced into wedges and served with hot sauce and sour cream on the side for dipping, it’s a nice thing to share.
For our beef combo burrito, we chose potatoes instead of beans or rice. The results were tasty in a meat-and-gravy kind of way.
The taco burger, Taco Pete’s “famous” beef-taco filling ladled onto a soft squishy bun and dressed with ketchup, mustard, taco sauce, lettuce, tomato and onions, was a satisfying guilty pleasure — like a Krystal burger on steroids. (Wish it had been a little warmer, though.)
The Taco Burger is among the options at Taco Pete, a takeout joint in East Point. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK
If you like to gnaw on chicken wings, the ones served here are worth considering. We liked the lemon-pepper and (assertively prickly) “hot” versions, and appreciated the kitchen letting us split our order so we could try both.
Some things at Taco Pete can be uneven, though.
We had poor luck with a classic cheeseburger. It was dry, blackened, worth only a nibble or two. French fries were cold, mealy, horrible.
When I called Pagan for a quick phone chat, he shared the history of his family business.
Seems the original Taco Pete was started by his late father, Reo Sr., in Los Angeles in 1966. By the time Reo Sr. retired and moved to Atlanta in 1989, he had four L.A. locations.
Customers wait in line to order food at Taco Pete in East Point. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK
Reo Jr. says his dad told him to hold on to the family’s famous beef-filling recipe, that it was like money in the bank. Sure enough, he opened his own spot, a yellow building with a red awning, wedged into the tip of a busy traffic triangle, in 2005. It’s an eye-catcher.
Based on the crowds lining up for his cheap, filling American and Mexi-Cali classics, I’d say his old man was right. I think Taco Pete would be a welcome addition to any neighborhood.
I just wish to holy hard-shell taco it were in mine.
10:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays. 2957 Main St., East Point. 404-968-4790, tacopete.com.
Recommended: Hard-shell beef taco. Soft-shell steak and chicken tacos. Loaded quesadilla with beef. Chili-cheese dog.