In search of ... Mexican food

La Oaxaquena Restaurante

605 Mount Zion Road, Jonesboro, 770-960-3010,

No place serves the mystery that is masa as well as this real-deal joint in Jonesboro. This is soul food, Mexican-style, and specializing in the wonders of Oaxaca.

Tacos? Si. Plus tamales, either wrapped in corn husks or encased in banana leaves Oaxacan-style, then stuffed with masa and tender shredded chicken, served with spicy red sauce or piquant salsa verde.

Celia’s Carniceria y Supermercado (not rated)

4664 Jimmy Carter Blvd., Norcross, 770-806-0108

Inside this pristine butcher shop and grocery store there’s a hidden jewel: Celia’s. Tacos and gorditas abound, filled with barbecued goat and topped with lettuce, tomatoes, avocados and crema Mexicana, then blanketed generously with sprinklings of queso anejo.

But the specialty here is layered between tortillas: sincronizada.

Think of it as a quesadilla/hoagie hybrid, with two corn tortillas filled with carne, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and avocado, all grilled to a melted marvel.

El Ray del Taco (not rated)

5288 Buford Highway, Doraville, 770-986-0032

Sure, the champinones tacos are jam-full of the most umami-laden foodstuffs on Buford Highway: corn and mushrooms, plus the sauteed onions that always accompany a plate of the flavorful wraps.

Suadero, a skirt steak-stuffed taco, is a meaty counterpoint to mushrooms, as is the spicy chorizo.

But don’t miss the caldo de langostinos.

Even when it’s hot outside, this soup, laden with a rich, red, flavorful broth laced with chiles and cilantro is as heartwarming as it is hearty.

San Pancho (not rated)

4880 Lawrenceville Highway, Suite 9, Tucker, 770-493-9844

A meager storefront and a few small tables, with a TV switched on to “Manana es para Siempre” is about all the atmosphere you’ll get at this tiny taqueria.

The most important thing is the tacos — some of the best in the area, and one of the only spots that serves tacos dorados — hard, crispy shelled tacos.

Soft or hard, they can be filled with chorizo or lengua (tongue), but San Pancho’s best is al pastor, a marinated, spicy meat Mexico City-style. Fish tacos here are made with bits of flaked fish and dressed with cilantro and spicy mixed salsas.

Taqueria el Vecino (not rated)

2743 LaVista Road, Decatur, 404-929-0301,

The draw at this tidy intown spot is what’s wrapped: tamales enrobed Mexico City-style in corn husks and stuffed with jalapenos and queso, mole con pollo and the best — puerco con salsa verde, a pulled pork in mild salsa made with tomatilloes.

An excellently seasoned and scrumptious carne asada taco is worth a taste, too, as well as a specialty of relleno taco made with a small, roasted poblano filled with Chihuahua cheese, then batter fried and wrapped inside a soft corn tortilla.

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