Atlanta Orders In: Chef brings fresh identity to the former Watershed space

Nachos Botica is one of a handful of appetizers on the menu of newly opened bodega Botica. Nachos toppings include refried beans, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, corn, warmed queso, guacamole and crema. Orders can include proteins like chicken, shrimp or steak for an upcharge.
Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
Nachos Botica is one of a handful of appetizers on the menu of newly opened bodega Botica. Nachos toppings include refried beans, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, corn, warmed queso, guacamole and crema. Orders can include proteins like chicken, shrimp or steak for an upcharge. Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Mimmo Alboumeh’s Botica features Spanish and Mexican fare in a lively atmosphere

Mimmo Alboumeh has a disposition that’s refreshingly upbeat and energetic.

When the chef learned that I had eaten from his newly opened restaurant, Botica, he was eager to know my order. As I ran down the list, he offered animated commentary on the phone.

The nachos: “Always a home run.”

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Chicken tamales from Botica are wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. 
Courtesy of Botica
Chicken tamales from Botica are wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. Courtesy of Botica

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

A variety of tacos: “On the tacos, everything flies!”

Grilled Spanish octopus: “I sold about 200 orders of octopus in one week. That’s a lot of octopus!”

Churros for dessert: “Croissant bread pudding. Eat that for dessert. It’s — oh, my God!”

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Churros are one of the dessert offerings at Botica. Courtesy of Botica
Churros are one of the dessert offerings at Botica. Courtesy of Botica

Yet, when Alboumeh learned it was carryout, his tone became a tad deflated. Time in transit can take a toll on freshly made restaurant food, and the dining experience isn’t the same.

“There’s a magic energy in here,” he said of what has become an instant hot spot (albeit at 50% capacity per the pandemic) since its Jan. 1 debut.

The energy was palpable the Saturday evening I popped in to grab my order. I found the space formerly occupied by Watershed transformed into a lively bodega.

Alboumeh, a former partner at Red Pepper Taqueria, had been hunting for a place to begin a new venture. The expansive seating, wraparound bar and patio all spoke to him. “It has structure. It is upscale, a beautiful buildout. It was lacking energy, though. It needed a new identity. I needed to put the Mimmo identity,” he said.

Mimmo Alboumeh is the chef-owner of Botica, located in the Peachtree Road space formerly occupied by Watershed. Courtesy of Botica
Mimmo Alboumeh is the chef-owner of Botica, located in the Peachtree Road space formerly occupied by Watershed. Courtesy of Botica

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Alboumeh speaks with the surety of someone who knows who he is. He has roots in Lebanon, can recall his childhood in Spain, and has been cooking Mexican fare for 25 years.

Botica is his attempt to bring together aspects of Spanish, Mexican and American culture. “I did a fine-tune balance between all three cultures,” he said, referencing both the menu and the inviting, yet edgy, space, which holds 42 TVs to please sports aficionados, and an improved sound system to help set the vibe.

Spanish octopus, with crispy potatoes and a peppered aioli, has been among the most popular appetizers at Botica since it opened Jan. 1. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com
Spanish octopus, with crispy potatoes and a peppered aioli, has been among the most popular appetizers at Botica since it opened Jan. 1. Ligaya Figueras/ligaya.figueras@ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

The menu is a compilation of familiar Spanish and Mexican dishes: grilled Spanish octopus, served with patatas bravas; chicken tamales carefully wrapped in banana leaves; playfully skewered chorizo; and plenty of tacos inspired by those he encountered on the streets of Mexico City. (On Taco Tuesdays, the taco of the day is $1.)

While dishes may be casual, they come with cheffy consideration. It’s a scratch kitchen that sources plenty of ingredients locally and regionally. Meats are smoked in-house, using different woods, depending on the kitchen’s mood. Cuts sometimes get combined to achieve a “superjuicy, magic combination” — pork pibil!

Botica's pork pibil taco comes with pickled onions. Courtesy of Botica
Botica's pork pibil taco comes with pickled onions. Courtesy of Botica

Although he believes in his concept, menu, and even the Botica team (some followed him from Red Pepper Taqueria), Alboumeh admitted he had one superstition.

“I’m a big believer in numbers — especially the number seven,” he said. He’s one of seven siblings; the numbers of his home address tally up to seven. The moment he realized that the numerals in the Botica footprint — 5,002 square feet —– amounted to seven was “almost magical,” he said. And, that’s why the Botica menu has exactly 34 items (3+4=7), and why Alboumeh pushed to unlock doors to the restaurant on Jan.1 (01+01+ 2021=7).

“I’m going to open with that blessing,” he told himself.

Alboumeh has worked hard in his decades-long culinary career, and he doesn’t have plans to stop now. “I’m a chef, an entrepreneur, a guy willing to take a risk,” he said. But, a little luck — especially during a pandemic — never hurts.

Is there a restaurant you want to see featured? Send your suggestions to ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.

BOTICA

Menu: Mexican and Spanish

Alcohol: full bar available on-site only

What I ordered: nachos Botica; grilled chorizo; Spanish octopus; chicken tamales canasta; chickpeas fritter “falafel” taco; pork pibil taco; lamb birria taco; beef barbacoa; sides of black beans and Mexican rice; churros. The appetizer and taco section of the Botica menu are built for exploring (and sharing). The nachos are a safe bet. The tamales are a sure thing. Tender Spanish octopus held up surprisingly well. Among the tacos, the pork pibil was the most flavorful; dividers in the to-go trays keep the tacos intact.

Service options: carryout or dine-in; place carryout orders in person or via phone; curbside available upon request; dine-in reservations recommended on weekends

Outdoor dining: heated patio

Mask policy: required for all employees, and for customers when not seated

Address, phone: 1820 Peachtree Road NW, Atlanta; 404-228-6358

Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily; brunch:10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays

Website: eatbotica.com

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