Atlanta Orders In: Taqueria del Sol offers carryout, outdoor dining

Taqueria del Sol offers a salsa trio with corn tortilla chips. CONTRIBUTED BY BOB TOWNSEND

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Taqueria del Sol offers a salsa trio with corn tortilla chips. CONTRIBUTED BY BOB TOWNSEND

Mike Klank and Eddie Hernandez, veterans of Atlanta restaurants such as Azteca Grill and Sundown Cafe, opened the first Taqueria del Sol on the Westside in 2001. A second followed in Decatur, in 2002. Now, there are four locations around metro Atlanta, one in Athens, and two in Nashville.

The “system,” as the partners like to call the way Taqueria del Sol operates, was one of the earliest and best iterations of the fast-casual style that’s become commonplace in the restaurant business.

Taqueria del Sol is celebrating the annual New Mexico green chile harvest with its crispy chile relleno special, served with salsa frita. CONTRIBUTED BY BOB TOWNSEND

Credit: Bob Townsend

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Credit: Bob Townsend

Along with the signature dishes Klank and Hernandez have created over the years — including Memphis-style pork barbecue tacos, spicy turnip greens and shrimp corn chowder — they’re proud of the way the system works with their budget-priced Southern, Mexican and Southwestern food.

It’s a combination that’s garnered the partners several nominations for outstanding restaurateur in the James Beard Foundation Awards.

Although the restaurants paused service early on in the pandemic, currently they are open for carryout lunch and dinner at all Georgia locations, with limited outdoor seating.

“We’ve been fortunate in a lot of ways,” Klank said during a recent phone call. He added that partner Steve Shields and longtime manager George Trusler have been doing “an incredible job” adapting and making changes in response to the pandemic.

Taqueria del Sol offerings include fish, fried chicken and carnitas tacos. CONTRIBUTED BY BOB TOWNSEND

Credit: Bob Townsend

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Credit: Bob Townsend

“Our kitchens are small, and the areas where our servers work are very small, too, so we’ve had to change things and move things around,” he said. “We still don’t have any seats inside. All the seats are on the patio or out in the parking lot.”

One thing that hasn’t changed much is the menu, which continues to offer imaginative weekly lunch and dinner specials, plus starters, soups, and an array of tacos, enchiladas and side dishes.

“We have one less weekly special, and we’re trying to have more specials that travel well, but most of our food travels well, anyway,” Klank said.

Right now, Taqueria del Sol is celebrating the annual New Mexico green chile harvest, with the ever popular crispy chile relleno special, and several green chile taco and chef’s specials.

“As always, people are very glad to see it back, and it helps business, and helps our check average,” Klank said. “And, because we’re doing OK, and Fox Bros. is doing OK, we decided to do a charity taco in August.”

Look for the Hogs for the Cause taco Aug. 17-23, with Fox Bros. smoked brisket, Taqueria del Sol’s spicy white barbecue sauce and Hatch chile pico in a flour tortilla. It will be available at all Georgia Taqueria del Sol locations, and in Atlanta at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q and the Que-osk.

Eddie Hernandez (left) and Mike Klank of Taqueria del Sol are seen in this 2013 shot.  PHIL SKINNER / PSKINNER@AJC.COM


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Another thing that hasn’t changed is the Taqueria team, which stayed intact and employed, for the most part, even when the restaurants closed for a time.

“We never missed a payroll,” Klank said. “I’m not trying to brag. But, we really wanted everybody to work. And, I’d say most of them are back to work now. We got a payroll protection loan, and that helped.”

One thing Klank has missed, though, is meeting and greeting customers.

“I’ve enjoyed being a restaurateur,” Klank said. “I’ve enjoyed being a bartender. I’ve enjoyed dealing with the public. Nothing’s better than somebody coming in, and they’re in a bad mood, and you give them a drink and a good plate of food, and then they’re happy when they leave. It’s instant gratification.

“You don’t get that, anymore. Hopefully, it will come back around. But, right now, that’s just not part of the job.”

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Taqueria del Sol

Menu: Southern and Mexican food, with three weekly specials at lunch and dinner

Alcohol: full bar for on-site carryout dining outdoors

What I ordered: from the Decatur location, the crispy relleno special New Mexico green chile, stuffed with cheese, breaded and fried, and served with salsa frita; fried chicken, carnitas and fish tacos; cheese enchilada with rice and refried beans; guacamole and salsa trio, with corn tortilla chips. I’ve enjoyed eating at Taqueria del Sol many times. The food always is consistent, and remarkable for the price, and this carryout was no exception.

Service options: order by phone, or on-site at the bar for carryout; tables for carryout dining on the patio and in the parking lot

Safety protocols: adhering to all state guidelines; customers required to wear masks inside when ordering and picking up at the bar

Address, phone: 359 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur; 404-377-7668

Hours: lunch, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; noon-3 p.m. Saturdays; dinner, 5-8:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays