Atlanta Orders In: Taqueria el Tesoro embraces outdoor dining and takeout

The carnitas dinner for two from Taqueria el Tesoro includes twice-cooked pork carnitas, choice of beans, rice, tortillas, and chips and salsa. Bob Townsend for The AJC
Caption
The carnitas dinner for two from Taqueria el Tesoro includes twice-cooked pork carnitas, choice of beans, rice, tortillas, and chips and salsa. Bob Townsend for The AJC

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

When Taqueria el Tesoro first opened in January 2018 — in a tiny space on Arkwright Place in Edgewood — the quaint counter-service coffee shop and breakfast-lunch spot had just 16 seats.

Since then, the footprint has expanded to include a patio, and another rambling expanse of outdoor seating, with some 120 seats. Plus, there’s now dinner service, and a full outdoor bar. But, with the onset of the pandemic, the indoor tables were eliminated, in favor of a setup designed to expedite takeout, delivery service and online ordering.

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Taqueria el Tesoro's twice-cooked carnitas are seen as plated at home, topped with pickled onions and served with sides of rice and beans and corn tortillas. Bob Townsend for The AJC
Caption
Taqueria el Tesoro's twice-cooked carnitas are seen as plated at home, topped with pickled onions and served with sides of rice and beans and corn tortillas. Bob Townsend for The AJC

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Taqueria el Tesoro founder Alan Raines said business has been very good most of the year, thanks to an abundance of mild temperatures, and loyal customers who are embracing outdoor dining and takeout.

Right now, the restaurant’s business is about 65% outdoor dining to 35% takeout and delivery, but Raines said he expects that to change this winter.

“If it wasn’t for online, phone and Grubhub in the early months of the pandemic, we’d have been screwed,” he said. “It’s definitely an important part of our business, and it has shaped what we have done with the walk-up ordering and pickup lines, and the outdoor bar. Online and delivery will rise again this winter, and we’ll do outdoor lunch, but evenings are yet to be determined.”

While the menu still is fairly extensive, with multiple tacos, burros, tortas, breakfast and dinner items, and sides, it has evolved, with additions, subtractions and accommodations for the increased business.

“We’ve been on a rise, and we keep adding seats, but we’ve been in a three-month holding pattern with the city to get a permit to add on to the kitchen,” Raines said. “So, we have hit the ceiling on how much food we can bring in and prepare in any given week. And, unfortunately, that’s made us dial back the menu, to the point of not doing as many specials, and not being as creative.”

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A favorite dessert at Taqueria el Tesoro is the churros, dusted with cinnamon sugar and dipped in Mexican-spice chocolate sauce. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
A favorite dessert at Taqueria el Tesoro is the churros, dusted with cinnamon sugar and dipped in Mexican-spice chocolate sauce. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Another result of Tesoro’s success is that it’s even harder to grab an order of the coveted pork, chicken or mushroom tamales, which are handmade with fresh house masa, and steamed in corn husks.

Menu additions designed for takeout include the nacho or taco party for two and the carnitas dinner for two. Essentially do-it-yourself meal kits, they come packaged with various sides and house-made salsas and chips.

Raines said he doesn’t see indoor dining returning any time soon, but there will be more additions outdoors. And, when the kitchen is expanded, there will be more items on the menu.

“We won’t bring under-the-cover dining back until at least Cinco de Mayo,” he said. “We’ll keep working on the outdoor areas. We do plan to put another bar outside, with a nacho station, so you can just come and get a drink and some nachos. But, fortunately, people like what we have, and it’s been great. We’ve been super lucky here.”

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TAQUERIA EL TESORO

Menu: Mexican

Alcohol: full outdoor bar with beer, wine and cocktails; canned beer and other beverages for takeout

What I ordered: carnitas dinner for two, with twice-cooked pork carnitas, pinto beans, rice, corn tortillas, and chips and salsas; churros with cinnamon sugar and Mexican spiced chocolate for dipping. The DIY meal kit was packaged deftly, easy to reheat and assemble, and was flavorful in every way. The carnitas, pinto beans and salsas were outstanding.

Service options: outdoor dining; takeout; outdoor walk-up ordering and pickup lines; online ordering for takeout and Grubhub

Outdoor dining: large outdoor seating area with tables, chairs and fire pits

Mask policy: employees and customers wear masks

Address, phone: 1374 Arkwright Place SE, Atlanta; 470-440-5502

Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays.

Website: eltesoroatl.com

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