Here, tacos get an artisanal touch; tortillas are house-made from heirloom Oaxacan blue corn.
Try the pollo. They come with avocado slices and a drizzle of crema, bringing cool contrast to the spice of the adobado chicken.
Another standout is the pescado — breaded, lightly fried mahi-mahi with an avocado salsa and pickled red onion and red cabbage for crunch.
The real winner, though, is the birria: Super juicy, superbly seasoned brisket is dipped in the consommé and finished on the griddle for a fine crisp.
A hibiscus taco brought unique floral notes, but toppings of refried beans and avocado made it mushy. Vegan chorizo holds the texture and oiliness of real meat; flavorwise, it lacked the spice.
Tacos are $4.50 a piece. Order a plate ($12-$14) and you’ll get dos tacos plus rice and soupy frijoles charros.
If you are nostalgic for Taco Bell or El Paso at home, consider Tacos Duros: a couple of hard-shell tacos filled with ground beef, and beans and rice on the side. 5370 Peachtree Road, Chamblee. 470-385-6502, antiguolobo.com.
— Ligaya Figueras
JenChan’s started as a supper club, followed by a brick-and-mortar space in Cabbagetown six months before the pandemic. Already in the kitchen for daytime prep, Emily Chan (who owns the restaurant with her wife, Jen) decided a taco pop-up would be a smart way to optimize her time.
So, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, JenChan’s Justacos offers a dozen gourmet tacos for dine in, takeout or delivery. Many are Asian influenced (Mongolian beef, kung pao chicken, Vietnamese pork), and there’s even a Taco Bell riff with spicy ground beef in a hard shell.
I found the fried oyster, hoisin Boston butt and short rib tacos just a tad uneven, but the Taco Bell-inspired Justaco was inspired. And big ups to the loaded nachos and the ginger margaritas, which are poured into sturdy plastic bags for sipping on the fly. 186 Carroll St. SE, Atlanta. 404-549-9843, justacosatl.com.
— Wendell Brock
Pretty Little Tacos
Michaela Merrick’s cute little stall in Colony Square’s new Politan Row food hall serves plates of juicy birria tacos with consommé, a la carte tacos without the dipping broth, bowls of ramen in the consommé, and straightforward nachos and sides.
Birria ramen is new to me, so I just had to try this multi-culti mashup. I chose the beef version, at the spicy heat level, and had no trouble slurping it down, even on a hot day under the shade of the inviting covered patio outside Colony Square, where a round of drag bingo was just getting underway.
On the taco side, I enjoyed the Creole fried cauliflower and the OG steak, though I feel like I need to return for a plate of those queso-style birria tacos, which come in nontraditional vegan, chicken, shrimp, salmon and oxtail iterations, as well as steak. Chicken nachos and a cup of queso (the kitchen was out of guac) completed the feast.
You may purchase an adult beverage at Politan Row’s communal bar. The experience comes with two hours of free parking in the Colony Square deck. (Get your ticket validated at the concierge desk.) 1197 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-228-7941, no website.
Though it shares a building with a Shell station, this Buford newcomer aims for a slicker experience than your run-of-the-mill gas station taqueria. It has a Waffle House-style flat top, a Krystal-red design scheme and specialty tacos in the $3.89-$7.89 price range.
I focused on the so-called calle (street) tacos: classic Mexican street fare that opts for succulent meats with simple garnishes. I was quite taken with my juicy lengua, carnitas and birria tacos, made with soft corn tortillas and sprinkled with chopped onion, cilantro, avocado salsa and salsa picante.
The choncho — a plate of beans and rice with choice of one meat (lamb barbacoa, for me) — is built in layers, like a bowl, rather than scooped out into individual compartments. It comes with tortillas and is a good dish to take out and eat later, though the $14.89 price tag seems rather high.
My $14.89 coctel de camarón was fine, if not exactly a trip to Puerto Vallarta in a glass. The sauce was just a bit on the sweet side, though now that I look back at the menu, it does advertise itself as “shrimp & veggies in sweet sauce.” Maybe ask for extra lime and hot sauce; then scoop it up with the snappy hard tortillas that come on the side. Avoid the treacly, commercial-tasting horchata. 2525 Hamilton Mill Road, Buford. 678-889-2317, tacos1989.com.
Taco traditionalists may scoff at Velvet Taco, the now decade-old concept that stuffs flour tortillas with all manner of global flavor combinations. Its first Atlanta location debuted in Buckhead in 2019. A second opened in June at the new Interlock multiuse development in West Midtown.
Don’t expect serious tacos at this fast-casual, counter-service eatery (the tortilla for the chicken and waffle rendition gets pressed in a waffle iron for looks). Do expect serious flavor — and generous filling.
While sitting in the breezeway of the newest Velvet Taco, I relished the lingering heat from the Nashville Hot Tofu. It gets marks for fried crispness rounded out with Napa slaw, pickles and a ranch-flavored crema.
In fact, of all the tacos I tried, ones in the vegetarian category packed the most surprise. I’m looking at you, No. 5: an Indian-inspired handheld of fried paneer, tomato chutney, tikka sauce, raita crema and Thai basil.
Ranging in price from $4.25 to $5.75, there are always 20 tacos in the rotation at this United Nations of Tacos, including a weekly special. Upcoming flavors include cornmeal fried oysters, grilled Mediterranean flank steak, and crispy calamari. 1115 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta. 470-485-8557, velvettaco.com.
More new metro Atlanta taco spots to try
Taqueria la Luz at Chattahoochee Food Works
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