5 new Atlanta taco restaurants

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.

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Caption

The pescado taco from Antiguo Lobo features breaded mahi-mahi, and is a standout among the tacos on the menu. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Chris Hunt

Credit: Chris Hunt

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.

Birria tacos from Antiguo Lobo are a flavor sensation featuring juicy braised brisket inside corn tortillas that have been dipped in meaty consommé then griddled. For a full meal, order the birria plate that brings two tacos, rice and Mexican charro beans. (Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com)
Caption

Birria tacos from Antiguo Lobo are a flavor sensation featuring juicy braised brisket inside corn tortillas that have been dipped in meaty consommé then griddled. For a full meal, order the birria plate that brings two tacos, rice and Mexican charro beans. (Ligaya Figueras / [email protected])

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

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, a delivery supper club and restaurant in Cabbagetown, has started a taco pop-up called Justacos. Shown here are tacos (clockwise from the top) made with hoisin Boston butt, Taco Bell-style fillings, short rib and fried oysters. (Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption

JenChan’s, a delivery supper club and restaurant in Cabbagetown, has started a taco pop-up called Justacos. Shown here are tacos (clockwise from the top) made with hoisin Boston butt, Taco Bell-style fillings, short rib and fried oysters. (Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Justacos

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

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Pretty Little Tacos started as a food truck and recently opened at Politan Row food hall in Colony Square. (Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption

Pretty Little Tacos started as a food truck and recently opened at Politan Row food hall in Colony Square. (Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: 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.

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A feast from Pretty Little Tacos: (clockwise starting from the left) spicy birria ramen with steak, chicken nachos and a Creole cauliflower and steak taco. (Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption

A feast from Pretty Little Tacos: (clockwise starting from the left) spicy birria ramen with steak, chicken nachos and a Creole cauliflower and steak taco. (Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

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.

— W.B.

ExploreJoJo’s Beloved opens at Colony Square
Tacos 1989 in Buford specializes in street tacos, such as birria (top), lengua (bottom left) and carnitas (bottom right). (Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption

Tacos 1989 in Buford specializes in street tacos, such as birria (top), lengua (bottom left) and carnitas (bottom right). (Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Tacos 1989

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.

— W.B.

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Velvet Taco offers more than 20 tacos that feature flavor combinations inspired by international cuisines. (Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com)
Caption

Velvet Taco offers more than 20 tacos that feature flavor combinations inspired by international cuisines. (Ligaya Figueras / [email protected])

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Velvet Taco

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.

Velvet Taco offers indoor dining as well as outdoor seating on a covered patio breezeway that connects shops at the Interlock. (Ligaya Figueras / ligaya.figueras@ajc.com)
Caption

Velvet Taco offers indoor dining as well as outdoor seating on a covered patio breezeway that connects shops at the Interlock. (Ligaya Figueras / [email protected])

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

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.

— L.F.

More new metro Atlanta taco spots to try

Botica

Texican

Chef Smokey’s

Beto’s Tacos

Taqueria la Luz at Chattahoochee Food Works

Poco Loco

Habitat

Cantina Loca

Sistahritas

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