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Installation (Wordpress Part): Steakhead's Atlanta Eats Blog: October 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Original, The Taco, The Scoop

There is a new Mexican place in the location previously occupied by Sala in the Highlands/Morningside area called The Original El Taco, which I guess translates to The Original The Taco. I am not aware of any new El Taco restaurants so I am not too sure what "The Original" refers to. This is the latest Fifth Group concept, and at first I was scared (actually, I was petrified), that this would follow the same mistakes as The Original The Sala, which meant overdone and overpriced Mexican. But fear not, this is not the case with El Taco.

When you first walk into the restaurant, you realize right away this is supposed to be a casual neighborhood place. Cool, fun colors, star chandeliers, and my favorite- a prize wheel, which among other things, awards free pitchers of margaritas for 15 minutes if it lands on that space and you hold the winning number. Gambling, tequila and tacos- you know this is a Steakhead kind of place!

The menu is pretty standard for the modern taqueria these days. The queso royale includes japapenos, and chunks of chorizo sausage. Other items include fajitas, mexican pizza, enchiladas, etc. But given the name, I went for the tacos. There are 8different tacos on the regular menu, including the fried tilapia (don't be scared off by the salsa habenero, it is not spicy at all), fried chicken, mexican chorizo and the pork carnitas tacos. But the best taco I had this night was the Red Chili Steak taco (of course, you say). The chili rubbed steak was tender and extremely flavorful. There is a salsa bar towards the back which has some decent concoctions, though nothing overly spicy if you are into that sort of thing. The great thing about the taco menu is that they all are about $3 each. So with the change you save on food, you can direct that toward the drink menus. Speaking of which, the margarita list is impressive and I've heard good things about the frozen mojito (though I will not admit to having one of those).

I think El Taco should do very well. They offer decent food, at a good price, in a fun atmosphere. Its both kid-friendly and singles-friendly. The front porch will be a popular spot in the Spring and Summer months. They do need to run that prize wheel a little more often- they didn't spin it once when I was there. I want to be like that guy in the KENO commercial when my number hits winning free pitchers of margaritas for all my friends!

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

El Taco Veloz May Benefit From the New Prado

As the construction around the Prado will likely bring more of the same chain-type restaurants, visitors may want to venture just North of the new Sembler complex for lunch to the El Taco Veloz, an authentic Mexican taqueria. You will need to look past the exterior and the fact that its situated right next to a Love Shack adult store. Come to think of it, the inside won't win any Architectural Digest award either. But the fact that the Dora episode they were showing on the two TVs was in Spanish led me to believe I wouldn't be disappointed. And I wasn't. The food here will make you look past any burrito you have ever had at Moe's or Chipotle.

The menu is relatively simple- mainly tacos and burritos. There are carne asada versions of both, with the meat tender and full of flavor. Lady Steakhead had a chile relleno taco, which was also outstanding. She is a big fan of corn tortillas, which is how the tacos are served (you can request either). There is a salsa bar with some wonderful selections including a particularly spicy salsa verde. The pico served with the side order of chips is outstanding.

As I was leaving, I requested a to-go menu and was ecstatic to see they serve breakfast. I just love me some huevos rancheros! And breakfast places are what I have missed the most since move from Cabbagetown. May have to do that next weekend.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Coming Soon- Harry Bissett's Buckhead

John Durrett, a fellow classmate of mine from the Fuqua School of Business, is opening Harry Bissett's Buckhead- an offshoot of the well-known Cajun restaurant in Athens. I stopped in at his Pharrr Rd. location last night to check out the progress, and they are just days away from opening. Durrett is aiming to recreate the exact feel of the original Athens location, from the menu to the decor. While I haven't been to the orginal, the menu does look tantalizing- blackened ribeye, filet au poivre, shrimp creole, crawfish ettouffe and of course, my all time fave- New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp. Now Lady Steakhead, she is both a UGA grad AND a cajun from Baton Rouge, and she loves Harry Bissett's. So when we make our first official visit in the next week or two, she will every bit of the food critic as yours truly. Best of luck John and we look forward to your Grand Opening!

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Eating & Drinking Tour of Santa Fe

Growing up, I spent many a weekend traveling with my Dad to various car shows around the Northeast. It was his passion and I enjoyed the bonding time with him. It had been 17 years since our last trip together and we decided last year that we were due for another adventure. The trip requirements were fairly minimal- it needed to be within the lower 48, and a place that neither of us had been before. After hearing glowing reports from several friends and relatives, we decided upon Santa Fe, NM. We quickly checked calendars (and I researched available Delta Sky Miles seats) and zoned in on the last weekend in September, which happened to coincide with my Dad's birthday. After booking our tickets, a Google search on Santa Fe activities revealed that our weekend was also the week of the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta. Bonus!!

Santa Fe is known for being a big artist community. To soak in some of the local culture, I even bought something from a struggling artist. I like to give back like that. But where we truly gave back was to the fine restauranteurs, bartenders and waitstaff of Santa Fe. We stayed at the Inn of the Governors- a short walk from the historic Santa Fe plaza. This hotel is not overly expensive and nicely decorated in a Southwestern motif. The Ritz, it ain't, but it suited us perfectly. The thing that was most memorable about the place, though, was the margaritas they served in the downstair saloon- Del Charro. They pour the glass and give you the rest of the shaker which easily fills the glass another three times. We leisurely drank our ritas while my Dad opened his birthday presents.

We stayed in Santa Fe for three nights and had three very different meals. Night one was La Plazuela at the La Fonda hotel. I had heard about their tableside guacamole and the pictures of the indoor courtyard setting looked perfect for a first night. The guacamole was good and fresh, but I did wonder if I make a better one at home. The remainder of the meal was somewhat unmemorable, but they may have been due to the aforementioned margaritas. Did I mention the shaker could refill your glass three times?

The next morning, we visited the Georgia O'Keeffe museum and then got on the bus to take us to the Wine & Chile Fiesta. This festival is located several miles out of town in the parking lot of the Santa Fe Opera. Four massive tents all serving bites from the best restaurants in town. Next to each restaurant was a vineyard serving several varietals. With the exception of having red wine spilled on my pants (not by me) and my Dad losing his glasses, this was a great event. (Though after attending numerous beer festivals in my life, I had to adjust to the "pacing" concept of a wine festival.)

Night two was the somewhat famous Coyote Cafe. I was a bit leery of this at first since it seemed to be the touristy place to go. Man am I glad I didnt get scared off. It has a modern look to it with an open kitchen, and a trendy feel. And the meal was outstanding. We started with the surf and turf tartare- beef tartare paired with tuna sashimi. The presentation was on this ridiculously long platter that spanned past the edges of the table. Beef on one end, tuna on the other, and the accoutrements in the middle, including a quail egg. My main course was killer as well. Twin mesquite-rubbed lobster tails over pappardelle, served with a spicy, red cream and chile sauce. Wow. If you go here, consider stopping at the rooftop deck for a margarita.

For our last night, we went old school to a restaurant called the Old House. This is located in the El Dorado hotel and is much more white tablecloth/fine dining than Coyote Cafe. Small plates of complimentary salmon mousse to start and cabernet sorbet to cleanse the pallet were nice surprises. This was my big meat night, and I went with the Veal Delmonico, which was served french cut, off the bone. The menu recommends a glass of wine for each entree and we were more than happy to take their recommendation. All in all, this was a great way to end a great trip, as we headed home the next morning.