Atlanta restaurant reviews, culinary news, and gluttonous gossip by admitted foodaholic Serina Patrick

Habanero Salsa and Other Delights at El Taco


Too exhausted to cook, LC and I often find ourselves in a quandary after late nights at the office. Luckily, I live in the Virginia Highlands with everything from organic burgers to sustainable seafood a few minutes from my condo….as long as we can find parking, that is.

A recent evening found us driving towards my place, him in a suit, me in workout clothes, both ravenous. Often, we end up at Goin’ Coastal or Yeah! Burger, but I was craving something else, something spicy. So we met at El Taco, where the parking is plentiful. The traffic on the way, however, was reason enough to start with skinny margaritas (not like we really needed a reason). An extra shot of tequila on the side hit the spot.

Although LC said he didn’t want to eat many chips, we emptied the basket with the arrival of some queso. A trip to their awesome salsa bar added fuel to the fire (or vice versa) as we dipped into my favorites, their scorching hot habanero mango salsa, roasted tomato salsa, and chopped cilantro.

Rather than our usual tacos, we wanted to try an El Taco original, the Mexican pizza, flipping a coin to decide between homemade chorizo and carnitas. Chorizo won the toss. An enormous super-thin masa crust is covered with black beans, chorizo, queso fresco, jalapenos, avocado, radish, and fresh lettuce and tomato, then finished with a drizzle of crema. It was a delicious mess that would make a great appetizer for a large table or a hearty meal for two. We had to take some home, which was devoured later for a midnight snack.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, the whole clan met at the Botanical Gardens for their holiday light show. It was unfortunately freezing ass cold, so we bundled up, sipped some hot chocolate, then headed to El Taco. It was the day after Christmas and the place was packed. The only table large enough to accommodate our group of ten was on the patio which was surprisingly toasty.

This time we started with a pitcher of skinny margaritas and the standard chips with guacamole, queso, and salsa. I got a little dish of the habanero mango salsa to see if the boys could take the heat. Their mouths on fire, attention was quickly diverted by the announcement that the prize wheel was about to spin. Despite having ten numbered wooden nickles, no free drinks or desserts for us.

Plate after plate of fajitas and tacos arrived. For me, a steak taco and a roasted chicken taco, both requested in corn tortillas, were warmly satisfying. Charred jalapenos and chopped cilantro make these far better than average.

Everyone enjoyed their Mexican meal, from the teens to grumps himself. There’s nothing like some habanero salsa to warm you up on a cold Winter’s night.

1186 N. Highland Avenue 404-873-4656


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