One night a few weekends ago, LC and I had the use of a limo and thought we’d check out the burgeoning Westside. We started at Bartaco, the much-anticipated casual Mexican sister of Barcelona Wine Bar, the popular Spanish tapas spot in Inman Park. I was surprised to discover the connection between the two restaurants and even more shocked when I found out Atlanta is the fifth Bartaco location. The others are in Connecticut and New York.
So it’s a chain. However, Barcelona (and others, like Davio’s) has proven that small quality-driven chains are a far cry from the likes of Red Lobster or Applebee’s. Our visit was on a bustling Saturday night and Bartaco was packed, but it wasn’t long before two prime seats opened at the bar. The tiki-inspired decor sets the mood for margaritas and tacos.
The menu is lengthy, offering a variety of proteins in tacos or rice bowls with a dizzying assortment of sides…everything from chicken soup to black bean salad. A chef’s selection of tacos, guacamole, tamales and sides is available in small or large trays, however, LC and I decided to create our own starting with guacamole and a couple of cocktails.
I tried a Pisc-eau Sour made with pisco, apricot Eau de Vie, lemon, Tiki Bitters, and egg white for froth. LC ordered their signature Bartaco margarita made with fresh lime and Luxardo triple sec. Tasty.
Rather than rectangular chips, Bartaco fries super-thin corn tortillas and serves them whole. We broke them into pieces and snacked on the chunky guacamole as we decided on a smorgasbord of small plates to try; a curry shrimp taco, another with sesame ribeye, a pork tamale, grilled corn, plantains, and a rice bowl with duck.
Tacos are made with tiny corn tortillas. Fillings are wildly creative with several vegetarian options including falafel and cauliflower. Wild boar and pork belly are a couple of the more exotic offerings for us carnivores. I was particularly fond of our sesame ribeye selection.
I love plantains and ate more than my fair share in Jamaica and Hawaii. Here, they were perfectly caramelized and chewy on the outside, tender and sweet on the inside. The grilled corn was equally impressive, charred then slathered with cayenne butter, lime, and crumbled cotija cheese.
Our pork tamale was pretty substantial, its tender filling enveloped by the dense and flavorful masa. Only after it arrived did I realize I had intended to order the mushroom mole tamale…sounds awesome. Now on our second round of drinks, including a couple of shots of tequila, we inquired about the rice bowl. We were assured it was coming soon.
But not before a third round of drinks (don’t forget, we had a limo). Through the tequila haze, I spotted some long lost friends across the bar. Turned out, it was DD’s birthday. The rice bowl finally arrived, a sizable portion of sliced duck with a sauce that reminded me of Hawaiian barbecue. It would have been great with the plantains, but I had already polished those off.
Despite our long list of Mexican tapas, we still had room for an order of churros generously sprinkled with sugar and served with chocolate sauce for dipping. Then we grabbed DD and her friends, jumped in the limo and headed off into the night.
Chances are good you’ll find me on Bartaco’s large patio as soon as the temperature hits 78 degrees next spring, margarita in hand.
969 Marietta Street NW 404-607-8226