Uncle Julio’s is a chain that started in Dallas and is, in general, respected there and well appreciated by Texas expats.  And to make it clear, this is a border food restaurant. It says so explicitly on their catering truck. It says so implicitly in their choice of words and spellings, such as sopapilla instead of sopaipa. The former is used in what the Wikipedia calls the New Mexican style of sopapilla.

This particular Uncle Julio’s, a Sandy Springs location, opened Tuesday, November 18th. I actually dropped by on the 17th and they were handing out $10 discounts for showing up early. And I missed opening day, only to come back the next day. There was a large, but not overwhelming crowd. I managed to get a window seat and waited for the food. If I haven’t said already, it looks pretty good inside, the dominant elements (other than a very large amount of glass) are wood and plaster, with a whole lot of photos on the wall – vaqueros, mothers, sons, many still lifes. There are cow horns tacked on the wall and other indications that this didn’t come out of, oh, an environment such as Mexico City.

Waiters are well dressed, in white shirts and black aprons and ties. I asked some questions about fajitas (no, he didn’t know the meat they used on their fajitas. Yes, he did know that even at lunch, fajitas come out on metal plates), but drifted to the quail. Quail are what my globetrotting brother insists on when my family gets together for Christmas every year. Whether he come in from Stockholm, Berlin, Santiago, or Beijing, as regular as clockwork he wants his quail. So I couldn’t resist. Grilled quail is what I ordered.

First came a chipotle salsa and dry chips. The chipotle was rich in flavor and had a decent bite to it. The chips were excellent.

The quail, when it arrived, came on metal, but it really was a heavy duty plastic plate with a metal liner. This thing is much easier for a waiter to handle than a comal, and when it arrived, the plate was hot. The quail were flattened. I wasn’t quite used to that but the taste didn’t change. The quail were tasty and  tender and the grilled flavor came through. The grilled jalapeño looked so good I ate it. And it was fairly mild (as jalapeños go) until the very last bite, which packed a surprising punch. Delicious though.

The Spanish rice was good. The beans were rich in flavor but had too much salt for my tastes. I ordered extra pico de gallo and it was pretty good as well, though the tomato chunks had that “shipped green” feeling, hardly grown on the vine. The tortillas were good, and exceptionally soft. I was scooping up my sides and making soft tacos out of them.

About this time a group of 99X staffers showed up on a table next to mine. It was pretty obvious, as one of them had a station shirt on with the word STAFF in large letters. It was kind of fun, as this is one of the stations I listen to. I was also almost done at the moment, but managed to be talked into Uncle Julio’s sopapillas.

They’re cute. Smaller than I’m used to, they sometimes don’t open well and make it harder to pour honey inside. But yes, I felt almost transported back to Texas.

Verdict: Quality Tejano food at reasonable prices. Highly recommended.

Uncle Julio’s Fine Mexican Food
1140 Hammond Drive
Sandy Springs, GA 30328
(678) 736-8260

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