It was a comment by a chef at Fox Brothers that led us to Holy Taco. He said he enjoyed eating at Holy Taco with his wife, that he liked the kind of food they made. That was enough of a hint to track this place down and take an online peek. What I saw was quite appealing. The menu is broad and interesting. There were clear signs  of Central American, Cuban, and Spanish influence in the offerings.  There was a solid review by Bob Townsend of the AJC. The tacos were cheap and they had a lot more than just tacos. A myriad of sauces, sandwiches, and entrees made trying the place a priority.

Holy Taco is on Glenwood Avenue, a couple minutes from exit 61B on I-20, and has chest high rectangular lights outside that make it easy to spot. Otherwise it’s a low lying building built of cinder blocks and painted a dark green outside. There is parking behind the restaurant. There is a ton of outdoor seating and plenty of indoor seating as well. Inside, the walls are a light green, the tables and chairs are of burnished metal, and the lighting .. plenty of it and dropping from the ceiling .. looks as if the shades were constructed from 3 quart metal mixing bowls. The metalwork on the walls, Christian crosses and all, there is no way I’m doing it justice with mere words. A blogger with a camera phone really needs to stalk this place.

We ordered a lot of food by the time we were done. We ordered chicken, chicken heart, beef tongue and fish tacos. We ordered the stock salsa (Equadorian), their habanero salsa and their salsa verde. I ordered a quinoa salad. My wife ordered plantains and my daughter ordered their paella. We also ordered a side of their saffron rice.

The chips, when they arrived, were obviously bread (perhaps a pita bread) fried on site, brown and crisp. They tended to be a little greasy. In that respect they remind me of the old Lady Bird Johnson recipe for “noche specials”:

In the 60's, if you wanted chips, you had to make them.

In the 60's, if you wanted chips, you had to make them.

If you want dry chips, this isn’t your place, to be sure. The salsas were good. The Equadorian is a decent staple salsa. The salsa verde is very mild, with actually a sour flavor and no heat that I can detect. Their habanero sauce was good and hot but not exceptionally fiery. I saw my wife pour about a third of the steel cup we received of the habanero sauce onto one taco. The habanero was the salsa we liked the best.

The tacos were smallish, maybe 3-4 bites of food each. You could get them in corn or flour tortillas. The chicken was good, with plenty of marinated meat and full of flavor. My wife finished hers entirely. I liked my fish taco, though my memory of it by now is a little vague. The chicken heart taco turned out to have more crust than I would have liked, but still earthy and good. The star of the evening was the lengua (beef tongue) taco. The meat was so soft, creamy, and tasty, mixed with a bit of cilantro, that it blew away every other taco I tried. To me, the lengua taco was a home run.

The quinoa salad was excellent. It had a red quinoa as the base, with slivers of cooked garlic, green bits of herb, and slivers of white vegetable on an oval plate. My wife loved the taste of it, and she’s been hesitant about quinoa in the past. The dressing .. I could taste lime juice and perhaps another sour component (vinegar?), and some oil.  When I asked our waiter to ask the chef what was in the dressing, we were later told “garlic, olive oil and parsley”.

The plantains were flattened into something the size and shape of silver dollar pancakes and fried. They were crunchy and good to my taste, but my wife didn’t care for them. I don’t think they looked the way she wanted them to. The saffron rice was cooked with too much water and ended up a little gummy. It also was a little salty.

My daughter gave a thumbs up to her paella. We avoided the rice, but the shrimp (grilled tasting and excellent), the mussels (really good), and the chicken (also full of flavor) were worth it.  We took some of the paella home.

Service was quite good. My daughter declared that our waiter was “cute”, and the waitstaff in general were informally dressed, attractive, and attentive.

Verdict: Not for someone who needs everything on the menu to be perfect. Holy Taco, however, is full of original food that is pleasing to the eye and tongue, and very highly recommended for the adventurous.

Holy Taco
1314 Glenwood Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30316

Holy Taco on Urbanspoon

To get to Holy Taco from Snellville, take 78 South to 285, 285 South to I-20 West, I-20 West to exit 61B (turn left onto Glenwood). In about 3 minutes, Holy Taco will appear on your right.

Mojito’s Cuban-American Bistro is a pretty little restaurant in downtown Norcross on Peachtree, run by the Fernandez-Cortez family. I commute through Norcross in the evenings, and it had caught my eye while commuting, the name etched gracefully in script in their windows. Once inside, it’s far longer than it is wide, with wood paneling being the dominant interior element, and ceiling fans pointing the way to the back of the room.

Once inside, I was quickly seated, though the staff expressed concern about a party that was being held nearby, the noise that they might make. I assured them it wasn’t a concern and then got lost in their menu.

The most attractive dish to me was their shrimp creole, but I have Louisiana roots and I didn’t want my expectations of what a Louisiana shrimp creole is to diminish any feelings about the Cuban recipe. So I ordered a ropa viejo instead. This is a beef brisket simmered with peppers and onions in a tomato sauce. In the meantime I ordered beef empanadas as an appetizer.

The menu warns customers that the food may be a little slower than they might get from a chain, and the staff were obviously concerned about their party. And it did take a bit longer than a stock chain might, but it was rather pleasing watching staff of all ages, from the very young to grandfatherly men serving food to customers.

About the time the empanadas arrived, the owner appeared and introduced himself, and warned me that the sauce with the empanadas was habanero based and might be a little hot. I’m glad for the warning because it is hot, but not “to die a small death” hot. The empanadas were very good, by the way, nice crusty pastry stuffed with a mix of juicy meats and root vegetable. And the empanadas and the habanero sauce was enough to fulfill any need I had for complex flavor and heat.

I didn’t let them take that habanero sauce after the empanadas were gone, it was too good to leave behind.

The rojo vieja arrived, a decent sized serving and it was good. The meat was very tender, the rich tomato flavor came through clearly. It was not at all spicy, but I hated to waste that good habanero sauce, so I spiced up mine. There was white rice, black beans, and plantains with the dish, and the black beans and rice were good, but the plantains were excellent. They were a little crunchy outside, and creamy inside.

I picked up two desserts to go, fried plantains for my wife and a mango pie for my daughter and myself. My wife loved the plantains and she’s by far the pickiest eater in the family. The mango pie was also quite good.

The prices in Mojitos are reasonable, about 8 to 9 dollars for sandwiches, and entrees run from 10 dollars to 16 dollars. A typical entree costs 12 to 13 dollars.

Service is generally good. They are a family owned restaurant, so they don’t have an army of staff. They were focused on the big party when I arrived, but that soon ended and people, food and questions flowed my way. They ask the right questions, they do genuinely try to see that you’re comfortable, they are friendly and chatty and the owner comes out and speaks with you.

Verdict: Recommended, especially if you like tropical food. After trying the plantains, my wife told me I have to take her here soon, sometime.

Mojitos Cuban-American Bistro
35 South Peachtree Street,
Norcross GA, 30071.
(770)-441-2599

Mojito's Cuban-American Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tip:

You can get from Snellville to downtown Norcross quickly if you use the access road that parallels I-85 on the west, Brook Hollow Parkway. Take Ronald Reagan to Pleasant Hill, Pleasant Hill to I-85 S. Exit I-85 S at Indian Trail and at the intersection, head straight, do not turn left or right. Stay on the Parkway until you reach Mitchell Road. Turn right on Mitchell and take the road until you can go no further. At this point you are in Norcross and three turns from Peachtree Street (left, right, left).