Shorty’s was an impulse try one evening when my wife wanted something new in our repetoire. This is a restaurant whose reputation is heavily influenced by Jimmy, who reviewed it in Eat It Atlanta’s pizza tour. In his review of the restaurant he says:

Everything was in balance though. The dough wasn’t soggy. There was a noticeable amount of sauce. You could taste the mozzarella. And the pizza with toppings tasted fresh and didn’t weigh down the pizza.

I’m mentioning this now because this comment has set my expectations of Shorty’s for a while.

And having set the scene, I’m going to diverge for a bit and talk about Shorty’s plates. They have small plates, tapas inspired, and large plates. One of the large plates has 4 falafel and those caught my wife’s eye. Turns out, this was the best thing we ate that night.

Crunchy. Delightful.

Crunchy. Delightful.

The falafel were crunchy and delightful. The restaurant in general has a good eye for ingredients and tremendous creativity in terms of their various plates and pizza combinations, pizza names for that matter. What I have never been able to do is duplicate the eating experience as in the Jimmy quote above.

Great ingredients. Hilarious names. Ordinary crust.

Great ingredients. Hilarious names. Ordinary crust.

What I get in a Shorty’s pizza (I’ve been three times, twice to the Tucker location and once to the Decatur location) is some crisp around the edges and a soggy mess in the middle. It’s frustrating. You get the impression they know about good crisp crusts, but the pizza chefs, when I’ve been there, couldn’t execute. In terms of quality, I’d say that Hearth Pizza Tavern has a better crust and is far more consistent. And it makes me want to do this to their pie sometime, to see if it’s recoverable.

So I recommend this spot with some cautions. The inventiveness and creativity of the menu makes it worth a trip, but be warned, I’ve yet to see the crust and pizza that Jimmy thought so much of.

Shorty’s Pizza
2884 N Druid Hills Road
Atlanta, GA 30329
(404) 315-6262

Shorty's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Shorty’s Pizza
3701 Lawrenceville Hwy
Tucker, GA 30084
(770) 414-6999

Shorty's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Greater Good barbecue occupies a large rambling bit of property on Hugh Howell, about a block and a half from where highway 29 veers off the road, and roughly opposite the Moes (what used to be a Tanner’s not all that long ago) and the Publix on the other side of the street. If you’re familiar with Sangria’s, it’s a bit further east than Sangria’s. I’ll note that both Atlanta etc and Marie Let’s Eat reviewed this place, pushing it into Urbanspoon’s top 10 Talk of the Town, and I can’t help but wonder if Grant’s puzzlement over that consequence wasn’t a contributing factor in the ongoing Urbanspoon war over the Talk of the Town statistic.

The restaurant has some talented owners, as the folks who run Fellini’s Pizza are in the mix. I suspect that’s pushed foodie hopes up high. And what I can say, in all honesty, only echoes the current consensus, which is that Greater Good is real barbecue, real smoked meat, but not really all that.

Ribs and Chicken. Ribs were pretty ordinary as real smoked meats go, the chicken was decent ‘cue.

Side of a rib, showing any smoke ring.

Decent sides, but a forgettable brisket.

My daughter enjoyed her pulled pork.

We had ribs, chicken, brisket, and pulled pork. My daughter likes her pulled pork soft, and Greater Good delivered in that regard. Whether it was smoked to any real degree, I’ll defer to the expertise of Marie Let’s Eat. The ribs had a smoke ring and a clear smoked smell. They left the smoky scents on my fingers, but otherwise, it was perhaps the faintest smoke and flavor I’ve run into in ages. If Heirloom BBQ ribs are an “A’. and Spiced Right (with the new owners and “on their horse”) ribs are a “B+”, these rank somewhere between a “B-” and a “C”.

The chicken was a better meat. Smoky, tasty, crusty, nicely flavored, perhaps the best thing I ate at Greater Good. I had the brisket and it was largely forgettable. Yes, smoked, you could tell that, but with good brisket available in plenty of spots (examples are here and here and and here), and this place perhaps having a fair chicken and pulled pork, don’t bother with this brisket.

I’d class this place as suitable for some pulled pork, chicken, decent beer, a place to stretch – the building is very large – perhaps maybe watch a game, have some fun. And as it’s new, there is room for improvement. The new owners of Spiced Right got better, after all. But right now in so many ways, they are not even competition for Spiced Right. That’s a problem, as I worked in Tucker back when the original owner of Spiced Right was there, and that Lilburn eatery had a formidable local reputation in the day.

Greater Good Barbecue
4431 Hugh Howell Road
Tucker, GA 30084
(770) 908-8164

The Greater Good Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Probably better with a plate of rice, but still quite good, Yum Yum Thai’s mussels have a touch of spice and a pleasing amount of sweet peppers to match.

Yum Yum Thai
3977 Lawrenceville Hwy
Tucker, GA 30084
(770) 496-0307

Yum Yum Thai on Urbanspoon

Always a go to place for good plants, good fertilizers and good advice, I have to say that Pike Family Nurseries made my day when they actually had peat pots, and peat pellets in stock right when tomatoes should be planted in this zone. They also have a good looking selection of seeds, including some heirloom plant varieties.

Pike Family Nurseries
6100 Lawrenceville Highway
Tucker GA
(770) 921-8880

Perhaps I should say that Jason’s Deli is one of my wife’s favorite restaurants and I don’t favor it nearly as much. She likes the salad bar, the choices they offer. I dislike the cramped, crowded environment, the feeling I’m sharing space with someone’s baby carriage, or perhaps their elbow or loud, obnoxious child. There is no such thing as privacy in Jason’s Deli. That said, the sandwiches are pretty good and it’s hardly the worst place to be at during lunch.

Verdict: If you can handle being packed in like a sardine, it’s not a bad place for lunch. Recommended.

Jason’s Deli
4073 Lavista Road
Tucker, GA 30084
(770) 493-4020

Jason's Deli on Urbanspoon

Sangrias is a subtle restaurant, easy to underestimate if you don’t pay attention. There is a slightly subversive element in how they prepare and present their Mexican favorites, trying to be about 95% traditional and 5% creative.  They serve up dishes: pork ranchero and carnitas michoachan style and they look normal, as if they could have come out of any Atlanta chain. Then you try their tomatillo sauce and whoa.. hardly Atlanta Tex Mex.

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pork rancheros.

carnitas

carnitas

It’s a game they play throughout the menu, of trying to appear the way customers would want their food and then adding just a twist to keep people from going, “same old same old”. And of course it’s just about impossible to understand unless you show up on Tuesday nights, when the owner begins to show off his Puerto Rican roots and pulls out Puerto Rican dishes. I recently had their biftec encebollado, a thin marinated steak served with a lot of red beans and white rice. This leads to a story that one of my coworkers once told me:

I go on Tuesday nights and I get their camarones a la criolla and I mix it with everything: the white rice, the red beans, everything. I really like it. The owner walks by and asks me, surprised, “What are you doing to my dish?” And I reply, “It’s good – want to try  some?”

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Perhaps the best dish my family has had their recently is their tacos asada, which can be steak, chicken or pork served “asada style”. It’s a new dish on the menu, and close in character to the tacos you can get at the mom n’ pop taquerias. Yes, Sangrias pays attention to trends.

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Service here is good, but depending on where you sit, it can sometimes be slow. There is a bar area, with televisions and such, and it tends to be understaffed. The people watching at the bar, though, is great. Thin men in brown tanned skin, ponytails, and cowboy gear sit next to pale IT pros in kahkis and blues. The ethnic mix of customers is a spectrum of colors.

Also noteworthy, the cheesecake flan of Sangria’s has a well deserved reputation.

In short, this isn’t a place where it pays to be too traditional or formal with the menu. You need to explore, because Sangrias, to use a musical analogy, isn’t playing classical from sheet music. This is a jazz joint, ad libbing on the edges of more formal music, and it’s in the specials, the Tuesday nights, the new dishes, where you can hear this restaurant really belt one.

Verdict: Classic Mexican and border favorites with a subversive twist here and there. Highly recommended.

Sangria’s Mexican Cafe
4369 Hugh Howell Road
Tucker, GA 30084
(770) 270-1777

Sangria's Mexican Cafe on Urbanspoon

Notes: Sangria’s is in a strip mall dominated by an abandoned Ace Hardware store, roughly opposite the Publix shopping center. It doesn’t face the Hugh Howell side, and facing the empty Ace building, is actually on the left hand side. You should see a bunch of cars parked there. Yes, they’re all going to Sangria’s.

Taqueria Los Hermanos is a small Atlanta based chain that began in Tucker, added a location in Lilburn and has expanded into Lawrenceville.  I found them when I used to live a stone’s throw from Tucker, decided it was good and a bargain, and I have eaten there ever since. I have reviewed the Lilburn location and liked it, but that was prior to having a good camera and photographing food routinely. So I went back to the Tucker location, took photos, and will try once again to explain, for so many northeast OTPers, what the fuss is all about.

Daily specials at Taqueria Los Hermanos in Tucker

Daily specials at Taqueria Los Hermanos in Tucker

To misquote James Carville, it’s the tacos, stupid. TLH has some decent burritos and they almost always offer fancier specials, but the tacos are what bring people back. And it has to be understood that the typical Los Hermanos fan lives near the eatery.  Outside of the mom and pop taqueria joints his or her regional options are otherwise chains. So, you can have that generic ground beef taco or you can have one of TLH’s tacos. And to be plain, the pastor wins.

This taqueria not only offers a choice of meats it offers a choice between different flavorings in meats.  I usually buy a carnitas taco (shredded pork in a green tomatillo sauce) and the pastor taco (marinated pork in a red chile-tomatillo sauce). This is what these two tacos look like.

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Carnitas taco, with tomatillo sauce

Pastor taco

Pastor taco

Notice the difference in the sauces? Notice the difference in the way the pork is cut up and prepared? The result is flavor and texture differences that are not to be missed. When I first starting coming here, I would get the pastor, the carnitas and the fish taco. Taqueria Los Hermanos has an excellent fish taco. This time I tried the cesina taco, which looks like this.

cesina taco, with marinated steak as the filling.

cesina taco, with marinated steak as the filling.

The cesina and the asada tacos offer potential taste and flavor differences as well. It’s this kind of upgrade over Taco Bell style tacos and the flavor contrasts that bring people here again and again.

Taqueria Los Hermanos has a good salsa and usually has good dry chips. I caught a few bad chips this time I went, which really isn’t like them. I’ll note that my daughter likes their asada burrito, and has had good luck with it.

Now, as time has gone on, other places on the northeast side of Atlanta have begun to catch up with this formula. El Jinete, for example, offers a variety of tacos. Most chains, however, want you to buy three of the same kind of taco. There isn’t any choice allowed. And the mom and pop taquerias offer much the same flavors of tacos at half the price. But the mom n’ pops offers tacos that are half the size too, and not everyone is comfortable in a restaurant where they are the only English speaker.

This leads to the final advantage of the Lilburn and Tucker Taqueria Los Hermanos chains: they’re very well located for someone who is shopping. The Tucker location is right by a Publix. The Lilburn location is at the intersection of two major roads in this part of town.

Verdict: Inexpensive and good a la carte tacos power this chain. Highly Recommended.

Taqueria Los Hermanos
4418 Hugh Howell Rd
Tucker, GA 30084
(678) 937-0660

Taqueria Los Hermanos (Tucker) on Urbanspoon