Keep­ing it ‘Rreal’ with au­then­tic Mex­i­can cui­sine

GA Voice - - Eating My Words - Cliff Bo­s­tock, PhD, is a long­time At­lanta food critic and for­mer psy­chother­a­pist who now prac­tices life coach­ing for cre­ative types; 404-518-4415. By CLIFF BO­S­TOCK

When I die and take my place at Satan’s din­ner ta­ble, I’ll be fre­quently order­ing spicy food from Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries. I’ve re­hearsed my af­ter­life twice in re­cent weeks. You’ll like th­ese places.

Rreal Tacos (110 6th St., 404-4585887, www.rre­al­ta­cos.com): This restau­rant in a shiny, non­de­script Mid­town build­ing was a shock. It’s rreal Mex­i­can for real, opened by Adrian Vil­lar­real, who worked with top chef Richard Blais at The Spence for a cou­ple of years.

Con­sider his full re­sume: he grew up in his fam­ily’s restau­rant busi­ness in Mon­ter­rey, at­tended Le Cor­don Bleu in Paris, where he worked in two pres­ti­gious restau­rants and earned a de­gree in eco­nom­ics. Be­fore tak­ing the helm at The Spence, he was at Joel and Tap. All of this has come to fruition with bril­liant but sub­tly riffed food.

The big deal is the tacos, of course. My fa­vorite is the trompo – pork roasted on a re­volv­ing spit with pineap­ple, smoky pep­pers, and spices. We know that as al pas­tor but Vil­lar­real ex­plained that it’s called trompo in his na­tive area of Mex­ico. There are car­ni­tas – my test of taque­rias in town, and Vil­lar­real’s are just about per­fect be­cause the meat is long-cooked and crisped, which most kitchens seem to avoid. An amaz­ing don’t-miss taco is the braised chicken Ve­r­acruzana with toma­toes, olives, ca­pers, gar­lic, and onion. Th­ese and four oth­ers, in­clud­ing a veg­gie one, are avail­able on flour or house­made corn tor­tillas. Stun­ning sal­sas, in­clud­ing my fa­vorite tomatillo, are avail­able for 50 cents along with free­bies like or­ganic shaved radishes and fresh jalapenos.

Don’t fail to or­der a few sides like gluten­free fried av­o­ca­dos with salsa or the deeply fla­vored ve­gan gua­jillo bean soup. There are many oth­ers in­clud­ing roasted lo­cal sweet pota­toes with crema and queso fresco. Still the best aguas fres­cas you’ve ever tasted.

One warn­ing: you won’t find chips and salsa, and you won’t need them. Vil­lar­real is clear why. He doesn’t want peo­ple sit­ting at ta­bles and only munch­ing them un­til they are too full to eat any­thing else. Prices, by the way, are very low. Tacos, for ex­am­ple, are only $2.99. There’s a $9.95 spe­cial of two tacos, a soda, and a side.

Las Deli­cias de la Abuela (5499 Bu­ford Hwy., 770-356-4451, las­deli­ci­as­de­laabue­laatl.com). This Colom­bian restau­rant’s name roughly trans­lates as “grand­mother’s de­lights.” A waiter plan­ning to open a restau­rant cater­ing to At­lanta’s enor­mous Colom­bian com­mu­nity re­cently re­ferred me to it. And speak­ing of “enor­mous,” that also de­scribes this restau­rant’s menu and por­tions.

You’re go­ing to prob­a­bly need some help with trans­la­tion. In my opin­ion the go-to dish here is the ban­deja de la abuela paisa be­cause it gives you a broad taste of the restau­rant’s spe­cial­ties. In­cluded are an arepa, rice, a hunk of sausage, an ad­mit­tedly tough but de­li­ciously sea­soned steak, av­o­ca­dos, a fried egg, a sweet plan­tain, and a pot of beans.

You might want to go on the week­end when there is a menu of more ex­otic spe­cial­ties like tongue and ox­tail, plus time-in­ten­sive stews. But any­time you go, it’s cheap, cheap, cheap.

The Ban­deja de la Abuela Pa­sia, a pop­u­lar dish on the menu at Las Deli­cias de la Abuela. (Photo by Cliff Bo­s­tock)

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