Ta­que­ria del Sol co-owner’s cook­book get­ting na­tional at­ten­tion

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My fa­vorite lunch spot is Ta­que­ria del Sol on Cheshire Bridge Road (2165 Cheshire Bridge Road, 404-321-1118, www.taque­ri­adel­sol.com). I’ve been go­ing there since the early ’90s, when it first opened as Sun­down Café. Chef/co-owner Ed­die Her­nan­dez brought a break-through cui­sine to the city: a hy­brid of clas­sic Mex­i­can, Tex-Mex and, most orig­i­nally, south­ern cooking. The dish that earned him im­me­di­ate na­tional at­ten­tion was his turnip greens, which he cooks Mex­i­can-style in chicken stock with toma­toes and chilies in­stead of the ham-hock-in­fused broth my mother and gen­er­a­tions of other South­ern women used.

Now, those turnip greens have lent their name to a cook­book, “Turnip Greens & Tor­tillas,” au­thored by Her­nan­dez and Su­san Puck­ett, for­mer food ed­i­tor at the At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion. The book will be re­leased on April 10 and has al­ready caught na­tional at­ten­tion, in­clud­ing an en­dorse­ment from leg­endary French chef Jac­ques Pépin, whose cover blurb says it all: “Ed­die Her­nan­dez cooks my type of food — hon­est, thrifty, and full of fla­vor — us­ing fresh, in­ex­pen­sive and or­di­nary in­gre­di­ents.”

The 320-page book is mainly recipes, of course, but it also tells Her­nan­dez’s sur­pris­ing story. Born in Mon­ter­rey, Mex­ico, he learned to cook from his grand­mother and, when he turned 15, he bought a car and opened a torta stand. But his main pas­sion in his teens was mu­sic. He started a band, Fasci­nación, with friends and they moved to Hous­ton when he was 17, hop­ing to land a record­ing contract. That didn’t hap­pen, but Her­nan­dez spent the next decade bang­ing drums and hold­ing day jobs in fac­to­ries and restau­rants. Then, in 1987, he moved to At­lanta and got a waiter’s job at El Azteca, south of the city in Mcdonough, owned by Mike Klank. He soon be­came chef, and his odd­ball blend of south­ern and Mex­i­can cuisines at­tracted food­ies (in­clud­ing me) from all over the city. Then Klank and Her­nan­dez opened their first restaurant on Cheshire Bridge. Now, there are five Ta­que­ria del Sol lo­ca­tions, in­clud­ing one in Athens.

If by some bizarre chance you have never vis­ited Ta­que­ria del Sol, let me ex­plain a few things. The main menu is tacos and en­chi­ladas. Ev­ery week, there are three specials — a taco, a blue plate en­tree and, evenings, there is also a seafood plate. Lines are typ­i­cally long at all lo­ca­tions, but move quickly. Here’s a tip: You can of­ten avoid the line by go­ing di­rectly to the bar where par­ties of one or two are wel­come. Tip de­cently, for god’s sake.

If you’re feel­ing ad­ven­tur­ous, get the cook­book. The great ma­jor­ity of the recipes are easy to fol­low, thanks in great part to Su­san Puck­ett’s skills. It’s also a chance to read an in­spir­ing story. Did I men­tion Her­nan­dez was mayor of a small Mex­i­can town for a while? The man is kind and gifted in ways few are.

Cliff Bo­s­tock is a for­mer psy­chother­a­pist now spe­cial­iz­ing in life coach­ing. Contact him at 404-518-4415 or cliff­bo­[email protected]

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