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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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30 Restaurants in 30 Days: Taqueria la Oaxaquena

photo-18I am loath to declare any restaurant “best this” or “best that.” But if anyone can find me a better Mexican restaurant in all of the metro area than Jonesboro’s Taqueria la Oaxaquena, I’ll eat this fine fellow’s sombrero.

I first discovered this restaurant several years ago when I was hot on the trail of the elusive tlayuda — an enormous corn masa crisp slathered with bean puree and covered in a riot of cheese, meat and crispy vegetables. It is a specialty from Oaxaca (the southern Mexican state famous for its mole sauces, among other culinary treats). I discovered that just about any restaurant with the word “oaxaquena” in the name would like likely serve tlayudas.

At the time of my discovery, Taqueria la Oaxaquena operated from a smaller storefront around the corner from its current location. It did an extremely brisk business, and many among the mostly Mexican customers went for the tlayudas (sometimes called “Mexican pizza” and, indeed, served to go in pizza boxes). But many more were eating tortas (sandwiches), sopes (thick and crisp-bottomed corn masa boats with fillings), caldos (whole-meal soups made with beef or seafood) and tamales (served both in corn husks and, Oaxacan-style, in banana leaves). The menu was vast, and it seemed to have grown bigger every time revisited.

The current location, which the restaurant moved into earlier this year, has less character but more space. With its laminated booths and tile floors, it looks like the fast-food joint it once was (Captain D’s, I think, but correct me if I’m wrong). The great, great salsa bar (which also includes nopales (cactus paddle) salad, pickled carrots with clove and fresh radishes) warms things up.

Tlayuda in close up

Tlayuda in close up

The menu remains its big ol’ bodacious self. We have to get a tlayuda with marbles of chorizo and quesillo (Oaxacan string cheese, like mozzarella) shredded over the top. Ripe avocado, tomato, radish, frizzles of iceberg lettuce and roasted jalapeños complete the picture. Factor in the corn crust — which is alternately crisp, leathery, chewy and gooey — and you’re in texture heaven.

Also very good: the chicken mole tamale, wrapped in a banana leaf. I didn’t include a picture because it would look ugly and scary with its Army-green background and pockets of blackness. But this sloppy marvel has tender steamed masa stuffed in the folds of the leaf, so some parts are stiff like cornbread crust and others are tender like spoonbread.

photo-21

chicken mole

We also order this tamale-free platter of chicken mole, with a sauce as dark and glossy as hot tar. This sauce has lots of high raisiny and spice notes, but few of the bitter, chocolaty, herbal nuances of mind-blowing mole. Still, no complaints. Take one of the fragrant handmade tortillas (not pictured) and wrap up a saucy hunk of meat, and you’ll enjoy every bite of this dish.

shrimp and octopus tostada

shrimp and octopus tostada

Unable to resist the too-much-food imperative, the three of us also get this excellent shrimp and octopus tostada. The shrimp have a crisp snap, the octopus is tender and velvety, and it all tastes of bright, impeccable freshness.

Again, I ask: Is there a better Mexican restaurant in the city?

78 comments Add your comment

Pickles for Tbone

November 10th, 2009
11:58 am

I’m glad the folks on that side of town have a place to get great food now. My dad lived near there in Jonesboro for a while and I was always saddened by the lunch choices we had during my visits. This food looks and sounds very tempting. I’ll try to remember to check it out if I ever find myself on Mt Zion Rd. The dude in the sombrero and serape is kinda freakin’ me out, though.

Meredith

November 10th, 2009
12:03 pm

A lot of people would say Nuevo Laredo but I don’t think that place lives up the hype (or the wait!!!) anymore.

Coming from Arizona, I don’t think Atlanta has many good Mexican restaurants. Too often Tex Mex (Pappasito’s, Tin Lizzy’s) is confused with real Mexican food.
I am personally a fan of Los Reyes in Marietta. If I’m ever in Jonesboro I’ll have to check this place out.

Pat

November 10th, 2009
12:07 pm

Can’t say it’s true Mexican, but Nuevo Laredo Cantina on Chattahoochee has two dishes I continue to love. The brisket tacos and the Chicken Mole Enchiladas. Plus, my wife can eat there (she’s a Celiac) b/c they don’t put bread crumbs in the mole sauce for thickener.

Pat

November 10th, 2009
12:11 pm

Thanks for the info though. I’m always looking for a good Mexican place besides Nuevo Laredo (a little pricey for what it is).

Oh and by the way, since you weren’t a fan of Mary Mac’s sides, you should definitely try JCT Kitchen. I’m always wary of contemporary takes on Southern food, but the fried chicken w/ mac n’ cheese is awesome.

Call the Health Department

November 10th, 2009
12:26 pm

The kitchen at Nuevo Laredo Cantina on Chattahoochee looks like it used to be a bathroom.

I have not been back there after I learned that, and I start to [regurgitate] whenever I think about it.

RK

November 10th, 2009
12:28 pm

Where is Jonesboro? I had to look that one up…is there a better Mexican restaurant in the city (I assume you mean Atlanta)? Doubtful — I still haven’t found great tacos al pastor, but I found passable ones on Beaver Ruin Rd years ago (they were a bit greasy, because they weren’t on a spit).

Ashley

November 10th, 2009
12:31 pm

El Rey del Taco on Buford Highway is the best, most authentic Mexican place I’ve been to in the metro Atlanta area. Their tacos are delicious, with only the freshest ingredients. It’s a fairly no-nonsense place and is open late.

Michael Scharff

November 10th, 2009
12:34 pm

John,
I just discovered this series yesterday on-line. I would be very appreciative if y’all could please add a link for an archive of the restaurants you have visited prior to today. Thanks!

Michael Scharff

November 10th, 2009
12:35 pm

Can you please add a link to the restaurants you have visited prior to today in this series?
Thanks.

Michael Scharff

November 10th, 2009
12:41 pm

I apologize for the duplicate request – I experienced problems with the site and did not realize I had posted twice.

janet

November 10th, 2009
12:44 pm

For excellent Enchiladas with Mole on the Northside, try THE BRIDGE in Roswell. It is small and in the middle of a small strip center on Alpharetta Hwy near Holcomb Bridge Rd. The food is honest with clean flavors. Real tablecloths and napkins, a small bar for drinks. I grew up in California with Mexican neighbors and find most Mexican restaurants in Atlanta are not serving anything a Mexican would eat. Too much gloppy white cheese covering everything.
I am not Mexican but do make my own chile rellenos, enchiladas. And I buy my tamales at Trader Joes…they are good.

brenda

November 10th, 2009
12:44 pm

Bonegarden Cantina is unique, fresh, and yummy. Make sure to try the soup-hominy, avocado, chicken, and peppers.

Fred

November 10th, 2009
12:46 pm

My wife said i should have been born a Mexican since I love Mexican food so much. Funny thing is that I really don’t care for the tex-mex crap that most places call mexican food. Take your nasty fajita’s and bland salsa and go sit at taco bell thank you very much.

I’ll have to try this place. Do they have pozole? Right or wrong, I judge a Mexican place by their pozole. Good pozole, good place lol. Unfortunately that is a soup that us gringo’s just haven’t caught on to. I’d ask if you had tried it John but since you had never had a tomato sammich…………..

there is a place called La Sabrosita (I probably misspelled it, sorry) on 29 in Lilburn that is pretty authentic. My favorite dish there is the shrimp La Sabrosita. It is shrimp with a slightly spicy tomatillo sauce. I have not found anything similar at another Mexican place, but my friends say the tomatillo sauce is a fairly standard Mexican sauce, used with beef, pork, and chicken as well. Took me forever to figure out how to make it, but it was worth it. Try there sometimes John, the owner is a bit grumpy but the food is great. LOL Get a fajita…………

Fred

November 10th, 2009
12:49 pm

The blog ate mycomment :(

Melissa's mom

November 10th, 2009
1:02 pm

Los Hermanos on Hugh Howell in Tucker is excellente! Try the chicken tortilla soup – flavorful broth with lots of chicken, avocado, rice, and tortilla strips. A cup will be enough for lunch. Or try the fish tacos or one of the seafood specials at night.

SusanE

November 10th, 2009
1:08 pm

Mi Barrio in Grant Park on Memorial Drive is run by a wonderful family and serves up some of the most amazing Mexican food I have ever eaten.

amber

November 10th, 2009
1:17 pm

i am enjoying this series! thanks for writing.

EB

November 10th, 2009
1:32 pm

Gordita’s La Racherita in Norcross is on par or better thatn La Oaxaquena.

RK

November 10th, 2009
1:36 pm

EB, that could be the one that I had the pastor in.

Josh

November 10th, 2009
1:55 pm

You probably haven’t dined at Tacqueria los Hermanos in Tucker! Now that is the best.

Jennifer

November 10th, 2009
2:17 pm

Taxco on Roswell Rd just inside the Perimeter is great!!

ziza

November 10th, 2009
2:17 pm

i have been to Taqueria la Oaxaquena several times and have loved it every time. i cannot stomach what passes for mexican in atlanta, except for a few dishes at a few places. and those dishes aren’t “mexican” now that i think about it lol. if you can (i know it’s a hike for alot of folks) check out Taqueria la Oaxaquena. it’s actually not too far from the airport if you’re out there picking up or dropping off. it’s a great experience and the food and staff are wonderful.

Jennifer

November 10th, 2009
2:17 pm

Enter your comments here

Texas Pete

November 10th, 2009
2:19 pm

I haven’t found any good mexican restaurants in this town yet, and I’ve lived here over a year. It’s all fake, imitation, tex-mex stuff. Where’s the real authentic mexican food around here? Not the americanized stuff that tastes like something from the freezer section at publix. If I can’t find any good food soon, I may move back to waco.

Katumjane

November 10th, 2009
2:23 pm

Bone Garden Cantina (near Nuevo Laredo) will have you eating that sombrero, Mr Kessler. I do not work there – just eat there. Very authentic and includes some of the same s. mexican fare that most restaurants do not offer. The Day of the Dead theme makes for a unique and satisfying atmosphere, and they have a great site to boot. http://www.bonegardencantina.com/

Joe

November 10th, 2009
2:29 pm

Jalisco in Buckhead! Best chips & salsa in town! Mmmm…

Vaty

November 10th, 2009
2:33 pm

This place is so good we eat there every Sunday. Their food is really mexican and really good.

Spacey

November 10th, 2009
2:35 pm

I’m with you, Melissa’s Mom! We ate at Los Hermanos last night. My husband is obsessed with the Sesena (sp?) tacos. Great food. The Specials are always a delight.

reservoirDAWG

November 10th, 2009
2:40 pm

Hey Texas Pete, good riddance.

Matt

November 10th, 2009
2:42 pm

This place is AWESOME!! I would agree that this is the best true Mexican resturant in town. Tacos are my favorite, but I’ve also had the Tlayuda as well and need to go back for that again, but with someone to share it with cause it’s just HUGE.

John Kessler

November 10th, 2009
2:57 pm

Fred: Try again! I want to hear what you have to say!
Taqueria Los Hermanos fans: I have eaten there and like it quite well, particularly on the weekends when they have tamales.
Janet: Trader Joe’s green chile and cheese tamales are my guilty pleasure
Michael. You can look on the blog for the “30 Restaurants in 30 Days” tag, and that will pull up all past entries. It’s about half the blog right now, and I bet we’ll archive them in an easy-to-find place once the series is over. But I have passed your comments along.
Other folks: thanks for the tips about Jalisco, Taxco and Gorditas la Rancherita! I’ll all them to the ever-expanding list!

janet

November 10th, 2009
3:32 pm

John, The green chile and cheese tamales from TJ’s are my favorite too.
I always keep them in the freezer for a quick meal.
And the best Chile Rellenos in the entire world are in Alameda, California at The Acapulco Restaurant on LIncoln Ave. I know it is a long ways from Atlanta but if any of the readers are going to the Bay Area…this is the first stop for sure. A family owned business for 55 years….I ate there twice a week for years. They do ship which is nice.

The Marshall's

November 10th, 2009
4:43 pm

La Casita in East Atlanta Village is our favorite!

Ga Peach

November 10th, 2009
5:12 pm

I love Jalisco, but I grew up eating there- I wouldn’t exactly call it the best, it’s more a happy food memory place. I would say that Gorditas La Rancherita is worth the trip.

Richard Bagge

November 10th, 2009
5:40 pm

Jalisco is certainly the finest of that old-style combo-plate Mexican restaurants, but since I discovered Bone Garden last month, I doubt I’ll try any other Mex-style restaurant ever again. Bone Garden’s ceviche is amazing, and that sauce they use for the camarones enchiladas is the best I’ve ever had.

F-105 Thunderchief

November 10th, 2009
6:36 pm

Awesome. I’m there, pal!

Boner

November 10th, 2009
8:06 pm

Bone Garden rawks! they got the best for mexico food yall lol ;0 They got this sauce I dont no wot it is but its the bizzer yo. Its green or something that owner dude is big to -damn roflmao Hiz up the BOne Garden nah I dont work there lol!

catalina

November 10th, 2009
10:03 pm

catalina in hapeville

Chad

November 10th, 2009
11:22 pm

I agree it’s quite good, but for me too far of a drive. Atlanta, for its size, has a terrible Mexican culinary market. I grew up in the southwest where excellent Mexican (and yes, even Tex-Mex) was a given. I spent much of my early time in Atlanta just trying to get beyond the La Parillas and finding a legitimate taco.

Luckily, I’ve found my fix for tortas, tacos, etc. Since la Oaxaquena is too far, I go with Mr. Taco in Roswell, San Miguel’s also in Roswell, El Rey del Taco on Buford Highway and Chicago Supermarket also on Buford Highway. Delicious chorizo, just about all I need for my fix.

Janeen

November 11th, 2009
12:54 am

This place is authentic in every way. In fact if you find better Mexican I’ll help John eat the sombrero. The food is plain good, no need for me to embellish. Just try it once and you’ll be figuring it into your budget(which the food is very affordable,but if you live far you will want to spend the gas to go there, trust me). Oh the tacos… my my my!

Baffled

November 11th, 2009
1:35 am

I never understood why the AJC’s staff loves this place so much. Maybe I went on an off night, but the service was terrible – slow beyond slow, and the staff seemed more interested in staring at my family than bringing us food. Then my tlayuda had not one but two shards of bone in the meat, and the goat meat in my husband’s dish had yet another. Are they using machetes in the kitchen? I felt lucky to escape without peritonitis.

Alece

November 11th, 2009
1:37 am

El Torero all the way!

john john

November 11th, 2009
3:26 am

Lazy Donkey in Carrollton has best of all.

Rich

November 11th, 2009
4:11 am

I have eaten mexican out of a radio flyer wagon with hot coals and some kind of meat cooking in it in Mexico, That is the best! Tell me more will ya!

Chip Shoulder

November 11th, 2009
8:58 am

I see Jennifer recommends Taxco as best Mexican in Atlanta. I’ll bet that’s the same Jennifer that recommended Pizza Hut’s Stuffed-Crust Ranch-Flavored Cheeze Explosion Pizza as Atlanta’s best pizza.

Yurtle_the_turtle

November 11th, 2009
9:39 am

Taqueria Los Hermanos, I am a fan! I love it there and try to go at least once a month. It is for the person looking for something good to eat, not the “Speedy Gonzalez with rice” or the “Lunch special #5″. Los Hermanos in Tucker (and now in Lawerenceville) is truly the best. Try anything there with steak (a specialty) or chicken. The beef is good, but their steak is flavored.

Anonymous

November 11th, 2009
11:10 am

Try it, I can’t even PRONOUNCE it!

Dawn

November 11th, 2009
11:59 am

I love Nuevo Larado shrimp tacos and Texas margaritas, Cinco de Mayo in Douglasville has great shrimp tacos . Lazy Donkey in Carrollton is yuk

John Kessler

November 11th, 2009
12:05 pm

Anonymous: la wa-ha-KEN-ya

JamC

November 11th, 2009
12:17 pm

Taqueria Los Hermanos in Tucker. Best Cal-Mex in town.