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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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30 Restaurants in 30 Days: Nuevo Laredo Cantina

nuevo2

Hello 12-year-old girl, I am your lunch

Every Saturday around noon I pick up my daughter from her fencing lesson on the Westside after a full morning of activity, and she is bouncy, sweaty, excited and starving. I can’t get lunch in her fast enough.

I don’t know why it had never occurred to me to take her to Nuevo Laredo Cantina until last week. I suppose because I put in the “margarita-swilling co-workers” category in my restaurant taxonomy. But, really, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, it has “starving child athletic team” written all over it.

Open since 1992, Nuevo Laredo feels like a much older restaurant for its meandering dining room crammed with tables at odd angles, for its surfeit of framed photos of celebrity guests, for its lightning-fast service, for the welcome way the salsa pot sticks to the adhesive surface of the laminated red-and-white checkered tablecloths. It feels good settling in here.

My kid got this chicken taco and cheese enchilada combination platter above ($8.95) and tore into it. Partway through, her fork landed with a clanging thud on the plate.

“Wow. This is really greasy, ” she said, humbled.

Sweetie, you don’t know the half of it.

Nuevo Laredo is greasy like nobody’s business, a trait I find equally scary and charming. I have to be in the right mood for this restaurant.

nuevo5I ordered this guacamole dip ($6.50) — an enormous portion of ripe mashed avocado goosed with a serious hit of hot chile. We had barely made a dent in it by time the entrees landed on the table.

I chose for my entree a plate of huevos mexicanos ($8.95) — a scramble of eggs with chiles, tomatoes, onions and lots of spices, with refried beans, rice and tortillas on the side. I’ll spare you the picture. It is an ugly, messy, soul satisfying plate of food, the kind of food that almost makes you wish you had a hangover because it would so clearly offer cure.

shrimp enchilada (like I needed it)

shrimp enchilada (like I needed it)

In a perfectly stupid hedging-my-bets move I also decided to order this shrimp enchilada à la carte ($4.95). (Like I needed it.) I really enjoyed the homey flavor of the sauce, deepened with long-cooked green bell pepper and celery. I also thought it had a generous portion of chopped shrimp inside for the price.

But, ahem, did I mention the food here can be a tad greasy?

after 5 minutes

shrimp enchilada after 5 minutes

Again, if you know what you’re getting yourself in for, then Nuevo Laredo has its merits. The margaritas help.

nuevo4

As the sign in the parking lot says, “Take life with a grain of salt…a wedge of lime, and a shot of tequila.”

80 comments Add your comment

Mary

November 18th, 2009
8:30 am

I have never understood the kudos given to Nuevo Laredo. I ate there once and never again. It was just so average. Not awful, just not worth the raves.

Westside Resident

November 18th, 2009
9:25 am

Nuevo is to the Westside much like Murphy’s is to the Va-Hi crowd. Is it as good as its hyped up to be? Probably not, but for the locals on that side of town, its a treasured gem to be defended at all costs. I only wish that they had parking reserved for take-out as its almost easier for me to just walk the couple of miles for my food as it is to park there.

Lindy

November 18th, 2009
9:28 am

John- i know this is a food blog but, could you please provide me with the name of the place your daughter takes fencing lessons? my daughter has expressed an interest in the sport. thank you!

jonnymack

November 18th, 2009
9:34 am

I find this place to be overrated. Their margarita’s are syrupy junk IMO. I’m always amazed that this place is considered the best mexican in the city. I remember having good meals there but the past two times I’ve gone, it’s been pretty bad.

Beau

November 18th, 2009
9:59 am

Lindy, there is a fencing club right up the road from me (http://www.atlantafencersclub.com/index.html) that is always busy with classes and tournaments. As far as Nuevo Laredo, I love the place, especially their mole sauce.

Sorka

November 18th, 2009
10:08 am

I love this restaurant, and have had some wonderful experiences there, including my first date with a man I later fell in love with. It’s always crowded, so those of you who find it overrated are in the minority. I get the caldo de pollo, which involves no frying or grease. The brisket soft tacos are also delicious, as are the vegetable mole enchiladas. I think the guacamole is tasty and the service is always fast and polite.

TC

November 18th, 2009
11:47 am

I think Kessler’s review of this place is spot-on. Nuevo Laredo is one of the few reasons I miss living “in town.” Good eats and a good value.

John Kessler

November 18th, 2009
12:09 pm

Good point, Westside.
Lindy – Sent you an email….hope you got it.
Johnnymack — I really don’t think it belongs anywhere near the best Mexican restaurant conversation, but this is a restaurant with a good sense of place that knows its uniformly non-Mexican customers well.

John Kessler

November 18th, 2009
12:10 pm

Sorka – I’ll try the caldo next time. You’re right about the service.

jw

November 18th, 2009
12:26 pm

JK,
Either my eyes are decieving me or your bad camera phone picture is somehow inserting chicken into your daughter’s cheese taco.

I like Nuevo Laredo but don’t think it worth the hour plus waits at peak times. Nor is risking life and limb crossing Chattahoochee from the Pepsi parking lot.

Pat

November 18th, 2009
12:33 pm

I second the brisket tacos. It’s the main reason I go there.

Pat

November 18th, 2009
12:35 pm

John…go to JCT Kitchen next. I’m waiting to hear your review. If you go there, get the oysters for an appetizer. For the main course, try the fried chicken and mac ‘n cheese.

John Kessler

November 18th, 2009
1:00 pm

jw – Bad iPhone! Actually, I was suffering from grease-induced dissociative disorder…I’ve fixed the copy. Thanks!

Joe Mayo

November 18th, 2009
2:02 pm

Never, never understood people getting excited about Nuevo Laredo. I have eaten there several times (used to work near there) and it didn’t do anything for me, and I’m a man who loves good Mexican. Wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, and won’t dine there again.

Ortho Man

November 18th, 2009
2:09 pm

Just an FYI… Nuevo is full of roaches.. Wouldn’t feed it to Starving Marvin.

Ortho Man

November 18th, 2009
2:12 pm

Los Bravos, on the other hand, has the BEST fish tacos in town. Unless you are a fan of Taqueira del Sol, which also has fabulous fish tacos and is bug free.

MP

November 18th, 2009
2:13 pm

I like the place as a “hole in the wall kinda place”. You don’t go there cause the food is the best. It’s the atmosphere. To be in the crowd. The food is good not great. It’s a party atmosphere.

I thought I read where there was one to open in Brookhaven but the center it was to be included in has been slowed by the economy. It probably would not be the same as the hole in the wall Chattahoochee location.

reservoirDAWG

November 18th, 2009
2:15 pm

$8.95 for a cheese enchilada and a chicken taco? What a rip.

J

November 18th, 2009
2:17 pm

It took me a few times to get the right order here. The brisket tacos and shrimp barbacoa are outstanding. The run-of-the-mill stuff you find at any mexican joint is marginal.

NativeAtlantan

November 18th, 2009
2:19 pm

I agree with most of the posters — not sure what the hype is about. My partner DRAGS me there every couple of months. He loves the brisket tacos…I’m still trying to find something I can stomach.

tedly

November 18th, 2009
2:21 pm

The food (and margarita) quality has declined somewhat at the Cantina over the past three or four years as it has gotten more popular, but it is still my favorite Mexican whenever I’m in town. The brisket barbacoa is unlike anything you can order at your standard mexican restaurant with numbered combos on the menu. It’s sure to satisfy both lovers of truly authentic mexican food and southern barbecue afficionados.

Diana O'Brien

November 18th, 2009
2:22 pm

I’ve been to NL 2 or 3 times … I grew up in Mexico City and I agree the food is nothing to write home about ..BUT … they have a side dish called “cebollitas” … they’re grilled scallions with lime … if you haven’t tried them then you should. They are awesome and truly authentic. I make them all the time at the house but it’s the only mex restaurant I’ve ever seen that has them.

Shadow 7071

November 18th, 2009
2:22 pm

First, tex-mex is not new nor recent with me. I’ve been enjoying this cuisine since 1969 when I was stationed with the Air Force in San Antonio, Texas. Since then I’ve dined in many tex-mex places throughout the world. A few years ago I dined for the first time at Nuevo Laredo. My business colleagues had raved about this place. And, every time I passed, the place was packed. So my expectations were high. I was disappointed. It just didn’t have anything special. It was just another tex-mex place. Been there several times since and I’m opinion is the same – nothing particularly special. So, I agree with some of the other commenters – more hype than substance. But it’s down town and the ambiance is different than most.

The Big Maru

November 18th, 2009
2:22 pm

Used to eat lunch at Nuevo Laredo at least once a week when I worked in the area (and at its predecessor US Bar y Grill before that). Your review is right on the money.

It’s a great place if this is the kind of Mexican food you’re looking for. In fact, I’d say that it’s the best gooey/greasy/cheesy-style Mex in town, and I mean that in a good way.

And if you don’t like bugs, don’t sit downstairs in the corner.

DiO'B

November 18th, 2009
2:25 pm

If you’re looking for a good “hole in the wall” with great food try El Zorrito in Roswell (next to the Shell station before Canton St) … It can be hit or miss but they harly ever go wrong with their Tlalapeno soup and Tacos al Pastor and shrimp cocktails …

P

November 18th, 2009
2:27 pm

reservoirDAWG…..yeah that’s a lot of money for the typical DAWG budget.

Ray Pugh

November 18th, 2009
2:28 pm

1. Overcrowded
2. Hour-long wait times
3. Unremarkable food
4. Unremarkable service
5. Dreadful parking

Needless to say I will not be returning…

Turned Stomach

November 18th, 2009
2:29 pm

Ever since I realized the kitchen area at this establishment on Chattahoochee Avenue used to be the bathroom of whatever was there previously, I have COMPLETELY lost my appetite to eat there again.

Kitchen stuff should NEVER be done in the “necessary room,” and vice versa.

Ech!

Kid J

November 18th, 2009
2:33 pm

A good selection of ethnic fare, decently prepared. But the salsa at Nuevo Laredo is the best, by far, of any Mexican restaurant in the city, the perfect balance of chunky, tomato-y, spicy, savory enhancement. The food may not wow you, but the salsa never disappoints.

Mike

November 18th, 2009
2:35 pm

I could fire a pistol from my back door and hit Nuevo Laredo, which apparently makes me one of the locals who rave about it.

I’m not. I find it claustrophobic, dirty, and greasy. For Tex-Mex I’ll go to Mama Ninfa’s downtown or La Paz.

If the line’s not all the way to Bacchanalia I’ll sometimes go to Taco Nazi del Sol. Seriously, after you’ve stood in line for half an hour you get a cashier that acts like you’re interrupting.

hahahahaha

November 18th, 2009
2:50 pm

You call that tex-mex or mexican? Being from Texas, I can honestly say there isn’t a decent mexican restaurant in the entire city. Even the taco stands are horrible.

Stick you what you Georgians do best, chicken and waffles.

hahahahaha

November 18th, 2009
2:54 pm

Someone here thinks taqueria del sol is good? Depressing. Please, take a vacation outside of Georgia to SoCal or Texas. They do mexican food right. Personally, I think San Antonio has the best authentic mexican in the country (tacos with cilantro, lime and onions instead of cheese, lettuce & tomato) whereas Dallas has the best Tex-Mex and LA the best Calexican. Atlanta mexican food is a disgrace.

Hungry

November 18th, 2009
2:57 pm

the shrimp tacos are the best thing on the menu at nueva laredo

reservoirDAWG

November 18th, 2009
3:17 pm

Hey P, you’re funny and a loser. Have a nice day.

reservoirDAWG

November 18th, 2009
3:21 pm

hahahahaha, try Don Pedro on Buford Highway, north of Norcross. Their tacos are as you described (cilantro, onions and lime).

Darin

November 18th, 2009
3:23 pm

Mad Lib for Atlanta-restaurant blog comments:

You think _________ can make good _________ cuisine? Dude, you don’t know what good ________ is!! Get your _________ out of the sand and go visit _________, where I grew up. That’s where the real stuff is! Seriously, you can’t even get a decent _________ in Atlanta.

anonymous coward

November 18th, 2009
3:35 pm

Darin, that’s freaking hilarious. Thanks for the chuckle.

Phil

November 18th, 2009
3:35 pm

A few thoughts…

1) I’ve eaten @ Nuevo Laredo many times since I was in HS (as I started HS right around when the restaurant opened) and it has always been a tasty favorite..

2) I do agree that they put a little too much cheese etc on their food and it is a bit over the top recently.

3) For “hahahaha” If you prefer your food from texas or california go back :-) otherwise deal with what you have here.. trust me I’ve had my fair share of poor and shotty food out there as well..

craigmack

November 18th, 2009
3:41 pm

hahahahahha – sounds like it’s time for you to go back to Texas. While you’re at it, have some cheese with that whine.

Steve

November 18th, 2009
3:42 pm

I have never understood the hype either, though I do agree with one commenter about the molé sauce. There are plenty of good Mexican restaurants around town and a lot of them are authentic. Norcross and Marietta have a huge assortment of hole-in-the-wall joints where you get tacos the Mexican way (cilantro, lime, onion, as noted above). And usually they are only $1.25 or even $1.00 each, almost as cheap as they are in Mexico! I recommend the type with “pastor” (spicy marinated pork); once you try these, you will never go back to that Don Pablo’s type Americanized [word deleted by one overfed reporter]

Becky

November 18th, 2009
3:42 pm

Have never been there and sat down to eat, have gotten food to go a few times..I have a coworker that thinks its the greatest place around..I’d just as soon have Los Bravo..No, I can’t say that I have ever had real Mexican food either, only what we have here in Ga.

Sugar Hill

November 18th, 2009
3:43 pm

Like I said before, you need to get OTP.

conservative democrat

November 18th, 2009
3:43 pm

ahahahahah,
Having spent 12 years in Texas, I know that you are mostly correct. However, Nuevo Laredo is the exception to that rule. Unlike Don Pedro’s and On The Border, this place has the feel and flavor of authenticity rather than a chain. It reminds me of the small towns in Texas where I could always find a family owned Mexican restaurant with homemade tortillas. Surprisingly, most of these families have been living where they are today since before Texas was a state. So, its a mistake to call it Mexican food. It is truly American, as are the people.
And if you like the food out west, give Nuevo Laredo a try. Its at 1495 Chattahoochee Ave NW off of Howell Mill. The chilis relenos are almost as good as Matt’s El Rancho in Austin, but not quite. Of course, that’s really not a fair comparison:) Also, you might try Uncle Julios (two locations).

tasha

November 18th, 2009
3:48 pm

I always thought the restaurant has been around longer…

dan

November 18th, 2009
3:57 pm

what about LUPE!?? the new Cuervno on Juniper and 8th st !???

Joe

November 18th, 2009
3:57 pm

hahahahaha got it right…and as for BBQ, nothing beats what’s found in TX!!! Like someone else said, stick to the chicken and waffle thing

Kimmi

November 18th, 2009
3:58 pm

I took my wife there once after I read and heard all the good things about the place. I agree with many of you who are saying this place is way too overrated. The food is decent but nothing special, nothing great, and just a place for some Mexican food. I’ve had some good Mexican food at places where I didnt have to wait and just as cheap. Not to mention, parking is horrible. Nor worth the hassle.

Mr. Holmes

November 18th, 2009
4:09 pm

Nuevo Laredo is one–and only one–notch above your standard strip mall Mexican restaurant with 30 combo plates identified by number. But that’s all it pretends to be. Who knows why it’s so crowded, maybe cuz it’s in a darn trailer. The Los Bravos by me on DeKalb Industrial is so big it always looks crowded.

Anyway. Nuevo Laredo’s food ain’t “shotty.” But that does happen afterward.

Mr. Holmes

November 18th, 2009
4:10 pm

Sheesh, always looks *empty*, I meant to say.

John Kessler

November 18th, 2009
4:19 pm

Diana – the cebollitas at Rincon Latino are muy sabroso.
Sugar Hill – Check out today’s breakfast post.
Tasha – Me, too!
Dan – Haven’t been yet. Is it good?
Ray – Bad service? Seriously. I’ve always found the staff gracious here.
Reservoir Dawg – It isn’t cheap, but the portions are huge. Beyond huge. The portions are epic. Good salsa, too. And if you’re ever out of WD-40…