Last weekend gave us a taste of patio season, and when the warm weather comes, it seems like Mexican food is no-brainer. Ali Wild, owner of Across the Street, had an idea to create a restaurant that combined fresh Mexican food with a killer patio view. She is the first to tell us that authentic Mexican food is not what we imagine.
What made you decide on opening a Mexican restaurant?
After a long hard day of working, my partner Lana and I wanted to sit somewhere outside on patio with food she could eat and margaritas I could drink. But many places in Atlanta are on busy streets or they don’t have a patio. Our favorite thing was chips, salsa, margaritas and the patio, so it just made sense.
Lana is vegetarian and you are allergic to flavor enhancers and preservatives. How did you use your dietary restrictions to create the menu?
We always start our recipes from a vegetarian’s point of view, that way people can build on and add meat if they want. Our beans and rice are not made with lard, like some Mexican restaurants. We have two separate fryers, one strictly vegetarian that we fry our chips in and the other is reserved for meats. We make three hot sauces from scratch and make infused cocktails that don’t have preservatives.
Your worked with partners from Mexico City for your first restaurant. When you traveled there with them, how was your experience?
I saw the city from a local perspective. When you eat at someone’s house at Mexico, you don’t get chips and salsa. Someone is making eggs and beans from scratch, serving it with a salsa they literally just made.
Some people think of Mexican food as heavy, but your menu doesn’t reflect that.
People have a perception of ground beef and crunchy taco shells swimming in cheese that may not be actual cheese. But in Mexico City, food is prepared with ingredients that are available in the immediate area and everything is fresh. It’s part of the culture to go to one farmer to get peppers and another to get your chicken.
You really have a passion for Mexican cuisine, but what else do you enjoy cooking at home?
I’m from New Orleans so I enjoy Cajun cuisine. Everyone asks why I don’t have any of those dishes on the menu, but to me it would be like selling my family. It’s such a personal experience that I couldn’t retail it. My mom made her gumbo one way and my dad made it another.
What’s the best part about having a patio on the Freedom Parkway trail?
Saturday and Sunday afternoons are the busiest because we are between John Wesley Dobbs and Elizabeth Street Beltline entries. We get a lot of bicycle groups and walkers, and people sometimes stay for 3-4 hours.
You mentioned regulars are your mainstay. What makes them a great group?
I really like how different they are in age, ranging from their 20’s all the way to their 70’s. They all congregate together when they are here and they are friends outside of the restaurant too.
-By Alexa Lampasona for the Food & More blog