Atlanta is blessed with numerous taquerias that do Mexican street food proud. Finding home-style dishes, however, is a far trickier task. Fortunately, Taqueria La Oaxaqueña (605 Mt. Zion Road, Jonesboro, 770-960-3010, www.taquerialaoaxaquena.com), the longstanding temple to Mexican cuisine, serves Atlanta's largest assortment of consistently good home-style classics.
Oaxaqueña's recent move to a self-standing building has made a trip here even more pleasurable. First, there's parking and lots of it. Second, there's plenty of seating, which means there's rarely a wait for a table unless you come during peak weekend hours. Finally, the expansion has allowed the restaurant to flesh out its already large menu of specialties from Oaxaca, the culinary capital of Mexico.
If there is one dish Oaxaquena is known for, it's the tlayuda. Resembling a personal pizza, the base is a corn tortilla that is baked until it resembles a tostada in texture and appearance. It's covered with blistered jalapeño halves, long strands of queso de Oaxaca (a silky and creamy string cheese), ripe avocado wedges, hulking slices of tomato and your choice of meat. The salty and fatty chorizo version is the most decadent and easiest to eat. The Quesillo Oaxaca – an artisan style of cheese similar to burrata – is a meatless version even nonvegetarians will adore.
Thick, handmade corn-based items, such as sopes, have that essential layer of custardy masa beneath the crackly exterior. Tamales come in cornhusks or banana leaves. The mole con pollo tamale is a compact, steamed treasure packed with chocolaty homemade mole and shredded chicken. You can also enjoy the mole as an entrée served over a chicken leg alongside a parcel of homemade tortillas, rice and refried beans. Another item from the specialties menu, enchiladas, is a fabulous representation of how good this ubiquitous dish can be when it's prepared correctly. A neat row of fluffy tortillas is draped in the salsa of your choice, stuffed with chicken and scattered with a small amount of melting white cheese. A thin grilled steak layered over the enchiladas, which contributes a meaty counterpart to the acidic nature of the salsas, takes this dish over the top.
The abundance of choices on the menu makes tacos seem like a somewhat boring order. But the meats – especially the cabeza (cow cheeks) or chivo (goat) – are perfectly seasoned and tender every time. Tortillas are larger than average and made by hand.
Since this is a true Mexican restaurant, menudo (tripe stew) and pozole (pork and hominy stew) are served on the weekends. But those who visit on weekdays needn't go without a huge bowl of comfort. There are numerous soups, such as caldo de pollo (chicken soup), or a crowded bowl of plump seafood (crab legs, scallops, shrimp and mussels) swimming in tomato broth.
Every dish warrants a trip to the pristine salsa bar located in the front room. It even has cactus salad if you need a little nibble while your food is made. If you don't have time to stick around, many items fare well for takeout. Oaxaqueña's tortas are made with some of the most beautiful bolillo rolls in Atlanta. The soft and slightly sweet bread is easily compacted around the filling of your choice when assembled. The Milanese (fried steak) is a decadent favorite that's topped with the standard avocado, white cheese, chipotle, tomato and onions. One spicy, creamy and salty bite into this steak sandwich monstrosity and you'll never look at a burger the same way again. The roast chicken dinners are an especially good option if you need to feed the entire family on the cheap. You can get a whole roasted bird, containers of beans and rice, homemade tortillas and a load of salsas for just $19.99.
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