Atlanta Restaurant Scene

First Look: A taste of Oklahoma Tex-Mex at ATL Taco at Lenox Square


ATL Taco, the new restaurant from Atlanta chefs Shaun Doty and Lance Gummere , recently replaced the Lenox Square location of Bantam + Biddy, the business partners’ casual Southern chicken concept.

ATL Taco, which was conceived with general manager Natalie Samples, has its roots in the Oklahoma Mexican restaurants Doty, Gummere and Samples remembered growing up there.

But the menu covers all the basics of Tex-Mex and American-style Mexican food, with nods to better and more health-conscious ingredients.

Starters range from queso dip and creamy guacamole to sopa de pollo and crispy chicken taquitos. Among the eight current taco offerings, find ATL Hot Chicken, fried catfish, pork carnitas, veggie and grilled shrimp.

Bigger bites include build-it-your-way burritos and enchiladas with a choice of meat, cheese, beans and rice. Weekend brunch brings on the likes of huevos rancheros and chicken and waffles.

The beverage program is still somewhat of a work in progress, but features eight house cocktails, beer on draft and in bottles, and selections of tequilas and wines by the glass, plus house-made agua fresca and fresh-squeezed juices.

The rebranding includes some new decor, but the basic layout remains pretty much the same, with the main entrance in the mall, a bar area, and a covered patio that faces the Lenox Square valet parking lot.

Last week, Doty, Gummere and Samples gathered on the patio to talk about ATL Taco.

Doty said his first experience of designing a Mexican menu in Atlanta was as consulting chef at the Original El Taco in Virginia-Highland.

“But way before that, there was a place called Bobo’s Cantina in my hometown in Stillwater,” Doty said. “I worked there when I was in high school, and I remember them doing things very traditionally. I started having memories of the recipes and ways they would prepare food.

“So that was my early influence in Oklahoma Tex-Mex cuisine. And then I moved to Dallas and got an appreciation for more of that there. When we wrote the menu here, we said, first we need to meet the guests’ expectations with all the must-have traditional dishes, and now we’re starting to evolve things a little bit.”

Surprisingly, some of the healthier choices, including the Mexicola Super Grains salad, have been popular, so far.

“We actually sell a lot of salads,” Samples said. “It’s kind of fun because in a lot of places, they sell them in a tortilla bowl that’s kind of molded around the salad. But we present it on a plate and it’s very pleasing to the eye. You get a lot of oohs and aahs when we put it down on the table.”

For his part, Gummere said he’s having fun with the concept and the menu.

“When I started cooking 20 years ago in Stillwater, I worked in this pizza place,” Gummere said. “We wore T-shirts to work, and cranked up the rock music, and it was fun. And so we’re back to the T-shirts and having fun in the kitchen.”

As far as the beverage menu, Samples is working toward adding more and different items soon.

“We’re going to revamp the tequilas, and we’re going to add some mezcal,” she said. “It’s pretty basic right now, but we want to just go all in and do it big. We’re pretty happy with the cocktails, but we’re going to add a little more variety with some veggie-driven cocktails. But the majority of people who come in grab a drink, so we know that’s important.”

“The agua fresca is really cool, too,” Doty said. “We have things like the Black Lemonade with activated charcoal, lemon and agave. It’s a health and wellness thing and it’s a very big trend right now.

“In 12 months, I think this restaurant will have evolved in a lot of ways. I want to bring more of a chef-driven experience, with more creative details and interesting ingredients. We just bought a flour tortilla maker, so those are going to be fresh-made here every day. We have fine dining restaurants and we have casual restaurants, but the message is that quality is at the heart of what we want to do.”

3393 Peachtree Road NE, No. 3065B, Atlanta. 404-841-7559, atl-taco.com.

More images from a First Look at ATL Taco

 

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The Food & Dining Team offers reviews, previews, food news and fun bites food trends for metro Atlanta’s vast food and dining scene.