Friday, October 17, 2008

Original El Taco Opens October 21

The latest restaurant venture from Fifth Group Restaurants Partners Robby Kukler, Steve Simon and Kris Reinhard, The Original El Taco, will open on Tuesday, October 21 at 1186 North Highland Avenue, NE in Virginia-Highland. El Taco is operated by the same company that has already brought Atlantans a bevy of the city's dining options including Ecco, South City Kitchen Midtown, South City Kitchen Vinings, La Tavola Trattoria and Bold American Events & Catering.

"We're keeping it simple at The Original El Taco," says Kukler. "With a menu of mainstays created by Chef Shaun Doty and a fun, casual beverage list, our goal is for this restaurant to become a place where patrons return often for what they know and love."

Open for dinner nightly, this new neighborhood Mexican joint serves up a menu designed by Chef Shaun Doty of Shaun's Restaurant in Inman Park and executed by Chef de Cuisine Craig Sauls, who previously worked at Alon's and South City Kitchen Midtown, that features all naturally raised meats and hormone-free dairy products, in addition to local produce whenever possible. The starters include both standard options like lime-salted corn chips with house salsa, "just crushed avocado guacamole and queso dip, in addition to more unique appetizers such as pork green chili soup, chili Caesar salad, bacon and cheese flautas, sopes, shrimp ceviche, wood-grilled beef skewers and Durango "truck stop" sliders with spicy BBQ chicken, chipotle mayo and banana pepper pickles.

El Taco's entrée options are divided into Mexican pizzas (tlayudas, a Oaxacan specialty), tacos and Tex-Mex dishes. Tacos ($2.95 to $3.95 apiece) are served individually and come with the following eight choices for fillings: fried tilapia with salsa habanera, avocado and sunflower sprouts; pork carnitas with tomatillo pico and grilled sweet onion on El Milagros corn tortilla; rellenos a cheese and bean stuffed poblano chili with garlic crema on El Milagros corn tortilla; grilled bbq chicken thighs with creamy chipotle mole, grilled sweet onion and pickled Serrano peppers; crispy pork belly with pickled cabbage, mint and New Mexico chili; red chile flat iron steak with crispy onions and tomatillo-lime salsa; fried chicken with Mexico City grilled corn, lime mayo and crumbled Mexican cheese; and Mexican chorizo with grilled peppers and onions, sliced radish and Jack cheese.

The Mexican pizzas ($10.75 to $13), which are giant masa flatbreads with vegetarian refried black beans, shaved lettuce, cilantro, tomato, onion, avocado, radish, two Mexican cheeses, hot peppers and sunflower sprouts, can be topped with wood-grilled chicken in a smoky pepper sauce, carnitas (slow braised, all natural pork), grilled Mexican chorizo or other vegetables.

The Tex-Mex items ($9 to $15.50) include wood grilled fajitas and a fajita salad, both with a variety of options for meat and fish toppings; green chili chicken enchiladas; chili cheese enchiladas; "El Burger," a double stack of griddled Meyer angus beef with sweet onions, chili-tomato fondue and Jack cheese on a toasted roll with Mexican fries; and "El Short Stack," open-faced corn tortillas with red and green chili, refried beans, Mexican cheese and a sunny-side-up egg.

Simple sweets ($5) such as fried apple pie with dolce de leche and cinnamon ice cream; flan with vanilla-bean poached pineapple; and a Mexican Coke float with vanilla ice cream complete the menu. Near the kitchen, guests can help themselves to a self-serve, well-stocked salsa bar that is also stocked with the appropriate fresh garnishes such as sliced radishes, chopped fresh cilantro, fresh lime wedges, chopped raw onion and Cholula Hot Sauce-marinated cabbage with lime to enhance the diner's experience.

"El Liquid Kitchen" offers sangria, frozen mojitos and margaritas, caipirinhas and five house specialty margaritas served on the rocks including the much loved Key West Margarita from the space's former occupant Sala-Sabor de Mexico, and a new favorite known as Frida's Favorite Margarita. Additionally, El Taco's bar menu features 12 Mexican and domestic beers by the bottle, three red and three white wines available by both the glass and the bottle, and 42 different tequilas. Another exciting and interactive element of the neighborhood restaurant is the taco wheel. 

When guests are seated, they will receive a poker chip with a number on it. The number corresponds to a prize on the taco wheel. The restaurant will spin the prize wheel every 30 minutes during regular dinner hours, and prizes will include such things as free queso or guacamole; a free order of Durango "truck stop" sliders; El Taco t-shirts; free dessert; and $25 Fifth Group Restaurants dining cards.

El Taco will be open for dinner nightly and is located at 1186 North Highland Avenue NE. Operating hours are Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. The bar opens at 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Reservations will only be accepted for parties of six or more. Otherwise, the restaurant will offer a call-ahead preferred seating program. The restaurant makes it easier than ever to retrieve to-go orders with two designated parking spaces and a specific pick-up window on the patio just steps from the parking lot. 

For more information, call (404) 873-4656 or visit

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