A few years ago (February 2008), chef Robert Phalen opened Holy Taco in East Atlanta. While that was still when I lived in Atlanta, I never made it to the restaurant graced with so much love by John Kessler, the food critic at the AJC, Besha and Cliff of Creative Loafing, and the host of Atlanta food bloggers. I always wanted to, but it never happened. And being a vegan, well, that made it a little harder since most of the plates on the menu are meat-centric (sourced by local farms, at least!), but now? Well, it’s all fair in love and war.
Last May, Holy Taco was on my “MUST EAT NOW” list but everyone I asked to go to it with me said no. Seriously? What people tell a food obsessed person visiting their hometown that they love so much “no” when it comes to food/drink suggestions? I run into it a lot and it’s really starting to annoy the hell out of me, but this past December I finally found a friend who said yes. Yes!
It turned out that for the two full days that I was actually in Atlanta, my good friend from college, A, also happened to be in Atlanta with her (now) fiance visiting his family. He had just popped the question a few days earlier while hiking the Appalachian Trail approach trail (they hiked the full AT two years ago), so it was awesome to catch up, ooh and ahh over the fantastic ring, and eat some awesome food. Plus it was gorgeous semi-warm and sunny so the patio was fair game. I can only imagine how awesome that patio must be in the summer.
A is a guacamole/avocado fanatic, so we couldn’t pass up on the guacamole. (Looking back, I should have asked for her to model the ring while dipping the chip into the guac…oh well.) It’s seriously the best guac I’ve ever eaten in my life. It’s simple: fresh, ripe avocados, tomatoes, onion, and, most likely, crack. Served with their in-house-fried tortilla chips, it was seriously hard not to snarf the whole thing down. If I could get this in a container to go on a daily basis, I think I’d be in heaven. No really.
Another starter that I ordered was the Trotter Croquetas. Surprisingly similar in texture to Trotter Special at Lucky, the croquetas were a mix of trotter and serrano ham, fried, and served with a honey aioli. The fried crust was perfectly crunchy and light–not oil soaked–and the trotter and serrano ham were savory and salty, balanced perfectly with the slightly sweet honey aioli. A great small plate to share, I insist that you order them if you eat pork. You won’t regret it…though you may want to order another plate of them for a savory dessert.
But, the main reason for going to Holy Taco, of course, is the tacos. And picking which tacos you want will be the hardest part of your day because they all look seriously good. While I really really really really wanted the goat with sweet onion, guindilla peppers, and mustard salad, it wasn’t available (as the menu warned might be the case). With great sadness, I switched it up and ordered a plate of three tacos (way too much food, but I wanted to try it all–how could I not?!). The first featured “12 hour roasted pork shoulder with Mexican slaw” and it was spot-on juicy and flavorful with a fresh slaw of cabbage and perhaps kholrabi on top. Next was the “buttermilk fried chicken hearts with pickled shallots, and arbol chile”–the farthest out of my zone, but good nonetheless. The chicken hearts were spongy with a nice gamey flavor and the buttermilk fried part was crunchy and exactly how I like my fried chicken. I wish they’d been a little less liberal with the chicken hearts if only because it was really hard to eat and not think about what you were eating, but they did taste great, so no complaints. Last was the vegan taco, a gorgeous vegetable-centric taco featuring avocado, radish, an Ecuadorian salsa, black beans, and rice. It’s one of the best vegan tacos I’ve ever eaten–simple, fresh, and perfectly balanced with pickled radish and a slightly spicy salsa.
To all my friends who wouldn’t go with me last May, you seriously missed out. Holy Taco is an amazing tacqueria with plenty of delicious surprises. It was so hard to choose an appropriate amount of food as everything sounded fantastic on the menu–confit french horn Mushrooms, arepas with home town honey & cabrales cheese, hot cured Spanish Sausage in hard cider. I want it all. And right now. You can bet your bottom dollar I’ll return to Holy Taco next time I’m in Atlanta–and with a group so I can get close to tasting it all. Simple, fresh, local, and delicious. I can’t ask for more.
1314 Glenwood Ave SE
Atlanta, GA 30316