Huarache de whipped queso fresco, kale, watercress, pasilla beans, and butterkase cheese

When I first met Maricela Vega of Chicomecóatl, she was selling late-night tamales outside of MJQ during a Cholateca night (the best Latin dancing in Atlanta, by the way). Since then, trying to keep up with her on Instagram has been dizzying. “I’ve been in a sea of ideas. I feel like I’m navigating them now,” she told me. Vega’s food has since been cropping up all over—she’s hosted a tamale pop-up at the Creature Comforts brewery in Athens and she regularly serves creative, complex dishes at the Spindle in Old Fourth Ward that produce swoon-worthy Instagram photos. (One recent example: A bright purple sope that incorporated hibiscus, coriander sour cream, onion, and squash blossom.) With her pop-ups, Vega brings a unique perspective to cooking in Atlanta.

“I want to create food spaces where there is a deliciously beautiful, living interpretation of modern Mexican cuisine,” she says. Her recipes are inspired by the cuisine of her Mexican ancestors—traditions she hopes to keep alive—but most of her dishes are entirely plant-based. “I modernize my food by creating relationships with Atlanta-based growers,” she explains. “This allows room for constant creativity, and it intersects with my own roots: Southern agriculture with Mexican heritage.” Click here to read the rest…

Photo by Jennifer Zyman.

A lot of people take food way too seriously, and, I admit, I can be one of those people too. But I also think food can and should be fun, even if it is a total departure from the whatever people who use the word “authentic” think it should be. You won’t find “authentic” tacos at Big Daddy’s Taco in Chamblee, but this little spot is pure fun. Owners Jay Patel and Nazmul Hossain met as students at Georgia State University and have been good friends ever since. The pair opened the restaurant in January in a nondescript building on Chamblee Dunwoody Road, just across from Chamblee Charter High School. Click here to read the rest on Atlanta Magazine’s website…

When I heard the Houston’s on Lenox Road would be closing its doors for good after service on Saturday, March 31, I was heartbroken. The restaurant opened in August 1978, a year after the first Houston’s appeared in Nashville, and became an Atlanta institution—a place to be seen with shopping bags in tow after doing some damage to your credit card at nearby Lenox Square or Phipps Plaza.

As someone who grew up in Atlanta in the 1980s, the restaurant was an indelible part of my childhood. It was the place my mother took me and my sister after back-to-school shopping at the now-shuttered Rich’s Department Store for tempura chicken fingers and crispy shoestring fries. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I went at least twice a week thanks to an intense, pregnancy-induced craving for their loaded baked potato and a club salad—grilled chicken, not fried—slathered in chunky blue cheese dressing. The valet guys always remembered my name and asked about my baby. And after my daughter was born, they never failed to ask for status updates about her whenever I ducked in for a quick cheeseburger.

If your perception of Houston’s is that of an overpriced chain restaurant, you might be surprised to learn that it’s beloved by many in the food world, including Anne Quatrano of Bacchanalia (who is a big fan of the grilled artichoke) and Steven Satterfield of Miller Union (who, like many we talked to, loves the spinach and artichoke dip and loaded baked potato).

“Whenever any culinarian scoffs at me for saying I like Houston’s, I always say ‘Have you ever actually eaten there? It’s wonderful,’” Satterfield says. “Everyone comes here. It’s the people’s restaurant—casual fine dining for the masses, and no one has done it better. I moved here in 1987 and I’ve probably gone [to Houston’s] at least six times a year since. That’s more visits than any other full-service restaurant.”

“The veggie burger—I have no idea what’s in it, but who cares it’s so good. The melt-in-your-mouth Hawaiian rib eye, the smoked salmon and toast points, and the tortilla chicken salad are all dishes I’ll want any time, any day,” says TV and radio personality Mara Davis.

Click here to read the rest on Atlanta Magazine…

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