bartaco – atlanta, ga

sign

per drew’s recommendation, we ventured to the west side of town this past wednesday to try out bartaco.  he had been quite pleased when he went there a couple weeks ago, so i was looking forward to going myself.  there’s not much to know about bartaco, except that they have other locations in connecticut and new york.  so, with a bit of mystery surrounding it, we arrived around seven fifteen to check in with the hostess.  they do not take reservations, but you can call ahead a half hour before arriving to get your name on the list.  they were waiting for another party to pay and leave, so in the meantime, let’s take pictures!

i had hoped we would be seated shortly after arriving, but we weren’t taken to our tables until almost eight.  this place just opened a few weeks ago, so its newness was being soaked in by all the atlanta socialites.  our hungry stomachs just had to wait our turn!

as i was checking out the restaurant and its ambience, i was trying to figure out just what its style/theme/intended design was.  it can feel almost beachy on the coast of a tucked away cove.  it also seems like it could be the more mature and older cousin to a place like anthropologie.  now, i might be mixing apples and oranges, but it’s just one person’s opinion.

the décor is simple and clean, but there seems to be a lack of personality.  the bulbs dangling overhead us on that clear and crisp fall night were a nice touch, and i will admit that it did feel like quite a getaway in this busy city.  there isn’t anything wrong, per say, so i guess i have to say they’re doing something right, whatever it may be.

we were finally shown to our table, and as we walked up, i couldn’t help but laugh.  our coworker batkinson had also been to bartaco recently and had mentioned the small tables outside.  well, wouldn’t you know it.  we were seated there, too!  the patio is a decent size, but right in the middle are shorter tables with cabana-style booths on one side and teeny weeny stools on the other.  as you can imagine, clark and his long dancer legs were not thrilled.  bless his heart, his knees were hitting above the tabletop!  and me?  i was in a dress since i had come straight from work, so i was employing all my ladylike manners while atop that tiny cushion.  it’s a good thing i hadn’t planned on having any adult drinks because a few beverages and one good laugh is all it would probably take for me to so ungracefully topple over onto the floor.  aah, yes, i’ll let you picture that for a moment because i am thinking about it, and in my mind, it’s a rip.  i guess we just gotta roll with it!

our waitress greeted us quickly once we were seated, but i wasn’t crazy about her.  the restaurant was clearly busy, and i could tell she was perhaps slightly overwhelmed, but she seemed to be a bit pushy when explaining the ordering and eating process to us.  it was a little louder outside which kept me from actually being able to hear everything she was telling us.  even though she and the other wait staff were attentive throughout the night, they need to work on being a little more “warm and fuzzy” with the guests.  just a suggestion.

here at bartaco you fill out a little order card for everyone in your party.  the food is brought out as it is ready and may be served family style depending upon what you order.  the menu is varied without being overwhelming.  they have custom cocktails, wines, and plenty of cerveza.  i didn’t have a drink myself, but a couple folks had mojitos, and they looked quite refreshing.

heights

obligatory “things of varying heights” picture.

we were a ravenous bunch that night, so when the waitress recommended chips, guacamole, and salsa, we readily accepted her offer.  the guacamole had a little bit of a kick on the end of it, and the verde salsa was, in my opinion, killer.  i would gladly buy a jar of it so that i could shamelessly eat the whole thing at home by myself.

guac

kari’s food was ready quickly and came out first.  she mixed and matched her dinner that night and started with the grilled corn with lime and cayenne and cotija cheese.  they were quite generous with the cayenne, perhaps too generous.  its kick was a little more than kari cared for, but she was a trooper and didn’t let it go to waste.  she also tried the cheese quesadilla and, i think, the chicken taco?  i don’t remember exactly, but kari said they were fine, nothing that rocked her world.

next to me clark also had a taco, going with the spicy chorizo.  it was brought out on a tray, and that little taco looked so lonely.  the tacos are about the size of an average hand and are only about two or three bites each.  if you come here hungry, plan on ordering a lot of food.  to supplement his tiny taco, clark tried out the chicken rice bowl which was thankfully a pretty decent size.  i mean, clark does crossfit almost daily, so it wasn’t really enough to fill him, but at least it wasn’t just one actual cup as the waitress had described it.

kyle and lisa split a small tray, and jon, eric, nathan, and alison went with the large tray.  the trays are a good idea if you want a bit of a sampler but aren’t sure exactly what you want.  you don’t get to pick and choose your tacos and sides, as the menu items you get are the chef’s choice.  from what i heard, though, everyone really liked the chicken tacos, corn, and tamales.

so, what about me?  did i like the food?  was it worth the wait and hype?  yes and no.  i started out with the pork tamale, and it was killer.  tamales are one of my favorite mexican dishes, and they make a good one here.  the pork was very tender and juicy without making the masa all soppy.  i could have probably eaten two or three of those for dinner and been a happy camper.

tamale 1

next came out the falafel taco, which proved to be quite underwhelming.  falafel is one of my favorite dishes, but i didn’t really care for the falafel they cook up at bartaco.  it was clearly battered and fried, and i have no problem with that, but i felt it was a bit overcooked and lacked a lot of natural flavor.  the spicy dressing helped a little but just could not tickle my fancy.

falafel

just as i took the last bite of my taco, the sweet plantains arrived.  i love eating plantains when they’re on the menu, and i could not pass them up that night.  these plantains were exactly what i expected and wanted them to be, and i was satisfied they were my final dish.  what’s the best part about their plantains?  well, they’ve got the tiniest spice on the end of the bite, and they cook them perfectly so that they have those chewy little nubbins on the end of each piece.  mm, yessss.

plantains

okay, folks.  bartaco has its pros and cons just like any establishment, but what are my personal thoughts?  first, bartaco is a place that works great for couples and double dates but not for large groups.  i say so because the seating options are limited, as i mentioned earlier, and they do not split checks.  since you order together, the check comes as one so that you have the pleasure of doing the math on your own.  okay, maybe i’m lazy and don’t like to subtract and add after eating, but for us it was just one more thing we had to do before we could go home.

second, we all agreed that the service was less than stellar.  they got all our orders correct and were prompt when we needed something from them, but there needs to be an elevated level of interest and courtesy.

third, the food really was wonderful.  we liked some things more than others, but overall i think everyone was quite pleased with their dinner.  i would definitely come back for their tamales and plantains, and i would love to try the chicken taco.  everyone else seemed to be raving about it.

i’m sure i would recommend bartaco to anyone who wanted something a little more “upscale,” but, as i often say, i’d try another spot for mexican before itching to come back here.  if you find yourself on the westside of town, stop by for a drink and some appetizers just to see if you like it.  come to give it a try, and if you like what you get, stick around for a while.

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