Quest for the Best: Tacos turn staffers into Sol men


Chris Brown

TANTALIZING TACOS: Atlanta has some of the best taco restaurants; among the best tacos were the fried chicken tacos from Taqueria del Sol, the fried chicken tacos from El Taco, the steak tacos from Willy's Mexicana Grill (pictured), and the beef tacos from La Fonda Latina.
TANTALIZING TACOS: Atlanta has some of the best taco restaurants; among the best tacos were the fried chicken tacos from Taqueria del Sol, the fried chicken tacos from El Taco, the steak tacos from Willy’s Mexicana Grill (pictured), and the beef tacos from La Fonda Latina.

By Chris Brown and Ike Hammond

Tacos have been a staple of American cuisine since the early 1900s when the delicious snacks were first popularized in San Antonio by the infamous Chili Queens, a group of Mexican-American women who first sold tacos as street vendors. Since then, entire restaurant chains have been built around the dish, as Americans have grown fond of the fare. For the year’s first installment of Quest for the Best, we decided to traverse the Metro Atlanta area in a search of the best tacos.


The first restaurant we visited was La Fonda Latina (923 Ponce De Leon Ave). Locally owned and operated by Mike Nelson and Clay Harper, it’s what you would expect from your average Mexican restaurant: music that’s slightly too loud, great chips and salsa, and most importantly a fantastic menu. La Fonda offers a variety of tacos, but we opted for the fish and the chicken. At the first bite, the one thing that jumped out at us was the sauce on the two tacos. The chicken taco came with a mild chipotle sauce that reminded us of the special sauce on the Big Mac, while the fish had a sour cream jalapeno sauce. The tacos were the perfect temperature and the meat was tender. All meals were served with a huge helping of rice and beans, which was the perfect complement for these excellent tacos. The sauce was ultimately the key to success with these tacos, and the tacos also provide a great bang for your buck, as an order of two tacos only costs a modest $8.91.


The next stop on our taco trek was El Taco (1186 North Highland Ave), a modern Tex-Mex restaurant that takes conventional Mexican recipes and adds American twists to spice up the menu. Although we were excited for the meal to come when we entered the restaurant, our anticipation quickly soured into disappointment. We immediately realized El Taco did not have free chips and salsa like La Fonda. We ordered the smoked chicken taco, a boring and cold ensemble of dry chicken and lackluster toppings. We also tried the steak taco, which was a decent mix of steak and fried onions. Before we could write El Taco off as a complete bust, however, we had one more taco to try: the fried chicken taco. As we bit into our tacos, we instantly forgot the lack of free salsa, and the mediocrity of the other tacos. The fried chicken in this taco was cooked to perfection, and when combined with the tangy mayo and sweet corn, it had an incredible sweet and spicy mix of flavors. The fried chicken taco was one of the best tacos we tried, and was the single positive part of our El Taco experience. Despite the deliciousness of the fried chicken taco, El Taco’s high prices ($15.49) and poor variety left a bad taste in our mouths and our wallets lighter.


Next, we made the trip to Willy’s Mexicana Grill (650 Ponce de Leon Ave). Though it may be considered fast food, Willy’s has an excellent drink selection and full salsa bar. We ordered the steak taco and the chicken taco. Willy’s differs from other restaurants in that the customer has full control over what goes in the taco, and they offer a wide variety of ingredients. We could tell that the Adobe chicken (the less spicy of the two) had been sitting out for a while. It wasn’t very warm and didn’t have a lot of flavor. The steak, on the other hand, was tender and full of flavor. The tacos at Willy’s didn’t seem to be as much of a unit as the first two restaurants we visited, and came off as a discombobulated collection of ingredients that didn’t mesh unless you knew what you were doing. Although the quality of Willy’s meat was undeniable, the tacos were not worth the $9.89 we were charged.


As we prepared to bring our quest to a close, we decided to visit one of the most popular Mexican restaurants in Atlanta: Taqueria del Sol (2165 Cheshire Bridge Rd). We had heard a lot about this restaurant, and were excited to see what was in store. We were greeted with a line that stretched outside of the door, which only cemented the restaurant’s reputation. After we ordered, we realized that Taqueria del Sol also, unfortunately, did not provide free chips and salsa to their customers. When we received our tacos, however, all of our complaints dissipated. The tacos were simple, yet elegant, providing a delicious mix of flavors. The fried chicken taco had lightly battered and perfectly cooked chicken, and the lime mayonnaise was to die for. The barbeque sauce on the Memphis taco was beyond delicious, providing a zesty and sweet alternative to the spicy jalapeno coleslaw that garnished the taco. At only $6.91, Taqueria del Sol was the least expensive restaurant we visited, yet ironically provided the best experience.

In the end, we realized that we had saved the best for last. Taqueria del Sol provided the best value, giving the customer delicious yet inexpensive tacos that left little to be desired. For the less frugal taco lovers, we would recommend La Fonda. The restaurant made up for what it lacked in affordability with great flavors and a great atmosphere.