Post Written by: Caroline (Whitefield Academy)
Tacos. Who knew a few ingredients swaddled between the folds of a homemade tortilla could shape the whole atmosphere of a little restaurant in the up-and-coming Westside Atlanta neighborhood? Tuza Taco disproves any beliefs otherwise with its seamless blend of Mexican culture and serene coastal ambiance. Easily, anyone would feel as if they hopped on a plane and landed directly on the beaches of Cabo San Lucas to indulge in the coastal flavors of Mexico.
Except, in reality, you are pulling up to a dusty gravel parking lot off the industrial side of Howell Mill Road. Restaurant owner Jason Sherman made a bold move plotting his small taco business within smelling distance of four other Tex-Mex restaurants. However, the bigger the risk, the bigger reward. So, yes, Tuza Taco might just be another taqueria, but I say it’s worth the try.
Walking up the back staircase from the parking lot, no one could expect what was around the corner. I assure you one thing- your eyes will definitely not be disappointed. The first impression is simply a bright, energetic environment, accentuated with pops of color in every nook and cranny, including vivid blues, orange, hints of black, and of course—the classic—white. The first aspect that caught my eye would have to be the decorative black and white mosaic floor tiles stretching wall to wall. Interestingly enough, the colored tiles lining the counter separating the kitchen from the dining area originate from the well-known movie, Jumanji. Sherman definitely put thought into Tuza’s aesthetics.
Overall, Tuza Taco has more authenticity and character than most cliché Mexican restaurants—so much that it’s difficult to remain focused on the appealing food right in front of you. Personally, I found myself doing a double take, trying my hardest not to overlook a single picture or painting, light, or decorative plate on the wall. Every tchotchke seemed to tell a story- a story worth hearing.
The menu is concise, made up of only seven variations of tacos and three appetizers: queso, guacamole, and salsa. At first glance, this might appear limiting. However, it is important to note that Tuza intends to add a full bar, dinner, and brunch in their near future. In addition to these plans, Tuza also expects to have a “dine with your dog” spot in the spring. This exciting feature is like no other and could possibly be what Tuza needs to set itself apart. What an appealing way to meet the needs of their target customers, considering Tuza is located within walking distance to several Westside neighborhoods.
The authenticity is on point at Tuza Taco. According to Sherman, everything on the menu (except the limes!) is made from scratch. Tuza’s tortillas are made right in front of their customers. Capturing Mexican culture at a glance, the cook diligently kneads the dough, carefully forming each tortilla by hand. Her skill and efficiency communicated her experience—the food is the real deal. The aroma of these freshly-pressed tortillas welcomes you as if you had just entered Abuela’s kitchen.
Now, to the tacos—what we all really care about, right? I ordered two tacos – the carnita and the bisteca. The carnita taco was like no other. Served in a corn tortilla, the taco consisted mainly of slow roasted pork infused with a sweet, yet savory tang. This pleasantly surprising flavor was the product of a salsa verde marmalade drizzled over the tender meat, coating every piece of pork to perfection.
Flavor immediately meets your taste buds, leaving you wanting another bite. To top it off, the taco was garnished with pickled onion and cilantro –the taco equivalent to the “cherry on top.” Some might say my bisteca taco was boring, but that’s my fault. My timid palate led me to request no chimichurri aioli, which was a mistake. Although my requested taco amounted to only few pieces of tender steak coated in a light layer of cotija cheese, I can assure you – it was insanely and simply delicious. But, the chimichurri sauce would have made it next-level good.
I am happy to say I have found my new favorite Mexican restaurant. If you know me, you know my loyalty to another well-known Westside taqueria. I didn’t expect a change of heart. But, Tuza did just that. Tuza Taco is a place I would go daily if my wallet allowed. I will be bragging on this eclectic and authentic Atlanta find for quite some time.