Eat This: Tacos at Muchacho

The newly opened coffee shop brings quick, fresh tacos to Memorial Drive
The barbacoa and al pastor tacos at Muchacho.

Photograph by Jennifer Zyman.

Memorial Drive isn’t known to have an abundance of great taco offerings—Mi Barrio is a neighborhood favorite, and the breakfast tacos at Homegrown GA always satisfy. But with Muchacho, one of the two new restaurants from Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall owner Michael Lennox to open in the former H. Harper Station space, another solid taco option has finally arrived.

Lennox tapped chef Jason Simpson, formerly of St. Cecilia and King and Duke, to be chef de cuisine at both Muchacho and adjoining Golden Eagle under culinary director Taria Camerino. Simpson grew up in Santa Monica and Venice Beach, California, and started his career making tacos at Los Angeles’s popular Border Grill. “I grew up on tacos,” he says. “I don’t think a day goes by when I’m not having a taco of some sort.”

The breakfast tacos at Muchacho.

Photograph by Jennifer Zyman.

Simpson wanted his taco menu to be simple and unfussy. As a result, Muchacho only offers four types of tacos—barbacoa, al pastor, grilled pineapple, and a breakfast taco.

The barbacoa and al pastor are my favorite, and I’ve found myself often popping in to grab three or four when I am in the neighborhood and need a quick bite. For the barbacoa, Simpson braises short rib for 12 hours with chiles de arbol, chipotles, a dash of soy sauce, and orange juice. For the  al pastor, he braises pork butt in a mixture of pineapple juice and jalapeno, serrano, and chipotle chiles. Once tender, Simpson roasts it in the oven to caramelize some pieces, adding a crunchy texture to otherwise juicy hunks of pork.

Both are topped with cilantro and onion and served on corn tortillas, which pastry sous chef Elodie Westover creates fresh in-house using Maseca Instant Corn Flour. Fresh-ground masa is always number one in my book, but Westover’s tortillas are still shoulders above any store-bought competition. About four inches wide, the tortillas are thin enough to be pliable, yet strong enough to hold the abundance of fillings.

And Westover’s flour tortillas are better than any I have had in recent memory. They’re sturdy but thin, so they’re not too tough—often a problem with flour tortillas. Currently, Muchacho only uses them for the breakfast taco, which is filled with scrambled eggs, crunchy bits of raw white onion, chopped fresh cilantro, and optional crumbled pork chorizo that is worth the extra $1.50.

Muchacho’s final taco option, which features a hunk of mole-grilled pineapple topped with lime and cabbage slaw on a corn tortilla, was creative but not as satisfying as I’d hoped.

 

Relaxing on the patio with a cup of coffee

Photograph by Jennifer Zyman.

The tacos are available daily from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m along with poke bowls, toasts, and grain bowls. There’s also a pastry case filled with various Latin-inspired bites that recall Miami’s Cuban coffee shops, and Muchacho even serves cortaditos, a sweet Cuban espresso drink. Seating is limited inside but there is plenty of outdoor space that is quite lovely. Muchacho is a fun addition to this part of town. Tacos and good vibes—what more do you need? 904 Memorial Drive Southeast, 404-748-9254, muchachoatl.com

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