La Urbana Tequila & Mezcal bar—founded by Jesus Onate, owner of Zapata Tacos & Tequila Bar in Norcross— will open at 1133 Huff Road in August. La Urbana will strive to have “the most innovative Mexican spirit cocktail program in Atlanta.” He shares his plans below.
What’s your background in the hospitality industry?
My father is a pioneer of the Mexican restaurant movement in Georgia. He came to Atlanta in the early ‘70s and opened Monterrey Mexican Restaurant in Doraville in 1973. The restaurant was a success, and he began to open other restaurants outside of the Perimeter. Needless to say, I grew up in the restaurant business. Presently, I am part owner of two restaurants, and I own Zapata Tacos & Tequila Bar in downtown Norcross.
Why did you decide to open a tequila and mezcal bar?
I decided to step out of the southern-style Mexican food culture and take what my father started to the next level. I started Zapata and it caught on very quickly. Once I realized that I was onto something I decided to take it a step further. I got in contact with the Academy of Tequila in Mexico City and arranged for them to send me an instructor to certify me and a few of my employees. We are now Certified Tequiliers, a title that I believe nobody else holds in Atlanta. Taking it yet a step further, I contacted a group called Master Mezcalier that was giving mezcal courses in New York City (with Mexican government-issued certificates). I have taken the first two courses and need two more—which will be taken in Oaxaca, Mexico—to be a Certified Mezcalier, a title that I know nobody has in Atlanta. The knowledge my group has, together with the success of my tequila bar, is the reason why I am opening La Urbana in Midtown.
Who will run the food and beverage programs?
My beverage program director is Gilbert Marquez Jr., a master mixologist [formerly of Escorpion in Midtown] specializing in agave distillates. I have been in the business for so long that I am able to create my own menu, but at this particular location I will be working together with a chef from Mexico.
Tell us about the food.
Our menu will consist of small plates good for sharing, specialty plates, and tacos like no other in Atlanta—tacos in their purest form! The menu is in the works but will include crepas poblanas—three chicken-filled crepes with poblano pepper cream salsa and white cheddar—and molcajete—a Mexican version of the mortar and pestle made of volcanic rock, steaming hot, filled with green onions, tomato, nopal, queso fresco slices, fresh tomatillo salsa, and your choice of steak chicken or shrimp.
What’s the idea behind the cocktails?
Our cocktail program will be the most innovative Mexican spirit cocktail program in Atlanta. We will be focusing on our traditional Mexican flavors, yet we will present them in very creative way. This is not going to be a bar that simply makes tequila the old-fashioned way. We’ll have paloma ingrata made with mezcal joven, grapefruit juice, lime, corn syrup, cerveza tecate, and sal de guzano; and Aztec cleanse, which has mezcal, sotol, house-made herbal liqueur, sage, and a smoke garnish.
What will the atmosphere be like?
The point of La Urbana is to take us out of the southern-style Mexican food culture and let people know that Mexico also has Midtowns and Inman Parks. Instead of the bright colors, we are sticking to the industrial steel-, wood-, concrete-, and brick- look. We are working on getting a roll-up door to add to the atmosphere, and we will have a patio. La Urbana will be a full table-service restaurant/bar.