Photography by Drew Podo
Eddie Hernandez sold his first taco in 1992 at the Sundown Cafe. His menu of Southern-inspired tacos, then only a lunch special, eventually took on a life of their own, and eight years later, they served as the launching point for Taqueria del Sol, which now boasts five locations in Georgia and Tennessee. The restaurant sells thousands of tacos weekly, but Hernandez’s fried fish taco, with poblano tartar sauce and pickled jalapenos, always tops the charts. “When people go on trips and come back to Atlanta, they come straight from the airport to get a fish taco,” Hernandez says.
Hernandez got the idea to serve a fish taco 26 years ago, when Rubio’s in California received national attention for popularizing the Baja street snack. He traveled to the West Coast to research the recipe and found that most fish tacos used grilled fish. “Here in the South, people don’t relate to a fish taco without the coating,” Hernandez says. “So I had to come up with a fish taco that was crispy.” He settled on a coating of breadcrumbs and corn masa and added pickled jalapeños and a tangy tartar sauce.
Hernandez estimates that his restaurants go through at least 40 pounds of tilapia a day. Even though it’s a simple dish, he attributes its popularity to its originality. “It wasn’t designed to mimic anything else,” Hernandez says. “It was designed for the South.”