Alan Raines had been intrigued by the mostly-abandoned building at the corner of Woodbine and Whitefoord avenues in Edgewood. The dilapidated, shoebox-shaped structure behind a thriving mechanic’s shop had played host to various businesses, some selling wings, others barbecue, but it had been dormant for awhile.
“Atlanta is dozens of neighborhoods, each sporting a style and attitude of their own,” Raines says, remembering when he first started thinking about the space. “Edgewood deserves its own vibe.”
He eventually got some information about the building’s owner: “Oscar. Sells watermelons on Saturdays.” That next Saturday, Raines showed up, bought a watermelon, and made a friend.
“We talked for two hours about the neighborhood, restaurant life, and the old neighborhood dealer I befriended upon buying my house, who I called the Sheriff of Ericson,” Raines recalls, referring to a former trap house near a property he owns around the corner on Ericson Street. “Oscar laughed out loud, and we were on. He finally agreed to ‘think about renting’ to me. Two years of badgering later, he called me and said, ‘Okay.’”
Raines and his business partner, Darryl Howard, are planning to open Taqueria El Tesoro—tesoro is Spanish for “treasure”—in late October. They’ll start with “breakfast burritos and great coffee, maybe a few specials,” Raines says, along with a lunch menu that includes tamales, quesadillas, and barbacoa. A friend he’s known for many years who grew up just outside of Mexico City will be responsible for the food, including house-made corn and flour tortillas. Raines hopes that once the restaurant finds its groove in the first few months that they’ll add a full bar, full-service dinner, and “a badass, pretty large desertscape patio.”
“If all goes as planned, we will control our property and the vacant lot next door, for a total of about 21,000 square feet,” Raines says. “The plan is to grow that into a covered patio, full outside accessible bar, seating areas, a fountain, kids play area, maybe horseshoes, bocce, and more.”
Raines says he plans for the project to be a gradual expansion. “The desertscape vision will feature a mix of palm trees, cactus, stone dust, concrete pavers, string lights, and different seating areas,” he explains. “We feel like it is a modern evolution of a spot on the side of the road in Mexico.”
For Edgewood, Tesoro could become a destination restaurant in a part of town that doesn’t have one. It’s located at a busy intersection—just a block from Memorial Drive, a short walk to Moreland Avenue, and about a mile from the Edgewood/Candler Park MARTA Station. The area is quickly gaining new residents, and now new businesses are following. Chop Shop—the butcher shop collaboration between Pine Street Market and Riverview Farms—is building out its space a block away from Tesoro.
This isn’t Raines’s first food and drink endeavor. He co-founded the East Atlanta Beer Festival in 2003 and co-founded and ran the beer-geek-beloved HOToberFest for several years. He says he’s excited for Tesoro to serve local brews including ones from Wrecking Bar, Southern Brewing, Dry County, and Arches. His connections to Georgia’s largest brewery run deep as well: He was one of SweetWater’s first volunteers when it opened in 1997, and he later worked for an adhesives company that helped the brewery attach labels to their early bottles.
“SweetWater 420 has a tap handle anywhere I do business,” he says.
Raines has been a partner at a few restaurants over the years, including East Atlanta’s Iris and Cantina La Casita, and Decatur’s Cantina El Tesoro (which was located in the space currently occupied by Kevin Gillespie’s Revival). Raines parted ways with the Decatur restaurant before it closed, and while he’s repurposing the logo, he’s quick to dispel rumors that he’s merely rehashing Cantina El Tesoro.
“This is not a resurrection,” he says. “This is a new life.”
That new life applies to Raines as well. After working in sales for three decades, he recently quit his longtime gig to go all in on Tesoro. He says that treating restaurants as a side hustle in the past was “not a good plan,” and that he’s excited to “only do this” going forward. And while he lives in Sandy Springs currently, he’s toying with the idea of moving into his rental on Ericson Street and skateboarding to work one day, becoming both a business owner and resident of Edgewood.
“We hope the location itself, an eyesore for so long, will become a treasure for the neighborhood,” Raines says.