Chi Chi Vegan Taco Shop
Earlier this year and over the course of 24 pages, our Tacos Issue made the case (perhaps excessively) that the tortilla is the ideal vehicle not just for traditionally roasted meats but for all manner of unconventional and far-flung fillings. Of the 50 tacos that packed that issue, there were a handful of vegetarian tacos but just one, lonely plant-based one. Sorry, vegans! A silver lining: Now, there is an entire taco shop devoted just to you.
On the traffic-clogged corner of Moreland and Hosea L. Williams, you’ll find a quaint pink storefront in a tiny, historic strip just off the intersection, behind the new Hodgepodge Coffee outpost. Inside the stylish space are a handful of socially distanced tables and five or so taco options. I am generally wary of all things faux fish, but the Baja Fish taco wasn’t merely inoffensive but actually tasty, the fried bits (of what exactly, I’m not sure) served on a fragrant and highly respectable tortilla and dressed with mango slaw, sweet chili, and “crema.” Its only real flaw is one that pervades most of the tacos here, all of which are pretty damn tasty: The sweetness is a little overpowering. It’s no coincidence that my two favorites, a simple black bean and “queso” and, surprisingly, the Philly Cheese Steak, were the least sugary of the lot. I yearned for a sharp, acidic, spicy salsa to offer these a jolt, but I happily scarfed them down nonetheless.
Don’t let yourself get too fatigued by the sweetness to skip the mangonanda—a cup of diced mango mingling with mango slush and a chili-spice mixture. Your Instagram demands it. 1 Moreland Avenue, Reynoldstown, 404-464-7153
Woodward & Park
This restaurant in Grant Park’s sleek Larkin development originally had lined up hotshot Robert Phalen (of One Eared Stag) as chef and promised to be a “European-inspired bistro.” Neither of those plans came to fruition, but we’re not complaining. Before the restaurant opened, Dan Brown (formerly of Torched Hop Brewing Company, 5Church, and the Porter) took Phalen’s place as chef and created a wild mashup of a menu—everything from pierogi to okonomiyaki—and his broad-minded, gastropub-ish sensibilities worked out well.
Okonomiyaki itself is a hodgepodge dish befitting this hodgepodge menu; the Osaka-
style pancake here is composed of cabbage, sweet potato, and house kimchi; garnished with sweet soy, kewpie mayo, and bonito; and heaped atop a foundation of thick strips of bacon. It’s a generous portion that tastes just as good scarfed out of a box the next day (though you’ll want to recrisp the bacon). Housemade, pan-seared pierogi come stuffed with Stone Mountain Cattle Co. brisket, caramelized onion, and potato or braised cabbage, farmers’ cheese, and potato, both with roasted apple, charred rosemary, and thyme crema. A single order won’t be enough.
Roasted chicken has been one of my go-to pandemic comforts, and the workhorse of a dish is often a bit of an afterthought at restaurants. Not so here. The juicy bird is actually smoked, and to perfection; a vibrant and vinegary chimichurri cuts through the smokiness and works just as beautifully with the crisp-edged, woodsy mushrooms and the smashed fingerlings that come with. The dining room and bar are predictably handsome, but if you’re not doing the indoor-dining thing, there are a half-dozen tables on the pleasant patio. 519 Memorial Drive, Grant Park, 404-748-1091
Brown Bag Seafood
It’s hard to rationalize a $24 lunch these days, but if you’re in Midtown at midday and crave a lobster roll, Chicago import Brown Bag Seafood at Colony Square serves a solid one, with a side of tater tots showered with flakes of Parmesan. (I did not detect a trace of the tots’ promised truffle, but maybe that’s for the best.) For half the price, you can choose from a bunch of customizable seafood dishes—just select your protein (grilled salmon, seared-rare tuna, etc.) and your preparation (salad, bowl, tacos, sandwich). A bowl with a half-and-half mix of green veggies (mostly broccoli, very tasty) and ancient grains (blandish but fine) topped with a small, unremarkable salmon fillet makes for a healthy and decent lunch. But really, you’ll be happier with the lobster roll. 1201 Peachtree Street, Midtown, 404-883-2175
This article appears in our December 2020 issue.