In the last couple years, Arnaldo Castillo has established himself as one of the brightest stars in the firmament of Atlanta’s pop-up scene. Through his business La Chingana, the former Minero chef served interpretations of dishes that reflected his family’s Peruvian roots, gaining scores of fans in the process. It’s entirely to the city’s benefit that we now have a venue to eat this stuff most days a week. One night recently, I sat down in the casual, modern dining room of Tio Lucho’s and enjoyed what was easily one of the best meals I’ve had all year, full of superfresh ingredients, unabashed flavors, and fun interplays of texture. I was delighted by the profound spiciness of the aji verde that blankets a very pretty tuna tiradito (pictured)—gleaming slices of raw fish decorated with little clumps of trout roe—and entranced by the causa, a creamy, cold whipped-potato appetizer that Castillo and his partner in the kitchen, Manuel Lara, offer with shrimp or fresh veggies. There was a small, perfect quinoa salad, named (like the restaurant itself) after Castillo’s father, studded with corn, aji dulce peppers, favas, beets, and radish and tossed in a peppery vinaigrette; there were two preparations of Castillo’s famous ceviches, one with fish and one with mushrooms. Nobody needed anything more to eat at this point, but we nonetheless ordered lomo saltado, a stir-fry of fork-tender beef served with french fries, onions, and a soy-based sauce. Return visits will be in order to sample literally every other item available, and then again. A concise cocktail list includes, of course, a classic pisco sour. 675 North Highland Avenue, Poncey-Highland
One Flew South
A note on the menu succinctly provides the backstory: “One Flew South began as the first fine-dining restaurant in the world’s busiest airport.” Not being located on Concourse E at Hartsfield-Jackson, then, makes the second outpost of Todd Richards’s highly regarded, James Beard–nominated Southern-Asian fusion restaurant accessible—new, even—to a great many of us. Cedric McCroery leads the kitchen, with Allen Suh heading up the sushi operation; the menu combines some old favorites from the airport joint (collard green ramen, poke tacos) with some new additions, such as hot drunken chicken with mochi waffles. A longtime chicken-and-waffles skeptic, I hoped to be won over by this unusual reinterpretation, but alas, it was just too cloying (and hardly hot), even if the sweetness came from plum chutney rather than maple syrup. But there are plenty of options here, from Sichuan-style short ribs to chicken katsu to a fantastic black cod, slightly charred outside and deeply moist within, served with grits, a piquant collard kimchi, and a big swoop of funky bourbon-miso sauce. Suh’s creations range from the recognizable (the tuna roll gets a spicy kick from a dusting of togarashi) to the locally inflected (a “Southern roll” with pecan-smoked trout, shiso, roe, and Cajun cocktail sauce), and they’re impeccably done. Breezy house cocktails follow the general vibe, incorporating Asian liquors (sake, Suntory whiskey, et al) and other ingredients like yuzu and Chinese five-spice. 670 DeKalb Avenue, Old Fourth Ward
D Boca N Boca
Following three years of delays, Helio Bernal—operator of the food truck business the Real Mexican Vittles—has finally succeeded in landing a permanent home, and it’s a nice one: a comfortable, high-ceilinged corner restaurant with a patio providing a view of the downtown skyline. Built around dishes passed down by Bernal’s grandmothers from Veracruz and Yucatán, the relatively short menu includes starters like meatballs in chipotle sauce, mushroom escabeche, and an herby guacamole in which pomegranate and blistered pumpkin seeds provide little pops of flavor and crunch; tacos on housemade tortillas, including a rich al pastor and a resoundingly good, slightly vinegary mushroom barbacoa; and a few larger plates. The best of these looks to be a whole grilled snapper, but it was all sold out on a recent visit; smoky chicken served under a cloak of mole poblano was a very tasty consolation. A “bodega” section of the menu offers staples in take-home portions, including tortillas and masa by the kilo, and a long cocktail list makes clever use of tequila, mezcal, and sotol, a spirit distilled from a wild-growing desert plant in the asparagus family; it’s the star of the herby, bittersweet cocktail Sin Maiz, No Hay Pais (“Without corn, there is no country”), where it’s mixed with corn liqueur and the Italian apertivo Pilla Select. 39-A Georgia Avenue, Summerhill
This article appears in our September 2022 issue.