The verdict on 3 newcomers to Atlanta’s dining scene: El Tesoro, Gino’s East, and Soul Crab

Get the early word on some of Atlanta's newest restaurants

El Tesoro

Photograph courtesy of Chris Rank - Rank Studios

El Tesoro
Drop that sad excuse for a burrito and make haste to El Tesoro. In fact, drop whatever you’re holding and head to this 16-seat Edgewood oasis, in a dusty gravel lot across from a members-only biker bar and behind Rudy’s Auto & Collision. I say this at the risk of sending the line even farther out the door, but word already has spread about these outrageously tasty tacos, burritos, and tamales, among other dishes (including breakfast options; currently, the restaurant only is open from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.). “El Tesoro” means “the treasure,” and partners Alan Raines, of the late Iris and Cantina La Casita in East Atlanta Village, and Darryl Howard have found one in Cristina Lugo Soto, a home cook who hails from the Mexican coastal state of Guerrero and helms the kitchen with her daughter, Mayra. Soto offers three tamale flavors—pork with green salsa, chicken with chipotle salsa, and rajas with mushroom and squash—and if there’s a more craveable masa in existence, I’ve yet to find it. The tacos come as tacos are supposed to, with supremely flavorful meat that requires no embellishment aside from micro-diced onion, a light shower of chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and, if you must, a streak of one of three homemade salsas. The brick-red barbacoa filling is a lesson in harmonious spice without excessive heat. Before you scoff at the tacos’ $3.25 cost ($3.50 if you want house-made Lechuza spent-grain corn tortillas, which you absolutely do), note that the “burros” (aka burritos) will set you back only $5.75. A taco or tamale and a burro would easily feed a reasonably hungry person, though they might not be enough to satisfy that person’s instant infatuation. At the table next to ours, a man nodded at his empty plate where a burro had briefly resided and said to the woman across from him, “I’m going to order another one.” “Seriously? You want the same thing?” “Yes, I could eat that again.” During the exchange, my own dining companion already was back in line, waiting to order burro number two. 1374 Arkwright Place, 470-440-5502  —Mara Shalhoup

Gino's East

Photograph courtesy of Gino's East

Gino’s East
This Chicago-based chain is more than 50 years old, but you wouldn’t know it from walking inside its first Georgia location, in the North Highland Avenue space formerly home to the short-lived Rize Artisan Pizza. Black T-shirts sold behind the counter seem targeted toward millennials, with phrases such as “we roll deep” and “will run for pizza.” And if you want to try Gino’s signature deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza, you have to order it “deep AF.” The pizza itself, though, stays true to its Windy City roots: You’ll find the same dense, rich crust and thick, robust tomato sauce. Appetizers such as spinach and artichoke dip or pizza breadsticks will help satiate those who are put off by the 45-minute wait for a deep AF, but the pie is so filling you might want to skip them. Gino’s East also offers a less daunting option—called, simply, “deep dish”—for the diner who’s unaccustomed to or overwhelmed by this style of pizza. The “deep dish” is shorter than the deep AF, with less heft, and therefore easier to demolish without leftovers. Or you can skip the deep end altogether and order the thin crust (but really, you should go deep). Chicagoans have argued for ages about which deep-dish chain makes the best pie, but if you’ve never tried any of them, Gino’s is a good—and now convenient—place to start. 675 North Highland Avenue, 678-921-1001  —Myrydd Wells

Soul Crab
Chef Darius Williams’s follow-up to Greens & Gravy—a restaurant that helped reenergize the food scene in Westview—brings a similar jolt to another high-potential part of town: College Park. Located in a vintage storefront in the city’s old-timey downtown, directly across from its historic depot, Soul Crab is a fine place to post up with an enormous bowl of catfish and grits and watch the trains roll by. Williams serves comfort food that threatens to induce a food coma, but we’re not complaining. If you’re in the sweet-cornbread-is-superior camp, his skillet butter pecan cornbread won’t disappoint. You’ll find many of the same dishes here as at Greens & Gravy, but there’s a heavier emphasis on seafood, including by-the-pound crab legs, shrimp, black mussels, and crawfish. Ask for the Hennessy garlic butter for an extra-decadent kick. 3725 Main Street, College Park, 404-228-2835  —Mara Shalhoup

This article appears in our April 2019 issue.