Every few weeks, we offer our “B Review”—a short take on restaurants that are casual and (typically) not too pricey.
Restaurants specializing in specific regional Mexican food—ranging from the hearty and meat-heavy dishes found on the ranches of the north to the rainbow of moles that hail from the state of Oaxaca in the south—are rare in Atlanta. But we now have Estrella, a restaurant inspired by the cuisine of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. First, however, you have to find it.
After weaving your car through the maze behind Two Urban Licks, you’ll eventually make your way to the BeltLine-adjacent Bazati complex, which is also home to the Brasserie. Before you reach Bazati’s high-end retail stalls, climb the stairs that seem to be leading you the wrong way. Once you find the neon green sign, you’ll know you’re in the right place. Beyond the nondescript door, the indoor-outdoor rooftop space is cheery and chic, with bright white walls, woven basket lampshades, and blue-and-white tiled floors evoking a boho mix of Marrakesh and Mexico. The indoor dining area and bar are small; the patio with a panoramic view of Atlanta and the BeltLine is the place to be.
That view—along with the quality of the small plates—helps justify the somewhat steep prices. Two people can easily spend $100 on a modest assortment of dishes and cocktails. Tangy tamarind margaritas rimmed in Tajin (a mix of dehydrated lime, salt, and chili pequin peppers that’s good on everything) reduce the shock of paying $14 for a quesadilla topped with griddled shrimp in a pool of mornay sauce. A trio of crispy fried oyster tacos on small corn tortillas is surprisingly complex thanks to a smear of dzikilpak, a rich sauce made from roasted pumpkin seeds. Estrella’s tortillas aren’t housemade, but they’re strong and fragrant and arrive blazing hot in a napkin pouch alongside a plate of crispy, golden rectangles of Yucatecan pork belly served over radish pico and avocado puree. Across the menu, you’ll find dishes utilizing key Yucatecan ingredients such as annatto seeds (referred to as achiote, for the tree bearing the fruit that produces them) and recado (a seasoning paste that Estrella prepares with charred ancho chilis and other spices).
Part of what makes the BeltLine so useful is that it encourages exploration of pockets of the city that were once overlooked. At Estrella, not only do you get to explore one of those pockets—you also get a taste of a region far more remote.
★ ★ ★ ★
550 Somerset Terrace,
This article appears in our January 2019 issue.