Saturday, July 11, 2015

Teela Taqueria - Sandy Springs GA near Hammond Dr

You can find Teela Taqueria at 227 Sandy Springs Pl NE, Atlanta, GA 30328 in the City Walk  Shopping center anchored by Kroger across from Whole Foods on the corner of Hammond Dr and Roswell Rd. I've been coming to Teela since 2011 when I discovered it with a group from work - I had a chance to return last week and it will now be part of our lunch rotation. You park right in front - the parking lot is huge, but shared with Meehan's and the other businesses so you may have to park a few rows away.

 Teela belongs to the group of Nuevo or Fusion Mex style restaurants you'll find in Atlanta. The object is to create flavor blends and contrasts using unique ingredients for brand new and unusual flavors, with the common element being the soft-shelled flour or corn taco shell. Many of the traditional Tex-Mex items are found on the menu but perhaps with a bit of a twist or extra punch of flavors. If you're into the bland taste of Taco Bell (or Taco Hell as I like to call it), then you won't be happy here. If, however, you enjoy the acid/fat/spice contrast of the epicurean menu, you'll quite enjoy Teela Taqueria.

The interior is interesting with a bit upscale, loft-like appearance with your usual Tex-Mex artifacts. I love the bar - this looks like a great neighborhood hangout and I can see myself here in the evenings enjoying a margarita or three.

The menu is mostly made up of taco or enchelada variations where you select your meats and combinations and make a meal of things. Teela has offered this type of selection way longer than many newcomers, it's been interesting to see how this style has been adopted by Takorea and others.

Besides some of the usual suspects (traditional sounding apps and a full bar - not that we were drinking during lunch before returning to work), the menu is divided into "Tacos" and "Tacos with a Twist" - the former at $2.95 each and the latter a buck extra. I usually try  a beef brisket, mole chicken, fried chicken or carnitas (roasted pork) from the first menu. I usually get corn tortillas but they also offer flour.... I usually order the slaw to round-out the meal. We usually start things off with chips and a cheesy queso packed with jalapenos and chorizo or just the chips and salsa - note that even the regular chips and salsa basket is extra (no free chips here, but they do keep bringing the latter out for the base charge).

I like the chips quite a bit - Teela uses a seasoned salt that has a touch of red (thinking paprika, dried chipotle and cayenne), the queso is appropriately runny and probably made with a Chihuahua cheese or derivative. I would place this above average but not exceptional - call it 3.5 stars and well worth trying. I love the salsa, guac and queso combo and you may like it better than the chips and queso.

buffalo chicken and carnitas

beef, fried fish and mole chicken

Now the tacos - as usual, the beef brisket used to have to me an obnoxious flavor of au jus that reminded me too much of canned Dinty Moore beef stew. For some reason it's common in similar establishments to induce this "beefy" flavor but this most recent time eating there it was much better. The meat does appear to be of very good quality, fork tender and the combination of flavors (queso and pico) were quite good - I think most fans of similar would like it.

The higher priced "Fins on Fire" has blackened pieces of fish with mango salsa - like the above, good but not exceptional. I think it needs something with a bit more strength added, like either pineapple or other with more acid as the mango got lost in the blackening seasoning. I prefer the regular fish taco, especially with the jalepeno slaw.

Now the carnitas, what a pleasure! The pork is shredded and usually when presented thus is dry - I much prefer chunks of pork - however I'm happy to say that this pork taco is exceptional and not dry at all. Plus the corn and pepper pico, cilantro and onions makes this a fantastic bundle of culinary joy.

spicy jalepeno slaw

The real surprises were the sides. This is perhaps the best slaw I've ever had - not your creamy sickly sweet-made slaw either - this was punched up with jalapeno and I think lime? Wow, I could eat a whole bowl (and did!). The black beans were cooked to death either and had a good level of spice - not bad at all for vegetarian. Speaking of vegetarian, my Vegetarian friend Sid enjoyed the Cheese and Bean encheladas quite a bit.

Bean and Cheese Encheladas

In all this most recent visit was as good if not better than the times when we came here before - I'm not sure why we waited so long? You should try it too.

-- John

(shorter, and earlier version of this review also posted to Yelp).
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