Saturday, August 1, 2015

Zapata Tacos and Tequila Bar - on the Square - Norcross Georgia

You'll find the fantastic Zapata Tacos and Tequila Bar at15 Jones St NW, Norcross, GA 30071 - that's right on the square in the cute town of Norcross. It's fairly easy to get to either by going North from the perimeter or from I85, cutting across around Jimmy Carter to Buford Hwy until you hit Cemetery Rd. Holcolm Bridge Rd leads right into Cemetery so from the West you pick up Holcolm Bridge then keep traveling East until you reach the railroad tracks - the town of Norcross is on the other side. This is a small town square bordered by railroad tracks (and a converted to restaurant station along the West side) with the long side paralleling the tracks.

I first learned of Zapata while working near Norcross on Technology Pky - this amazing little place sits between Paizano's near the top of the slight hill, and the Iron Horse Tavern near the bottom.There's a sculpture out front with a sombero'd gentleman and a stand-up sign (this night it read "Keep Calm and Drink Tequila"). I've mostly come here for lunch but had the occasion to visit for the first time in several years a couple of weekends ago while doing an exploratory mini-pub-crawl with my friend Sangam. We started at the Iron Horse with some lamb-skewers and a couple of beers, headed to Mojitos for an appetizer plate and mojitos, of course, then finished up at Zapata, seated at the bar and having final drink.

Zapata is what I think of as a true Mexican restaurant that's adapted a bit to be more palatable for Americans. Rather than the gooey cheese-and-cheap salsa you see at most Tex-Mex restaurants, you'll find some classic better Mexican dishes here, like the Molcajete - these are large stone crocks filled with goodness, tomatillo verde, green onions, tomato and nopal (flat cactus), topped with queso fresco and served with tortillas, black beans and rice. Go all the way and get it with beef, shrimp, chicken and chorizo - you can thank me later. The other dishes I really like here use mole, like the mole chicken encheladas. You're really getting different flavors and dishes here that you don't typically see, and the quality is superb.

This was a Friday night and all the restaurants mentioned were hopping and crowded. We came in and sat at the bar while I tried to talk Sangam into an appetizer - unfortunately we were both a bit stuffed and opted for drinks - Sangam a draft and I had a really delicious sangria - one of the best I've had in a long time. Or if you really want to party on, you can opt for one of their mini sangria drinks - basically all the same alcohol, served in a smaller glass so less mix - a truly buzz-worthy alternative.

We sat at the bar so service was very good. As I recall from visiting in the past, service in general is very good. There's also a hidden deck area if you'd rather enjoy the outdoors (too damn hot for me right now). Prices are slightly above what you might pay in your typical Tex-Mex joint, but still not outrageous. 


-- John

(shorter version of this review also posted to Yelp)
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