It was a Tuesday evening with at-home dinner plans kind of shuffled by the day’s demands. We opted for dining out and three factors decided the location: 1) a Realtor friend ate lunch at this place and gave it rave reviews on Facebook (“Wow!!! Go try this place out!!! It’s amazing!”) 2) We normally give new restaurants a week or two before doing a “First Bites” but given shifting schedules, it was now or sometime in October. 3) It was Taco Tuesday and neither of us had ever consciously eaten a taco on Tuesday. Time to get trendy, right?
So Don Neo’s Tacos & Elotes won. And, for the most part, so did we.
A. The look: The guys at Jerusalem Grill tried the Express at 330 Broad St. and spent a good bit of time (and money) remodeling the vaunted Partridge. They did a great job. But as the brothers divided some of their holdings, Tony decided to focus only on the original location so the Partridge was empty again. Not for long. The operators of the Don Neo food truck — primarily West Rome-based — wanted to try brick-and-mortar. They did, opening last Friday with a grand opening Saturday. The beer pouring permit is on hold for another month but there’s plenty to drink, from water to sodas to fancier stuff. The look, though, remains much like Jerusalem Express with a few tweaks.
B. The menu. Authentic as it gets and somewhat similar of La Mexicana’s restaurant on Shorter Avenue. Among the offerings: Huarche, tacos, tortas (huge sandwiches), burritos, quesadillas, tamales, fried fish, mole (chicken in red sauce), fajitas, pork chops, a chili poblano spin we’ll try next time and Elote en Palillo (sweet corn on a stick with mayo, cheese, butter and chili; also known as “Street Corn.”) Also: soups and a salad. Nothing on the menu was over $8.99 and the al a cart tacos were $2.25 and tamales, $1.75. Want more authentic? Just remember there’s an upcharge for beef tongue and there’s also a soup featuring other bovine body parts. We might need to wait until the beer arrives before braving those.
C. The food: First was the burrito, probably enough for two. Chicken with traditional fillings. While large, it was a little dry and lacked something — perhaps enough cheese. It was good but size alone isn’t everything. And then there was our mutant order: A chorizo taco (no onions), which was a bit spicy as is usually served in this area vs. a little less “heat” in Arizona; a chicken tamale (sadly, no corn husks in sight) but good; and two of the best ears of corn to ever cross our lips… and face .. and chin. They were a drippin’ mess and well worth every swipe of a napkin (and they need to put a surcharge on napkins for those of us inclined to make a mess with anything). Yes, probably a cardiac-on-a-stick but excellent (even a member of law enforcement eating behind us readily admitted he’s a fan of the Elote — and he’s in great shape). You would not want to order this if on a first date or a business lunch. Sidebar: One thing AWOL from other Mexican restaurants: chips and salsa. That was fine as we tend to eat too many anyway.
D. Service. The only thing missing was the waiter and waitress saying “my pleasure.” It was Chick-fil-A Dwarf House quality. Verifying orders. Refills of water. Nice folks.
E. The outcome: No one in town comes close to what Sabrina is doing with Antigua over at the East Rome Walmart shopping center; we believe it is the area’s top Mexican restaurant. But we’ll certainly be back at Don Neo’s. This is authentic Mexican dining with a food truck flair that maybe needs to ease a bit into sit-down dining. Our next trip/trips will be with a few friends who are much more into authentic cuisine (including one guy who’s as passionate about chili poblano as we are). Overall: Curiosity will get you through the door; good food and service will bring you back.
F. The cost: Huge burrito, one taco, one tamale, two Elotes and two waters — $22.68 before tip. We probably would have saved a few bucks ordering some of the packaged entrees but we wanted to sample a few things.
G. Bottom line: Broad Street’s (and downtown’s overall) best Mexican food with a vibe we haven’t felt since the late, great place off of 12th Street — Los Amigos — that’s been gone for nearly a decade now (Don Neo even serves the same style spiced carrots, cauliflower and such in a bowl already on the table to accent your entree).
New owners for Sonic, ‘America’s drive-in.’ We’ve seen a good bit of activity with the chain in Northwest Georgia in recent years. The restaurant on Shorter Avenue went through a pretty extensive makeover while the one in Rockmart closed and is being replaced by a Popeye’s. Other locations remains busy on Joe Frank Harris in Cartersville and Wall Street in Calhoun. The company, Sonic Corp. , is merging with Atlanta-based and Inspire Brands Inc. in a deal worth $2.3 billion, including the assumption of Sonic’s net debt. Inspire is a multi-brand restaurant company with more than 4,700 Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and Rusty Taco locations. Look for more growth and updates at existing locations.