Food for thought

By Adriana Galvin

Originally published September 2004.

Even neuroscientists need to eat

As we all know, members of the Neuroscience Program at Emory University enjoy good food and drink (or, if the food is not good, it should be plenty). This section of the newsletter is meant to be a forum to exchange recipes, restaurant recommendations, and maybe some experts can give us some advice on good wine or beer.

I invite our community to contribute with yummy (and easy) recipes –we could all us something different than spaghetti for dinneror to share their impressions about local eateries. If food is one of your favorite rewards, share your experience with us! To kick off the column, I’d like to talk about Mexican restaurants in Atlanta. Atlanta has a variety of ethnic restaurants, and if one decides to explore beyond the well-known chains, there are a lot of good and cheap places, full of flavor and tradition.

I was born and raised in Mexico City and moved to Atlanta four years ago to discover that what I missed most from my country was its food. Fortunately, I have discovered several places where real Mexican food is prepared. Don’t expect ambience in any of thes places (and don’t take anybody on a first date), but the adventure will be interesting and the fresh tacos, hot salsas and original mole will be your reward.

Taqueria Los Pinos

584 Woodward Ave.

Atlanta, GA 30305

404-577-0093

Taqueria Nayerit

562 Boulevard

Atlanta, GA 30312

404-622-0999

These two places in Grant Park offer a similar experience. Even though the menu looks a lot like Willy’s (burritos and tacos), expect more creative fillings like pork, beef tongue (lengua), chicken or grilled steak strips (carne asada). Other items on the menu are as good and maybe more interesting like gorditas (think pita pockets made with corn and stuffed with beans and meat) or tortas (Mexican sandwiches, prepared with avocado, beans, salsa and your choice of meat). On weekends they usually have pozole (stew made with hominy and pork meat) and tamales. Both places are reasonably clean, but dark and a little scruffy. A good bet is to ask for take out.

Sylvia’s Pastry

6065 S. Norcross Tucker Road Suite 9

Norcross, GA 30096

770-496-4550

This is, by far, my favorite Mexican place. The food is what you’d get in any good “loncheria” in Mexico City, or in a traditional Mexican household. Everything I have had here is really delicious. The ingredients feel fresh and the food is never too salty or too spicy, just right. The mole – a sauce made from at least 17 ingredients, including chocolate, peanuts, sesame and hot chiles- is remarkable. And the one item that really makes it worth the long drive to Norcross are the tortillas. We are talking warm, freshly cooked, smelling of corn masa (dough), that roll into tacos with ease, holding their shape and character. This is also one of the few places where you can enjoy Mexican desserts, such as vanilla flan (custard) and pastel tres leches (milk cake). Even though the place is small, it’s quite cheerful and the owner, Roberto Nava, speaks fluent English and is a very gracious host. It can be easy to miss, so look for a gas station across the street, or call for directions.

El Taco Veloz

5084 Buford Highway N.E.

Atlanta, GA 30340

770-936-9094

A true “taqueria”, that could be the Mexican equivalent of a fast food joint. For little money and in no time –that is why it is veloz (fast)- you’ll have tacos, burritos or tortas, filled with chicken, pork or beef. They also have vegetarian tacos. Refried beans and red rice are good side dishes.

If you have suggestions or comments for Food for Thought, please contact Adriana Galvin at aglavan@emory.edu.

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