It’s much more than a bar and serves more than the humble taco.
bartaco, with three existing Atlanta locations and 24 overall, opened its newest lively location in the Vinings Jubilee Shopping Center on Paces Ferry Road.
Situated in an old church, the indoor/outdoor restaurant preserved the original exposed wood ceiling rafters and oak wood floors with reclaimed oak and Douglas Fir furniture. The vibe is anything but old-fashioned as we visited on a beautiful fall Saturday night and were then presented with a bit of a wait at 7 p.m. By sunset, the flow had eased up.
Of special note is that the co-founder, Scott Lawton, grew up in Vinings and shares wall space of photos of his childhood, along with the original artwork of Sasa Mahr-Batuz, bartaco’s other founder. Since the brand’s signature logo is a dragonfly, aligning bartaco are stained glass windows created by local glass fabricator, Accent Glass.
The drink menu is broken down by beer, tequila + mezcal, and non-alcoholic on one side. The other side boasts cocktails made from fresh-squeezed juice and sangria + wine. We had sparkling cava at $8.50 a glass. More adventurous choices would be “Smoke on the Water” with watermelon, mint and Banhez Mescal, or summer Caipirinha with elderflower and cachaca, and many others ending in a pineapple crush. A clever non-alcoholic menu is now also popular for those who want to concentrate on the food.
The menu is, well, tacos and not tacos. The petite-sized version taco ($2.85 or $3.85 each) features the following options: mushroom with queso, cauliflower, Baja fish, tuna tataki, and an amazing falafel version, sharing the menu with seven others. In the next section, “not tacos,” we sampled the gazpacho ($5.50), which was a sharable-sized bowl topped off with an olive oil coulis “squiggle,” and chunks of veggies. The green papaya salad ($3) was a nice change-up and affordable, but the star in the category was the chopped salad ($7.95). The $9 ceviche was sharable and spongy. The black beans were a tad undercooked that night. Other good options are kimchi, tuna poke, and the always reliable standby, guacamole ($6.25 for the small). The Esquites street corn off the cob ($4.75) was authentic.
Rice bowls come next at $8.95-$9.95. With ample portions, we tried the “purply” raw ahi tuna. There is an extensive kid’s menu with 12 items, many for $2 and $3 that have cool names like corn wheels, fruit skewers, and are downright healthy like streamed broccoli. A steak taco is only $2. Desserts range from key lime pie in a jar ($7) to Tres leches and gelato ($3.75).
A modern “tailor-made” option was that each table has its own set of spice salsa jars: roja, happy habanero, and jalapeño to accommodate the range of adding one’s own level of heat.
The other extremely popular “bennie” is the free parking out front and the ability to stroll about the charming Jubilee Shopping Center before or after dining. Patrons are given the option of ordering from a QR code. While being old-fashioned, we chose a printed menu that came with a pencil to note, or “tally,” the table order. Descriptions are not included (like what is panucha?), but the staff is ready to answer questions as they breeze by. Dishes are served family style on trays.
The bartaco staff was competent enough at teamwork, so don’t get used to knowing which server will bring which dish and in what order. Somehow it all seems to work just like the dragonfly, some of the first winged insects to evolve who are still whizzing and colorful. Maybe like bartaco.
bartaco is located at 2950 New Paces Ferry Rd SE Suite 200, Atlanta, GA 30339.