El Ray Del Taco aka Atlanta’s hidden taco gem

So tonight I decided to hit El Ray Del Taco on Buford Hwy. I’ve been wanting to come here for a while after driving by it on the way to Monterey House (about 100 yds. away) for a while now and was finally back in the area. I had a ten spot in my pocket, was starving and in the vicinity of Northeast Atlanta’s ethnic mecca. I had to eat.

Its a great little restaurant just inside the perimeter with a pretty visible sign. First thing I noticed was their hours, open till 5am!!! Cant wait to spend an evening downtown and swinging by here for some killer grub. I walked in to place order to go and the aroma was intoxicating. Meats stewing and cooking filled my schnoz as I stumbled towards the counter to grab a menu. Ohh, I’m liking this place already. Looking over the menu I found tons of unique specialties you only find when you channel your inner Bourdain and grow a sack to eat somewhere in which 90% of the staff doesn’t speak your language. Which wasn’t El Ray Del Taco by the way. The menu had the usual authentic eats like tripe, cheek, tongue, and stomach. There was also asada and pollo for the gringo’s. I really struggled here, there was too many tempting items and I ended up going a tad conservative but by the smells, I knew I’d be back. I ordered 2 Al Pastor (apparently its a favorite), 1 Lengua, and 1 Carnita’s. A couple minutes wait and I was out the door with a sack of tacos, limes and their green sauce which judging by where it came from I wasn’t trusting its creamy green hue as being a docile little puppy.

Man, I wasn’t in the car five minutes before I was tearing away at the aluminum foil to tempt fate eating and driving in rush hour traffic with definitely the most unfriendly of car foods. I reached for the warming glow of a pork and steak Al Pastor with freshly chopped bits of onion and cilantro which if you cant tell by now is how I roll with my taco’s. Dry and seasoned on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside with a mild spice and the crispness of the fresh onion to bring you back. Now I didn’t see the spit on the inside and judging by how the meat was sliced, it didn’t appear to be full out spit and pineapple cooked Al Pastor. It was definitely good eating but it was a bit on the mild side and from what I ordered was my least favorite. 3 outta 5 chaka’s.

When I got home I cracked open a Dos Equis I had from my last batch of home-maid tacos, yup the ones just below this post. The first one I went for was the Lengua, thats Cow Tongue for you gringo’s. Wow thats a killer taco, just like the ones off Lifeguard station 44 in Newport Beach after a day of surfing. Now appearances aren’t everything when your eating Lengua. Sometimes its stewed and looks like any other stringy stewed meat but this bad boy was in chucks. Chunks that had different textures where you could see the layers of meat. This sounds disgusting if you’ve never had it but I guarantee if you try it your days of boring chicken are over. After a couple of bites I hit it with a touch of lime and that creamy, deceiving green sauce I was talking about earlier. It gave it just enough of a spice that made it absolutely fantastic. 4 outta 5 chaka’s.

Next I reached for the Carnita’s. I knew by eyeballing it that it would be good, I guess it just gave off that aura but this was easily the best Carnita’s I’ve had in Atlanta. Great flavor, nice texture and it had just enough fat in it to really get your taste buds. I was a happy…and full Johnny Boots. The Carnita’s gets 4 outta 5.

Ohh and that last Al Pastor? I scarfed it down last after I grabbed another Double X’s. I think it was better than the one in the car but still my rating stands. I guess I’m holding out for El Pastor just down the road. Supposedly the Al Pastor at this place is enough to sell your family into the black market for. I guess I’m being biased but hey, its my gut.

Overall one of the best taco joints so far but theres a whole city ahead of me and I’m just getting started. I will come back, this time with some friends over a couple of brews and take the time to take everything in and enjoy it fresh. When in Rome right? There were still more meats I’m dying to try as well as the fish taco’s I spotted looking over the menu at home. This place is a solid 4.5 outta 5 chaka’s.

Still coming…Tomorrow my pork butt goes in a bag to be marinated for 24 hours until it gets wrapped in banana leaves and roasted. So that recipe and review is coming this weekend. I using a Rick Bayless recipe from his book Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking From The Heart of Mexico. Its a bit different from my previous attempts so I welcome the change. Thanks for reading and check back soon.


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