Photo Credit: Nicole Adamson
MARIPOSAS: If you regularly drive up or down Danielsville Road, you’ve probably spent plenty of time eying the former Huddle House near the Gateway Shopping Center as it’s become one restaurant or another, none of which has lasted very long. Las Monarcas (675 Danielsville Road, 706-850-7495), a Mexican restaurant, is the latest to take it over, painting the inside a cheerful bright orange and liberally decorating with butterflies. “Monarcas” means “monarchs,” as in the butterfly, which also serves as a symbol of peaceful, border-free migration.
The restaurant covers a lot of bases. It’s not just a taqueria, but it does have tacos (on handmade corn tortillas). It’s not a marisqueria, but it does have a section of seafood dishes. It has Americanized Mexican stuff like chicken fajitas served with flour tortillas, and makes some pretty tasty standards in that genre, including enchiladas with green sauce. It also does breakfast, which I didn’t have an opportunity to try but which starts at 9 a.m. and includes 13 different options, including chilaquiles, priced at $5.99 each. On the weekends, it does menudo, the traditional tripe soup, which isn’t on the regular menu but is advertised via a handmade sign on the door.
Photo Credit: Nicole Adamson
The largest chunk of its menu is probably that devoted to various kinds of corn cakes topped or filled with meat. You can get gorditas (thin corn cakes, fried and slit almost like a pita), sopes (slightly thicker corn cakes, shaped into a circle, with the edges pinched all the way around, fried, and topped with meat, cheese, beans, lettuce, etc.) and guaraches (slightly different shape, more oblong, like the sole of the sandals from which they get their name). Your choices are essentially the same for each variation: steak, chicken, al pastor, barbacoa, chorizo, tripe, lengua, shredded chicken in chipotle sauce, ground beef and (for vegetarians!) sliced poblano peppers with cheese.
The steamed meats are a bit too wet, and there are better versions of all of them at other restaurants in the area, but there’s not much to complain about in the end. The gorditas are probably your best bet, because the format enables you to get every topping in each bite, but to each his own. The real highlight comes in the various salsas, including a hot, creamy green sauce similar to but distinct from the one served at Sr. Sol and a pale orange one that, if I had to guess, might be made with seeded habaneros (it has the zip of those peppers but not the underlying bitterness you get from leaving the seeds in).
There’s seating in the form of fake wood booths, plus counter seating on built-in stools, a nice option if you’re by your lonesome. Las Monarcas is open every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner and does not have a liquor license.
I JUST WANNA ROLLY ROLLY ROLLY: If rolled ice cream follows the path of its fro-yo and marble slab predecessors, you can expect to see a whole bunch of places offering it open in quick succession then slowly go out of business as their core audience moves on to something else. But right now, we’re in the early stages of the trend. Roll It Up, a franchise with one location in Doraville and a brand-new one in the former Stevi B’s by Beechwood Shopping Center (at 122 Alps Road), is not a place to go if you prefer a peaceful environment. The long, skinny space now has splashes of hot pink, blue and green all over its walls, large light fixtures that flash those same colors and a pumping Top 40 soundtrack. Combine that with the line out the door, mostly consisting of college girls in Greek-lettered T-shirts, and the 30-minute wait, and you may decide it is not worth it. That said, if you are patient or your children are, the place is kind of fun.
The line up to the cash register does its best to prepare you for the decisions you will have to make, detailing the process step by step in large photos. Pick your base and mix-ins (which determine flavor). Dudes with well-developed forearms pour ingredients onto a super-chilled metal platter, then chop and smear them together until they form a smooth paste across the entire disk. They then use their palette knives to shave off the ice cream in cigar-like spirals, packing each roll into a cup before topping them with fruit, candies, syrups and more. In other words, your ice cream is pretty much made before your eyes, which can be fun to watch.
Roll It Up suggests some combinations for you, and you make all your decisions at the register, where the staff writes them on the cup, meaning you don’t have to yell anything in the middle of the process. The ice cream is more or less good. Fruit flavors are better than more sugary stuff, and the toppings can include Pocky, mochi, thin pretzels and lychee as well as junk like Fruity Pebbles. Roll It Up also offers dragon’s breath (snacks infused with liquid nitrogen, meaning “smoke” comes out of your mouth) and is open every day from noon until fairly late.