Photo Credit: Jessica Silverman
SLOW DOWN: My reflexes are, generally speaking, not great, but they tend to kick into high gear if I see the word “taqueria” on a sign, especially if it’s in an unusual location. Taqueria Juaritos (3875 Jefferson Road, 706-202-6906) is worth hitting your brakes for. Housed at a small counter inside the Petro Express gas station near the fire station on Jefferson Road, it doesn’t have a lot in the way of amenities, but it does have excellent food. Most business is take-out, although there is a dining room, should you not want to let your food get soggy.
The weekday menu consists of tacos, sopes, gorditas, burros (burritos) and hot wings, available with fillings including asada, chicken, al pastor, barbacoa, carnitas, desebrada (shredded beef), tongue, tripe, chorizo and buche (stomach), all made speedily to order in a small kitchen. The al pastor seems to have pineapple in it—the right way to prepare it—and is probably the best of the meats, but all of them are good.
You can dress your own tacos from a bar of various toppings on the counter, which includes standards like cilantro, raw onions, lime and thinly sliced radishes, but also some truly notable hot pickled onions, which one-two punch your sinuses. The doubled-up corn tortillas, which don’t appear to be made in house, taste as though they’re made from a more finely ground masa than most, which means they don’t interfere much with the fillings. All three sauces—a milder green, a hotter green and a sneaky red that tastes like habaneros and will knock you for a loop—are great.
The tortas are beautifully light and packed with flavor. If you’re looking for sopes, Tacos los Plebes, on Danielsville Road, does them better, but these are still good and worth eating. Weekends, per tradition, bring some extra offerings, including menudo (unfortunately still not my cup of tea, but I’ll keep trying it), pozole (which wasn’t ready yet when I went, but seems worth a trip back) and a stellar shrimp soup that isn’t spicy (some are), but instead relies on a lovely, complex tomato broth packed with vegetables. Pale-green tubers that taste faintly of zucchini could be chayote and are especially good infused with the broth.
The place is worth a trip out of your way, and you can call ahead if you’re in a hurry. Taqueria Juaritos takes credit cards and is open Sunday to Thursday from 10 a.m.–8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 10 a.m.–9 p.m.
DAIRY DESSERTS: After years of fro-yo, ice cream seems to be coming back. Good! It tastes better, for the most part. Four Fat Cows (723 Baxter St., 706-850-8510), the second location of an ice cream shop that has its original in Alpharetta, is doing its part for the fattier frozen treat. There’s a lot packed into the space, with around two dozen ice cream flavors, coffee (Batdorf & Bronson), tea, baked goods, homemade granola, chips, soft drinks, pints to go and gifty items (T-shirts, koozies, inflatable rubber balls, toys, water bottles, soft-sided mini-coolers, stuffed animals, etc.).
The ice cream comes from Greenwood, out of Atlanta, although Four Fat Cows does some custom flavors. If you want something interesting, stay away from the Superman ice cream, which is the same basic vanilla jazzed up with a bunch of food coloring that it is anywhere else—for example, at Scoops in Madison, which also offers Greenwood ice cream. Instead, opt for the apple tart or the root beer float, both of which taste like good versions of their inspiration. Other more unusual flavors include red velvet cake, green tea, Almond Joy, chocolate peppermint bark and rice pudding.
The pistachio doesn’t hold up against the one that La Michoacana… Es Natural (in front of the Ingles in Hull and inside the Eastside Cali N Tito’s) makes, and indeed, that store still does a better job, for my money, at extracting the real essence of even a seemingly simple flavor, like strawberry, and creating ice cream that embodies it. That established, the high-butterfat ice cream that Four Fat Cows offers is still ice cream, and a lot of it is quite good. A float that combines mango sorbet with a spicy ginger ale is a good and grown-up-tasting concoction. The “cowzones,” open-face tarts with a sweet dough and savory toppings, are nothing impressive, but the sweeter baked goods are better.
The store offers both free wi-fi and a wide array of gluten-free options, including cones and cookies. It also makes puffle cones of the type mobile vendor Nedza’s Waffles offers, should your interest in Instagram equal your interest in ice cream. Its staff members are happy to offer you as many samples as you like, reacting with endless patience to sticky-fingered children. Four Fat Cows is open until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, although holiday break hours may vary.