Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones
HIDEAWAY: If you don’t already know where Fritz Mar Lane is, chances are decent that you’re not just going to stumble across it. The small road runs between Newton Bridge Road and Kathwood Drive and is home to a Crossfit business, WaterMan spring water delivery and some warehouses. As of some months ago, it’s also where you’ll find Panaderia Tacuari (145 Fritz Mar Lane, 706-850-8220), a charming Uruguayan bakery that makes bread, sweets, savory pastries and tortas. Hang a left just past Power Partners, and you’ll spot the cheery red neon “open” sign in the window. Things get busier around lunchtime, when folks from nearby businesses head over for sandwiches and fries.
The building dates from the early 1960s, and it’s maintained much of the architectural flavor of the era, with exterior windows colored yellow, orange and green and stylish brickwork. The interior is a combination of sparse and sweet, with burlap coffee sacks refashioned into curtains and decorated with artificial flowers, a big TV sitting on the floor and blaring the local news, a fridge of canned drinks and a large cooler in the middle of the room with a few tables and chairs. Big ovens are visible if you try to sneak a glance around the corner. Even on a cold day, the place is like a greenhouse.
So far, the eats cooked to order are pretty minimal: one torta, maybe a choice of two, french fries, no printed menus. If you want to know what your options are before you get there, call. Chicken milanesa seems to be a fairly regular offering, assembled into a simple but pleasant torta with lettuce, tomato, mayo, jalapenos and sometimes egg. I have had better versions, but it’s no slouch, and at $5 (!) for a large sandwich, it is more than appropriately priced.
Better and more highly recommended by the staff is the chorizo torta, made with a split sausage rather than the ground stuff, and one that is more delicately flavored. Both come on housemade bread, a bolillo roll that The World Famous purchases from Tacuari. Crustier than what you get in many Mexican restaurants around town but not so hard that it shatters, it makes a good home for its ingredients, able to stand up to a mess.
Behind the counter where you order and just in front of it, in a glass case, is a plethora of other baked goods, mostly sweet but some savory. What’s there depends on the day, but none of it is bad. In the case may be empanadas (with chorizo or egg and potato or fruit pastes); long rolls of puff pastry filled with a spinach mixture, guava or pineapple; tiny orejas (the Mexican version of palmiers); or slices of a soft jelly roll-type cake with dulce de leche as the filling and an intense dusting of powdered sugar on top.
In the wooden shelving displayed at an angle, you may find big rolls of a sweet anise bread; elotes, large pastries made to resemble ears of corn and topped with chocolate or vanilla; sweet rolls; conchas, a sweet bread with a shell pattern in sugar on the top; saucer-size sugar cookies that have one side entirely coated in sprinkles; muffin-sized and -shaped pound cakes referred to as “butter-flavored.” If you are very lucky, Tacuari will be making alfajores. Consisting of two shortbread cookies sandwiching a layer of dulce de leche and rolled in coconut, they put the prepackaged version to shame.
All of it is wonderfully light, with none of the heavy oiliness that tends to be the case with American versions of the same. Should you eat an entire one of the monster pastries, you will be surprised, an hour later, by how little your body remembers doing so. Everything is ridiculously inexpensive (75 cents for many of the large pastries), and the bakery has recently started accepting credit cards. It opens up around 8 a.m. Sunday through Friday and closes in the mid-evening; although it remains closed on Saturday for the moment, its owners are looking into rectifying that, too, giving you even fewer reasons to resist going.
FOOD TRUCK REPORT: Holy Crepe was on hand for the Indie South Fair, along with some food trucks from Atlanta, and it held its own. Sweet crepes with lemon sugar were simple and not too sweet. Savory ones with spinach, mushrooms and cheese (plus salami, for meat eaters) were maybe slightly overwhelmed by the spinach but well executed, with plenty of nice crispy edges.
The truck has also invented the “crepe dog,” a crepe coated with shredded cheese and rolled, while warm, around a hot dog. The idea is that you dunk it in whatever condiments you desire. It solves some of the problems of a hot dog bun (too dry, too insubstantial, too long to fit the sausage) but may require more napkins. It’s weird, but it’s not a bad weird, and it would probably be especially attractive late at night. The truck pops up regularly around Athens, is speedy to fashion its menu items (packaged in cute sleeves) and takes credit cards.