July 25, 2018

Taqueria Mundos’ World of Flavor, and Hawaiian Shave Ice From a Truck

Grub Notes

Taqueria Mundos

UPGRADE: It might appear at first glance that very little has changed in the transition from the building at 675 Danielsville Road from Las Monarcas, a Mexican restaurant, to Taqueria Mundos (706-850-3235), a different Mexican restaurant. Sure, the sign no longer features butterflies and instead portrays a big spit of hot meat and a cheerful anthropomorphized crunchy taco wearing a sombrero, but the interior decor is virtually identical.

The menu, however, is not, and the change is a dramatic improvement. On regular days, you can pick from various meat-delivery systems, including Mexican-style tacos and large, flat, jam-packed tortas (the fillings beat the bread, which doesn’t quite cut it). It’s a focused menu, without much in the way of filler, and the atmosphere in the former Huddle House is warm and cozy, as it generally has been.

The real game-changer, though, is the buffet that Taqueria Mundos puts out on Sundays. Priced at $12.99 for all you can eat (free for kids under 10, at least for the moment), it is wonderfully rich in choices, featuring plenty of surprises and high quality throughout. The Huddle House counter is put to excellent use, from three salsas and various taco fixings at one end (a smoky chipotle, a creamy green sauce, a hot orange habanero, cilantro, onions, radishes) and concluding with handmade corn tortillas in a cooler at the other (a little too thick).

In between you will find: a fresh, chunky guacamole with tomatoes and onions; mainstream choices for the picky and/or young, like a bin of cheese quesadillas, Mexican rice, french fries, hot wings, good chicken enchiladas with green sauce and fajita-style sliced beef with onions and peppers; good, spicy charros beans, with chunks of jalapeño and hot dog; pozole made with a pork that is probably a touch too lean but with a fantastic, deeply flavored broth; excellent pork ribs flecked with pepper in a tomatillo-based sauce, a dish from Puebla; ham steaks cooked with a tinga-style tomato sauce accented lightly with chipotles (possibly the single best dish and not something I have had elsewhere); chiles rellenos packed with cheese; chicken drumsticks with a simple brown mole; camarones a la diabla (small shrimp cooked with habanero and plenty of garlic); and another chicken dish with a sauce that resembles Peru’s huancaina, in that it incorporates a pleasantly funky cheese, but in this case adds pineapple. I took plenty of notes, but it’s absolutely possible I missed some items.

If you still have room (note: save room), there is a separate table for sweets placed down at the far end. Platters piled high with cubed honeydew and watermelon can provide a light, refreshing conclusion to your meal; a cute, colorful dispenser has a delicate watermelon agua fresca; slices of flan with fruit sit on a three-tiered stand; and there are two cakes, both from Doña Rosy’s down the street: a rectangular super-moist chocolate tres leches with a vanilla whipped-cream icing and a doughnut-shaped chocolate cake with a sweet, dense flan topping.

With soccer on the TV and a bunch of families enjoying their day of rest together, Taqueria Mundos is a low-stress, convivial way to fill your belly to excess on a Sunday. It is open 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Sunday and serves no booze.

COOL: If you’re still looking for new places to cool down with something sweet (and who isn’t?), the Hokulia Shave Ice truck is a charming addition to Athens. Stationed for now at 1225 College Station Road—in the parking lot of the Church at College Station—six days a week, it shaves fluffy ice from large blocks, packs it into cute plastic cups shaped like flowers (three sizes) and tops it with a large variety of syrups, all of which are nicely flavored, even ones that are normally disgusting, like cotton candy. Much, much better than the usual sno-cone because of the consistency of the ice, which immediately starts returning to water, it can also include a scoop of ice cream (e.g., vanilla, macadamia nut, pineapple) in the middle, which makes it richer.

Various other add-ons include sour spray (popular with kids), li hing mui powder (salty dried plum), coconut flakes and sno-cap (a sort of creamy drizzle). Syrups range from lime and peach to boysenberry, guava, lychee, horchata, wedding cake, cream soda and pomegranate. Several named combinations are a smart move if you have a hard time making decisions, but it almost doesn’t seem to matter what you choose for flavors—not because they’re indistinct from one another, but because the consistency of the base works with anything.

With Hawaiian music playing and some tables set up, the atmosphere is surprisingly pleasant and relaxing in the parking lot, where the truck is generally open until 9 p.m. It also migrates to special events and catering gigs. A second location is slated for Baxter Street, and a third will follow. You can find locations and hours on Facebook.