HUDDLE UP: Perhaps the only real downside to Tacos los Plebes (3077 Danielsville Rd.) has been its less visible location, inside a small supermarket attached to a gas station near where Danielsville and Ila roads fork. Likewise, the downside of the multiple Mexican restaurants that have occupied the former Huddle House at 645 Danielsville Rd. (same street but much closer to the middle of Athens) has been their inability to attract a large enough audience to keep going.
The combination of the two could solve both their problems. The real advantage of a Huddle House building is the substantial griddle that forms the basis of the kitchen, and the dudes behind the counter at Los Plebes are total pros at working it.
There isn’t a ton of seating (although more than at the old location, which seems to be open weekends still), especially if your party is larger than four, but the kitchen will have your food out speedily, meaning it can handle a long line at the register. The menu is posted above the counter, divided into tacos, tortas, burritos, sopes, quesadillas and a section for sides, flautas, tostadas and things available weekends only (menudo, barbacoa). There’s considerable repetition among the different boards, as most of the holders are available with the same or similar fillings. Go for things that are crisped or seared on the griddle.
Also: eat fast. The meats at Los Plebes tend to the fattier side—cabeza, lengua—and if you don’t shovel your tacos into your mouth speedily, they’ll tend to sag. Partially, this is because the restaurant gives you a pretty serious helping within each pair of corn tortillas, heaped with cilantro and onions and with a few radish slices on the side. Dose ‘em with either the red sauce or the green sauce that sit on the tables in squeeze bottles; both are hot as hell.
The campechano tacos, which combine steak and chorizo in this instance, are a highlight. The tortas are enormous but light, hard to lift even with two hands because they contain a lot of ingredients, including beans. The burritos are less exciting but equally fat, with a schmear of refried beans that gets into every bite. Sopes have always been a highlight of the other location, and when someone orders them, you can hear the oil bubble like crazy; it’s a bit hard to get through them with a plastic knife but worth the effort. Quesadillas are unexpectedly good, probably due to that marvelous griddle, and the veggie one is packed with onions, mushrooms and peppers, all cooked on the grill, then encased in cheese and cooked again.
Los Plebes has “nuggets de pollo” for your picky children and drinks (Jarritos et al.) in a cooler at the back of the room. You can pay when you order or bring your check back up later. On weekends, you can also order meats by the pound to take home and assemble into your own creations. The restaurant takes credit cards and is open for lunch and dinner every day except Wednesday.
DEWK NEWK ‘EM: I might do my due diligence to hit up and write about every chain that opens in our city and surrounding areas, but that doesn’t mean I’m a big fan. That said, I’m going to give Newk’s (1850 Epps Bridge Pkwy., 706-543-5700) its props. Occupying the space that had been Keba, the chain out of Jackson, MS makes some pretty decent sandwiches. It feels like real food, if not amazing, hand-crafted, small-farm-supporting food. Looking for a chicken salad sandwich? You might be a little delighted to find one that adds some zip with Creole mustard. The shrimp po’boy isn’t exactly New Orleans, but it tastes pretty clean. The “Q,” made with chicken, bacon, Swiss and white bbq sauce, works just as well. You will not feel like you want to give up on food after eating here.
There are big salads, including one with nicely seared tuna, and an array of soups every day, including chicken tortilla, gumbo, loaded potato and more. There are pizzas, which are better from a pizza-focused restaurant, but ain’t bad. You can even get a cauliflower crust. The macaroni and cheese that is a promoted side item is more creamy than baked, but the Tippah County caviar (a bean salad) feels wholesome.
There’s a bar of fixings that includes pickle slices, capers, croutons and breadsticks two to a package. There are slices of cake (caramel, strawberry, chocolate) that have more layers than you ever want to make. And there’s a grab-and-go section near the door if you’re in a serious hurry, including proteins ready to add to something else, sandwiches and more. Is it the usual too-muchness of options, designed to please anyone who might walk through the door? Of course it is, but it does a decent job at that pleasing, whether you are vegetarian, gluten-free, damn picky or just want a slice of cake.
Newk’s is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, does catering, accepts online orders through its website and does not serve booze.
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