Just to funk up Buckhead’s off-beat cum Cherokee Country Club blue hair vibe, imagine chilling on West Paces Ferry on communal benches watching the Maseratis roll by while eating a $3.95 taco that is actually good!
Dallas-based Velvet Taco recently opened in the Buckhead Market Place on the east end of the Whole Foods Market center. Velvet Taco explores the edge of regional and multi-cultural boundaries with the guiding motto “set my tacos free.”
Now a word about tacos: Jason Snelson, director of Velvet Taco operations, prepped us with a history of Mexican silver mines, where the taco was used as a place holder and has since become a symbol of fun food in different cultures. Tacos were pieces of paper wrapped around gunpowder and shaped like a stick of dynamite.
Tacos today are associated with lower class Mexican street food. Some in the U.S. say that the chain Taco Bell brought it into our food mix.
Velvet Taco funks up the fusion by offering chef-driven tacos from several cultures in addition to Mexican: Israeli, Japanese, Korean, Cuban, even Nashvillian, and Indian is a popular choice. The menu has 20 varieties in categories of about four each. There are no salads and only one dessert, a tongue-in-cheek Red Velvet cake.
Our favorites were the raw ahi poke with sesame soy vinaigrette, arugula, pickled onions, pickled fresnos, seaweed salad, pickled ginger, black sesame seeds, all wrapped in lettuce (we had the wasabi cream on the side)or “poke in no bowl” all the way at $6.75.
The equally wonderful falafel with tahini, tomato, avocado, pickled red onion, pea tendrils, also lettuce-wrapped is at $3.95. The favs in flour tortillas were the Nashville Hot Tofu (“whoa the fire”) with napa slaw, house brined pickles, (ranch cream on the side) at $3.75 and the Fried Paneer with tomato chutney, tikka sauce, raita cream, Thai basil at $3.75. A delicious special item (the only thing in red on the postage card-sized menu) is the Grilled Salmon with napa slaw, roasted corn pico, micro cilantro, (on the side avocado crema) with the outrageous spunk of wrapping it in a crimson red hibiscus tortilla for $5.50.
So the answer to the question: Can Velvet Taco prepare so many different flavors and styles well? A resounding “Yes!”
Adding to the élan are the metal flat accordion crinkle-shaped platters that make for serving ease and zigzag presentation. The 2,500-square-foot interior mimics an exposed ceiling industrial space but feels small. Desk-like tables are set up along the windows.
When we arrived at 7 on a Saturday night, the order line had only a handful of customers that moved quickly. When we left at 8:15 p.m., the line was snake-like with a wait. Know that there is no traditional table service. When your order is ready, they blast a friendly “Marcia! (your name here) Taco Time!”
Brunch tacos are served all day. Each Wednesday, they introduce a global, in-season Weekly Taco Feature labeled “WTF.” A $20 Backdoor Chicken Special is a bagged to-go offering with sides. Beverages are the signature house-made Kick-Ass Margarita, local and Mexican beer on tap and in cans, craft sodas, fruit-infused iced teas, and mimosas available on weekends.
The place gets rocking late, with some nights open until 3 a.m. Former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell used to say, “Nothing good happens after 2 a.m. in Buckhead.” Maybe he could reconsider. Mornings vary, opening at 10 or 11 a.m.
Velvet Taco plans a second location in West Midtown in 2020. The first location opened in Dallas in 2011.
If you’re up for more indulgence, right next door is the new Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. Talk about a yumster night out!
Velvet Taco is located at 77 West Paces Ferry Road. Parking was limited on a Saturday night. Taking up spaces for Whole Foods could result in booting. A half block walk on a side street would work.