So while I curse the gods at the disappearing act my post pulled at 2am last night, you can read my feeble attempt at recapturing my literary glory. Go head, I’ll just be hitting golf balls off my roof at passing cars.
At best the word authentic is a loose interpretation of the reality. More often than not, it’s simply a bullshit term applied by far too many people to far too many things. Most food cultures developed over centuries in a time when word traveled slow and information channels were at a premium. And for that matter, food culture most everywhere is in constant evolution. Ever played a game of telephone? [that’s an awesome link btw] Things can get awfully mixed up awfully fast. Thus, cooking techniques in one area of a region were very different than said cooking techniques in another.
Why all the attention paid to the word authentic? Well, because it’s a supercharged, debate inducing, ecstasy causing piece of foodie contraband. ‘Nother words, mention or claim something is “authentic” and them’s fightin words. So leaving behind the bull crud of “what’s the most authentic Mexican food in town?,” I give you Carniceria Ramirez, a straight up grocery store and “authentic” taqueria stationed on the outskirts of south Smyrna.
A preemptive LMGTFY turned up a few fleeting references to to Carniceria Ramirez. Perhaps it’s part of a chain, though those cases sure seemed a lot “happier” than the ones I encountered. Additionally, there is a notation about El Mercadito Y Taqueria. Now I saw nothing to indicate that the amended eatery had its own name, so I’m not sure if El Mercadito was a past life, a name used by the many Hispanics that do flow through its doors, or it was simply a concocted moniker produced by some creative foodie.
Regardless of those tidbits, I’m not entirely sure why this Mexican restaurant hasn’t gotten more attention from the social beings. Perhaps its obscured location is to blame, in between an overgrown yard and an unkempt abandoned building that seems to serve as a clothing store for the homeless. Or perhaps it is the shithole nature of the interior. It’s just kinda dumpy. But what “authentic” Mexican joint beholden to droves of foodies isn’t? Hell, it almost a necessary battle scar. If you favorite Mexican joint isn’t a pit, you won’t get any street cred around here. Regardless, you’ll find Carniceria Ramirez on Bolton Rd just east of its noteworthy intersection with a few roads, most notably Marietta Blvd.
Inside the market portion of the building you’ll find a handful of Hispanic seasoned meats behind a long butcher’s fridge. No, they’re not pre-seasoned b/c that’s a meaningless fucking term. #GeorgeCarlin You’ll also find a small refrigerator housing things of various natures, most notably some of the very same tortillas carried by our beloved Buford Highway Farmers Market. We bobbed in and out of the handful of aisles which contained everything from canned produce to Catholic saint candles. A simple doorway serves as the causeway between the two worlds and we (that being my self, GI Joe, & Kandi Slice) entered at Kandi’s behest. After all, she was person who teased me with the invite some 48-hours prior and turned Joe and I onto this stashed box.
A few communal tables line the window side wall split by another entrance into the compound. Directly across is a walled fortress. There is a prep station to one side and a trio of Canoa pulpa de frutas tanks containing fruity beverages made from concentrate on the other. Just to its inside is the register. The latter, just above of the faux brick wall, serves as your main point of interaction. Behind this citadel, we found a short Hispanic woman whose height only exacerbated the novelty of the ordering experience.
The menu reads as if it were written by a artfully inclined multi-lingual child. You know? We’ve all got the friend(s) born in this country to International parents. By association, you’re forced to listen to them seamlessly weave at least two, if not more, languages together in a tantalizing game of “Neener neener … you don’t get what we’re talking about.” #Fuckers All artsy and cute, the menu employed a rainbow of colors on a washable board.
Despite the extensive presence of English, we found our hostess completely capable of handling our order. I say despite on account of the fact that she was familiar with the language but had no true grasp of English. Still, the engagement went off without a hitch for my compadres and offered me the opportunity to work on my Spanish. I did okay, save for following the directions to the bottle opener that sits on the wall (it’s yellow, off to the right of the drink tanks and past the entrance to the kitchen).
So while Kandi Slice and GI Joe placed their orders, I turned my focus to the drink fridge off in the corner. Stuffed with a number of ethnic beverages (though none of them party enhancing), I resolved myself to get one of those suckers for my order (though I ultimately settled on the tried and true). Shortly thereafter, I worked my way through my requests, handed the nice lady some cash (though they do take cc), and found a seat with my tablemates.
Joe’s platillo de hoy (plate of the day), consisted of costillas de puerco and was the first to arrive. Translated as “holy shit that’s a huge fucking plate for just $7.99,” the pork short ribs showed up smothered in an elixir of salsa verde and accompanied by a slice of avocado, some rice, and a few beans. Despite its promise, this was my least favorite dish of the day. The salsa verde was very competent and showed a little bit of kick from some jalapeños while rounding out well with tart hints of lime and a punch of vinegar. The rice was fairly non-descript and the beans, though probably from a can, had a nice depth to them all things considered. The real bummer for me was the gummy pork. Though it fell off the bone with the greatest of ease, it tasted as what I suspect my “thumb fat” would. Before you go eww … no … wait … go eww … okay good? Alright, take your thumb and press it against the lengthy part of your index finger. A little bump of meat should pop up right where the thumb joins the hand. Feel that and you’ll get an idea for the texture of the pork. A little foul on the pork me wasn’t a death knoll, especially after the rest of the food showed up.
A bigger bowl of salsa verde landed on the table, but only after I sent many subliminal messages and utilized a handful of Chinese mind tricks. #FuckImGood In other words, it was complimentary and arrived without any impetus.
Soon after, I was presented with three very eye-appealing tacos. At $1.69 a piece, these were stuffed fuller than the gluttony dude from Se7en. The tortillas themselves were the very same ones from the market. Not good enough to really hit my inner foodie but not bad enough to repulse it either, these shouldn’t do much to deter the experience. Sure, freshly made ones add to the appeal, and these did rob the meats of a little bit of their flavor, but I just took my bite and moved on. Topped with cilantro and onions, as they all were, the asada was the most unappealing. Meanwhile, the chorizo had a good little kick of chili powder and was on par with many of the better “authentic” taquerias. The chicharron was a fine sampling of pork skins that was both chewy and crispy and topped with that salsa I enjoyed. Admittedly, I split my attention halfway through and it didn’t render so well upon my return some 10-minutes later, but that’s to be expected.
The reason for my detour was the al pastor quesadilla ($4.99) I had ordered for the table. When it showed up, I went for it, and so did my Team FB. But I got the last laugh, securing 2 of the four flour cut tortillas. Like its taco brethren, this puppy was stuffed full of spit crunched pork and covered with gooey queso chihuahua. Despite the gooeyness of the cheese, these bites were clean and flavorful. The pastor, though not straight off the spit, was certainly good enough to make an enjoyable bite out of the cheese laden pizza. On its own, the pork reminded me of tandoor cooked pork (something you won’t find in “real” Indian restaurants) with good hints of pineapple and lime.
Given that I paid for a meal fit for two reasonable people, the $12 and change price tag was more than reasonable. It was a lot of food that its best was really a great value and at its worse was hard to get angry about. Was this the best Mexican food I’ve had in this city? No. But it was certainly better than the vast majority of those idolized BuHi joints (Taqueria El Rey Del Taco comes to mind). And I straight up triple dog dare you to find a place that packs its tortillas this freaking full. So hide your kids, hide your wife, and go check it out for yourself.