Since Perla Taqueria first showed up, the restaurant has already had it’s fair share of adversity. A fire delayed the December opening of this Piedmont Heights taqueria, located in a converted Mrs. Winner’s, until just a few weeks ago. Despite this, one would be hard pressed to find evidence of said destruction inside of the Mexi-kitsch, fast casual dinning spot.
Given the concept, the fact that they employ the previous tenant’s drive-thru, and the location, one can’t help but draw some comparisons to Perla’s not too distant neighbors Taco Cabana and Taqueria Del Sol. When Frosty Alabama and I showed up just after the grand opening, the place was already a buzz with families checking out one of Atlanta’s newer taco spots.
If not for the décor, complete with funky can light fixtures, one would probably mistake this place for a Taco Bell. The walk up counter service, aforementioned drive-thru, and the layout don’t do much to convince you otherwise. That said, this isn’t an inherent problem; however, I just kind of feel like Perla has more of a fast food atmosphere than even some of those BuHi taquerias.
The menu itself is based on the traditional taqueria concept. Ingredients like lengua (tongue), chorizo (Mexican sausage), and al pastor (grilled pork), all make an appearance. Yet, unlike the pineapple on the al pastor (which isn’t unusual), the now “found everywhere” fried chicken taco and citrus slaw immediately move Perla’s menu from traditional taqueria into the fusion category. The menu is rounded out with some appetizers (for example: a shrimp & fruit ceviche), tres entrées, and some desserts and salsas. Perhaps the most inspiring item is the house made corn tortillas … which we’ll get to in a minute.
So as I mentioned, you order at the counter, receive a number in exchange for your cash, and then retreat to one of the handful of dining room tables. Frosty Alabama and I had no problem with this drill, and promptly found some seats at the community table stationed just behind us.
Soon thereafter, our order came out in one of the most haphazard sequences of recent memory. Items arrived at different times with no rhyme or reason. Taco orders were split, and starters came out after a couple of the tacos. Not a huge deal, especially considering that we were at Perla in the initial days; however, it’s something I hope gets fixed sooner than later.
From the starter section, we opted to take down a cup o guac ($4.99). I’m hoping this was simply an anomaly, as it was watery as soup and some of the most flavorless guacamole I’ve ever had. Meanwhile, the quesadilla ($5.98), while not earth shattering, was far more palatable. Though I was initially brought the wrong rendition, what finally showed up was a thinly pressed tortilla with some chihuahua cheese and cilantro … I added in some pork for $2.00 and it went down without a fuss.
Perla’s slogan is “We Know Tacos.” In retrospect, I’m thinking it should read more like “We want to know tacos.” Of the four that I tasted, all of them left a LOT to be desired. The tortillas themselves showed promise and were clearly handmade to the point where the depth and thickness was fairly inconsistent. Each taco seemed eerily similar to its brethren in that all contained a bland protein topped with an obtrusive amount of sauce.
Sifting through the details at this point won’t do us a lot of good. I would say though the over cooked chicken and the soupiness of the barbacoa & carne asado were the most notable aspects of the tacos. Bonus points for homemade tortillas, everything else is a spot foul at this point.
With late night hours, ample parking, a drive thru, and quick service … there seems to be something to hope for out of this place. However, if I’m staying in my car – Taco Cabana just a few blocks away still has my vote for hangover prevention.