As long as I’ve been around, Little Five Points has never really been known as a culinary destination. This notwithstanding the good number of eateries sprinkled up and down Moreland Ave. But before you stand up and scream foul, I’m not saying that there aren’t places with strong support from we who chow with fervor. Among them, The Vortex has some very memorable grub and more than a few people adore The Porter (my warnings aside). However, those establishments are as much about personality as anything ever produced by their respective kitchens. In some ways, that last statement serves as a synopsis for the L5P enclave. L5P is edgy, artsy, and a great part of the city… but above and beyond, it’s the people of the ‘hood that attract the outsiders.
In that spirit, OMG Tacos is the newest restaurant to welcome itself into Atlanta’s underbelly neighborhood in an attempt to get all cozy with the folk. Open toward the tail end of July in the former Sweet Lime space, OMG Tacos is Exhibit A in the rulebook for “How Not To Open A Restaurant.”
What isn’t readily apparent in the name is apparent as soon as you walk in the door: OMG is a Korean taco spot. A seemingly ideal addition to the neighborhood, the walls and décor shout loudly, the 90s hip-hop music bumps and beats along, and those long expelled from Atlanta’s more conservative circles filter in and out of the two-room dining hall.
The core idea (to bring art, music, and this country’s most notable “neologistic” [sic] cuisine together) is spot on. Beyond that, it seems as if future visitors are in for a serious crap shoot (and that’s giving OMG a serious benefit of doubt).
The problems hit shortly after chants of Mr. Wendal piped in. Ordering is handled counter side, though the window has been done up to look like a food truck, which might remind you of Roswell’s Inc. Street Food. However, Inc. is a full service establishment, so their truck masks their kitchen pickup window. But I digress …
One would think it quite difficult to set the concept of walk-up ordering back a few decades, but OMG has done that in fine fashion. Acronyms on the primordial toppings section plague the otherwise streamlined menu. What’s worse is that these abbreviations have been misappropriated, used to define one and other, and do little to help you ascertain what exactly they have to do with your order. I guess now is as good a time as any to mention that OMG actually stands for OH! MmMmGogi!
Thankfully, the rest of the menu (tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and munchies) forgoes the acronym thing and uses straight up English to breakdown cultural barriers. With a dining buddy in tow (who we shall call Mr. S for his safety), I got a kimchee quesadilla to split and then one each of the short rib, spicy pork, and chicken tacos. The first two tacos were topped with LOL, aka chopped shit, and the chicken with OMG, chopped shit with Sriracha mayo. Mr. S put in his order for a tofu taco and a burrito bowl (also noted as bi bim bap), we got our drinks, and promptly retreated to the neon blues of the main dining area.
We were yet again thrown for a loop. Much like the ordering room, where all of the seats are wall counters, the vast majority of seats in the dining room leaves you face first in a wall or plastered against the window. There are three tables as well as a decent number of seats at the bar, but I felt kind of uncomfortable when faced with the idea of sitting at a bar with food in hand and no reason to tip the gentleman tasked with its upkeep. I can only assume Mr. S felt something of the same, as we retreated back to which we came. Whoever was responsible for renovations should have dropped the ordering stall into the actual kitchen and used the extra space for tables.
All of these annoyances could have and would have floated by into the subtext of this recap had we been served palatable food. Watching the kitchen, where mass piles of meat were flat topped in preparation for impending orders, I got the feeling that the food wouldn’t alleviate the stress of the ordering and waiting. With each chirp on the loud speaker announcing an order, my mind got farther and farther away from optimism and instead settled in on the conversation at hand.
Had I been more careful, I would have read the description under the kimchi quesadilla ($5). Amongst the listed ingredients was Monterrey jack and cheddar cheese, roasted sesame seeds, CARAMELIZED kimchi, and a side of the Sriracha (aka OMG) mayo. While the seeds where nowhere to be found, the true problem with this started well before the tortilla hit the griddle.
Kimchi is a fermented cabbage dish. Caramelization, like the Maillard reaction, is a non-enzymatic browning process. If you ever see browned onions, those puppies have been caramelized. In that instance, the natural sugars make you go “mmm … tasty!” In the case of pickling, unless you are going out of your way to make something sweet, you’re basically screwing with the sugars and making something not sweet. So, when you take something like kimchi (not sweet), throw it on a flattop with some oil in an attempt to draw out the noticeably absent sugars, what you end up is a limp, rancid like pile of mush. Need I go on? Well, I was barely able to both bite and swallow even my first taste of my quesadilla. Let’s move on shall we …
My taco basket was a homely looking group, offering little assurance in the form of eye appeal. Follow up bites made the plating the least of my concerns. I have a strong inclination that one of two things happened: a) the vegetable toppings spent at least some part of their time in the kitchen too close to a heat source and/or b) were never fresh and particularly good in the first place.
Bites were dominated by the flat lining tortillas and the generously portioned LOL slaw. Unfortunately, after having a bite of the quesadilla and going through a bite of each of my tacos and Mr. S’s tofu taco, my taste buds were pretty much shot. I sampled the meats individually, grappled with the fact that the tofu was simply sliced and served, and tried a little of the bi bim bap. Need I kick a dog that is already down? Well … maybe a little. According to OMG – their soft corn tortillas are made on site. To that I say: if these things are made onsite, then I’ve got a Trunk Monkey I’m willing to sell ya (careful with the volume)!
The best thing about the experience was that the eating and paying attention to the restaurant part was short. While we sat there for a good bit, the vast majority of our meal time was spent hanging. Even Mr. S, a foodie I’m pretty sure you all have heard of, wasn’t exactly fond of his meal. He is far too friendly of a person to be as blunt as yours truly, but he too was less than enthusiastic about our meal.
From the en masse flat-topping of the meats to the complete lack of basic cooking concepts and all the way through to execution of the conception, OMG dropped like a rock during my one visit. The only saving grace is that they have the excuse of time on their side at this point. Beyond that … if this place is open more than a few months, I will be very very shocked.
If you do go, be sure to use ScoutMob … it will help make a three taco, one quesadilla and a drink meal somewhere closer to $12 (w. tip). Even at that price, I’d rather go to Taco Bell.