Taqueria del Sol

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sol bar“Low Country” Southern-fried chicken isn’t the sort of thing you expect to see on the menu of a restaurant with a Mexican name. And you don’t expect to see a full bar in a fast casual concept.

But there they both are at Taqueria del Sol, a new restaurant brought to town from Atlanta by local Five Guys burger franchise owners BRMGRP LLC. TdS opens today (Monday, Oct. 1, 2012) in a space that was originally occupied by the now defunct O’boys barbecue on South Orange Avenue.

I stopped in a few days ago to have a look and a nibble, and I liked what I saw and tasted.

Taqueria del Sol was started, in 2000, by Atlanta restaurateur Mike Klank and chef Eddie Hernandez, a native of Monterrey, Mexico, who had collaborated previously on a restaurant called Sundown Cafe, a full-service, dinner-only restaurant. The Taqueria was a response to requests that the two serve a casual lunch. There are now four TdS locations in Georgia, and franchises are opening in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.

Taqueria del Sol apparently enjoys a good reputation in Atlanta. In fact, Klank and Hernandez have been nominated the past two years for the Outstanding Restaurateur award from the James Beard Foundation.

The menu that will open the restaurant in Orlando, under the direction of chef Josh Landau, features the regular lineup of tacos and enchiladas that will be part of the permanent menu. But it will also feature a “blue plate” special -- that Low Country chicken I mentioned -- and a cheeseburger.

But a closer look at the cheeseburger listing reveals that it is not served between the buns but rather as a taco. sol salsa

There are other hints of fusion in the regular listings; the Memphis, for example. Here you have chopped smoked pork with jalapenos and coleslaw with a tequila tinged barbecue sauce in a soft flour tortilla. (All the tortillas are flour here; no corn options.)

I liked the Memphis taco, but I liked the fish taco a little more. The tilapia strips are coated in panko crumbs and deep fried. The poblano tartar sauce and pickled jalapenos added nice spicy notes -- and I mean spicy; I’m glad they didn’t dial the heat back.

I also tried one of the enchiladas, the roasted chicken with lemon cream sauce, also not one of your typical Southwestern combos. The enchilada was stuffed with lots of shredded chicken, and the sauce was mild with just a slight citrus tang.

sol tacosAs with other fast casual restaurants, guests queue up at the counter inside the front door to place their orders. There is only one line, but BRMGRP vice president of operations Les Hatter told me the system is designed to move the line along quickly.

The hard part, he said, is going to be convincing people not to grab a table before placing an order. In other words, you’re not allowed to have one person stand in line to place the order while the rest of your group snags a table and sits down.

You are welcome, however, to send someone from your party over to the bar to fetch a cold beverage. And we’re talking full liquor, including premium tequilas, not just the beer and wine you’d expect to find at a fast casual concept.

Nor do you expect to find a full bar in a place where nothing on the regular menu costs more than $3.79. And that’s for guacamole and chips. Tacos are $2.39, though you’ll probably want two, and the enchiladas are $3.39. The blue plate specials, which will change regularly, fetch more. The fried chicken is going for $7.99; still not a bank buster.

Taqueria del Sol is at 3138 S. Orange Ave., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. Here is a link to taqueriadelsol.com. The phone number is 407-412-5952.{jcomments on}