2/18/11: Eating Atlanta

Hankook Taqueria is the first of its kind to emerge on the Atlanta scene. The rather peculiar combination of Korean and Tex Mex may seem like a simple idea, but it is a stroke of culinary genius that demands nothing less than the highest honors and medals of human achievement.

The prices are astonishingly cheap for such quality food. Ten dollars will buy nachos, sesame fries and a taco or a burrito with fried dumplings. The portions are often large enough to feed a person and a half. It is amazing for anyone on a college budget.

The menu is extraordinary and by far the most interesting culinary creative in the metro Atlanta area. For those unfamiliar, Korean cuisine comprises of rice, fish, grilled meats, or “Gui,” and kimchi, which is any combination of vegetables and hot spices. Often dishes are made with a red chili paste, and therein lay the eternal and grand connection with Mexican food: spiciness.

The first item on the menu that should grab anyone’s attention is the Calamari tacos with jalapenos and sweet chili sauce, or the pulled pork tacos with spicy Korean BBQ sauce. All, yes all, tacos and burritos come with green onion, green cabbage, soy sesame vinaigrette, cilantro and jack cheese. It is of my conspiring nature that I believe Mexico was actually colonized by the Koreans and not the Spanish. Otherwise there is no explanation for why their foods complement another so well.

In addition, the menu offers nachos with Korean beef, tempura fried sweet potatoes, tilapia burritos, BBQ beef quesadillas and a spicy hot dog with cabbage kimchi. Last but not least, a personal favorite is bibim-bop, a seriously spicy dish with beef, vegetables, mounds of rice, pepper sauce and a fried egg on top to wrap the package in a neat little bow.

The main feature of Hankook Taqueria is its unique food, which is great because the atmosphere, décor and mostly everything else are nothing to get excited about. The interior has white walls with wood booths, the tables have plastic utensils, and the food is either served in baskets or Styrofoam boxes.

This is a place to just hang out and get your hands messy, perhaps not the ideal location for a first date or business lunch. It has that “I know this little place down the road” sort of feel to it, like it is well known amongst the locals and has loyal and frequent customers but otherwise unknown to the outside world. Hankook is a rare Atlanta gem that you find only once every couple of years.

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