Cheap Eats: BBQ Takorea
Mexican-Korean fusion on the cheap in Decatur
It's hard to believe that just a few short years ago, the closest thing to Asian-Latin fusion in Atlanta came in the form of Ponce's illustrious Chico and Chang. And yet, here we are. The idea of Korean-Mexican cuisine blossomed on the West Coast in the late aughts, but what began as an innovative and, yes, delicious mash-up of cuisines soon begat a trend that propagated with the quickness of fro yo and cupcake shops. Ever since, restaurateurs have been attempting to cash in on the trend here in ATL, to varying degrees of success. On one end of the spectrum, you have no-frills cafeteria-style setups like the cult-beloved Hankook Taqueria on Collier Road; on the other, trend-driven hot-spots that try perhaps a little too hard to really milk that '09 trend for all it's worth. BBQ Takorea, a tiny little cubbyhole of a restaurant squirreled away on Clairemont Avenue near the Historic DeKalb Courthouse, falls squarely into that first category: good, cheap eats, without the fuss.
BARE BONES: This humble little joint is about as minimalistic as you can get. There are just a couple of stools, a cashwrap, and a hand-scrawled chalkboard menu on which no dish exceeds $8. Run by a South Korean brother-sister duo, BBQ Takorea promises fresh, organic ingredients at street food prices. We'd say they deliver. The pun-y name is just about the only thing BBQ Takorea has in common with its trendy fusion counterparts. Rather than overly complicated concoctions (i.e., you won't see any Asian pear salsa or Sriracha crema), BBQ Takorea takes a pretty straightforward approach, placing traditional Korean dishes into Mexican or Southwestern templates — like stuffing a bowl's worth of bibimbap into a burrito, or topping a bulgogi taco with a generous, albeit not entirely necessary, sprinkling of cheddar cheese.
TACO TRIP: Speaking of the restaurant's marquee dish, the tacos here are pretty great, reasonably priced ($3), and flavorful. Dig past the heaps of iceberg lettuce and various other toppings to get to the meat of the matter. BBQ Takorea's spicy-sweet beef bulgogi is so well seasoned, a taco filled with just the meat and a dollop of gochujang would be perfectly acceptable. But the spicy fried chicken taco just might give bulgogi a run for its money: crispy without being too crunchy, the perfect breading-to-meat ratio, and perfectly juicy meat tucked inside that golden shell. It's enough to make native Georgians rethink their regional fried chicken allegiances.
UN-FUSION FARE: For traditionalists or expats craving a more authentic taste of home, BBQ Takorea also offers plenty of Korean fare not served in a tortilla-wrapped configuration. Bibimbap is a decent litmus test of most Korean restaurants; BBQ Takorea's version is brimming with fresh, crunchy vegetables, kimchi, slivers of beef bulgogi or hunks of tofu, and a fried egg on top. Not bad for $8. Pillow-soft buns are stuffed with a slab of pork belly and tart, pungent kimchi. At $3 a pop, they're perfect for a midday street snack and portable enough to preemptively enjoy on your drive home from picking up a sack of dinner at BBQ Takorea.