El Tesoro, a small, counter-serve taqueria and coffee shop on Arkwright Place in the Edgewood neighborhood, opens Saturday, January 26 bright and early at 7 a.m. for breakfast tacos and burritos and lunch tamales and pozole. The roadside cantina-coffeehouse, owned by Alan Raines and Darryl Howard, is located at the corner of Arkwright (becomes Woodbine) and Whitefoord Avenue, a half mile from Coan Park.
Raines has been eyeing the property on which El Tesoro now resides for years. It’s around the corner from a rental property he owns in the neighborhood. While sandwiched between the hot real estate and restaurants found in nearby Reynoldstown and Kirkwood, Edgewood remains quiet, mostly residential, and nearly a mile from walkable food options. Raines saw a neighborhood need and is filling it with El Tesoro.
“This location is a perfect place to grab coffee, tacos, or a quick bite on your way in or out of Edgewood,” explains Raines. “We wanted to put something here at this little intersection, which sees about 200 cars each morning using it as a cut-through.”
El Tesoro’s future is always on Raines’ mind. The front sidewalk will eventually be the connecting point between the Stone Mountain bike path and the Beltline. This connector — the forthcoming Trolly Line Trail extension — should join two disconnected sections of the trail between Woodbine Avenue NE and Woodbine Avenue SE, near Coan Park, and link it to the Eastside trail in Reynoldstown.
That future also includes landscaping, a patio with a fountain, bocce ball court, and fire pits, and the sides being cut out of the shipping container to create a bar. Raines sees El Tesoro growing with and becoming part of the neighborhood. Once completed, the taqueria will cover 21,000-square-feet along the intersection.
“We’ll keep adding to El Tesoro as we go along,” Raines says.
The vibe inside the 847-square-foot, rectangular building is relaxed and filled with pieces Raines — a self-described “hoarder” — found for the restaurant or had in storage. El Tesoro only seats 16 people inside its tiny dining room. Raines doesn’t see this present iteration of El Tesoro being a place where people linger for very long, rather a spot to stop in for a quick bite or to grab coffee or a taco on the go.
Raines designed El Tesoro to look like it’s been there forever. The wall containing the restaurant’s name was simply pressure washed and left with its 50 years of various paints sealed on the surface. A collection of 50-year-old doors were repurposed to create the counter — as if it was part of an old drug store or apothecary in a past life.
“People have asked why we didn’t put in drive-up window for coffee and food. I want people to come inside,” he says. “This is, first and foremost, a neighborhood place.”
Like the interior, food at El Tesoro is simple and Raines says, “takes as long as it takes” because it’s being made fresh. Breakfast burritos and tacos come with scrambled eggs and are meant to be taken on the go.
Tacos come dressed with onions and cilantro and then doctored up with beef, chicken, pork, or salchichon (Mexican sausage). There’s even options to add chapulines (dry roasted crickets) or to order the house tortilla, made with spent grain corn from Dry County Brewing Company’s Lechuza beer. Tamales are made fresh each day by Cristina Lugo Soto and her daughter Mayra.
Dishes such as mulita, a quesadilla-like sandwich composed of two corn tortillas, seared with cheese and filled with more cheese, rajas, and a choice of proteins and a Mexican casserole-like dish comprising of tortillas, cheese, salsa, guacamole, and refried beans can also be ordered for lunch. Soups such as pozole with pork hominy are made fresh and change daily.
Two baristas work the counter brewing Counter Culture coffee for espressos, cortados, and lattes, along with iced horchatas and café de olla — a spiced coffee drink. A platter of marranitos (pig-shaped ginger cookies) and other Mexican-inspired pastries are given a prominent place on the counter — easily spied by the neighborhood children Raines hopes to watch grow up at El Tesoro.
Raines plans to add dinner in a few months and expects his liquor license to arrive in the next few weeks for margaritas. As the weather warms up, the patio will open and the restaurant could begin full service dining, rather than remain counter-service only.
Take a look at the menu:
Open daily, 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
1374 Arkwright Place SE, Atlanta. eltesoroatl.com.