If you’re more discerning than Taco Mac but less adventurous than Buford Highway, there is The El Felix up in Alpharetta. Is it worth the trek for folks from Intown? Not any more – because Ford Fry cut-and-pasted it into Superica at Krog Street Market. Then he bumped half the menu prices up by a dollar, because Krog-goers are willing to pay it.
And pay it they should. Superica is the best Tex Mex there is in this town.
After a half-dozen other concepts in his ever-expanding domination over Atlanta’s restaurant scene, Chef Fry is circling back to what undoubtedly works and for the first time he’s replicating his best asset: recipes he ate as a kid in Texas. I taught in Austin for a couple of summers and I’ll vouch for Superica up against any of the great, sprawling enchilada joints from South Congress to 6th Street. The food is authentic, the bar is thorough and the patio is huge.
Before I touched the menu, I ordered a house margarita and a queso con chile. Red and green complimentary salsas were on the table instantly. Both were fresh and finely pureed, plus the chips were plenty salty without being greasy. The chips and salsas are house-made with proper care considering they’re served to every table. The margarita was nicely balanced and the queso was yellow.
Service quality can fluctuate or lapse in a place this big – that, too, is authentic. Still, I asked the server to surprise me with whatever enchilada gets ordered most often. She brought me the green chicken. The in-house tortillas were ace; the salsa verde was smooth; the chicken was just chicken. My wife ordered the carnitas fajitas. Two thumbs way up on the Mexican butter. You’ll want to take a bath in it. The fixings included decent guacamole and a pile of charred onions so large I doubt anyone finishes it.
The main thing, of course, is the pork belly. When the plate arrived, I couldn’t believe how much of it there was. So nice to see somebody using more than just tiny cubes. That said, pulling pork belly to make your own fajita is complicated. The protein itself is super soft, but strung through with delicious fat ribbons inside and a seared crispy outside. You need a knife and fork to handle it, leaving no hand to hold your half-completed fajita. The plating method makes assembly a challenge.
Where messing with the classics is perfectly acceptable is at the bar, and the bar at Superica is excellent. You must order The Return of the Swamp Thing. It’s like a glass of mezcal and guacamole. The more I describe it the more insane it will sound, so just order it and prepare to have your prior ideas of summer refreshment blown to pieces. If you’re wondering how I bridged the gap between a house marg and the Swamp Thing, it was with a sweetened up mezcal old fashioned. This bar has something for everybody.
If you want a seat at the bar, go like a granny. I arrived at 5:15 p.m. on a Friday and every stool was already taken. In fact, go early if you want any seat at all without a wait, because Superica doesn’t take reservations. That’s authentic Tex Mex for you. I hope Ford Fry opens up a half-dozen more places exactly like this. Heck, just four more and he’ll overtake Taco Mac inside the Perimeter – a worthy monopoly.
Editor’s Note: After the print version of this review appeared, Superica sent us the recipe for its whipped cream topping that Megan Volpert thought might be from a carton. It’s actually homemade by Executive Pastry Chef Chrysta Poulous
Recipe Courtesy of Chrysta Poulos – Executive Pastry Chef of Ford Fry’s Restaurants
2 Quarts Heavy Whipping Cream
8 Tablespoons of Sugar
8 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2 Pinches of Salt
1 Tablespoon Whip it (Chef Chrysta recommends “Dr. Oetker” brand, which can be found at grocery stores near the jello/gelatin/box dessert area. Whip it is a cream stabilizer)
Combine all ingredients in mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium low until foamy. Increase speed to high and whip until medium firm peaks form and the mixture has a glossy sheen.