Omnivore - Eating on the cheap

Eating cheap and well is not difficult in our city. Here are some recent spots I've hit. Some pictures are better than others, but you'll get a reasonable impression.

First up is Via Elisa (1750 Howell Mill Road, 404-605-0668), which sells the best pasta in our city. You can buy it directly from Elisa Gambino's shop or at Whole Foods — or you can go to restaurants like Shaun's to taste it. Although you can't eat her pasta on the premises, Elisa (shown here) is now selling panini at lunchtime, but call ahead to make sure she hasn't run out.

There is also a counter of excellent cheeses in the shop, along with Elisa's sauces and various gourmet items. Do not leave without some ravioli.

I have never been to Nuevo Laredo Cantina (1495 Chattahoochee Ave., 404-352-9009) when I didn't have to wait for a table. The wildly popular spot, decorated with enough kitsch to stock the inventory of a Tijuana souvenir shop, serves fantastic Mexican/border cuisine.

I lunched there recently with my friend Gregg, who ordered lobster tacos, while I feasted on the chicken mole, the city's best. Here's a picture of the bar. The place was so crowded I couldn't get a good shot inside the main dining room. Even Our Lady of Guadalupe would not answer my prayers for a decent camera angle.

A favorite dirt-cheap restaurant is Eats (600 Ponce de Leon Ave.,404-888-9149). There are two features here — pasta and chicken. (The pasta bar is shown here.)

My favorite, though, is the jerk chicken with collards and corn on the cob. The lima beans aren't bad, either. If the jerk seasonings are too much for your delicate mouth, you can order the chicken with lemon-pepper seasonings.

Finally, there's Zocalo (465 Boulevard, 404-635-9930). Although there are full-service restaurants of the same name in Midtown and Decatur, the Grant Park location is a taqueria. In this (backlit) picture, you see the al pastor rotisserie and you should definitely order at least a taco made with the succulent pork flavored with pineapple and various spices.

I usually order "la gringa," al pastor meat between two flour tortillas, almost like a quesadilla. My favorite taco is the one made with strips of chile relleno.

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