Tucked on the corner of Arkwright Place and Whitefoord Avenues, El Tesoro is a neighborhood restaurant that almost feels out of place—there are no other restaurants in the vicinity in this residential area of the Edgewood neighborhood of Atlanta. As you approach El Tesoro, it may feel like you’ve been transported to a scene from a Western movie.
El Tesoro has become a popular neighborhood joint for a quick bite; the restaurant is partnered with Counter Culture Coffee for its coffee offerings. Because of a great selection of coffee offerings at El Tesoro, you can think of it as both a restaurant and a coffee shop.
Atlanta Coffee Shops recently visited El Tesoro, and the following photos are from that visit.
This post is organized into three parts (click on the parts below to be taken to the respective section)
Interior and Exterior Views
The exterior of El Tesoro is vibrant, adorned with various plants outside of the building. The “Taqueria el Tesoro” painted on the front wall (by muralist @chris_makes_art) is beautiful.
To the left of the building is a nice outdoor seating area.
The interior of El Tesoro features all kinds of items and collectibles (the co-owner of El Tesoro, Alan Raines, enjoys collecting things; you can read the Q&A to get a perspective).
It was packed inside El Tesoro on this particular weekday around noon. Sitting in the frame seen below are Judah and Nick of @badlaptops_art (website coming soon)—having chatted with these two guys, they recommended the mulitas on the menu. Judah and Nick also mentioned that El Tesoro has become their favorite lunch/coffee spot.
The shelves at El Tesoro have a number of photographs of Luchadors (wrestlers who participate in Lucha libre), food, landscapes, and family photos, including one of the landscapers originally from Mexico.
The shelves at El Tesoro also have a prominent display of coffee-related items. From a wide variety of familiar brewing methods like the Turkish Ibrik to the Italian Moka to a traditional way of brewing a lot of espresso at once—”the sock”:
The Menu and Coffee Options
The menu at El Tesoro is divided into breakfast and lunch options (dinner is in the works for later this year). Breakfast options include breakfast tacos and burritos, with several filling options (such as the migas: scrambled egg, queso chihuahua, crispy tortilla chips, esquite corn, pico de gallo). Lunch options include tacos, burritos, and the ever-popular mulitas, with various filling options to choose from (including carne del dia, puerco verde, tinga de pollo, chorizo con papas, and frontera).
El Tesoro is partnered with North Carolina based Counter Culture Coffee for its coffee supply. The restaurant offers traditional coffee options (espresso, cappuccino, latte, etc.), but the three specialties are the horchata iced coffee (especially great in the hot summer months), the café olla (brewed coffee with house-made spices), and the Mexican hot chocolate. Personal recommendation: opt for the horchata iced coffee (the horchata is made in-house and is delicious).
El Tesoro also has chai and tea options on the menu; El Tesoro has recently partnered with Rishi Tea for its tea selection.
Q&A with Alan Raines, Co-Owner of El Tesoro
To get additional background information about El Tesoro, Atlanta Coffee Shops conducted a Q&A with the co-owner of El Tesoro, Alan Raines. The Q&A is presented below.
Q: What are some of your personal inspirations and/or personal journeys/travels that are evident in the design/layout of El Tesoro?
A: I spent many years traveling to Mexico for work and pleasure. I made it a point to seek out small towns and places to eat. I love eating somewhere that is one step away from basically being someone’s home. We were fortunate to start with an old building with decades of layers of fading paint and irregular surfaces, similar to many places in Mexico that I have visited. Travels between Mexico City, Queretaro, Toluca and many, many small towns has had me dreaming up Tesoro for 20 years. Our building is actually 3 joined together, also lending itself to the evolution of a small place that grows into more space over time.
Q: Can you talk more about some of the items on the shelves inside the restaurant? You mentioned the traditional way of doing a pour-over with the sock that sits on the top shelf, for example. It would be great if you could highlight a couple more items in this way.
A: We include a lot of photographs, relics and other art treasures to reflect an owner’s family, travel or inspirations. In our space we have a lot of coffee inspiration. From a wide variety of familiar brewing methods like the Turkish Ibrik, Italian Moka, to a traditional way of brewing a lot of espresso at once, ’the sock’. This is the original pour-over method I grew up with in my grandmother’s Puerto Rican home. Literally a cotton sock filled with ground coffee and hung in a special rack so you can pour hot water onto the grounds. This was the family brewing style the Jibaritos or “hillbillys” of Puerto Rico and other Latin countries. We also have a lot of photographs of Luchadors, food, landscapes and family photos, including one of Frida Kahlo, signed by her sister.
Q: How did you end up partnering with Counter Culture Coffee? Was that an easy decision to make? What has been your partnership experience like to date?
A: Counter Culture is such a great partner for our coffee program. I actually used to sell them roasted bean packaging back in my sales life. Over the years I witnessed them grow and continue to dedicate people and resources to delivering the best coffee possible. When we started Tesoro it was a pretty short list of possible suppliers but CC was an easy winner, especially with the Atlanta sales, tech and training programs they offer. It’s pretty seamless now.
Q: In this Eater article, it says that "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…”
A: Yes, the construction on the trolley line should be getting underway soon and will hopefully get to us by year end. This is a tremendous boost for Edgewood and the restaurant. We are super excited.
Q: What are current expansion plans for El Tesoro? Is the bocce court still in the works?
A: We are working on plans for our covered patio, bar and eventually a larger kitchen. Our additional side patio space is still in design flux. We have a lot of ideas to bring together. Eventually it is going to be amazing. The evolution is part of our long term plan to make us a tiny Mexican oasis.
Q: What's been the clientele like since you opened? is it mostly locals that live in the Edgewood neighborhood, or have you had a diverse group of people from all parts of town visit?
A: Since we opened we have developed a long list of daily, weekly and regular clients from the Edgewood neighborhood. It’s nice to be a part of people’s routine. We have received a lot of press so we also get people from all over the city now, sometimes from Kennesaw, Milton and other spots pretty far away.
Q: What's been the biggest challenge so far since El Tesoro has opened?
A: Hiring is tough for us right now. We have a great crew but we work them a little too much since we are having a hard time hiring restaurant staff. There are so many places opening we have a lot of competition for quality labor.
Q: Is a dinner option at El Tesoro still in the works?
A: We will be opening for dinner sometime after we get our liquor license and figure out where to serve the drinks from. It’s a tiny space as you know. We also will need to hire more staff and be open for about 14 hours a day. It’s going to be challenge but a fun one for sure. We look forward to expanding our menu to include many more items and specialities.
Q: What are your personal recommendations from items on the menu?
A: There’s a lot of flavor in our kitchen. For me, I love the Mulita, a runaway success for us. The Pozole soup, tamales and whatever the ladies in the kitchen cook up are next in line. As for coffee, I’m a Cortado man. It delivers a lot of espresso flavor and allows for some pastry dipping. Out Horchata iced latte is a huge hit. Hit it with some Mexican spiced chocolate for an extra kick.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to share with a larger audience who are coffee fans/enthusiasts about El Tesoro?
A: We hope people will have fun with us and enjoy our style of food and service. It’s a bit off center from a typical food environment but that’s part of what makes us a side of the road place that just kind of evolved into a taqueria. The food and coffee that we offer is made with a lot of care and we think it shows.
If you enjoy Mexican food and coffee, then be sure to add El Tesoro to your destination in Atlanta. El Tesoro has already cultivated a loyal following among the locals; so if you come during the lunch-time hours, expect a bit of a wait to place your order.
It is really cool to walk inside this small restaurant/coffee shop and marvel at all the decorations and historical artifacts on the shelves—each of them has a story to tell.
Overall, El Tesoro is a really great addition to the Atlanta coffee community with a great selection of coffee options available.