Our two sides alone were worth the 17-mile drive to the suburb of Smyrna, up nasty I-75 North (always car- and truck-clogged, always under construction) in a driving rain. I’d been reading the raves about Porch Light Latin Kitchen for some time and at last we had time to explore.
The restaurant itself is “hidden” within the large, landscaped, purpose-built Smyrna community complex and the entrance is NOT at 300 Village Green Circle as its address would indicate. Luckily, a nearby policeman steered us around to the parking lot BEHIND the Number 300 building. Easy peasy from there, with parking right at the door.
Rocking chairs were pulled up to a long, wooden outdoor eating counter. Inside is do-it-yourself (at least at lunchtime): The host hands you a menu and you may sit on the bench while studying before ordering and paying at the cash register. Soft drinks are in a refrigerated case or you may scoop your own ice and pour your own iced tea. Pick up napkins and flatware en route to the table of your choice. Food comes on aluminum trays spread with Cut-Rite paper. Décor is spare with shellacked light wood tables fronting one long bench punctuated with really thick, supportive throw pillows. A fully stocked bar dominates the back half of the space. Latin music (with the occasional Latin beat-inflected pop tune such as “Stand By Me”) blared rather loudly from the sound system but we chose to cope rather than complain. Other late-eating patrons, including a large Latino family, didn’t seem to mind.
Back to those sides: The grilled corn (off the cob), finished with a light coating of Sriracha mayonnaise and topped with a generous sprinkling of cojita cheese, was marvelous. The rum-glazed plantains were equally delicious and the owner/chef himself, Andre Gomez, imparted to me its various secrets. He is a native of Puerto Rico with some Argentinian ancestry so he cooks what he knows—with some lovely twists. Food is flavorful but not spicy, if heat is not your thing.
Five other dishes round out the list of sides ($5 each). The hefty beer-wine-cocktails-liquors menu is longer than the lunch menu. The latter features three appetizers, four entrées, two salads (add a meat to either for an extra charge), and five sandwiches in addition to the sides.
My sol mahi tacos (two for $10), served open faced on El Milagro tortillas, fell in the latter category. Each contained three light battered chunks of mahi, avocado purée, and cabbage slaw with pineapple vinegar. A separate green salsa added extra gusto, as did a squeeze of juice from the grilled slice of lime.
My husband’s cumin-spiced St. Louis ribs (4 bones $8, half rack or 8 bones $15, full rack $28) coated with guava chipotle barbecue sauce weren’t quite the chow-down we were expecting. That is, they weren’t the thick, meaty ribs local Atlanta BBQ places dish up; they were smaller, with less meat. Perhaps it was the unusual flavor of the sauce, and the fact it was baked on, that threw us. The meat was, however, tender and flavorful.
Chef Andre obviously cooks painstakingly and inventively. This is artful and authentic south-of-the-border cooking.
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