Zapata in Historic Norcross offers many departures from the chips-and-salsa norm. The menu is more than just a list of numbered combos: It has traditional Mayan and Aztec flourishes that make the mouth turn up into a smile.
Named after Emiliano Zapata, the mustached Mexican revolutionary, the restaurant recently moved to its 15 Jones St. address after a post on Peachtree Parkway.
The Sopa Azteca soup makes many appearances on the lunch menu, which is very reasonably priced. The rich tomato and Guijillo pepper puree is reminiscent of a sweet red pepper soup. Fried tortilla strips are best eaten first, before they get soaked in the broth. A slice of ripe avocado and crumbled fresh cheese lend a creamy hint.
Get the Aztec soup with the Maya 1 lunch combo and it will come with a delightful side of fried mini corn tortillas slathered with black beans and topped with shredded lettuce and more crumbled fresh cheese. The entire combo is light and mild—more a celebration of texture than of zing or spice.
The dinner menu also has interesting takes on the familiar. You’ll find many dishes with “picadillo,” the house-seasoned mined beef.
The Molcajetes, which the Zapata lists as its signature, is served in an oversized volcanic stone pot that is its namesake. The stew that brews inside the pot (your choice of shrimp, beef and chorizo, chicken and chorizo or mushroom) includes a tangy tomatillo sauce, whole onions, chunks of tomato and strips of nopal, a type of cactus. The cheese on top of the dish slides into the stew as it cooks, creating rich, bubbly goodness.
The only intimidating this about the dish is the size of the vegetables. It takes a bit of work to contend with entire onions stalks sticking out of a stew.
The Sopes Haustecos have garnered raves. The thick corn maize shell is topped with a choice of protein, beans, lettuce sour cream and the like, then doused with a fiery Chile de Arbol sauce.
One of the highlights of both menus is that they doesn’t shy away from rich, fresh dairy and cream. The Crepas Primavera are mushroom- and pepper-stuffed crepes served au gratin while Crepas Cholula are topped with the ever-popular picadillo with a rich chipotle cream sauce.
The atmosphere is festive--especially on the back patio. With or without the addition of one of the many tequilas on the menu.