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Zapata Knows Tequila, Mexican Fare

Every other week, Norcross Patch profiles a different business in the area. This week, we talk to Victor Ponce, manager of Zapata in Historic Norcross.

You can’t throw a rock in metro Atlanta without hitting a Tex-Mex restaurant. But it’s a little harder to find one that serves authentic Mexican food and has 65 kinds of tequila. In its prime location in Historic Downtown Norcross, Zapata is redefining the Mexican restaurant.

You won’t find sizzling fajitas or taco salad. What you will find are dishes like Puntas a la Mexican, beef tips cooked with cactus, and Enchiladas de Mole, described on the menu as the meal of the ancient gods.

You will also find upscale tequilas like Don Julio REAL. And if you only know Cuervo, not to fear. The bartenders know their stuff. They are all certified tequiliers, the equivalent of a wine sommelier, which means they go through an intensive training. And just last month, Zapata was named to the list of the Mexican Tequila Academy, giving the restaurant priority in tasting new tequilas.

To add to the authentic experience, all of the woodwork is carved by hand – the tables and chairs, the bar and even the front door.

Norcross residents clearly like Zapata. You named it , and voted its  and  the best in town.

Patch talks to Victor Ponce, manager of Zapata.

What makes you unique?

I believe it’s our food. It’s very authentic Mexican. You’re not going to find burritos, partial tacos or speedy tacos or taco salads. It’s all authentic foods from different regions of Mexico. And our tequila bar – we have 65 different types of tequilas. And we’re actually on the list of the Tequila Academy of Mexico. We just got that honor last month. It means that we are one of their prime locations for the Southeast region. So any brand new tequila that comes out – we get to test it first. And the bartenders are certified tequiliers – which means they have a vast knowledge of tequila.

And I think the neighborhood is what makes us. They have grown; we have grown on them. We appreciate that. Because a lot of our repeat customers are from the neighborhood.

What is rewarding about running Zapata?

The various people you meet. The new relationships you build with certain clientele. Some of them have become friends, and we’ll go out and have dinner. That’s always rewarding.

What is challenging about running Zapata?

Keeping it busy every day. Trying to keep afloat. It’s hard sometimes. In this economy, it’s a struggle sometimes but it’s like every other restaurant – you have your ups and downs. When it’s up, be glad. When it’s down, keep fighting.

What do you like about being in Norcross?

I kind of love it. It feels like a small, little town. Everybody knows everybody. I think that’s a positive because they actually spread the word for us. We have customers that come in and say, ‘So-and-so told me about this, I want to try it out.’ And they live way out in Atlanta, Smyrna. It’s all about word of mouth because we don’t do a vast advertising business.

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