If you pursue education in journalism and psychology, as I did, you are cursed with a double dose of curiosity. You annoy a lot of people by asking a lot of questions. For example, during two visits to the new Lazy Llama Cantina at the corner of Piedmont and Monroe, I’ve asked at least five staff members to explain the name. Where did it come from? Nobody knew. “How can you apply for work somewhere and not ask the origin of such a goofy name?” I asked one server. “I just go with it,” they said. “I don’t get it,” I said. “Just go with it,” they said.
Okay, I’m going with it. Lazy Llama replaces the popular Hobnob, mainly a burger joint, that Sean Yeremyand opened about 10 years ago. It spawned two other thriving locations and another is opening in Atlantic Station. So Yeremyand decided to try out this new Tex-Mex concept at the original. I was surprised, given the amount of nearby competition: Little Rey, La Hacienda, Taqueria del Sol, and – yes! – the equally weirdly-named FROGS at Midtown Promenade. Like it, Lazy Llama promotes itself as a party place with a huge menu of tequilas, but also gives you sports on 20 TV screens, at least 12 framed portraits of llamas, and a brief thoughtful menu of tacos and quesadillas.
I lunched alone at Lazy Llama twice during its second week of operation. The menu, developed by consulting chef Jeffrey Gardner, includes eight tacos and, thanks to the use of corn tortillas, all are gluten-free. I ordered the carne asada, the carnitas, and the al pastor. The best was the al pastor – juicy, roasted pork with pineapple chunks and a tomatillo-avocado salsa. The carnitas, pieces of roasted pork, were served under a different green-chili sauce. Unfortunately the meat was way too dry, an effect not remedied by the super-dense (but highly flavorful) sauce. The carne asada – steak – was coated with an addictive, smoky red chili sauce with grilled onions. Be aware there is no salsa bar here. That means the kitchen is in control of how ingredients are proportioned.
On my second visit, I ordered a quesadilla. It was huge – plenty for two normal people. Four types are offered – cheese, shrimp, steak, and mushrooms with charred corn. I chose the latter. It was served with guac, pico de gallo, and sour cream, plus a bowl of spicy refried beans and rice. The thing was wonderful. Besides the sliced button mushrooms and corn, there were red and green peppers, all browned but still slightly crunchy, yet kind of creamy. I devoured all four fat charred slices. Then I realized I didn’t taste any cheese. I called the restaurant and was assured that cheese was in my quesadilla. I don’t drink, so I can’t blame the tequila. I believe them. The light use of cheese explains the background flavor and texture. Speaking of texture, I also applaud the kitchen’s chunky guacamole. It’s not grotesquely blended and over-seasoned like most guac in Atlanta. The main flavor beside the avocado is lemon.
I’ve tried one dessert at the restaurant – the churros. I have spent a lot of time in Spain eating churros and my favorites have always been slightly crisp with a creamy interior – sort of like a well-done glazed donut from Krispy Kreme. Lazy Llama’s churros are crunchy throughout, so you’ll have to borrow the creaminess from the chocolate and caramel sauces served with them.
Lazy Llama’s menu includes salads, the usual chips and salsa, and a few “entrees” like fajitas and enchiladas. I should warn you that prices may seem a bit high until you see the portions. Share.
Cliff Bostock is a longtime Atlanta restaurant critic and former psychotherapist turned life coach; email@example.com.
Lazy Llama Cantina
1551 Piedmont Ave.