Canopy Atlanta has partnered with 285 South, which will extend and deepen community-centered coverage of local immigrant and refugee communities. Journalist Sophia Qureshi, founder and publisher of 285 South and author of this story, is a Canopy Atlanta Writer-in-Residence.
In Forest Park, aromas with origins from more than 1,700 miles away emanate from a restaurant sandwiched between an Auto Repair and a Pizza Hut. Taqueria Don Sige #2 opened its doors in Forest Park four years ago, and ever since, has been drawing locals and customers from as far away as Marietta and Stockbridge for its birria tacos, chilaquiles, and tamales, as well as harder to find dishes like pozole (a traditional stew made with meat, spices, and vegetables) and aguachile (a ceviche-style shrimp tossed in chile water, served only on weekends).
On a Wednesday afternoon, a steady stream of customers, reflecting the diverse makeup of Forest Park, which is 23 percent Hispanic and 50 percent African American, make their way in and out of the restaurant. Some arrive in pickup trucks for carryout, some are clad in U.S. Army uniforms and settling in for a meal of birria tacos, and others are clear regulars, ordering their food quickly and with confidence.
“We have people that say they come from an hour away. There’s this other customer that we have, that comes from like two hours away,” says Melissa Rodriguez, the mastermind behind the restaurant’s ever-evolving menu and daughter of owner Sigifredo Rodriguez, the namesake of the restaurant. “There are places in Marietta that sell the birria tacos, but customers say they’re just not the same.”
“Vengan. Prueban la comida. Todo está rico. All authentic food. Everything is fresh. We make it as they order. Everything is made out of scratch.“Melissa Rodriguez
Melissa was born in Atlanta, but learned how to cook from her father, older sister, and mother. She grew up visiting her grandmother in their hometown in Villa de Emiliano Zapata, in the Mexican state of Jalisco, also the home of the birria taco.
The taco – filled with slow cooked meat and dipped in a consomé – has become popular throughout cities in the U.S. in recent years (including Atlanta), but Melissa and her family have been eating birrias their entire lives. “Where we’re from, if you go to a wedding or a quinceañera or any kind of party, that’s pretty much what everybody gives,” she says from behind the counter of the Taqueria, between customers.
The Rodriguez’s family business is part of an increasingly visible Hispanic community in Forest Park. There are 117 minority owned businesses in Forest Park, including the original Pho Dai Loi (which now has locations in Duluth and Buford Highway), Los Amigos (which specializes in Salvadoran pupusas), and the Lake City International Farmers Market. In 2019, voters in Forest Park elected the city’s first ever Hispanic council member, Hector Gutierrez, who helped start a city Day of the Dead celebration in 2021, and a Hispanic Heritage Festival in 2022.
The Rodriguez family opened the first location of the taqueria 18 years ago, in a Mexican shopping center about 11 miles up the road in College Park. “We ha[d] a lot of customers that used to [come] from Forest Park to the [location] in College Park. And they would always be like, why don’t you guys open a place in Forest Park?” said Melissa.
When an opportunity came up for her father to buy the building in Forest Park, he took it. Melissa had been working at the College Park location, which was much smaller, for years. With the new space, she felt like she had the ability to experiment and make her mark. “I came up with everything,” she said.
She makes her way around the back kitchen, proudly showing everything from the flour for the corn tortillas, which are made from scratch, to the consomé for the birria simmering in a large metal pot, to the whole chickens roasting on a large grill.
“Vengan. Prueban la comida. Todo está rico. All authentic food. Everything is fresh. We make it as they order. Everything is made out of scratch.”
Editor: Sonam Vashi
Fact Checker: Muriel Vega
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