1039 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., suite A 122, Suwanee
Open since: September 2007
Owner: Jose Hevia; Mimmo Alboumeh, executive chef
Location: Cheeky Taqueria is located along Peachtree Industrial Blvd. in Suwanee, "between the Chick-fil-A and the Burger King," Hevia said.
Hours: Cheeky Taqueria is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday,
11 a.m. to midnight Friday,
10 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Atmosphere: Exposed brick walls, high ceilings and roll-up garage doors leading to an outdoor patio immediately indicate that Cheeky Taqueria is not a run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant. No sombreros are tacked up as decorations; no multicolored blankets are draped on the walls. Rather, Cheeky has the look and feel of an urban, modern trendsetter outfit, but without the haughty attitude.
Although the restaurant is one big, open room, the space is divided into two distinct sections - the dining room and the bar. Cozy but sleek booths and tables await customers in the dining area. At the bar, a long, curved steel bar and high-top "beer tables" (which house the My Tap beer system) are equally as welcoming.
The menu: Along the backside of the loft-like space, the kitchen is in plain view, proving the point that nothing in Cheeky Taqueria is prepackaged or frozen. There is not a microwave or walk-in freezer to be seen.
"We make everything from scratch," Hevia said. "Our crew gets here at 6 a.m. every morning to begin all the prep work to make our food."
By "prep work," he means coring avocados for the famed guacamole; halving and squeezing limes for the in-house made margarita mix; and cutting and slicing fruits and vegetables for the 30 dishes featured on the menu.
"People are used to the cookie-cutter Mexican restaurant where they can go in and get the same No. 11 combo they have gotten for 20 years," Hevia said. "But here, we don't work like that."
Instead, Hevia and Alboumeh have created a menu that is unique but approachable. Take, for instance, their impressive list of unique tacos. The signature item, Tacos de Lujo, also called the crab cake taco, is a play on the ever-popular fish taco. Sweet and spicy, the dish is served in a soft corn taco shell, topped with creamy slaw mix and paired with a pineapple-chipotle salsa.
Pork, chicken, beef, steak and fish tacos are also served, and each is matched with one of the seven signature salsas, which range from the peppery morita to the mild pasilla.
The theme of creating an innovative dining experience echoes throughout the menu, from appetizers to desserts. A refreshing starter of cool seafood ceviche has grown in popularity since the location opened, despite the anticipated reluctance of Gwinnettians to embrace a fish-based dish. Fresh white fish chunks are mixed with lime juice, pepper relish and orange slices, then served with plantain chips.
"People who know about ceviche love it, but people who aren't sure what it is are a little scared to try fish," Hevia said. "After they try it, though, they're hooked."
That's not to say the menu doesn't have the Mexican classics customers crave. Fajitas are a staple, served with either beef or chicken, sauteed onions, peppers and tomatillo sauce. The entree is large enough to feed two people, and is the only menu item that touts a price tag of more than $10.
"That was one of our big points," Hevia said. "We wanted to be modern and urban, but still relaxed and affordable."
Beverages: Like any good Mexican restaurant, Cheeky offers a long list of libations, from mango mojitos to margaritas and beer. The restaurant is also home to the first-ever My Tap (patent pending) beer system, where clients pour their own beer and weigh it by the ounce, with prices ranging from $.25 to $.29 per ounce.
"It's not any more expensive or any cheaper," Hevia said. "It's just really cool."
Dessert: Churros con Chocolate, a dish of warm, fried dough sticks dipped in a cool chocolate sauce, has become a customer favorite.
Things you might not know: Cheeky Taqueria is named after Hevia's father, whose nickname was Cheeky Taqueria. The name perfectly emulates the restaurant's philosophy, Hevia said, being unique and eclectic, but still friendly, meaningful and fun.
SideBar: On The Menu
Ceviche: a large portion of chilled salad mixture, made with chunks of white fish, pepper relish and lime juice and served with lightly fried plantain chips ($8.75)
Tacos de Lujo: two soft corn tacos, filled with crab cakes and creamy slaw, and served with pineapple-chipotle salsa, rice and refried or charro beans ($9.95)
Quesadilla de Pollo: lightly fried braised chicken, topped with goat cheese, and served with chipotle cream and rice ($8.95)
Churros con Chocolate: dessert of fried pastry dough served with warm hazelnut chocolate dip ($5.50)