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Oaxaca on My Mind

Oaxaca on My Mind
Photos by Sara Hanna


IMG_7217 IMG_7575
Photos by Sara Hanna

No, “Cinco y Diez” isn’t what Hugh Acheson is calling Five & Ten, his popular Athens establishment, for a Cinco de Mayo promotion (though this has been a source of some confusion since the restaurant opened in January—made even more plausible by the fact that Cinco y Diez occupies Five & Ten’s former home now that the elder restaurant has moved to a larger space down Milledge Avenue).Cinco y Diez is a fresh new concept from Acheson, with rising star Whitney Otawka as executive chef (formerly of Farm 255 in Athens). The menu is true to Acheson’s locavore sensibilities combined with Otawka’s California upbringing and love of all things Oaxaca, where she did a culinary immersion. “I fell in love with the isthmus region, where they are as passionate about using masa as Italians are about pasta, and chiles, spices, and charring create interesting levels of flavor,” she says. “I’ve studied the traditional flavors of French cooking and used them for years, but this style feels like home.”Every day at Cinco y Diez, their masa (cornmeal from Anson Mills) is ground and transformed into tortillas by the aunt of a sous chef. “Lupe is like the mom of the kitchen,” explains Otawka. “She helped us streamline the challenging process of making fresh tortillas every single day while making sure the texture stays consistent.” (If you’d like to make your own tortillas, Otawka advises purchasing a tortilla press from a Mexican market.)

You can taste Otawka’s California roots especially in the tacos—garnished with a fresh salsa verde or chipotle mayo. “But then we add an old-school Hugh Acheson touch with a fennel slaw,” she explains. Dishes on the Cinco y Diez menu are intentionally not fully composed “so you can build your own finished plate,” explains Otawka. “The menu is designed to feel vibrant and fun and alive. It’s like we’re throwing a big party every night.”

And while you’ll find carefully crafted cocktails on the menu, Otawka has a soft spot for their mezcal program, thanks to a day of imbibing with the makers of Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal. “I was dropped off on the side of a dirt road in the village of Teotitlan and hiked to the owner’s home where he was distilling mezcal in Pappy barrels, sherry barrels, and experimenting with infusing jamon and other interesting flavors,” she says. “I’ve been obsessed with mezcal ever since.” True Southerners naturally should love mezcal, according to Otawka, because of the depth of flavor and smokiness that’s reminiscent of barbecue. But she warns, “Don’t shoot it. Sip it. It’s the best way to start and finish a meal.”

Photo by Sara Hanna
Photo by Sara Hanna


Fried Oyster Taco with Fennel Slaw, Chipotle Crema, and Radish
Wood-Roasted Hen-of-the-Woods Mushroom Taco with Poblano Rajas and Roasted Garlic Crema
Lamb Neck Barbacoa Taco with Pasilla Chiles, Mint Salsa Verde, and Pickled Red Onion

Steak + Stew

Grilled Skirt Steak
Pozole (Red Chili)
Ceviche of Scallops



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