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Cuban restaurant adding new flavor to Clayton

El Noa Noa Sur in Jonesboro has a wide variety of Cuban-flavored foods and some traditional foods such as a chicken house salad and empanadas. Its cuisine makes it stand out as a rarity in Clayton County.

El Noa Noa Sur in Jonesboro has a wide variety of Cuban-flavored foods and some traditional foods such as a chicken house salad and empanadas. Its cuisine makes it stand out as a rarity in Clayton County.

— The owners of El Noa Noa Sur could have opened a Mexican restaurant on Tara Boulevard three months ago but they didn’t want it to be overkill.

Just south of their restaurant is a Mexican restaurant. Another Mexican restaurant is just north of them. The owners also operate Mexican restaurants elsewhere in metro Atlanta, but they wanted to try something different in Clayton County.

“We saw that area was already filled,” said Lance Robertson, the restaurant’s community outreach and marketing director. “Because one of our flagship businesses, Copacobana, has the same chef and cook and we were hitting such a sweet spot with the community with our Cuban authenticity that we knew this was a good niche to build.”

So the owners went with a Cuban flavor instead. El Noa Noa Sur is something of a hidden surprise. It’s at the intersection of Tara Boulevard and Mount Zion Road but it’s not as easily visible from the intersection as other restaurants. It is located behind Dunkin’ Donuts and only open for the lunch and early dinner crowd from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.

It stands out as one of the few Cuban restaurants, if not the only one, in a sea of fast food and chain sit-down restaurants lining Tara Boulevard. Similarly, it’s a rare breed throughout the county because of its cuisine.

“We really want to be something different for your palate,” Robertson said. “It’s like having an alternative. We have everything but the Cuban cigars.”

The restaurant serves a wide variety of authentic Cuban foods including beef, chicken and cheese empanadas, yucca frita, tamales, roasted chicken served on white or yellow rice, sweet plantains, jerk wings, grilled tilapia and Cuban sandwiches. Nothing on the menu costs more than $10.

Mike Kelly, a senior executive with the company that owns the restaurants and its sister establishments, said there is one menu item in particular that has proven to be popular with patrons.

“The roasted chicken is where it’s at,” said Kelly. “That’s what most people who come here get.”

Robertson said a big part of the restaurant’s business so far is take-out order. It receives between 20 and 30 orders a day, he said. Another 20 people who come in and sit down to eat. He said law enforcement are regular patrons with up to 15 officers dining in on some days.

While Robertson said business could be better, the management is happy with where they are. He said the restaurant is still getting on its feet and hasn’t begun to really roll out its marketing efforts, which will include billboards in the county.

“We’re excited about it, about being an added value to the county,” Robertson said.

Kelly said the restaurant is doing a slow build before it hosts a grand opening celebration. It will join the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce with a ribbon-cutting that could happen later this month or in July. The chamber does ribbon-cuttings to symbolize a business’ new membership in the organization.

“We’re trying to get everything going and then we’re going to hold a big grand opening,” Kelly said. “We want to make sure everything is going all right before we blow it all out.”