Every big city has a section where you can find authentic ethnic cuisine. In Atlanta it is Buford Highway, home to more than 1,000 immigrant-owned businesses along a 1.3-mile stretch of highway that crosses Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties.
Riding along Buford Highway, you’ll mostly see nondescript strip malls. But don't be fooled. Inside these strip malls is excellent cuisine at extremely affordable prices.
- Brunch. Try Canton House’s Dim Sum.
- Seafood. A-Priori features treats from the sea, with a Russian slant.
- Fried Seafood. Visit Crawfish Shack.
- Vietnamese. Try C'om or no-frills Lee’s Bakery or Quoc Huong.
- Mexican/Latin. You’ll love Havana, Rincon Latino or Taqueria El Rey Del Taco.
- Korean. I love Woo Nam Jeong Stone Bowl House in Seoul Plaza. Here, you may be tempted to stick with Bibimbap, but if you are feeling more adventurous, order the Nine Treasure Plate (Gujeolpan) and steamed black pork belly with kimchi and oysters (Bo Ssam). Another hidden gem of Korean on Buford Highway is Dongne Bangne. Bring a group and get the Summer Stamina Goat Hotpot (Yeomsul Chongul).
- Surprise. Be bold and venture out on your own to a restaurant where you haven’t been before. I’ve yet to encounter a server on Buford Highway who is not kind or patient.
- Dessert. Either order at the restaurant where you are dining or explore the plethora of options for sweets all along Buford Highway. Bakeries like Mozart, Sweet Hut and White Windmill have a mesmerizing amount of treats. If you are searching for something cooler, literally, then try one of the rolled ice cream places on Buford Highway? I-CE-NY and 8 Farenheit are quite popular and oh so fun, especially if you’ve got kids.
- Entertainment. There’s more to Buford Highway than food. After dinner, you can head to LIPS Atlanta for a drag show. Or be the entertainment yourself at one of several karaoke bars.
- Make your own. Before leaving, stop at the Buford Highway Farmer’s Market to pick up cooking supplies. You’ll find just about any exotic item a recipe would call for.
- Ahhh. Finally, walk off your meal at Plaza Fiesta. There are plenty of stores with lots of diverse offerings. My favorite thing to do is get a foot massage. Treat Your Feet and H Massage are two of the best spots. Some places even let you bring in drinks (Champagne perhaps?).
Malika Bowling is the author of Culinary Atlanta: Guide to the Best Restaurants, Markets, Breweries and More!, and founder of Roamilicious. Malika also has served as a judge at various culinary competitions and food festivals, including Taste of Atlanta. Her podcast, Just a Byte, can be downloaded from iTunes. Follow her on Twitter @MalikaBowling and Instagram.