Not so long ago, Atlanta diners had to head to Buford Highway for authentic Mexican tacos, fiery Sichuan fare, real-deal Thai curry and Korean barbecue. Luckily, though, there’s a wealth of global cuisine in metro Atlanta these days. Still, the Buford Highway area remains the place to go if you’re looking to dig deeper into lesser-known culinary traditions.
Northern Chinese street food: Beijing Kabobs
If all you know of Chinese cuisine is the local takeout spot around the corner, you’re missing out. This unassuming spot in the two-story Intown Plaza shopping center stands out for its well-regarded representation of the kind of street fare you’d find in China’s sprawling capital city. The selections at Beijing Kabobs can overwhelm as you scour a paper menu provided by accommodating servers, but dive in, be adventurous. Reward awaits!
What to order: Skewers of chicken gizzard, chicken heart, cumin-spiced lamb, charcoal-grilled beef — the kabob options are nearly endless here (and that’s not even mentioning the special dishes of the day, displayed in Chinese on paper signs on the walls). This is also one of the few places in town where you’re likely to find a skewered ox penis on a menu. And, a bowl of their noodle soup loaded with lamb and bok choy is as comforting as it is filling. 5090 Buford Highway, Doraville. 770-455-8388, beijingkabobsga.com.
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Indonesian: Tempo Doeloe
While the cuisine of Indonesia is as varied as the Southeast Asian country itself, comprising an archipelago of more than 18,000 islands, most Americans are more likely to know food from its neighboring nations. It’s earthier than Thai, more diverse than Malaysian, and there’s more to it than the fried rice dish nasi goreng that is so popular with Western backpackers. This cozy BuHi eatery offers the option to order off a menu, but those in the know go for the combination plate drawing on the daily cafeteria-style selections.
What to order: Ayam penyet, which literally means “smashed chicken,” is a great introduction to Indonesian cuisine. Lightly seasoned chicken thighs are steamed, fried crisp, and then quickly pressed to tenderize. The East Java specialty is served alongside a spicy, salty chile condiment called sambal. Dig deeper with a plate of rendang, a coconut-infused curry of tender, slow-cooked beef served with rice. 5090 Buford Highway, Doraville. 678-964-9064, tempodoeloejava.com.
Uruguayan: Sabores del Plata
The wide, slow-flowing Rio Plata provides the border between Argentina and Uruguay. And, while there’s a lot in common on both sides of the river, culinarily speaking, this Norcross eatery proudly features the traditions of Uruguay. Restrained spices allow the flavors of meat to shine through in beef-forward Uruguayan cooking, which draws on Mediterranean traditions, particularly those of Italy and Spain, and favors simply grilled fare.
What to order: The chivito al pan sandwich is a great entry into Uruguayan fare: Imagine a steak sandwich combined with a BLT, and add mozzarella cheese and slices of hard-boiled egg. The name means “little goat,” but the sandwich usually is made these days with steak. If you’re hungrier, dig into a parrillada. Available for one or two diners, it’s an abundance of grilled meats — beef short rib, sirloin, Uruguayan chorizo, morcilla blood sausage, sweetbreads, chicken — and assorted sides. 6200 Buford Highway, Norcross. 678-743-4671, saboresatlanta.com.
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Salvadoran: Pupuseria La Salvadorenita
From flavorful simmering soups to an extensive breakfast menu, there’s much this Central American eatery offers beyond its namesake pupusas. But, those savory griddled patties from El Salvador are the star of the show at this tucked-away spot in front of Norcross’ Carter Crossing Shopping Center (look for the ice cream parlor it’s connected to). And, though the menu is primarily Salvadoran, a few Honduran and Mexican specialties show up, too.
What to order: It’s right there in the name — a pupusa. A thick patty made of corn flour and stuffed with a filling, a pupusa is griddled and accompanied by tomato salsa and a mildly piquant cabbage slaw called curtido. 6359 Jimmy Carter Blvd., Norcross. 678-291-9879, Facebook: La salvadoreñita pupuseria.
Venezuelan: Natarica Grill
Venezuela’s cuisine is richly varied, drawing on indigenous, Caribbean, Portuguese, French and West African influences, among others. For more than a decade, this modest strip-mall spot, located a few blocks from downtown Norcross, has served a bevy of bites — from pastries to stews to casseroles — from the South American country.
What to order: Pabellón criollo — a platter of stewed, pulled beef, spiced rice, sweet plantains and flavorful beans — is Venezuela’s national dish. Topped with shredded mozzarella cheese, it’s savory and comforting — and best accompanied by a few tequeños, a baton-shaped Venezuelan fried cheese pastry. Also, order a few cheese-laden empanadas, or some cachitos, a ham-stuffed pastry akin to a croissant, for a snack later. 5730 Buford Highway, Norcross. 770-582-1059, nataricagrillrestaurant1.business.site.
Bangladeshi: Purnima Bangladeshi
Diners familiar with North Indian cuisine won’t be too out of their element in this snug restaurant in a small strip mall, but Bangladeshi food tends to rely heavily on beef, owing to religious differences between Hindu and Muslim populations. Heavy influences arrive from Persian, Arabic and Mughlai culinary traditions, giving Bangladeshi fare the benefit of centuries of spice knowledge. Come in with a group of diners eager to share, as most of the South Asian dishes work best when approached family-style.
What to order: Beef korma features stewed cubes of meat flavored with turmeric, garlic and ginger in a creamy sauce, and is served alongside basmati rice flavored with cumin, bay leaf, cardamom and other spices. And, haleem is an iconic Bangladeshi dish, a spicy, slow-cooked stew of wheat, rice, four types of lentils and a meat. Purnima serves versions featuring both shredded beef or bone-in goat. 4646 Buford Highway, Chamblee. 770-609-8587, purnimabangladeshichamblee.com.