Chinese food lover's guide to Buford Highway

You don't need a meteorologist to tell you Atlanta summers are hot, and the 365-day forecast for Buford Highway is always sizzling. Local weather projections here include chili symbols instead of degrees Fahrenheit.

It's hard when any crush ends abruptly. When Gu's Bistro split, many mourned the gap left in their hearts and lunch plans. But a slow drive by this old love's place has resulted in a new infatuation. Though they take pride in a dish of flat bread soaked in a stew of steamed mutton, look to the cold dish section first. The red oil pig ears and belly slices perk curiosity, but Shaanxi's-style cold noodles are downright flirtatious. Silky flat rice noodles are topped with minced raw garlic, sliced bean curd, bean sprouts, chopped cilantro and sesame, meant to be twisted into a tussled mess with a luxurious, spicy slick of aromatic red chili oil. Atlanta Eats welcomes the new dynasty. Read the AJC's full review here.

Probably the ritziest (relatively speaking) interior of the spicy Chinese eateries along the corridor, this Chinese/Korean hybrid with a lengthy menu bridges cultural differences. Korean entrees like Jajangmyun (noodles in a salty black bean sauce­) and Jambong (sautéed seafood and veggies in a spicy noodle soup) get lots of attention, but start with a bowl of their Szechuan hot and sour soup. Spangled with ringlets of fresh red chilies and shrimp, your tingling taste buds will thank you.

The farthest trek up Buford Highway may result in the biggest reward of all. Located in a desolate Duluth strip mall, Chef Liu is at the fiery stoves, kicking out equally fiery cuisine. He hails from Harbin, China; many are more interested to know of his time cooking dry-fried eggplant at Marietta's Tasty China. Here it's known as "eggplant with chili powder and pepper ash powder." His version of hot and sour soup may be the best anywhere.

If a restaurant in Chamblee can be a perennial on lists of Atlanta's top Chinese restaurants, then you see why veering off Buford Highway a few blocks for this hole-the-wall is crave-worthy. Residing in the recently spruced up Chinatown Mall food court, this honorable mention is almost solely due to their legendary Chongqing spicy chicken, which is a pile of crispy fried pieces of chopped chicken intermingling with dried red chilies and peppercorns. They offer complimentary soup and steamed rice, but only accept cash. No worries, the chicken will only set you back around $8.

Need more Buford Highway? Here are 5 dishes worth the drive to Buford Highway.