Did you hear? East Atlanta Village has gotten itself a food hall.
Perhaps you’re picturing gleaming subway tile and pallet walls. Consequently, you might be worrying that this eternally scruffy crossroads just south of I-20 is going to lose its edge.
You’ll stop worrying when you check out the T-shirt worn most days by Q Trinh. She’s both the food hall’s crackling-with-energy matriarch and a chef whose Vietnamese street food has a cult following.
On the back of Trinh’s green, baseball-style jersey, iron-on letters spell out Pho Q. If you know how to correctly pronounce the classic beefy noodle soup called pho — well, there’s your edge.
Likewise, the food hall, which is more a charmingly cramped food hallway, isn’t called East Atlanta Market, a la Krog and Ponce. Its name is as oddball and upstarty as the village itself: A Global Grub Collective.
The grub is good, y’all, and cheap, with a vast majority of the dishes selling for less than $10. The space’s cherry red picnic tables, string lights and roughly painted tree mural are homey and cozy. But, it’s a gritty kind of cozy, like a purple-haired, tattooed girl who likes to knit.
The purveyors at their motley stands exude such a contented vibe, it’s a pleasure to watch them work. And watch them we do, because there are hardly any backrooms to house the chefs’ cooktops and steel shelves of sundries. Their meal-making clutter is fascinatingly exposed.
“This fills a void in the market for affordable spaces to eat and make food,” said Trinh, who shares her teensy kitchen and counter with two other businesses. After she closes We Suki Suki at 4 p.m., the young chefs of South by Southeast get cooking and open at 5:30. Then, at 11 p.m., Chop Chop Next moves in, dishing up tacos, guac and horchata for the post-bar crowd.
“We’re roommates,” Trinh said in a voice both raspy and rapid-fire, a consequence of her constant motion. “That means, every once in a while, someone’s going to leave the toilet seat up, but that’s OK. This keeps our costs low, which keeps our prices low.”
And that gives East Atlantans — who are as proud of their scruff as they are of their growing number of thriving businesses — a food hall they truly can call their own.
Here’s what to check out at A Global Grub Collective:
We Suki Suki
Trinh’s own place is a very affordable Vietnamese-French-style sandwich shop.
“At Krog Street Market, my five-dollar vegetarian banh mi would have to be nine dollars,” she said. “Banh mi is street food. Street food should be accessible.”
It also should be simple, and Trinh is passionate about keeping hers so. Her menu is as tiny as her narrow kitchen — pho, banh mi and boba (bubble tea). That’s it.
Because each item is constructed with such care, that’s enough. The barbecue pork banh mi, defined by its essential cloud-like, crisp-edged buns, is wonderfully aromatic of fish sauce and strikes a perfect balance between sweet and hot flavors, silky meat and bright, cool veggies.
The “original” Taiwanese milk tea, dotted with squishy black tapioca pearls, is similarly nuanced — earthy, sweet and a little bit smoky.
Trinh always delivers these treats to you personally and she usually lingers a moment to chat, perhaps explaining to you that We Suki Suki means We Love Love.
Love always makes food taste better.
Flora & Flour
When I got a load of chef Lauren Raymond’s bagel, I was stunned. Could it be that my long-frustrated quest for a great Southern bagel had ended? The exterior was beautifully burnished and just crispy-chewy enough to give my molars a happy workout. The interior was toothsome and flavorful.
Raymond, the brains behind the bagels at the General Muir when it first opened, is hoping to sell wholesale and spread her bagel wealth throughout the city.
Raymond’s first cooking gig was at Watershed, where she learned to bake from Scott Peacock and Steven Satterfield. Thus, her buttermilk biscuits are also very, very good, made even better by high-quality stuffings like pimento cheese and bacon or the wonderfully trailer park-ish sausage and jam.
There are other sandwiches on her board — including a “shrooms” and chevre, and a Salmon BLT — and you should try them all. Which leaves you with only one harrowing choice to make — your bread. Will it be the singular bagel or the stellar biscuit?
The Cake Hag
Pastry chef Katie Sweeney and her mother, Maggie, make the kind of cakes you picture on Depression-glass stands.
They are towering and picturesque, with just enough imperfections to remind you that real live ladies have made them for you. The cakes’ interiors are impossibly light, shot through with raspberry jam or peanut butter or coconut cream or dozens of other flavors, depending on the day.
The Sweeneys use very fine ingredients (including some that are gluten-free, dairy-free or low-carb) and they make very elegant wedding cakes, which makes it seem even more special when you get to have a slice for no good reason at A Global Grub Collective.
A piece of Cake Hag cake is an event and it should not be put in a to-go box, but eaten then and there, with some ceremony. Then again, they also make cookies, bars and decadent pies. Which means a to-go box may be in order after all.
Poco Pomodoro Homestyle Italian Kitchen
Poco Pomodoro occupies the food hall’s largest space and it has a menu that can’t quite fit on a postcard, making it the most restaurant-like of the stands.
The food is pure homey comfort, especially the lasagna dotted with poofs of fluffy ricotta and savory turkey meatballs. Or try the pillowy ravioli bathed in chunky, emerald pesto.
On the side, you’ll get a humble salad and a couple rounds of properly greasy garlic bread. There’s no candle in a chianti bottle, but that’s the only classic element missing from this sweet corner of the collective.
South by Southeast
South by Southeast isn’t the first joint in town to do Southern Asian fusion, but this evening-only nook does it well.
Like most of the hall’s other stands, SXSE’s menu is tiny, and you’ll want to order pretty much everything on it, starting with the fabulously flaky hand pies, some wonderfully creative sides like Madras sweet potato hash, apple Brussels slaw and — the well-deserved centerpiece — chile-glazed chicken drumettes nested next to 3-inch-thick, super-fluffy, caramel-drizzled waffles.
Sure, the stand’s recent nightly-special — a collard-wrapped, pork-stuffed sushi roll — was a little campy. But, with mainstays this delicious, SXSE has earned itself some whimsical license.