Rico's World Kitchen: Buford

Tiny eatery samples global menu

It's best to call ahead at Rico's World Kitchen, for a couple of reasons. With only four tables inside, the eatery in the shadow of the Mall of Georgia gets packed. Then there's the chance the staff could be catering an event or holding a cooking demonstration in someone's home that could cause the Buford restaurant to stray from its hours. But those caveats aside, without owner Rico Cunnington's decision last April to bring his family's international cuisine to the masses, we would have been deprived of some of the best food we've had in Gwinnett County.

It's a small world

Our lunchtime visit on a recent Sunday was timed just before a surge of shoppers and the post-church crowd. The menu features food from various parts of the globe, and flags and photos from various countries are part of the decor. The crispy Filipino-style egg rolls, named Nett's Lumpia, after Cunnington's mother (who makes those and many of the menu items), are filled with spicy beef and pork in some and chicken in others. The thinly rolled appetizers come with a homemade sweet and sour dipping sauce. The salads are based on seasonal ingredients. The Asian pear salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette and accompanied by chicken, brie and sugary toasted almonds is a dish we've already copied at home. Soups include a chocolate chicken chili, which wasn't available during our visit, but sounds good enough for a return. One special, shrimp and crab bisque, is a must, if offered. The fresh pieces of seafood don't get lost in the creamy broth, which is light and not overburdened by the Cajun spices.

Comforting cuisine

The menu is heavy on salads and sandwiches, but Rico's offers a few daily entree specials and is constantly adding to the lineup, depending on requests from regulars. The Cuban sandwich stands out, with sliced smoked chicken instead of roasted pork and ham. The open-face prime rib is cooked past the point of pinkness but still retains its tenderness. The shrimp po-boy features some of the best shrimp we've tried in the metro area. They are lightly dusted with a corn flour breading, fried and then piled on top of the bread, which is soft inside and crunchy on top. The banana pudding, made by Cunnington's wife, Katie, could vie with any local barbecue joint's offering. A slab of German chocolate cake joins other desserts, including homemade éclairs and hummingbird cake.

Hidden gem

Rico's World Kitchen is in a shopping center on the backside of the Mall of Georgia, near Nordstrom. But instead of a prime position on the corner, which it deserves, it's in one of the interior suites. The hidden location doesn't deter diners, though. The friendly small staff worked nonstop during our visit, but the crowd caused us to wait longer than expected for our meal.


• Where: 2720 Mall of Georgia Blvd., Buford. 770-831-7484.

• Signature dish: Nett's Lumpia

• Entree prices: $6-$10

• Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays; closed Mondays.

• Reservations: Yes

• Credit cards: Yes

• Online: www.ricosworldkitchen.com