The pastor parillada at La Pastorcita features al pastor pork chopped up with ham, mushroom, onions and cheese. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
Just south of Plaza Fiesta is a homey little restaurant called La Pastorcita (3304 Buford Highway, Brookhaven. 678-705-8162, Facebook: La Pastorsita). The menu there covers many of the dishes that make Mexican food so special, drawing on cooking styles from across the country. They serve poblano peppers drenched in dark mole, chilaquiles soaking in bright salsas, flautas stuffed with chicken and fried to a crisp, tortas stuffed with tender cow's tongue, and so on. The menu is long. I like going on weekends, when they serve steaming hot, red bowls of menudo, filled with chopped bits of tripe. You have to get there early if you're going to have a bowl, because they sell out. That's what happened to a friend of mine the other night. He ended up with the pastor parillada, a giant platter of al pastor pork chopped up with ham, mushroom, onions and cheese. He'd never had that dish before, but said it was great. "This place seems like it doesn't have too many misses on the menu," he said. He's right. Even the chicken tacos are good.
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A few miles up the road is Tortas Factory Del D.F. (5781 Buford Highway, Doraville. 770-452-8470, Facebook: Tortas Factory Del D.F.), where the sandwiches are made in traditional styles from Mexico City. The best of these is probably the pambazo, a long roll dipping in a slurry of red chiles and stuffed with chorizo and potatoes. Another Mexico City specialty is the huarache, a long oval of masa cooked to a crisp and loaded with carne asada, pinto beans and a salad's worth of lettuce and tomato. The name "huarache" comes from the fact that it looks a little like the sole of a sandal.
Just a little further north is Mariscos El Sazon del Kora (7130 Buford Highway, Doraville. 470-395-2086, mariscos-el-sazon-del-kora.business.site). When you walk in and sit down at the bar, they'll bring you a little ceviche tostada to let you know you're in a generous place. The menu here draws from the long cooking traditions in Nayarit, a Mexican state on the Pacific Coast. Towering micheladas are served with raw oysters and massive goblets of mixed seafood cocktail, but you can't do any better than the snapper zarandeado. For the zarandeado preparation, the whole fish is split in half, marinated in chiles, and grilled to a smoky, charred finish, just as fish has been cooked on that coast for centuries. One taste, and you will know that there is more to this food than chicken tacos.