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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Buford Highway Tour (plus this week’s Restaurant Stories column)

Credit and thanks to: Jennifer Zyman

Credit and thanks to: Jennifer Zyman

Last week I went on my annual blurp-o-rama tour of Buford Highway with a group of people who bid for it in our school auction. Each year we meet in the morning and proceed to eat in as many restaurants as we can until someone cries uncle or suffers a Mr. Creosote moment, whichever comes first.

Not only did the most recent tour give me fodder for this week’s Restaurant Stories column, but it gave me an opportunity to check out some new places and look into old favorites. 

Here’s how our day went:

First stop: Bakery Cafe Maum — This Korean cafe and pastry shop has expanded in the past year, and now has a comfortable dining room with table seating along with a lounge filled with overstuffed armchairs, sofas and low coffee tables. The young server couldn’t have been nicer, heating some of our pastries and cutting others into bite-size pieces so that everyone got a taste. Major hits: flaky buns stuffed with sweet pumpkin mash, cream-filled doughnuts and a kind of deliciously nasty pizza bread topped with ham cubes, corn kernels and artistic squirts of mayonnaise. You want this heated up. 

Second stop: Nak Dong Gang — Located in the same upscale shopping center as Maum, this attractive Korean restaurant specializes in all things duck. Plan on getting sold on an order (or half order) of smoked duck that is served as cold, boneless, fat-striated slices. You cook these duck rashers to a sizzly, fatty crisp on a tabletop brazier and eat them with a mild mustard dip and marinated onions. The duck rice porridge (made with such a concentrated dark stock it feels sticky on your lips) is also worth trying. Even though it is only 11:30 in the morning, we wash it down with shots of soju (a clear grain liquor) with crushed cucumber steeping in it. 

Third Stop: Buford Highway Farmers Market — In order to give our duck-filled stomachs a rest, we take a walking tour of the highway’s best food store. If you haven’t been lately, go. The remodel is complete and it looks great inside: clean, brightly lit, clear signage. The market even smells better. More shelf space is given to international cuisines that got short shrift before, such as Eastern European countries and Indonesia. In the parking lot, we wolf down a package of kim bap — those wonderful, sesame-scented Korean sushi rolls filled with beef and pickled vegetables. 

Fourth Stop: Delicious Kabob Chinese Restaurant — As I noted in the Restaurant Stories column, the sight of the chef in the front demonstration window turning kabobs on the grill with a cigarette dangling from his lips was a surprise. But the food was great at this modest new restaurant. Blissful Glutton had already turned me onto the Sichuan beef — Steak-umm-thin sliver fried to a lip-tinging crisp and tossed with gobs of cilantro and red pepper pods. So we ordered that, along with some new dishes. I really loved the shredded smoked tofu cake tossed with slivers of celery and pork. The leek-and-pork dumplings had such a fresh, clean flavor that one woman in our party got two orders to go for her dinner. 

Fifth Stop: Quoc Huong — No one in this group had ever had a banh mi sandwich, so I set about to remedy that situation. This modest Asian Square spot specializes in banh mi, which are ridiculously cheap ($2-$2.50 per) and appear within seconds of ordering. Everything is done right here: the bread spongy-fresh but shattery-crisp crusted, the pickled carrots and daikon piquant, the smear of mayonnaise luxuriant. We tried versions made with shredded chicken, barbecued pork, and a combination of sliced Vietnamese cold cuts and mellow pork liver pate. Even the liver squeamish got over it. A woman sitting at the next table watched us approvingly and made sure we understood that these were the best banh mi in Atlanta. No argument here. 

Sixth (and final) Stop: Rincon Latino — I had hoped to wedge a goat taco or Ecuadorean soup into the menu earlier in the day, but everyone at the table shared my passion for Asian foods. So we ended up at this busily efficient Salvadorean spot with a plate of crisp, fragrant pupusas, hot off the griddle. We sampled some stuffed with gooey farmer’s cheese and pickled loroco buds, and others filled with cheese, bean puree and pork chicharrones. It was so delicious, even as we all dropped our forks mid-pupusa and called “uncle.” 

“We’ve got company coming over tonight,” one woman in the party moaned. Where’s that cucumber soju when you need it?

Until next year.

17 comments Add your comment

[...] John Kessler put an intriguing blog post on Buford Highway Tour of Restaurants | Food and More with John KesslerHere’s a quick excerptNot only did the most recent tour give me fodder for this week’s Restaurant Stories column, but it gave me an opportunity to check out some new places and look into old favorites. Here’s how our day went: … [...]

LK

April 1st, 2009
8:14 am

Another good spot to try is the White Windmill bakery/cafe on Buford Highway near Oakcliff Rd. It is a smaller version of cafe maum, but I’ve found I like their baked goods better. Their baguettes and whole wheat sandwich breads are terrific. Plus they have the chestnut buns, black and red bean buns and many cream filled desserts. The cakes are gorgeous. The lunch sandwiches are delicious and they are one of the few places left that sells soft serve frozen yogurt!

[...] The Land of Plenty cookbook has put me in a Buford Highway state of mind, and it appears that Besha from Creative Loafing and John Kessler from the AJC are as well. They both have posts up chronicling their sojourns up into this food-fun filled area of Atlanta. Destinations include Plaza Fiesta, Ranch 99 Market, Sushi House Hayakawa, and Delicious Kabob. (CL link here | AJC link here) [...]

LMK

April 1st, 2009
2:46 pm

If you are doing the Buford Highway tour, make sure you stop at Sushi House Hayakawa http://www.atlantasushibar.com for the BEST sushi in the city. Fresh fresh fish, meticulously made sushi rolls and a delightful staff transport you to a wonderful place!

JS

April 1st, 2009
3:29 pm

You forgot to get your hour long $25 foot massage at the end of the day!

John Kessler

April 1st, 2009
3:53 pm

Thanks for the tip, the link and the idea!

hollie

April 1st, 2009
6:30 pm

JK-
thank you so much for all of your BH adventures. We live at Dresden & Clairmont and thanks to blogs such as yours and watching Travel Channel (Zimmern & Bourdain), we’ve really stepped out of our comfort zone and tried some of the best food in town. I still can’t get in to the bean curd and some other things, but we take your recommendations and give them a try!! So thank you for continuing to clue us in! :>) Looking forward to trying Rincon Latino soon!

Chinese Southern Belle

April 2nd, 2009
9:06 pm

Nice piece, John. FYI–Your readers may be interested Atlanta’s only Asian Market Tour & Lunch with Chinese Southern Belles – Saturday, April 18, 10am-1pm! Shop, learn and eat on a fun, interactive fieldtrip and full teaching lunch (Do you have the Americanized or authentic Chinese menu?). $40 includes full lunch. Space is limited. Register by Thur 4/16 through “Contact” form at http://www.chinesesouthernbelle.com, email info@chinesesouthernbelle.com or call 770-405-8826 for more information.

JDJ

April 6th, 2009
4:32 pm

Lee’s Bakery very near the intersection of Buford/Clairmont has WONDERFUL baked goods and breads, plus top notch Vietnamese pho’s and noodle dishes. YUM! Their sandwiches ($2.50) just can’t be beat … I just make sure I take off the slice of REALLY hot pepper before I bite into it. (Ask for extra mayo, they make it there.)

[...] John Kessler’s Buford Highway tour also has a review of Quoc Huong. The commentary on Mr. Kessler’s AJC article is also well [...]

5 ways to eat less meat | My Green ATL

October 12th, 2009
3:32 pm

[...] 4. Be an eat-tizen of the world: The All-American meal — a hamburger (or steak) with french fries (or a baked potato) places red-meat center stage. It doesn’t have to be that way. Some ethnic cuisines — particularly east and south Asian — are more veggie-centric than the typical American diet is. That means time-honored flavorful dishes based on veggies, starches and non-meat-based sauces, as well as a lot more fish and a lot less beef. Atlanta has some excellent Western-style vegetarian restaurants; Dynamic Dish on Edgewood Avenue and Cafe Sunflower on Peachtree Street in South Buckhead come to mind. What better place, however, to try out Asian foods that go light on the meatiness than that avenue of international dining, Buford Highway? [...]

Doreen Lewis

January 31st, 2010
12:48 pm

Does anyone know what happened to Delicious Kabob? Are they closed for good (very sad) or have they moved to another location (hopefully)? Their eggplant was the best on this side of Atlanta.

NA

May 12th, 2010
2:50 pm

Buford Hwy looks so junky now with all of these strange looking places. What happened to the Captain D’s or the Arby’s
if the signs are not in English, it’s not American
Real clean smoking a cigarette while preparing the food, I wonder what else happens in the kitchen.
Sounds like cleanlieness is not at the top of the list either
Do they not get health inspectors?

NA

May 12th, 2010
2:54 pm

Doreen maybe delicious kabob ran into a health inspector and they shut them down.

david

May 12th, 2010
3:27 pm

Don’t forget the lovely international ladies at Follies on Buford HWY! I love Anika!

Ha Ha!

May 12th, 2010
3:29 pm

@ NA,
That is probably what happened to Arby’s and Captain D’s as well.

NA

May 12th, 2010
4:52 pm

Ha Ha
you could be right.