My choices for top Mexican restaurants are for different reasons. In order, one offers a variety of traditional Mexican food, another serves delicious Oaxacan (a state in Southwestern Mexico) dishes not found on a lot of restaurant menus, and the third choice I like simply for its tacos.
El Rey Del Taco
El Rey Del Taco (5288 Buford Highway, Atlanta, 770-986-0032) is a popular foodie destination and rightly so for its authenticity and diverse selection of Mexican food. I enjoy its barbacoa (barbecue) and lengua (tongue) tacos, but it’s a dish like the El Mexicano parrillada that grabs my attention. A friend introduced me to this fajitalike dish of steak, chorizo sausage, peppers and cheese delivered to your table on a sizzling serving griddle with warm tortillas on the side.
Jonesboro’s Taqueria La Oaxaquena (605 Mount Zion Road, Jonesboro, 770-960-3010) focuses on the cuisine of Oaxaca, a city in Southwestern Mexico known for moles — rich sauces made with peppers, onions, garlic and, in some cases, chocolate. Go for the restaurant’s savory steamed chicken tamales and tlayuda, a crispy open-faced tortilla topped with beans, string cheese, avocados and your choice of protein.
If I am looking for a taco fix, Taco L1000000 (2084 Favor Road, Marietta, 770-738-0000) in south Marietta does the job. The restaurant’s small menu is served out of a truck that can’t move due to local laws. Each taco costs 99 cents, and diners can choose between fillings of beef, pork or chicken. The tacos are served on two small corn tortillas and then topped with chopped onions and fresh cilantro. Tip: Ask for the salsa on the side if you are spice sensitive.
I can never tire of Indian cuisine due to the large variety of dishes and its spice-heavy profile. My three restaurant choices only scratch the surface of the food variety offered by India’s different regions, but they are all solid choices if you are new to the cuisine.
Decatur’s Saravanaa Bhavan (2179 Lawrenceville Highway, Suite V, Decatur, 404-636-4400) dishes up South Indian vegetable-friendly dishes that would make a carnivore not miss meat. The idlis here are wonderful fermented lentil cakes served with a variety of chutneys (spice accompaniments such as pickles, yogurt sauces, etc.), but the dosa masala, a thin crepelike lentil pancake filled with a curry potato stuffing, is the item I always save room for.
For more of a meat-centric Indian dining experience, Mirch Masala(1713 Church St., Decatur, 404-296-9999) has some of the most tender, juicy and intensely flavored chicken tikka masala I’ve had. Tikka masala is the boneless version of tandoori chicken, the popular dish known for its vibrant orange-red color. Also notable here is the chili paneer, a gooey dish of paneer (cheese) cubes, peppers and onions that tantalizes every taste sense on the tongue.
Lastly, I chose Decatur’s Bhojanic (1363 Clairmont Road, Decatur, 404-633-9233) specifically because of its thali, or combination platter. Thalis allow a diner to taste a well-rounded sampling of Bhojanic’s food inclusive with rice, Indian breads and raita — a cool cucumber yogurt sauce. Vegetarians can choose the two- or three-item “shakhahari” thali, but I tend to go for the “bhojanic,” a platter of one meat and two vegetables or two meats and one vegetable.
For the three best Korean restaurants in metro Atlanta, my choices vary slightly in style and in location. But all share one factor in common, and that is quality.
Woo Nam Jeong
Woo Nam Jeong (5953 Buford Highway, Doraville, 678-530-0844) is relatively new to the Korean dining community on Buford Highway, but it has already built a solid Korean and non-Korean following. The restaurant focuses on traditional fare such as the popular mushroom dolsot bibimbap (rice, mushroom and vegetable medley served in a heated stone bowl), and it also delivers some of the highest quality banchan (seasonal side dishes) I’ve had in town.
Most everything I’ve eaten at Marietta’s Tofu Village (700 Sandy Plains Road, Marietta, 770-426-7757) tastes as it has been prepared with great thought and care. The house-made tofu is clean, nutty in flavor and spongy to the bite. Some of my other favorites are jajanmyeon, a black bean noodle dish made with the kitchen’s house-made myeon (noodles) and the spicy yukgaejang, a fiery beef and vegetable stew.
Toh Dam Tofu
Suwanee’s Toh Dam Tofu (1291 Old Peachtree Road, Suite 101, Suwanee, 678-417-9939) reincarnated under new ownership/management late last year and fits the true definition of a “hidden gem” due to being obscured by a staircase in Assi Plaza. The restaurant specializes in soondubu (tofu soup), but it has a lot of other noteworthy dishes on its menu. Dakgomtang is a fantastic bone-in chicken soup served with sea salt, ground black pepper and a oily red pepper sauce on the side, which the diner can add to the nurturing broth for flavoring.