Behold the Parrillada del Plata, otherwise known as the Great Mountain of Meat. Do you dare to scale it? Start at base camp, where tira de asado (short rib) and vacio (flank steak) await. Climb up a steep face of pechuga de pollo (chicken breast) and molleja (sweetbreads). By the time you reach the chorizo (juicy link sausages) and morcilla (sweetly spiced blood sausages), you are nearly to the summit. There you will find curving ropes of chinchulines, their grill-seared crackly skins contrasting nicely against the soft, livery meat within. These are small intestines.
But if that’s not a stop on the old digestive tract you care to make, then know this: There’s a really terrific $10 dish of steak and french fries.
Also: Towering sandwiches on house-baked bread. Memorable pastas. Layer cakes so massive you worry the waitress won’t have the strength to lift them from their display case in the corner of the dining room. There is a lot of good — and sometimes terrific — food to try at Sabores del Plata.
This Buford Highway restaurant serves the cooking of Uruguay and Argentina, the two South American countries separated by the Plata River and estuary. That translates as a winning mixture of asado (i.e., assorted grilled meats), South American-style Italian dishes and all kinds of baked goods — from dense, crusty dinner rolls, to cakes, cookies, empanadas and pizzas. After three visits, I’ve barely made a dent in the latter because, frankly, I’ve been too busy stuffing my face full of meat.
Those first great mouthfuls come at lunch over a chivito sandwich ($8.99). Though the name means “little goat,” nearly every farm animal but the goat contributes to this masterpiece. A thin beef filet gets star billing, but the supporting cast includes bacon, hard-boiled egg, roasted peppers, tomatoes and a nifty envelope of ham stuffed with mozzarella cheese that had been crisped on the griddle. What seals the deal is the crusty house-baked bread that tastes of many generations of Italian immigrant knowledge, as inimitable as a Philadelphia hoagie roll.
The Hamburguesa del Plata ($8.99) deserves a spot on the grand Atlanta hamburger tour. Two patties, cooked to a black crunch on the griddle, share a soft bun with bacon, ham, a fried egg, lettuce, tomato and lavish smears of mayonnaise. It all comes together into something soft and holdable that your mouth wants to keep opening wide for. The meat isn’t juicy, but the textures keep the pleasure quotient high.
The menu items here are familiar in some ways and not in others. Lasagna del Plata ($10.99), for instance, starts with a layering of soft crêpes and cooked spinach. Then the whole gets buried in drifts of white béchamel sauce like a driveway in a snowstorm. Finally, the kitchen ladles on tuco — a bolognese sauce holding chunks of well-stewed brisket. The more you eat, the more the components mush together into a conglomerate of yum.
Meat is the heart of the matter in nearly every dish here. Start with gorgeous, flaky empanadas ($1.99) stuffed with olive-flecked ground beef filling, move on to thick slices of braised tongue in vinaigrette ($4.99, a steal) and dine on a breaded (if somewhat too mild) chicken cutlet ($8.99) that covers an entire dinner platter. Vegetarians who walk into this restaurant may want to collapse on the floor, sobbing.
But you, friend, have the Mountain of Meat to conquer. My wife and I attempt the parrillada for two ($30.99) and gasp when the brasero (a portable brazier) lands on our table.
A few notes on it. The sweetbreads are not cleaned of their connective tissue as they would be in a fancier restaurant, but that’s easy enough to accomplish with your knife, and they’re perfectly delicious after a dunk in the accompanying chimichurri sauce. The blood sausage tastes of onion, clove, sweetness, and love, and you will get over any squeamishness fast. The small intestine will prove more difficult. (Apparently, the cows fast a day prior to slaughter so their chinchulines are not, shall we say, a synonym for “prone to espousing falsehoods.” I hope that helps.)
But let me tell you about the entraña ($9.99) — a thick cross-section of skirt steak that has the beefy flavor of hanger steak. It comes with a side of choice, such as fries, fine mashed potatoes or Caesar salad. I can’t imagine there’s a better $10 steak in metro Atlanta.
Sabores del Plata is also a cheerful place. Plain, yes, but brightened with murals of tango dancers and caricatures of well-known South Americans. The staff welcomes newcomers warmly and makes plenty of recommendations.
Afterward, you might be too full for anything but an espresso. But follow your waitress’s recommendation if she steers you toward a fat slice of chaja ($4.50). We dove into this multi-layered assemblage of soft cake, peaches, dulce de leche, whipped cream and shards of meringue, finding reserves of appetite we didn’t know we still possessed. Sabores del Plata will do that to you.SABORES DEL PLATA 6200 Buford Highway, Norcross, 678-743-4671 Food: A wide range of Uruguayan and Argentine specialties Service: Friendly and welcoming, though some servers speak more English than others Best dishes: Chivito sandwich, entraña steak, lasagna, parrillada Vegetarian selections: Some sides, but this restaurant is a carnivore’s delight Credit cards: All major cards Hours: 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays; 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays; 8 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Sundays Children: A great choice for kids Parking: Self-parking in lot Reservations: Yes Wheelchair access: Full Smoking: No Noise level: Loud TV at lunch, moderate at night Patio: No Takeout: Yes