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Dumplings from Chef Liu

Becky Stein/AJC

Dumplings from Chef Liu


The 13 best restaurants on Atlanta's Buford Highway

If you live in Atlanta, you likely know that one of the best streets for good eats stretches far out into the suburbs and includes restaurants serving cuisines as wide ranging as Cuban, Salvadoran, Korean and Japanese. Yep, we're talking about Buford Highway.

First, to truly understand and appreciate how Atlanta came to host a street containing some of the country's most multicultural dining, we need to go back to the 1960s and 1970s. During that time, the northeastern Atlanta suburbs of Norcross, Doraville and Chamblee were largely populated by white, working-class families, many of whom were employed by the Doraville General Motors Assembly. In the 1970s and 1980s, Atlanta's burgeoning immigrant population — namely, Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese — settled in this area where housing was plentiful and affordable. The construction boom and lax immigration laws preceding the 1996 Summer Olympics brought an influx of Mexican and Central American workers to Atlanta, many of whom put down roots along Buford Highway. As these communities developed and flourished, some immigrants began to open restaurants that showcased their native cuisines. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Buford Highway saw the emergence of the city's most authentic ethnic restaurants, with no adaptation for western palates. Now, this is purely conjecture, but I believe that chefs and food writers were among the first American-born residents to raise awareness and extol the glories of these fantastic under-the-radar dining halls.

Because the street is just so gosh-darn long, it can be hard to suss out at just which restaurants to dine. But, never fear, I've done the hard work for you, and picked a baker's dozen of my favorite restaurants from Brookhaven to Duluth. And in case you need help ordering, I've also included the best dishes on each menu. Use the image below as your guide, or check out the full listings (with addresses, natch), at the bottom of the page.

3375 Buford Highway NE, Suite 1060
Atlanta, GA 30329

Cuisine: Bangladeshi/Indian
What to get: Vegetable Shingara, Lamb Dhaan Shaag, Goat Korma
Insider Tip: Panahar offers a lunch buffet, which is the best way to sample as many dishes as possible at a killer value.
Pho Dai Loi #2
4186 Buford Highway
Atlanta, GA 30345

Cuisine: Vietnamese Soups and Noodles
What to get: Combination Pho, Meatball Pho, Vermicelli with Grilled Pork and Crispy Eggrolls
Insider Tip: The good people at Pho Dai Loi will gladly make your pho to-go, making sure the broth is packed separately from the remaining fresh ingredients.

Crawfish Shack
4337 Buford Highway
Atlanta, GA 30341

Cuisine: Cajun-Vietnamese fusion
What to get: Shack-Tastic Platter, Fried Shrimp, Fried Catfish
Insider Tip: If you love whole boiled crawfish, make sure to visit Crawfish Shack anytime from March through May, when mudbugs are at their peak.

Rincon Latino
5055 Buford Highway NE
Doraville, GA 30340

Cuisine: Salvadorian
What to get: Pupusas with Curtido, Fried Chicken, Chicharrones in Salsa Verde
Insider Tip: Pupusas are thick tortillas stuffed with a variety of fillings — cheese, beef, beans, loroco (flower buds) — and served along side tomato salsa and a pickled cabbage dish called curtido. They're basically like quesadillas on steroids: order several different fillings and share with your friends ... or eat them all yourself. Your secret's safe with me.
5150 Buford Highway NE
Doraville, GA 30340

Cuisine: Malaysian
What to get: Roti Canai, Papaya Salad with Shrimp, Fried Pearl Noodles with Pork, Hainanese Chicken
Insider Tip: To get the most out of your Mamak experience, order at least one dish from each section of the menu. And always start with roti canai: the warm flatbread is outstanding when dunked in a savory, spicy curry sauce with chicken and potatoes.

Quoc Huong
5150 Buford Highway NE
Doraville, GA 30340

Cuisine: Vietnamese sandwiches
What to get: BBQ Pork Banh Mi, Special Banh Mi
Insider Tip: People may declare their love of banh mis from other establishments along Buford Highway. I think the warm, crusty bread and smoky barbecued pork is just a cut above at Quoc Huong. Also, each sandwich only costs $2.50-$3.50, and if you buy five, you'll get one free. A fantastic deal!

Sweet Hut Bakery & Cafe
5150 Buford Highway NE
Doraville, GA 30340

Cuisine: Asian-inspired Bakery and Cafe
What to get: Hazelnut Nutella Donut, Hokkaido Cupcake, Portuguese Egg Tart, Milk Tea
Insider Tip: No matter where you eat on Buford Highway, skip dessert and head here instead. The pastries aren't excessively sweet, and the hazlenut milk tea is the perfect cap to any BuHi meal.
Chef Liu
5283 Buford Highway NE
Doraville, GA 30340

Cuisine: Shanghai-style Chinese
What to get: Leek Pie, Pan-Fried Pork Buns, Sesame Paste Noodles, Dumplings
Insider Tip: The leek pie is perhaps the best "cheap eats" in the Atlanta area. Leeks, scallions, glass noodles, dried shrimp and egg are cooked in a tender pastry crust. Break it in half, then add the tabletop condiments of soy sauce and fiery chili paste. I've also taken to getting an order of sesame noodles to-go, then eating them the next day with hot nuggets from Chick-Fil-A. A little tacky? Perhaps. Delicious? You'd better believe it.

Sokongdong Tofu House
5280 Buford Highway NE
Doraville, GA 30340

Cuisine: Korean
What to get: Seafood and Tofu Soup, Korean BBQ Ribs, Kimchi Pancake, Stone Bowl Bibimbap
Insider Tip: Bibimbap is Korean comfort food at its finest: rice, vegetables and egg yolk, topped with protein (they use tofu here) all designed to be mixed together inside of a hot stone bowl. The stone bowl causes some of the rice to become crispy, almost like the socarrat of a good paella. Sokongdong offers a combination dinner where you can order the bibimbap with a small portion of their Korean short ribs. This is the best jumping-off point if you're new to Korean cuisine.
El Rey del Taco
5288 Buford Highway NE
Doraville, GA 30340

Cuisine: Mexican
What to get: Beef Cheek Tacos, Lengua Tacos, Barbacoa, Huitlacoche Quesadilla, Chocoflan
Insider Tip: Pay the extra charge for the handmade tortillas. They elevate already great tacos to extraordinary status. Start with the cabeza (beef cheek), lengua (beef tongue) and chivo (goat) tacos, then explore the rest of the menu from there. El Rey del Taco is also open until 2:00 a.m. on weeknights and until 4:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Yet Tuh
3042 Oakcliff Rd
Doraville, GA 30340

Cuisine: Korean
What to get: Seafood Pancake, Spicy Mackerel with Kimchi
Insider Tip: Spicy fermented kimchi is the perfect counterbalance to naturally oily mackerel, which Yet Tuh pairs in a hearts, flavorful stew. Skip the bibimbap and choose one of the pancakes instead. The kimchi pancake may get much of the positive press, but I found the seafood pancake to hold together a little better and run less risk of flavor redundancy when served with the banchan at the start of the meal.
Sushi Hayakawa
5979 Buford Highway NE
Atlanta, GA 30340

Cuisine: Japanese/Sushi
What to get: Omakase, Ikura Don, Uni
Insider Tip: Chef Art Hayakawa is the only man in the kitchen who handles the fish, so be prepared to wait a bit for your meal. Put yourself in his hands by ordering the omakase (a Japanese phrase that translates to "I'll leave it in your hands") and letting the chef determine your meal. Much of the fish comes directly from Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market, and is of the utmost freshness.

3940 Buford Highway
Duluth, GA 30096

Cuisine: Sichuan, Harbin, and Hunan-style Chinese
What to get: Dry-fried Eggplant, Zhong-style Dumplings, Hot & Sour Soup, Dong Po Pork
Insider Tip: Just dive right in. I have yet to find a dish here that's missed the mark.

Image Credits:
Inforgraphic: Amanda Pharis
Pho: Wyatt Williams/AJC
Chicken, Dumplings, Quesadilla: Becky Stein/AJC
Sushi: Henri Hollins/AJC

Author image

Chef Jeffrey Gardner is a native of Natchez, Miss., and a graduate of Millsaps College and Johnson & Wales University. He lives in Atlanta and has served as sous chef for popular restaurants South City Kitchen Midtown and Alma Cocina. In 2013 he became executive chef for East Cobb restaurant Common Quarter and was named one of ten “Next Generation of Chefs to Watch” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. He has appeared on TV shows including Food Network’s Chopped and Cooking Channel’s How to Live to 100, and also filmed a series of healthy cooking videos with retired pro wrestler and fitness guru Diamond Dallas Page. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling the world with his wife Wendy, watching game shows and “spending all his money on Bruce Springsteen concerts.”

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