Saturday, April 21, 2007


Los Ranchos
Buford Hwy, as a food searcher's paradise, begins somewhere around its intersection with North Druid Hills Road where you'll find the irreplaceable Havana Sandwich Shop and the mysterious pairing of the Rusty Nail and Fuzzy's (kind of like those bars at the end of Atlanta Hwy you always wonder about walking into). Heading north, one first enters what might be deemed the Little Mexico of the strip (Marisqueria 7 Mares, Club Miami, lot's of El's, numerous tacquerias) which tails off somewhere around the Plaza Fiesta food court. From there, somewhere around Clairmont Road, Little Vietnam takes shape with numerous Pho shops, the trendy Com, and a scattering of other restaurants past Chamblee Tucker (Bien Thuy R.I.P.). From there, with branches up Chamblee-Tucker Road (the essential Chinatown Mall food court, for one, where at one point my favorite Chinese/Taiwanese restaurant in Atlanta (can't remember the name), where I once walked up to the counter to find the proprietor sleeping on a cot behind the register, (a) served steamy broths of pork and beef noodle soup, (b) perfectly moist, but structurally sound, steamed pork buns, (c) flaky onion cakes, and (d) a Chinese street food standby that surrounds dried pork with a rice shell, sort of like a rice burrito), Chinatown (centered around Little Szechuan) offers much from the elegant (Canton House) to the hole in the wall (the "kiosk" that is Chef Liu's) and flows (somewhere around Happy Karaoke and the former Sensational Subs UFO building circa L.A. 1977) into Little Korea, which stretches a few miles past the point where Buford runs under I-285. If you follow the road for around 10 minutes after that, past the industrial stretch, past the train tracks, you'll find a 2 level, semi-circular strip mall development (at the corner of Jimmy Carter Blvd.) that takes you to a part of the world less seen in these lower reaches. Within the space of 3-4 storefronts, all side-by-side, one finds restaurants offering the foods of Honduras, El Salvador, Peru, and a few others that I can't quite specifically recall. We chose Los Ranchos. Fifteen minutes or so after ordering we had before us an extremely tender chicken tamale, a quesadilla that most reminded me of the Chicken Cuban at Caliente cab, a slightly sweet corn tamale, an open faced beef enchilada featuring its own mysterious sweetness, and a chicken sope (not a soup, but kind of like a tostada (minus the crisp base) layering sauce-coated chicken, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and cilantro). 30 minutes later we left planning our next visit.

The Red Snapper
One of numerous Cheshire-Bridge restaurants that has basically been there since the days when downtown streets were named after Civil War leaders rather than Civil Rights leaders. Huevos and I always wanted to make the bar at Siri Thai our pre-drinking, drinking spot in Athens. I kinda want to do the same with the dark, low ceiling, retirement home refuge of a bar at Red Snapper, drenched as it is in deep mellow 1970s vibrations. The food is Thai-inspired, for the most part. An appetizer salad of vidalia onion and crab meat, on lettuce and tomato, with some sort of vinaigrette competed admirably for dish of the week with the butter-soaked, richly seasoned entrees of Snapper Ivonne (snapper topped with crab meat and artichokes) and a Thai shrimp dish whose name I can't recall. I can see why people in their 70s have come here every year for their anniversaries since 1955.

Little Bangkok
Also Thai inspired, obviously. Also on Cheshire Bridge, which means it gets a similar mix of Midtown residents and the elderly ("gays and greys," as the cliche goes). Trumpeted as an authentic Thai restaurant among all the refined, but sometimes too refined to be "real," Midtown spots. My Thai-food/all-food snob girlfriend thinks it's OK, so I guess it gets points for that. An appetizer of Yum Wu Sen, marinated glass noodles with pork and shrimp on slices of lettuce, which you can actually form into little lettuce wraps if you want, was savory without succumbing to the sometimes overwhelming sodium overload. The Basil Chicken was the old standby it seems to be at every Thai restaurant I've ever been to. And then there was the Pad See Yu, flat noodles with chicken and broccoli. All in all a nice meal, but to be honest I'd rather eat my girlfriend's lettuce wraps and chicken curry any day.

Vietnamese. Undoubtedly the most posh Buford Hwy restaurant I've ever been to, a few steps above the greasy spoon Pho shops in sophistication. I had a vermicelli dish, alongside a few spring rolls, that was in league with what I used to order at Bien Thuy. The most interesting find, though, were the
La lot rolls, which kinda resemble stuffed grape leaves but, as I learned from now departed Creative Loafing critic Bill Addison, are actually betel leaves. Definitely worth a second visit.


Blogger hillary said...

You know, I really need to put you in touch with my mom, as long as you're in Atlanta. She's always looking for people willing to drive and to go eat weird delicious things.

4/23/2007 4:17 PM  
Blogger mcsquared said...

um...i don't think i'm really worthy of eating betel leaves with christiane lauterbach, but i would jump at the chance. thanks hilary.

4/23/2007 4:44 PM  

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