Buford Highway stretches from Buckhead all the way north to Buford, connecting three counties and arguably the most diverse communities in metro Atlanta. In a single strip mall, you can find Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Mexican, Colombian and other nationalities represented by shops, markets and restaurants. Within the occasionally scruffy exteriors await some of Buford Highway’s most delicious and affordable meals, so here are a few favorite places to get you started, heading south to north.
This story originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Living Intown magazine.
Havana Sandwich Shop
A 2008 fire forced the closure of Havana Sandwich Shop, which opened Havana Restaurant a few miles north at Crossroads Village. The original location is back in business offering authentic Cuban cuisine priced between $4-$8.50. Along with the meaty original Cuban sandwich, don’t miss the rice and beans, chicken empanadas and, if you have room, the ropa vieja. The restaurant closes at 4:30 p.m., so don’t expect dinner service.
2905 Buford Highway. 404-636-4094.
This Bangladeshi restaurant looks fancy but feels like home — servers remember my name every time I visit. Panahar offers a lunch buffet but shines during dinner service. The aromatic curries come with yellow rice mixed with yellow raisins and peas, while the most decadent starter, the poori shrimp, includes sautéed onions and shrimp on fluffy poori bread. You’ll find such familiar dishes as chicken tikka masala, but steer toward saag paneer, a mixture of spinach and homemade cheese.
3375 Buford Highway. 404-633-6655. www.panaharbangladeshi.com
The inexpensive banh mi sandwiches at this Vietnamese bakery have earned a loyal following. Lee’s specialty is the pork banh mi, a french baguette filled with pickled carrots, cilantro, jalapeño, Vietnamese mayo and grilled pork. Pair a sandwich with an iced coffee or the delectable avocado shake. If it’s cold outside, warm yourself with shrimp pho — a large bowl of rice noodles and shrimp that comes with jalapeños, bean sprouts, mint and lime on the side. The menu includes tofu options for vegetarians.
4005 Buford Highway. 404-728-1008. www.facebook.com/LeesBakery
Formerly a failing shopping center near the intersection of Buford Highway and Clairmont Road, this 350,000-square-foot mall has become the heart of the area’s Latin-American community. The food court features such bakeries as Churros Mi Tierra, which prepare fresh churros and other pastries and desserts. La Fonda Paisa offers empanadas, arepas and fresh juices daily, while Puras Tortas’ tacos and tortas are not to be missed. Featuring a sprawling flea market with more than 100 vendors, Plaza Fiesta also provides a gathering place for traveling carnivals and such events as Mexican Independence Day and Christmas celebrations.
4166 Buford Highway. 404-982-9138. www.plazafiesta.net
Crawfish Shack Seafood is emblematic of Buford Highway’s melting-pot qualities: Vietnamese-Cambodian owner Hieu Pham carries on the traditions of Cajun cuisine he learned in Louisiana. The menu includes fresh lobster, shrimp, crab and crawfish offered fried, steamed or boiled. A side of fried mac and cheese balls pairs well with the crawfish po’ boy.
4337 Buford Highway. 404-929-6789. www.crawfishshackseafood.com
Canton House’s dim sum service is one of my favorite meals in Atlanta thanks to its diverse menu. Standouts among the bite-sized options include any of the dumplings with pork or shrimp, while the twice-cooked pork and ribs will please even timid palates. Best of all, you can eat as much as you want and only pay $2-$4 per basket.
4825 Buford Highway. 770-936-9030. www.cantonhouserestaurant.com
City Farmers Market
Buford Highway Farmers Market has been a staple in Chamblee for decades, but the newly built City Farmers Market opened in 2015 to offer more international food options down the street. Its 75,000 square feet are filled with fresh produce, meat, seafood and even housewares. Located in the former Buford Highway Flea Market building, the newcomer boasts mostly Asian produce and food, but includes a variety of Hispanic and other international options.
5000 Buford Highway. 770-936-8858. cityfarmersmarketga.com
This large shopping center with numerous restaurants in its food court is worth a short detour off Buford Highway. Stop by China Kitchen for the spicy chicken hot pot, Hong Kong BBQ for the barbecued duck or the Oriental Pearl Seafood Restaurant for their Cantonese noodles. Chinatown Mall is also home to multiple specialty stores selling items such as cosmetics and books, while its large event space hosts such annual events as Chinese New Year and the Moon Festival. The Cultural Center provides services to area residents and teaches classes in calligraphy, choreography, medicine and law.
5383 New Peachtree Road. 770-458-6660. www.atlantachinatown.com
This Korean bakery makes a great destination for cakes, smoothies, pastries and treats. Its specialty, the shaved ice bowl, comes with a scoop of ice cream, sweet red bean paste, fruit and sugary cereal, and can satisfy the sweetest of teeth. You could spend an afternoon talking with a friend over a custard tart and coffee or one of the bubble tea offerings with tapioca add-ons.
5301 Buford Highway. 770-936-8726.
Nestled behind the QuickTrip by I-285 and Buford Highway, La Casona boasts authentic Colombian food and friendly service. I particularly like the meaty soups, which include root vegetables and complex broths like the Chicken Hen soup. If you’d rather order something you can eat with knife and fork, try the bandeja paisa: a platter of grilled steak, pork skin, egg, sausage, sweet plantains, avocado, arepita, rice and beans.
3820 Stewart Road. 770-458-6657. www.facebook.com/LaCasonaAtlanta (in Spanish)