A little taste of the world: Your city guide to Doraville

People take in the main room of Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience at Exhibition Hub Art Center Atlanta in Doraville on Monday, July 31, 2023.   (Ben Gray / Ben@BenGray.com)

Familiar to MARTA Gold line riders and fans of good food, Doraville lies a few miles northeast of Atlanta but gets inspiration from thousands of miles away. Straddling inside and outside of the I-285 Perimeter, this small city has come a long way from its rural routes to its prime place along Buford Highway’s international cuisine tour.

Like many of the current-day suburbs inside the Perimeter, Doraville got its start as a farming community along a major rail line nearly 200 years ago, in the 1830s. What started as land for poultry and dairy farms evolved into a robust rural town by the time the city was officially incorporated by the state in 1871. The city remained this way for decades until World War II. After the war, General Motors chose Doraville as the location of its next big assembly plant, and growth exploded afterward. Many subdivisions and mid-century homes popped up to house workers and residents. Buford Highway was built between Atlanta, DeKalb, and Gwinnett counties, in part so it could service the growing population of Doraville. A MARTA station joined the transit fray in the early 1990s. The Olympic torch even passed through Doraville en route to Atlanta for the 1996 Olympic Games!

In recent decades, Doraville has become a magnet for immigrants and a diverse range of restaurants, activities and even the growing film business. While many car dealerships still line Peachtree Industrial, the Doraville GM plant closed over a decade ago and is now home to several film studios and future housing developments. The Buford Highway Farmer’s Market attracts shoppers from all over with its eclectic blend of international goods, and there are over 150 restaurants serving food from across the globe within the city limits.

What can I do for fun around Doraville?

Go beyond Publix for your groceries. Doraville is home to two large internationally-focused grocery stores. There is an outpost of the popular Super H-Mart Korean supermarket, with its bevy of fresh fish, unique snacks and food stalls. But the larger draw for many foodies and chefs alike is the Buford Highway Farmers Market. This global grocery has a variety of produce, baked goods and grocery staples from Chile to China and everywhere in between. It’s perfect for those who want to try something new for dinner, or new arrivals looking for a taste of home.

Sing your heart out with karaoke. Grab a group of friends and sing your heart out to your favorite songs, with no judgment at Mics Karaoke. Rent a private room by the hour (seating anywhere from 2 to 20 people), relax on the lavish couches, grab a mic and go! Mics has a robust selection of songs and the classic cheesy videos to go along with it. Feeling parched after reciting the entire Taylor Swift Eras Tour? Ring room service for a drink or a snack.

Immerse yourself in art at the Exhibition Hub. This repurposed department store is home to a rotating calendar of immersive art exhibits guaranteed to amaze and excite. Previously home to a touring Lego exhibition, their current permanent exhibits include an immersive 3D Van Gogh Experience and a larger-than-life Titanic exploration. Both take advantage of cutting-edge lights, video and 3D technology to get visitors up close and personal with art and history.

Where are the best places to eat and drink around Doraville?

Matcha Café Maiko

There are dozens of quality tea shops in Doraville, but one of the more unique menus comes from this cozy Buford Highway café. Specializing in premium matcha concoctions, Café Maiko serves up big flavors in lattes, bubble teas, tea floats, and more with a variety of flavor combos. Perfect for summertime, Matcha Café Maiko is also known for its ice cream — with soft serve, parfaits, and shaved ice also derived from matcha. Feeling fancy? Check out the Shogun cone, which tops the matcha soft serve with edible 24-karat gold leaf.

Location: 5306 Buford Highway NE, Suite B; Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 1-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 1-10:30 p.m.; Website: matchacafeatl.com

Java Saga

If you need a mid-day buzz, this raved-about cafe and chicken spot recently opened up a standalone location right on Buford Highway. Grab a French press coffee or chai latte while you wait for their zesty, crunch Taiwanese fried chicken dishes. Whether you get it in sandwich form with coleslaw and mango habanero sauce, or in original strips topped with their five spices and basil, everything hits the spot here. Be sure to add a side of loaded fries for a flavor-filled snack afterward.

Location: 5145 Buford Highway NE, Suite E; Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 9 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 4 p.m.; Website: javasagacoffee.com

Las Delicias de la Abuela

For those looking for a Latin fix, but are tired of trendy tacos, you have to visit this Colombian restaurant instead. Authentically made just like grandma would have, the menu has you covered from breakfast to late night. Choose from small plates like crispy empanadas to traditional entrees kuje breaded pork, fish, and skirt steaks. Or, if you’re in a hurry, they’ve got small plates galore — be the grilled arepas filled with savory meat, spice-laden fries, plantains, or corn dishes. Save room for the tres leches waffles for dessert.

Location: 5600 Buford Highway NE, Suite E; Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Website: laabuela.co

Lan Zhou Ramen

There’s noodles and then there’s Lanzhou noodles. Visibly handcrafted in the back while you wait, these Chinese noodle dishes will have you slurping up happiness. Order them in spicy or savory soups, or in stir fry alongside sprawling veggies and roast pork or duck. Share dim sum plates with your party like steamed soup dumplings or fried pork buns… because you definitely won’t be sharing those noodles.

Location: 5231 Buford Hwy NE; Hours: Every day, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Website: lanzhouramenatlanta.com

Shoya Izakaya

This unassuming restaurant (at the end of the H-Mart shopping center) hides a sea of sushi and seafood within. Enter through its wood-lined white walls and take a seat at a table with friends or grab a seat at the sushi bar and watch the chefs work. Begin with sake or shochu, grab some crunchy fried gobo sticks to start, and take your pick from their ocean of sushi, sashimi, and grilled seafood dishes. Pretty much everything is guaranteed to satisfy. If your tastes lean toward vegetarian dishes or noodles, Shoya has you covered as well with traditional udon, tonkatsu ramen, tofu, and curries.

Location: 6035 Peachtree Rd. #A101; Hours: Monday through Saturday, 5-11:30 p.m.; Sunday, 5-10 p.m.; Website: shoya-izakaya.com

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