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Atlanta Pho Tour

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If you ask 50 people where the best phở in Atlanta is, chances are you’ll get 40 different answers. That’s to be expected. Everyone has a preference. But what really constitutes a preference? Or a favorite? For most, going to two places is sufficient. Drawing a conclusion based on those two places is where I have a problem with. More so when they’ve only been to each place once. Classic example, I have this friend who keeps telling me that Restaurant XYZ is his favorite because it’s the best. When I asked him how many times he has been to this place, his answer was, “Once”. When I asked him how many restaurants serving the same type of food he has visited, his answer was, “One”. This is the very reason why I’m leery about believing people when they say a place is the best. Unless someone’s been to at least 10 similar places and visited each one multiple times, then that’s when I’ll trust someone’s judgment.

Call me a food snob. I’m not going to make excuses for it. I am. A huge one. You see, I’m very passionate about food. If you know me personally and as my best friend says, I’m like “a guy who has only one thing on his mind constantly”, except mine is about food. Eating is my biggest hobby. I drive around daily looking for Open Soon or Grand Opening signs. I visit many places multiple times. I eat multiple meals a day just so I can try different things and have different tastes in my mouth. Every meal is like a Chloe Food Festival.

Food makes me happy. I have no shame admitting I eat a lot of it. Bread is my Kryptonite. You’ll always hear me say I’m a breadgetarian. I am. I can down a loaf of freshly-baked Korean whipped cream bread slathered in butter in one sitting. Or four cardamom brioche from General Muir as a single snack. But don’t hate. There’s a trade off — I don’t drink alcohol (haven’t found something that tastes as good as fruit juice or Coca Cola) nor do I eat desserts or sweets. I may take a bite to taste; and to have an opinion, but that’s as far as I will go. I don’t have a sweet tooth. Works well for me.

But I digress. The point I’m making is that I eat a lot because I love food. Food is what I know best. I eat at lots and lots of different places multiple times. This year so far, I have eaten 28 bowls of ramen (down from 65 last year), 87 bowls of assorted Korean soups, and as of today, 42 bowls of pho. That’s a lot of soups combined! And it’s not even November yet. What does that mean to you? Thanks to my eating lifestyle (and eating playbook), I’ve done much of the eating research for you. The 20 places I visit multiple times to eat pho aren’t places I just visited this year. Those plus more are in my regular rotation since I started eating for fun. That will be about middle school I guess.

So without further ado, I present to you Atlanta Pho Tour 2013. By no means is this an exhaustive list. Instead, these are the places I visit multiple times on a regular basis. My visits aren’t for the same purpose all the time. Sometimes, I may go to a place because it’s convenient or I’m already in the area. Time of day or night is also a factor. But often, I go to a place because it’s the best. Ready to go around my food ‘hood? Let’s go!

The Top Five

1. Pho Dai Loi
4061 Jonesboro Rd
Forest Park, GA 30297
(404) 363-2423

4186 Buford Hwy NE
Atlanta, GA 30345
(404) 633-2111

1500 Pleasant Hill Rd
Lawrenceville, GA 30044
(770) 381-1415

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Three locations to serve you the absolute best pho in Atlanta. Hands down. The broth is simply delicious: rich yet light, hearty, balanced, and has a depth of flavor no other place in Atlanta can duplicate. The meats are fork-tender and great quality; the serving, beyond ample; and the garnish, super fresh. You come here for perfection. And with perfection, you don’t need to bother altering the taste by adding unnecessary spices and condiments.

2. What the Pho
2442 Pleasant Hill Rd
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 814-9396

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While the pho here is superb, everything on the menu is also good. Must-try include the combination fried rice, seafood pan-fried noodles, fried Cornish hen, bún (vermicelli noodle salad topped with grilled meats or shrimp), stir-fried chicken with cashews, and assorted rice plates that come with different combination of meats. Open until midnight.

3. Nam Phuong
5495 Jimmy Carter Blvd
Norcross, GA 30093
(770) 409-8686

4051 Buford Hwy NE
Atlanta, GA 30345
(404) 633-2400

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One of the best places for all-around Vietnamese food. Aside from the fantastic pho, you can’t go wrong with anything here. Everything on the menu is good. Everything. Favorites include the Shaking Beef, chicken wings, noodle dishes, beef stew, do-it-yourself fresh summer rolls, and the best congee you’ll ever taste outside of Vietnam.

4. No. 1 Hong Kong Bakery
5494 Jimmy Carter Blvd
Norcross, GA 30093
(770) 837-0270

No. 1 Hong Kong Bakery

This is mainly a bakery. They specialize in breads, pastries, and rice cakes. The menu is very limited and there are maybe just two kinds of pho. But believe me when I tell you the pho is amazing. Inside the Hong Kong Supermarket on the left side of the building (not in the food court).

5. Pho Bac
4897 Buford Hwy
Chamblee, GA 30341
(770) 986-4273

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Another place for great Vietnamese food. Stellar soups and noodle salads. Come here for pho and add a side of Bánh mì to complete your hearty meal.

Everywhere Else (in alphabetical order):

1. Co’m Vietnamese Grill
4005 Buford Hwy NE
Atlanta, GA 30345
(404) 320-0405

Known more for their entrees and rice dishes, the grilled grape leaves rolls are a must try.

2. I Luv Pho
4650 Jimmy Carter Blvd.
Norcross, GA 30071
(770) 558-6289

4500 Satellite Blvd NW
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 249-8989

5145 Buford Hwy NE
Doraville, GA 30340
(770) 249-8989

I Luv Pho

Open 24 Hours and with three locations in the metro, there’s bound to be one close to you.

3. Lee’s Bakery
4005 Buford Hwy NE
Atlanta, GA 30345
(404) 728-1008

The only place with pho/bánh mì combination meals on the menu.

4. Quan Ba 9
4285 Buford Hwy NE
Atlanta, GA 30345
(404) 636-2999

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A classic example of southern Vietnamese pho, the broth here is heavily flavored with leafy herbs and spices.

5. Quoc Huong
5150 Buford Hwy NE
Doraville, GA 30340
(770) 936-0605

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First and foremost, you come here for the grilled pork bánh mì. It’s the best bánh mì in Atlanta. And then you eat the bánh mì with a bowl of pho. Perfect combination!

6. Pho 24
4646 Buford Hwy
Atlanta, GA 30341
(770) 710-0178

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Open 24 hours and with an extensive food and traditional Vietnamese beverage menu.

7. Pho Xe Lua
5495 Jimmy Carter Blvd
Norcross, GA 30093
(770) 446-8908

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This is a food court stall inside the Hong Kong Supermarket specializing in pho. Lots of choices and cobinations. Cash only.

8. Saigon Café
3675 Satellite Blvd NW
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 232-5070

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The Duluth location has the best food for this local chain. Enroll in their rewards program for weekly specials. Seven locations all over metro Atlanta.

9. Yany Express
5495 Jimmy Carter Blvd
Norcross, GA 30093
(770) 368-0094

Another place for great Vietnamese food all around. Fantastic soups and kitchen specialties. They have the best Shaking Beef in Atlanta.

Pho, ITP?

While there’s no question that great pho can be found on Buford Highway or OTP, intown residents don’t necessarily have to make the trek to get their fix. Here are some of the places within the city limits.

Dua
53 Broad St NW
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 589-8889

The only place in downtown Atlanta for pho and with a separate location a couple of doors down for carry out and delivery orders.

So Ba
560 Gresham Ave SE
Atlanta, GA 30316
(404) 627-9911

Located in EAV, the restaurant transforms into a late night eatery Octopus Bar after 10pm.

We Suki Suki
479 Flat Shoals Ave.
Atlanta, Ga 30316
404-901-6992

Pho available only from 11AM until they run out.

There you have it folks! We are so fortunate to have a big Vietnamese community in Atlanta. We don’t have to go far to satisfy our ethnic food cravings.


Cuban Burger: Palomilla’s

Four years ago, a couple of childhood friends of mine lived in a condo complex off Spalding Drive in Norcross while in college. We used to come over and go to this plaza next door where they have a few restaurants to get something to eat. One of those eating places was Palomilla’s Cuban Grill House. A sit-down, full service restaurant, we were a little apprehensive to come in at first given our college budgets. We soon found out the prices are actually cheap, and if you get the lunch special, meals became more affordable.

Pallomilla's Cuban Grill House

Since then, this place has been one of my go-to places for good Cuban food. Ever had a Cuban Burger? A Cuban burger (Frita Cubana) is an awesome burger that must be on your own 100 Dishes To Eat. It’s been my favorite thing to eat here. First, the huge, juicy patty is mixed with onions, peppers and spices. It is topped with canned potato sticks (for crunch and fun) then served in a huge, super soft, sesame seed bun. Call it a burger on steroids. It is a delicious, savory burger you’ll have to eat before you die. (Incidentally, I’m coming out with a CDA100 list — my very own 100 must-eat-mostly-ethnic food in Atlanta. Watch out for it.)

Pallomilla's Cuban Grill House

But that’s not all that’s good here. In fact, everything is good. The Masas De Cerdo comes with cubes of tender pork that have been marinated in spices and mojo sauce. These aren’t the typical jaw-breaking pork cubes you see at other places. Here, the crispy on the outside, deep-fried meat has a juicy, tender interior. Topped with sauteed onions and comes with rice, a cup of black beans, and a side of sweet plantains, this delicious $12.95 plate is an awesome value.

Pallomilla's Cuban Grill House

Pallomilla's Cuban Grill House

Pallomilla's Cuban Grill House

Pallomilla's Cuban Grill House

Pallomilla's Cuban Grill House

Pallomilla's Cuban Grill House

Chuletas De Cerdo. Another favorite of mine. This comes with two tender pork chops that have been marinated in tropical juices and then cooked on a grill. The Filete De Pollo, a flattened chicken filet marinated in mojo sauce then grilled is also a favorite. Very tasty. And so is the Vaca Frita which is grilled tender flank steak. The Paella? Fantastic is an understatement. And if you happen to have someone not as adventurous, let them get the chicken tenders or the chicken filet. Best chicken tenders!

Pallomilla's Cuban Grill House

Pallomilla's Cuban Grill House

You all know I’m not a big dessert eater so I usually get the empanadas to cap off my meal. Flaky crust, delicious meat filling. Enough said. Oh and my friends seem to love the preserved guavas served with a block of cream cheese. Sounds unusual but the flavors really work together. Oh and if you’re wondering how to eat this dessert — get a piece of guava, put a small dollop of cream cheese on top, then take it all in your mouth!

Now go get a Cuban Burger. By the way… it’s not on the menu :)

Palomilla’s Cuban Grill House
Norcross Location:
6470 Spalding Dr
Norcross, GA 30092
(770) 242-0078
Palomilla's Cuban Grill House on Urbanspoon

Johns Creek Location:
11030 Medlock Bridge Rd
Jonhs Creek, Ga 30097
678.710.8343
Palomilla's Cuban Grill House on Urbanspoon

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Eater Atlanta: Best of Duluth

Eater Atlanta: Best of Duluth

So I wrote this mini guide for Eater. Now you don’t have an excuse not to come to my food ‘hood. And like I said on the post… get your rides ready for a food field trip to Duluth.

Come. NOW!

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Seo Ra Beol

Seo Ra Beol
It’s a stand alone building. The name of the restaurant isn’t in English.

Being an Atlanta native, I know the history of food in the city more than most. Because this is the only blog you’ll see that kind of information, I make it a point to include some of that history in almost all my posts. By now you should also already know I love Korean food. I’ve eaten so much of it everywhere. I’ve eaten at almost all the Korean places in metro Atlanta. We used to go to this one and only Korean place in Georgia located in downtown Atlanta when I was in elementary all the time. That’s when I decided Korean was going to be my favorite cuisine.

Seo Ra Beol

Tofu 88 on Buford Highway was the Asian Waffle House. It was open 24 hours and served cheap and good eats. It was the place to study on the weekends when most college libraries and coffee shops are already closed. It was also the only place to get the most amazing Pork Kimchi fried rice on the planet. It closed three years ago. Right next door to it was the most awesome Mandarin restaurant that was an Atlanta institution for the non-Cantonese Chinese community and has been around before I was even born. I remember going there regularly for family dinners while I was growing up. After about twenty years, sadly, the place closed. At that time, the Korean boom was just beginning in Atlanta. That’s when Han Il Kwan came into the picture and occupied the vacant spot. About three years ago, when most restaurants were closing due to the economic downturn, Han Il Kwan decided to close and relocate to Pleasant Hill where most Korean businesses are located, thus, having better exposure to Koreans. They got the old location of another failed (yet awesome restaurant) called Seoul Garden (which had the best chap jae). But business began to pick up and instead of closing and relocating, they decided to keep Han Il Kwan open but close around midnight instead of being open the usual 24 hours. They gave the new Han Il Kwan restaurant another name: Seo Ra Beol. You’ll find some of the staff from Tofu 88 here, too. Side note: I saw former Atlanta Falcons Hines Ward eating dinner here with his family two years ago. He’s very nice and humble.

Seo Ra Beol

How I’ve never written about this place still surprises me. Just like it’s sister restaurant, this place has amazing food. But unlike it, you will find hardly any Americans (or non-Koreans) eating here. I have yet to see one in the three years I’ve been eating here regularly (well, except for Hines Ward who is technically Korean so he doesn’t count, me, and the friends I take here). The menu is as extensive and mirrors Han Il Kwan except for maybe a handful of dishes. There’s Korean BBQ, soups, stews, and both authentic and mainstream Korean dishes. I love the spicy beef rib soup here. The broth is bold, not thin or watery, and has just the right amount of spiciness. The beef short ribs are very tender and flavorful.

Seo Ra Beol

The Yankee in me loves fried rice and I am known to beg any kitchen to make me some if I don’t see it on the menu. The one here has a smoky flavor and not mooshy just like the way fried rice should be. You can basically ask them to make whatever kind of fried rice you want. I get beef with Korean sausages and a fried egg. Sometimes, I beg for kimchi fried rice. Just remember to ask nicely.

Seo Ra Beol

This is one of the best places in the city for galbi, Korean short ribs. The marinade they use is phenomenal. It has the perfect balance of sweet and savory. They also cook the meat perfectly. Korean ribs isn’t steak. It’s also marinated. Cooking it to medium makes the meat stringy and rubbery. It has to be grilled enough to be a little crispy on the outside without burning yet tender and juicy on the inside. Not very many places can do that. They do here.

Seo Ra Beol

Seo Ra Beol

Seo Ra Beol

The soondubu, bibimbap, spicy beef soup, black goat soup, pancakes, are all good here. So if you’re hungry or craving Korean late night, you can go here (or to Han Il Kwan). You won’t be disappointed.

Note: The restaurant is accessible on both Pleasanthill Rd. and Steve Reynolds Blvd. Please note that the sign is NOT in English. You can read my friend FNS’s post here.

Seo Ra Beol
3040 Steve Reynolds Boulevard
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 497-1155

Seo Ra Beol on Urbanspoon

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King + Duke

King+Duke

Once in a while, I get to eat fancy. A reward for regularly eating cheap-but-delicious-eats in my food ‘hood of Duluth, BuHi, and Suwanee. I’ve seen so many drool-worthy photos of the food here on Instagram and been wanting to visit. My dinner party of three couldn’t secure reservations so we tried our luck and arrived at 9:45pm. The place was packed to the brim on this Thursday night but after waiting 20 minutes, we finally got a table. If you like expansive, modern space and a vibrant atmosphere then this is the place for you. Added bonus for seeing the most interesting and beautiful people of Buckhead.

We ordered six appetizers and three mains, a conservative move given my famous eating style of eating the entire menu. But since the kitchen’s last call is a little after 11PM, we really couldn’t order a lot more, have a good pacing of our dishes, and still beat closing time. So reluctantly, we chose what we thought would be a good representation of the kitchen skills.

King+Duke

First up, the popovers. If you grew up in Atlanta like I did, you’ll recognize these from the first restaurant to ever serve them in the city: The Zodiac. Doesn’t sound familiar? That’s because they now call themselves the NM Cafe. From the famous department store. Growing up, no trip to Lenox Square was complete without our mom taking us to The Zodiac for popovers and burgers. The version of the airy, eggy muffins at K+D is smaller, denser, and yeastier. Just the way I like them. I could eat six of these easily in one sitting. Oh wait… I did! Slather them with the accompanying whipped buttermilk butter for a fantastic bread appetizer. Or eat more for dessert which I also did.

King+Duke

Quail and Rabbit Terrine. Topped with a thin sheet of moonshine gelée and a dollop of housemade whole grain mustard, it was simply amazing. Most terrines I’ve tasted reeked of gaminess but not this one. The texture and the flavors were just so perfect.

King+Duke

Beet Salad. Not your ordinary beet salad. This had feta from sheep’s milk made earlier in the day and came with fresh oranges, marinated cucumbers, wood-roasted farm carrots, and harissa that was really nice and added another dimension of flavor to the simple vinaigrette dressing.

King+Duke

Beef Tartare. All I can remember is that it was awesome. I was getting food ADHD at this point. Kitchen is closing soon, delicious dishes piling up at the table.

King+Duke

Buttermilk Fried Quail. This should come as a main dish. Thin and crispy buttermilk coating, tasty quail, and the best romesco I’ve tasted aside from my grandma’s. So yummy.

King+Duke

Roasted Bone Marrow. Top three in my book. This one had a sweetish short rib marmalade with both crispy and tender pieces of shredded short rib, and some smoked mushroom salad. Most versions in other places are bland and only get the flavors from the accompanying ingredients. But not this one. This one had flavor so you don’t just taste a glob of fat. Brilliant.

King+Duke

Crab Toast. Fresh blue crab in a simple lemon-dill base with charred chiles, avocados, and thin slices of radish. These are so refreshing and you can really taste the sea from the freshness of the crab meat.

King+Duke

Now for the mains. The portions are huge so keep that in mind. I’m a big eater so I have no problems putting away everything that lands on the table. The Gum Creek Pork Roast came with substantial slices of pork loin and a thick slab of rib. They were wonderfully cooked and served with a thick au jus, grilled kale, and sour cherries. I’m tired of seeing pork dishes served with some kind of apple so I was really pleased to see sour cherries instead. Inventive and delicious.

King+Duke

Mississippi Rabbit. This roasted rabbit was void of any gaminess you often see everywhere else. The meat is juicy and flavorful. The sweetish savory au jus really went well with the meat. My sister really enjoyed this dish especially since it came with farro salad.

King+Duke

But the winner of all the delicious mains was the Roast Peking Duck. It had everything that makes an amazing dish. Crispy leg, tender and juicy breast, spit roasted in coal. There are red mustard greens and plums that really brought out the flavors of the meat yet didn’t clash at all. Genius.

King+Duke

I’m not a big dessert fan. I’m a breadgetarian so I opted to eat more of the popovers. But my sister is a huge dessert eater and requested the brilliant Pastry Chef Chrysta Poulos, who was in the house, to make her gluten-free desserts. How I ended up with a sister who loves salads and eats gluten-free is beyond me.

King+Duke

This sundae is what you get when a normal sundae dresses up for a party and rides in a muscle car.

King+Duke

This cheesecake is like the math whiz in class.

King+Duke

Mutiple visits are definitely a must. I want to try the candied lamb belly appetizer, the burger, the roasted lobster, and maybe even a fish dish. You can make your visit as expensive as you want depending on the dishes and amount of appetizers you order or make it simple and just have appetizers. You can also get the dinner for two which is a great deal. Our bill for three people for all the food, desserts, and two diet cokes came to close to $160. And though I can’t ball here every week or even a couple of times a month, that’s a little over $50 for each person before tip. Not bad considering the amount of food we ate. Definitely one of the best meals I’ve had in the city. Solid all around — food, service, space, ambiance. Chef Joe Schafer is brilliant.

King + Duke
3060 Peachtree Rd NW,
Ste 160
Atlanta, GA 30305
(404) 477-3500

King + Duke on Urbanspoon

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