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Jennifer Zyman

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Meet the mobile paella chef who puts on a show in Atlanta backyards

Arturo Yzaguirre paellaIn the photos he posts to Instagram—and he, like many independent food vendors these days, is a prolific ’grammer—Arturo Yzaguirre favors a certain pose. He’s outdoors, standing behind a pan of paella the size of a washtub. Bubbling and steaming, the food before him—mussel shells popped open, little pink arches of shrimp, strips of red bell pepper and handfuls of peas—is intricately arranged and riotously colorful, while the chef, grinning, spreads his arms wide to present his handiwork. For Yzaguirre, the spectacle is nearly as important as the sustenance. “I have great respect for the art of cooking live paellas,” he says.

The audience, therefore, is a crucial part of the equation. Yzaguirre is a mobile paella caterer who typically cooks for groups of 25 or more, outside on patios or in backyards, at parties where there are often other diversions—at clients’ request, he’ll arrange live guitar music, waiters and bartenders, even flamenco dancers. His clientele is primarily Latinx; based in Marietta, he travels all over the metro doing weddings, birthdays, office parties, and so on. He’s booked most weekends.

Originating in Valencia, paella is one of Spain’s best-known dishes, a hearty combination of meat, seafood, and/or vegetables on a base of saffron-tinted rice. It’s food meant to serve a crowd, and indeed meant to be prepared outdoors—as Yzaguirre notes on his website, paella in Valencia is “cooked by men over an open fire, fueled by orange and pine branches along with pine cones.” While preferring the old-school method, he relies on the gas flame provided by a big portable stove. Yzaguirre himself is a native of Acarigua, Venezuela, where he learned to cook from his father and from a neighbor, a chef from whom Yzaguirre learned the basics of paella. He launched his first restaurant at age 22.

When he landed in the United States in 2000, Yzaguirre further honed his skills at paella parties in Miami, another city with a large Latinx population, where such gatherings are common—and where plenty of caterers provide the service. Yzaguirre, whose wife collaborates with him on the design of his dishes, thinks of himself as both a student and a pioneer of paella: “The paellas are a reflection of my great research on how paella should be represented in these shapes, colors, and design,” he says.

The paellas he prepares can stretch to several feet in diameter, depending on the crowd, and resemble edible, brightly colored mandalas. Various options are available—classic Valencian, with chicken and pork, scented with rosemary; paella marinera, with seafood and a shot of cognac; an all-veg paella. But the thing to get is Arturo’s special, which includes chicken, pork, fish, shrimp, clams, scallops, squid, and mussels. And paella is not the only item on the menu: Yzaguirre is equally adept with tortilla Española (the famous tapa of eggs, potatoes, and lots of olive oil), ceviche, and flan.

When the pandemic hit, Yzaguirre worried his style would be cramped; people weren’t partying like they used to. But he was better-positioned than others to take the hit. He’s already outdoors. Yzaguirre was able to keep going with a few sensible adjustments: distance, protective equipment. Where typically he likes to serve food directly to guests, nowadays, he lets them serve themselves.

And while fun, the big crowd is not a requirement: Yzaguirre cooks for smaller gatherings, too. Someday, he hopes to prepare food of all kinds, for parties of all sizes—he’s in the early stages of planning an Iberian restaurant called Arturo Paella Tapas and Wine.

This article appears in our June 2021 issue.

Six metro Atlanta drive-thrus with far more interesting options than a Big Mac

Cococakes by CocoCococakes by Coco
The talent behind this Tucker pastry shop is Corey McDonald, who was inspired to learn to bake by his mother and grandmother. Cococakes accepts preorders for full cakes, but the discerning driver need simply pull up to the window—no advanced planning is necessary to get your hands on one of McDonald’s “chunks,” i.e., generous squares cut from a sheet cake. Buttery caramel is a customer fave. So are lemon poundcake, German chocolate, and strawberry buttercream. 4404 Hugh Howell Road #26, Tucker, 770-934-2626

Arhiboo Shawarma
A sweet little diner-style glass box in an otherwise unglamorous parking lot just off the Perimeter, Arhiboo offers familiar Middle Eastern favorites: falafel, dolmas, kofta kebabs, and the titular shawarma. 4865 Memorial Drive, Stone Mountain

Desta Ethiopian Kitchen
The undisputed queen of Ethiopian cuisine in Atlanta, Desta serves traditional dishes such as tibs (spiced beef, lamb, or other meat), stewed legumes and vegetables, and kitfo (Ethiopian-style steak tartare), all meant to be scooped up with torn pieces of injera, the seductively spongy, slightly sour national flatbread. Since opening in 2006, the restaurant has grown to seat some 250, but you can dodge the crowds via a little-known drive-thru lane. 3086 Briarcliff Road, 404-929-0011

Taqueria Don Sige #2
The dining room of this Forest Park taqueria—an offshoot of the College Park original—is currently closed, but takeout is the ticket. The draw is undoubtedly the restaurant’s luscious birria, available here in tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and tortas, as well as ramen. However you take yours, you could do worse than to chase it with Don Sige’s fresas con crema—chilled strawberries in sweet cream. 4840 Jonesboro Road, Forest Park, 404-748-9159

Mama’s Cocina Latina
This popular spot offers any number of dishes optimized for eating behind the wheel (tacos, empanadas), but the real draw is its generous burritos. Try the burrito supremo—filled with ground beef or chicken and fixings including guac, black beans, cheese, and sour cream—and don’t forget the horchata. 1958 Piedmont Road, 404-874-6152

Taco T
Hard taco shells may evoke a certain nostalgia for those who remember them from the school cafeteria, but at Taco T, they’re handmade and encase fillings that are anything but elementary. (“American-style” toppings—lettuce, cheese, and sour cream—remain an option.) Soft tacos are also available, along with burritos and all-day breakfast. 1065 Windy Hill Road, Smyrna, 770-438-6500

This article appears in our June 2021 issue.

Find great griyo and other tastes of Haiti at Jojo Fritay in Kennesaw

Jojo Fritay Kennesaw“Griyo is the identity of any Haitian restaurant,” says Francois Nau. Sometimes spelled griot, the word refers to pork that’s been marinated in fresh herbs and sour orange, boiled until fork-tender, then fried—and it’s the centerpiece at Jojo Fritay, the Kennesaw restaurant Nau runs with his wife, Edith, and daughter Jo. “If you don’t speak Creole, griyo will make you speak it quickly,” he says.

The Naus serve their pork a la carte or with rice and beans, but the best way to get it is on a mixed platter with other fried Haitian delicacies: Ask for the griyo fritay (and, while you’re at it, the passion fruit juice). The restaurant is named after Jo and her own daughter, Jolie, and its familial vibes extend to diners, too—while the dining room is closed, the Naus lament not being able to watch customers’ faces as they eat. But the food travels well. 1200 Ernest W. Barrett Parkway Northwest, Kennesaw, 678-540-2341

On the plate:

[Top left] Two types of fritters get their bright flavor from fresh garlic, parsley, green onion, and thyme. Made with wheat flour, the marinad is fluffy and breadlike.

[Top right] Dough for the other fritter, akra, incorporates ground yuca and malanga. The root vegetables lend it a chewy, glutinous quality.

[Center] Proper griyo requires bone-in lean meat with skin and a little fat on it, Nau says; pork picnic shoulder is the best cut for the job. Before frying, Nau marinates then boils the meat with sour orange and epis—a mixture of onions, garlic, parsley, and bell peppers that’s the foundation of most Haitian dishes (and varies in ingredients depending on who’s making it).

[Middle left] Sweet potatoes, fried till puffy and golden. Nau uses Japanese sweet potatoes, which have a white interior, purplish skin, and—he says—better flavor and consistency.

[Bottom left, in cup] Nau serves fried foods with pikliz, a spicy and vinegary slaw of cabbage, carrot, and habanero.

[Bottom] Bannann peze—flattened and fried plantains—are a typical pairing with griyo.

This article appears in our May 2021 issue.

Maricela Vega is leaving 8Arm, but she has big plans for the future

Maricela Vega leaving 8Arm
Maricela Vega

Photograph by Braylen Dion

When I first wrote about chef Maricela Vega in back in June 2018, Atlanta was just learning of the burgeoning talent as she sold tamales through her business, Chicomecóatl. After landing the lead chef gig at 8Arm, Vega found herself in the national spotlight with multiple features in publications such as Bon Appétit. But after two years at the helm of the funky Ponce de Leon mainstay owned by Nhan Le, Vega has announced her last day will be April 17. She will host a series of Mexican menus for her final month as chef, and after that, she’s got major plans for Chicomecóatl, ones that have been in the works for a long time.

“All of us wish that last year was different. It was like we were just getting ready to do our thing and now the vibe is completely different,” Vega says about her departure from 8Arm. “I’ve lost my entire crew, basically. I needed to start focusing on really getting my work through Chico launched. The goal is to, hopefully [by] 2022, enter the co-op world and sell my products, which are going to be tamales, tortillas, tostadas, and hot sauces.”

I spoke with her about her decision to leave the restaurant, where her cuisine was described by our critic Christiane Lauterbach as “wildly different and deliciously subversive,” and her plans to make her long-term goals finally come to fruition.

Let’s talk about this menu that you’re doing before you leave because it sounds super exciting.
I’m organizing it and trying to get some details together, but I might just keep our traditional eight-item menu. I’m hopefully getting dessert features. There’s three girlfriends that I have that I would love to have do special desserts each week. Each week, the menu is going to change. We’ll have four special menus, and will feature three female pastry chefs that I think are doing excellent work in the city. [View the first menu here.]

Is the reason that you’re leaving twofold—that you’re ready to leave 8Arm and to focus on the ChicomecĂłatl venture?
Honestly, it’s all of it. I was making tamales in between [working at 8Arm], and when you make masa, or anything with tamales, I like to dedicate that time. If I’m rushed, I refuse to make it. I’m like, you’re not going to rush me, I want to take my time, I want to make sure that I’m enjoying this and that I’m finishing the product the way it should be. [I] was feeling that way with trying to tether Chico during tamale season. At 8Arm, it kind of felt like I was cheating on both because both [projects] require a lot of energy. I feel like one week I’d pay more attention to 8Arm, and the next week would be more Chico. It’s not a good balance for your personal life, but also for the work that you’re creating. Mistakes start to happen; it just doesn’t feel good.

I have a really good relationship with Nhan, so once I started to feel [this way], I’d just call him or shoot him a message. And I was like, I think this is happening, but I’m not sure, and I just want to let you know. Then the more and more you sit with it, it’s just like, okay, this is going to happen. I just got to do this. This work is going to take a long time.

[My] end goal is to actually start farming and revitalizing the piece of land [in Mexico] that my grandfather left behind when he passed away. I can’t do all three, but if I’m with Chico, I can set up my production. Then I can leave for like a month, go to Mexico, and start prepping that, which is basically what’s going to happen when I leave 8Arm. I’m going to be going to San Miguel de Allende to help a chef friend, and then on the weekends I’ll have four days off, and on those four days, I’ll just travel South to my family’s village. I’m just going to go for a month and a half to start getting stuff together—do a land assessment, figure out what cover crops I can start. This place hasn’t been touched in over 20 years, so I basically have my work cut out for me.

Since I interviewed you for the magazine a few years ago, so much has happened to you on a national level. You’ve become a nationally lauded chef. What has that journey been like for you?
Definitely a lot of pressure to try to make sure that all my decisions are well thought out and that I’m doing my research properly. I guess in a way I might’ve manifested it, because I’ve always mentioned to folks part of the reason why I took on the executive chef was to play a leadership position in a way. And to have other young women of color look up and be like, Oh, this lady doing this work. And how my work is sourcing, and everything regarding that aspect, and just full circle taking everyone into consideration. It was very difficult.

You have so many fans. Where can they find you in the future when you’re not in Mexico?
That is the thing that we’re going to be focusing on this late summer-fall; it will be kind of like a pop-up tour in a way. We’re going to have to figure out how things progress in the Covid sector of the world, with healthcare guidelines and everything. But [I’d like to go] throughout the entire Southeast, I guess like New Orleans, Birmingham, Chattanooga, Nashville, Asheville, Charleston, maybe Jacksonville, other little cities in the South, where I can go and do tamale popups and just kind of put my masa work on display. And that’ll hopefully pick up and people will want me in their co-op stores in 2022.

Can you talk about the masa that you source?
I work with a Mexican-based company whose values are strictly with the farmer and also keeping seed restoration inline. To have that direct connection, that is the dream. I’m living the dream right now. I don’t think people understand this, but there’s an entire network of corn people in the U.S. And we’re all kind of connected to the corn people in Mexico. Hopefully in five years, I’ll be sourcing from myself, buying my own corn from the land that I’m working on from my grandfather. That’s the big goal right there.

It’s always cool to see someone from Atlanta do really big things, and the way you change the narrative about food and female chefs is so exciting. It’s great to see you pivot back to your original goal.
It’s moments like this fucked up past year that also make you want to align yourself as best as you can. And understanding to be forgiving of yourself. It like drove me to just say, let’s do this. I feel like I’m doing all the proper work and research to support all that. I feel good about it; I feel confident.

Looking to try birria tacos? Head to Birria El Gordo in Marietta

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Birria El Gordo Marietta
Tacos from Birria El Gordo in Marietta

Photograph courtesy of Birria El Gordo

Taco trends are—in my humble opinion—the best trends, and birria is having its moment at restaurants and pop-ups across the country. Birria tacos are made with meat—often goat, beef, or chicken—that’s slow-cooked in a spicy, earthy, red braising liquid. The meat is shredded and placed inside of a corn tortilla that has been griddled using the top layer of fat from the braising liquid, which gives birria tacos their signature red-orange color. A cup of the braising liquid, or consomme, is often served alongside birria tacos for dipping.

If you’re looking for a spot to try birra locally, look no further than Birria El Gordo in Marietta. The Pineda family, who run the pop-up, moved to Atlanta from the San Fernando Valley in the late 1990s. “My parents wanted to come over here for better job opportunities because it was getting tougher and more expensive in California,” says Nestor Pineda Jr. Nestor Jr., who manages the Instagram account for Birria El Gordo, works there with his parents, Nestor Sr. and Emeli Pineda; sister, Jessica; and brother, Julian.

The Pinedas originally owned a grocery store, Carniceria y Fruteria Guerrero, that went under during the 2008 recession. Billares Guerrero was their next endeavor, a restaurant in Marietta frequented mostly by people who lived nearby. But when the family closed the neighborhood restaurant in March due to the pandemic, they, like so many restaurant owners, had to quickly pivot. Five weeks later, Birria El Gordo pop-ups, named after a grandson, opened in the space on the weekends, a nod to the fact that birria is traditionally made on weekends or for special occasions like birthdays or weddings.

“When it was originally just a regular restaurant, [the patrons were] just mostly Mexican people,” Nestor Jr. says. “Now, it’s a very diverse crowd.”

You can credit the birria and the hunger-inducing photos on the pop-up’s Instagram account for that. Making Birria wasn’t a stretch for the Pinedas. “We’ve always sold barbacoa [at Billares Guerrero], which is similar to birria,” says Nestor Jr. “The only difference is the way the carne is prepared. Birria renders a lot more consomme than barbacoa does.”

Birria El Gordo offers birria made with beef, goat, chicken, and jackfruit. Fillings come in a variety of styles like the mulita (a tortilla sandwiched with birria and avocado) or taco dorado (crunchy tacos with a cheese option), and Vampiro (a tostada with cheese and guacamole). You can also get a styrofoam container of consomme as a dip for your tacos or to eat as a soup. Many of the taco creations get a coating of Birria drippings, which infuse the tortillas with all the complex, slow-cooked flavor of the heavily spiced fillings. All the tortillas are made by hand, which can make orders take a little longer, but it’s worth it. Look for specials on Instagram that range from split baked potatoes overstuffed with shredded birria meat to red holiday tamales to birria ramen. They also have a bar menu, where you can order agua frescas or TajĂ­n-rimmed micheladas.

In its early days, the pop-up would often sell out quickly. But, months later, there’s more food to go around, and they’ve added an extra day to their Friday through Sunday hours—Taco Tuesday, of course. The restaurant offers dine-in, but you can also place a takeout order inside, take a pager, and wait in your car. Because these tacos are best eaten fresh and hot out of the kitchen, this is a great place to opt for a car picnic. But be to sure bring a roll of paper towels—the tacos are extremely saucy.

The family is looking to open a standalone intown location they say could open sometime in 2021. But for now, they want to see how the pandemic pans out and are hoping the right opportunity in the city presents itself. 350 Pat Mell Road Southeast (Inside Billares Guerrero), Marietta, (678) 503-0114

Atlantans heartbroken after fire destroys the Ponce Krispy Kreme

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Atlanta mourns the Ponce Krispy Kreme destroyed in fire
Firefighters work at the Krispy Kreme Doughnuts store on Ponce de Leon Avenue on February 10.

AP Photo/Ron Harris

The Krispy Kreme on Ponce de Leon in Atlanta caught fire overnight, and Atlanta is mourning in unison. Atlanta Fire Rescue reported the fire started in the back of the building after midnight Wednesday and moved quickly through the building. Two employees inside were able to escape without injuries. Officials say the building is a total loss, but the cause of the fire has yet to be determined. NBA star Shaquille O’Neal purchased the Ponce de Leon shop in 2016 as part of a larger franchise deal.

Although many Atlantans might believe the nearly 60-year-old location was the first Krispy Kreme, the company was started in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, by Vernon Rudolph in 1937. When the business came to Atlanta, Rudolph only sold the doughnuts wholesale at another building nearby on Ponce but moved to the existing spot in 1965, which was opened to the public with table service. The “hot sign” was added in 1995, and the space was remodeled to resemble an old-fashioned diner in 2003. For many years, Krispy Kreme was a sweet treasure you only found in the Southeast, but the company is now world-famous with more than 1000 stores all over the globe.

The Ponce Krispy Kreme is an institution for Atlantans, whether they grew up here or not. The doughnut shop holds a special place in our hearts, even if it’s just because the iconic building has been a prominent fixture on Ponce de Leon Avenue, the stretch of road that, as we wrote in 2018, “possesses the historic charm, the culinary creativity, and the total weirdness that makes Atlanta, well, Atlanta.” Sure, there are better and fancier doughnuts to be found in the metro, but there is certainly a place for nostalgia in food.

 

This morning, photos and videos flooded social media along with tributes. For many, myself included, the Krispy Kreme has been a constant fixture in our lives. As a kid, getting a hot and fresh doughnut straight off of the conveyor belt was nirvana. In my 20s, it was the place to stop after a long, late night of dancing at MJQ or Masquerade. As a parent, the doughnuts brought countless moments of joy for my family. Coincidentally enough, I’d just ordered a dozen Valentine’s Day-themed Krispy Kremes Tuesday night (from a different location, fortunately) for delivery this morning.

Our longtime restaurant critic, Christiane Lauterbach, notes that the Krispy Kreme was among the first places she visited when she moved to Atlanta from Greenwich Village by way of Paris in the 1970s. “It forever shaped my idea of what a hot doughnut is and should remain,” she says. “I used to take my babies to look at the line and watch the magic happen.”

Shaq told 11Alive in a statement: “I hope no one was hurt and we will bounce back better than ever.” I think it is safe to say that fans hope for a rebuild, but losing such a quintessential piece of the Atlanta skyline, even temporarily, will sting for a while.

Editor’s note 7/28/21: On July 7, a second fire broke out at the Krispy Kreme, further damaging the building. The cause of the second fire has not yet been determined. According to the AJC, permits have been filed to demolish the building.

8 things you must try at Home Park’s new Japanese grocery store

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Wagaya Grocery Store
The lower level of Wagaya Grocery Store is lined wall-to-wall with Japanese and Korean products (and a few American ones, too).

Photograph by Jennifer Zyman

Convenience stores, like 7-Eleven and Lawson, have a different value in Japan than they do in the U.S. While you wouldn’t necessarily consider the hot offerings from 7-Eleven as a must-try here, in Japan, it’s a culinary high-ground. Egg salad sandwiches (Sandos) on soft white bread and fried chicken bites (Kara-age) are some of the best bites in Tokyo, and I’ve always lamented the lack of such stores in Atlanta.

Takashi Otsuka, who owns Wagaya and neighboring Chirori in Home Park, opened such a convenience store, Wagaya Groceries, underneath his restaurants (349 14th Street Northwest). Although the space is tiny, there’s an astounding amount of products packed inside. One of the first things you’ll see when you enter is little wicker baskets of egg salad, fried chicken, and pork cutlet Sandos alongside still-warm pyramids of onigiri and fresh pastries from White Windmill bakery. Hang a right, and there are Japanese sweets and candy, including baby-pink strawberry Kit Kats and candy bars filled with a slip of jam.

For heartier items, head down the stairs where a bounty of Japanese and Korean groceries abound. Since the restaurants upstairs source such good fish and booze, you’ll find it all for sale here, too. There is sliced fish, cooked rice, and everything else you need to make sushi at home, along with craft sake to pair. You’ll also find fresh vegetables, meats, frozen dumplings, oden (fish cakes), and Korean rice cakes for a full-fledged meal.

And that’s just in the fridge. The shelves also contain all manner of Japanese and Korean dry ingredients, snacks, and instant noodles. There are also many shelves of local and Japanese beers in a rainbow of funky colorful designs that call to mind anime and Marvel comics.

The prices are comparatively reasonable to Super H-Mart and Buford Highway Farmers Market, making this an excellent alternative for intown residents who don’t feel like getting on the highway. If you are not comfortable entering stores right now or are just in a rush, you can place an order for pick-up online. There’s also now a patio open where you can enjoy your Sando in the cool fall air.

Sound intimidating? Nah. The exploration is all part of the fun! Here’s a quick list of my some of my favorite items to get you started.

Onigiri: warm sushi rice filled with salmon or pickled plum and wrapped in seaweed, found in wicker baskets near the entrance

Egg salad Sando: creamy and dreamy egg salad stuffed inside slices of soft white bread

Kara-age: crispy fried chicken bites from the hot case

Wagaya Grocery StoreHitachino Nest beers: Japanese craft beers brewed in a bunch of varieties, including a yuzu lager and ginger brew.

Wagaya Grocery StoreCinema Popcorn Strawberry & Butter Salt: Salty and sweet strawberry-scented popcorn in a cute bucket

Wagaya Grocery StoreCalbee JagaRico Hokkaido Butter: crispy potato sticks perfumed with Hokkaido butter

Wagaya Grocery StoreYP Sweet and Spicy Rapokki: Chewy Korean rice cakes and noodles in a spicy Korean red pepper sauce

Wagaya Grocery StoreKameda Age Ichiban: Sweet and crunchy individually wrapped rice crackers that look like craters on the moon

6 spots for great sushi takeout in Atlanta

Where to get takeout sushi Atlanta
MujĹŤ

Photograph by Jennifer Zyman

The pandemic has changed the way we dine, perhaps indefinitely. While the notion of a shoulder-to-shoulder omakase meal at a sushi counter is certainly a less safe dining option right now, people still crave sushi—and it’s not something most can easily whip up at home. But Atlanta’s sushi chefs have accepted the takeout challenge and are serving rolls to-go alongside elegant omakase meals. Here are a few of our favorites, from both newcomers and classic Atlanta restaurants:

Where to get takeout sushi Atlanta
MujĹŤ

Photograph by Jennifer Zyman

MujĹŤ Atlanta
MujĹŤ is a pop-up collaboration between Federico Castellucci (of the Iberian Pig, Cooks & Soldiers, Recess, and more) and chef J. Trent Harris, a Kentucky native who most recently worked as the executive sous chef at NYC sushi hotspot Shuko. Harris also worked at Sushi Ginza Onodera in Tokyo and New York City, where he worked alongside Master Sushi Chef Masaki Saito. MujĹŤ serves modern Edomae sushi and small plates, which means some fish is aged and cured to add complexity. The bamboo packaging and attention to detail, such as the tiny squeeze-bottle of soy sauce and matching matchbox-sized sauce dish that comes packaged with your order, are exceptional. It manages to feel bespoke and also ensure the omakase meal makes it home without losing quality. A curated selection of sakes, wines, and beers is also available for an add-on to make it a fantastic night.

Where to get takeout sushi Atlanta
Sashimi bowl at Nakato

Photograph courtesy of Nakato

Nakato
This family-run Cheshire Bridge restaurant has been open since 1972 and now, using an online portal, you can order things like gloves, masks, or wine from their online marketplace, in addition to any Japanese food your heart is craving. Nakato offers specials based on seasonality or in celebration of several Japanese holidays, and their sushi is always fresh. The restaurant also offers family-style hibachi meals and grill-at-home skewer kits. Owner Sachi Nakato writes personalized thank you notes that she attaches to all takeout orders, which also include a QR code for people to donate to Nakato’s employee relief fund.

Sushi Hayakawa
All of Chef Hayakawa’s takeout meal are packaged in a portable bunch of boxes to make sure each piece stays as pristine as the chef made it. Takeout options include a Chirashi-don (raw fish arranged over a large bowl of rice) or a dinner bento with items that changes weekly. Hayakawa also sometimes offers specials, such as unagi donburi (grilled freshwater eel over rice). Every Tuesday, Hayakawa delivers a family-style meal to the emergency room nurses and doctors at Emory University Hospital. If you want to help this effort, you can add five dollars to your order. The restaurant is also open for in-person seasonal omakase and prepaid reservations for parties of up to two people.

Where to get takeout sushi Atlanta
Send Sushi

Photograph by Jennifer Zyman

Send Sushi
Georgia natives Ron Cheng and Gusan Jang initially started Send Sushi as a once a month, private pop-up omakase meal that showcased Jang’s skills from his time at Nakazawa Sushi and Eleven Madison Park. When the pandemic hit, the concept morphed into an omakase delivery service. All meals come with miso soup, and there are often add-ons like fresh uni, depending on what Jang gets flown in from around the world. Send is still new and finding its footing with keeping the orders cool during summer months. You can find more information on ordering and securing a spot (they go fast) via Tock.

Umi
This Buckhead sushi hotspot was one of the first to pivot into curbside delivery takeout. While it was a brand new endeavor for the restaurant, owner Farshid Arshid ensured that the packaging and branding was consistent with Umi’s sleek style. You can now order most of their menu, including the spicy tuna crispy rice and a chef’s choice of nigiri, for curbside pickup, along with wine, sake, and picture-perfect desserts. They are now open for dine-in reservations and in the process of building additional outdoor seating.

20 years, countless tacos: How Taqueria del Sol became a sensation

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Taqueria Del Sol 20th anniversary
Taqueria del Sol’s first location, on the Westside, opened in 2000.

Photograph courtesy of Taqueria Del Sol

The road to Taqueria del Sol—the beloved Atlanta taco joint that celebrates its 20th anniversary on February 2—began in 1967 when owner Mike Klank moved to Atlanta to study engineering at Georgia Tech. He worked at different restaurants, including Manuel’s, off-and-on to support himself in graduate school. In 1987, he was working at El Azteca when a long-haired, earring-clad drummer named Eddie Hernandez walked in, looking for a job as a waiter.

Hernandez’s life had led him from his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico, to Houston, where he’d tried unsuccessfully to land a recording contract, then to Waco and finally Atlanta. “I wanted to be a musician,” Hernandez says. “It didn’t work out very well, but cooking did.” The duo began what would become a lifelong partnership when they opened Azteca Grill. They combined Hernandez’s Mexican cooking style, learned from his grandmother, with a New Mexican influence Klank brought from time spent living there. Then, they added some Southern flair. This mashup of cuisines became Hernandez’s signature style, leading to future popular Taqueria del Sol dishes such as the spicy Southern greens and fried chicken taco.

In 1991, the partners opened Sun Down Cafe in Atlanta on Cheshire Bridge, a more upscale Southwestern restaurant that was open only for dinner. After about a year, Klank says, customers begged them to open for lunch, but Klank knew lunch service needed to be fast and economical. He wasn’t sure it would work with the restaurant as it was. Hernandez and Klank had always shared a love of street food and began to throw out ideas for a burrito wagon or taco stall that would just serve dishes inside Sun Down’s brick-and-mortar building. Starting in 1992, Sun Down became “Taqueria Sun Down” at lunchtime. The restaurant’s manager ran the counter, and they hired one extra person to run the food. The menu was straightforward, with one taco and one blue plate. No starters. No enchiladas. What started as only three lunch services a week quickly became five. Customers loved it.

Taqueria Del Sol 20th anniversary
Tacos at Taqueria del Sol

Photograph by Hannah Feiten Photography

Taqueria Del Sol 20th anniversary
Inside the Westside Taqueria del Sol

Photograph courtesy of Taqueria Del Sol

Klank and Hernandez decided to fully commit to the Taqueria concept in 2000 and opened the first Taqueria del Sol on Atlanta’s Westside. The restaurant was one of Atlanta’s first fast-casual restaurants, and Hernandez recalls a lot of resistance to the concept. “They’d never seen it before,” he says. Customers expected to be waited on and didn’t want to wait in a line, Klank remembers.

“People got really mad at us,” Klank says. “We had this one guy who came in and said, ‘You know, if your food weren’t so good nobody would come here.’ And he added, ‘I’m never coming back.’ But he still comes to this day.”

Others were also converted once they realized their food would still arrive hot and quickly, even if they did have to wait in line and find their own table. Klank and Hernandez’s flow of service, along with flavorful, affordable food, was a hit.

Taqueria Del Sol 20th anniversaryTaqueria Del Sol 20th anniversaryAfter 20 years, countless accolades including numerous James Beard nominations, and a cookbook from Hernandez, Taqueria del Sol’s core menu hasn’t changed much. Certain tacos and blue plate specials rotate weekly to keep things fresh and allow the chefs room to experiment. The variety keeps the menu interesting enough that some customers are known to eat there two or three times a week. “They can come one day and get enchiladas and come another day and get tacos and some sides,” Klank says. “Then they can come another day and get the seafood special. They would have three totally different meals, but all of them fresh, good quality products at a price they can afford.”

Today, Taqueria del Sol continues to be one of Atlanta’s most popular restaurants with four locations in metro Atlanta, one in Athens, and one franchise group in Nashville that operates two restaurants. And while there are no special celebrations planned this weekend to commemorate the anniversary, the lines will likely still be out the door, as they often are. Personally, I plan to use it as an excuse to celebrate with some cheese dip, a fish taco, and those spicy greens.

Where to eat breakfast on Buford Highway

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Buford Highway doesn’t have a huge breakfast scene, but it still offers destination-worthy dishes for early risers (Xelapan opens at 6 a.m., Tortas Factory and El Taco Veloz at 7). Yes, we fudged it a little with the soups; I Luv Pho and Nam Phuong don’t open until 10 a.m., which some might consider early lunch. But we stand behind soup for late breakfast—especially for late hungover breakfast.

Photography by Ben Rollins

Soups

Filet mignon pho

Filet mignon pho
I Luv Pho
Vietnamese

Chicken and ginger congee

Chicken and ginger congee
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Nam Phuong
Vietnamese

Egg noodle soup with crispy pork

Egg noodle soup with crispy pork
Ming’s BBQ
Cantonese

Sandwiches

Banh mi #7

Banh mi #7
Lee’s Bakery
Vietnamese

Breakfast egg, ham, and beans torta

Breakfast egg, ham, and beans torta
Tortas Factory Del D.F.
Mexican

Egg banh mi

Egg banh mi
Quoc Hong Banh Mi Fast Food
Vietnamese

Platters

Huevos al gusto egg and beans platter

Huevos al gusto egg and beans platter
Xelapan Cafeteria
Guatemalan

Calento breakfast platter

Calento breakfast platter
Las Delicias de la Abuela
Colombian

Mexican-style eggs

Mexican-style eggs
El Taco Veloz
Mexican

This article appears in our October 2019 issue.

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