If there’s one thing Atlantans know about, it’s traffic. Whether around Lenox Square on a Saturday or Piedmont Park on a Sunday, spending half the day in a car is no one’s idea of fun. Reclaim that valuable time by heading just 15 miles south of downtown Atlanta to Clayton County. If you’re catching a flight at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, build in a couple of hours to enjoy the flavors of the world in this south Atlanta community and its up-and-coming local food scene. Unwrap the savory-sweet flavors of an authentic mole tamale, slurp up a heaping bowl of pho, or immerse yourself in a total vibe at one of the hottest restaurant lounges in the city. Enjoy plenty of free parking and no traffic jams at any of these south Atlanta foodie destinations:
Forget Taco Tuesday. You’ll want Mexican food every day of the week once you’ve tasted the authentic Oaxacan food being served up by Rosalia Ruiz, who began her business by selling tamales at a local flea market after immigrating to the U.S. in 1995. Today, her Jonesboro restaurant has a loyal following that returns again and again for her menu of mouthwatering moles, chiles poblanos, sopas, gorditas, huaraches, and more.
605 Mt. Zion Rd., Jonesboro
Khoa Vuong, whose family hails from a small town south of Saigon, introduces new diners to traditional Vietnamese cuisine every day at this unassuming Morrow eatery. It may be a starter of spring rolls, a savory banh mi sandwich, a plate of vermicelli with your choice of protein, or a steaming bowl of one of the dozen-plus types of pho. And don’t forget the spicy dipping sauce.
6363 Jonesboro Rd., Morrow
The usual line out the door here is an indicator of just how successful owner Pinky Cole has been at making 100% vegan food taste like the real thing. Her plant-based burgers and sandwiches are wonderfully sloppy and have saucy names like One Night Stand, Dancehall Queen, and Fussy Hussy. The atmosphere is as boisterous as the food, where newbies are lovingly recognized by the cheerful and energetic staff.
164 N. McDonough St., Jonesboro
Celebrate any occasion and up your cool points by having Cookiegrams of Georgia deliver a package of tasty confections right to your door. Options include oatmeal walnut, chocolate covered peanut butter, and white chocolate macadamia, all of which are made from scratch daily at this Forest Park bakery. You can also preorder and pick up cookies for parties, business meetings, or just a weekly afternoon treat.
1124 Main St., Forest Park
Work week have your mind wandering to exotic Caribbean islands like Aruba and Barbados? Take your taste buds there at least with a trip to Hampton for a meal at Golden Krust, a fast-casual restaurant dishing out everything from jerk chicken wings and fried plantains to curried goat and braised oxtail. What the Golden Krust franchise is best known for nationally is its classic Jamaican meat patties.
11274 Tara Blvd., Hampton
The early bird catches the worm at Best Country Donuts. Get there too late and you might miss out on some of the most delicious donuts you’ve ever tasted. Baked fresh each day, they rate five stars according to the regulars who have been coming to this homey Forest Park shop for more than 20 years. You can order fritters, bagels, and croissants, too, but don’t walk out without trying at least one donut. You won’t be sorry.
4746 Jonesboro Rd., Forest Park
At this family-owned, decades-old Chinese eatery in Forest Park, you can have your pick of Mandarin-style favorites like sesame chicken and egg foo yung, or Cantonese specialties like roast duck and salt and pepper squid. There are literally so many dishes to choose from, you might need all day to decide what to order.
4353 Jonesboro Rd., Forest Park
Previous owner Sida Cordoba ran this Thai dining room for over 20 years. Her presence is still felt, though, as she and the new owner collaborate to continue serving folks from Jonesboro and beyond authentic curries, noodle soups, rice dishes, and more. Taste of Thailand has moved several times during its lifetime, but loyalists make the trek no matter what street it’s on.
121 Jonesboro Rd., Jonesboro
It would take you too many visits to count to decide on a favorite beverage from Boba Theory in Morrow. In addition to a selection of coffees, the cafe offers slushes, smoothies, and bubble teas that can be topped with pineapple, coconut, lavender, tapioca, pina colada, lychee pearls, and other flavors. Boba also carries a selection of pastries in case you need something to nibble on.
1585 Lake Harbin Rd., Morrow
Pho Dai Loi
Pho for breakfast anyone? Forest Park’s Pho Dai Loi Vietnamese restaurant opens early, so you can zip in anytime between 9:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. for noodle soups like pho tai sach (with round steak and tripe), rice dishes like com tam thit nuong trung ga (with pork slices and a sunny-side-up omelet), and vermicilli platters like bun tom nuong (with grilled shrimp). No matter what dish you get at what time of the day, it’s guaranteed to be just what your taste buds needed.
4061 Jonesboro Rd., Forest Park; 404.363.2423
Tortas, carnitas and horchatas are just a few of the Salvadorian specialties you’ll find at this modest family-owned Riverdale restaurant. But it’s their authentic pupusas, the national dish of El Salvador, that has people coming back for more. The thick corn tortillas are stuffed with savory fillings like beans, cheese, pork, squash, and loroco.
6600 Hwy. 85, Riverdale
Envegan is redefining takeout. No longer do vegetarians have to settle for the sort-of-healthy salads at the corner fast-food joint when they can have items like Philly cheesesteaks, barbecue sandwiches, and chicken wraps that are made with meat alternatives—although you probably wouldn’t know the difference if the word “vegan” wasn’t part of this Morrow eatery’s name. Regulars rave loudest about their spicy buffalo cauliflower “wins” (as in wings).
1626 Lake Harbin Rd., Morrow
The fact that the Escobar location in Morrow, along with the original locale in downtown Atlanta, is co-owned by Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz should tell you pretty much everything you need to know about this exhilaratingly hip restaurant and lounge. So should the fact it’s open until at least 1 a.m. every day of the week. When you’re not feasting your eyes on the glittering crowd, feast your taste buds on executive chef DePhon Robinson’s catfish and grits, chicken and sausage gumbo, blackened salmon BLT, and other tempting dishes.
1140 Mt. Zion Rd., Morrow