Clairmont Road: Atlanta’s other international restaurant row

Buford Highway is beloved, but don't overlook this cultural journey

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Clairmont Road: Atlanta's other international restaurant row

Photograph by Growl

This story is part of Atlanta magazine’s Streets Issue—a block-by-block exploration of our city and the stories it tells. Find the entire package here.

It starts on the Decatur Square and ends at Peachtree Boulevard; at Scott Boulevard, its name changes from Clairemont Avenue (as the original developer, whose daughter was named Claire, intended) to Clairmont Road. For those traveling from the southeast side of town, it’s a shortcut to Buford Highway; a route to the Atlanta Greek Festival, held in September at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation; and an overall enlightening cultural journey amid many international businesses and places frequented by the gourmet crowd.

My first recommended stop, the Decatur Package Store, may look like an ordinary liquor store, but it is a treasure trove of superbly curated and organized fine wines, rare vermouths, beer in glass bottles, upmarket mixers, and, of course, the bourbons, Irish whiskeys, hipster gins, and other collectible booze I am interested in. Owner Herb Chereck’s wine club (six wines for $60) is a great bargain, and I usually run into some of my favorite bartenders checking on the latest international liqueurs.

It is almost impossible for me to cross North Decatur Road without succumbing to the lure of Tea Leaf and Creamery, the only place inside the Perimeter for taiyaki, a wonderfully whimsical warm crispy waffle shaped like a fish, filled with ice cream, and garnished with Pocky sticks. The mostly young crowd here also lines up for custom slushies, fruit teas, and chill yogurt drinks.

5 Favorite Sandwiches in Atlanta: Buena Gente Cuban
Buena Gente Cuban Bakery

Photograph courtesy of Buena Gente

Next after the light, look on your right for the only strip mall I know that’s entirely populated with restaurants: the original Atlanta-area location of Athens Pizza, the hallowed Community Q BBQ, the Po’Boy Shop, and the buzzing Caribbean brunch restaurant Ms. Icey’s Kitchen & Bar. Above all, I am a huge fan of Buena Gente Cuban Bakery, whose sumptuous roast pork pressed sandwiches, medianoches, croquetas, and guava pastelitos have no equal in the city.

A connoisseur of vernacular architecture might tell you that the building that today houses the charming Golden Drops is one of the last remaining midcentury Arby’s in America, replete with a stone base and a Conestoga wagon—style roof. Instead of beef and cheddar sandwiches, this Latin coffee shop offers Brazilian pastries, marvelously rich Americano con leche, and all sorts of snacks (the chicken croquettes known as coxinhas, stuffed croissants) beloved by students from the nearby Emory campus.

Clairmont Road: Atlanta's other international restaurant row
Desta

For more than 45 years, people have enjoyed the jolly atmosphere and giant servings of Korean Chinese food of Golden Buddha. I adore the wacky decor, the low ceilings, and the gentle bullying of the waiters as I dig into noodles in black bean sauce and platters of Empress chicken wings. Further up the road, starting at Briarcliff, a little Ethiopian district has emerged including the restaurants Feedel Bistro and Desta—the latter being Atlanta’s most successful Ethiopian restaurant by far. More than the crowded lunches, I enjoy tasty late breakfasts with cracked wheat spiced with Ethiopian butter and dishes made with braised flatbread. In the same plaza, Himalayan Spice combines Nepali and Indian food (momo dumplings, goat curries).

Clairmont Road: Atlanta's other international restaurant row
Petite Violette

The French restaurant formerly known as Violette languished for a while after the famously eccentric owner, who built and stuccoed most anything inside by hand, was murdered and transported across state lines in what became a federal death penalty case. The owners of the equally eccentric and semi-German restaurant Petite Auberge took over in 2017 and called it Petite Violette. Fancy lawyers and neighborhood types congregate around well-priced, reasonably authentic European food like coq au vin and steak frites.

Peeling off toward DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, I always reflect on some of the restaurants we used to have on Clairmont, such as the Vietnamese-run, delightfully modest Au Rendez-Vous, whose residential rather than commercial vibes always charmed me. Across the street and overlooking the airport—and still open—the 57th Fighter Group Restaurant is a mighty fine place to watch gleaming jets take off and land; like many, I have had its huge brunch buffet and a few joyous dinners anchored by prime rib.

This article appears in our August 2022 issue.

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