The Christiane Chronicles: Keep your restaurant hours consistent; Atlanta’s best Latin cuisine

Raves and rants from veteran dining authority Christiane Lauterbach
Illustration by Zohar Lazar
Illustration by Zohar Lazar

Few things drive me crazier than restaurants with sporadic hours of operation. Customers deserve to know if you’re closed on Sundays or Mondays, or worse, if you serve food only three days a week. Checking the website is often of little help, the hours hidden on the bottom of some back page in small print. All bakeries should be open on Mondays (many aren’t), and all coffee shops should continue brewing after 7 p.m. (most don’t). I’m used to the fact that many Asian restaurants close on Tuesdays (sometimes Wednesdays) and that Indians love to take Mondays off, but I can’t stand seemingly arbitrary closing times (some Japanese restaurants, like Ege Sushi in Marietta, stop serving lunch at 1:45 p.m. on weekdays). Worst of all is when you show up to a restaurant that’s supposed to serve until 10 p.m., only to find the front door locked and the staff packing their stuff because business was slow.

Las Brasa
Photograph by LuAnne DeMeo

Endless baskets of chips and salsa and pitchers of margaritas make Mexican restaurants an easy sell to the dining public. But look around! There are a host of establishments serving other notable Latin American cuisines. Peruvians invented ceviche and enjoy chicken roasted over charcoal and served with creamy green salsa (head to Contigo Peru or Las Brasas). Colombians at La Carreta excel at soups (beef sancocho) and mixed grills. For breakfast, trust the Dominicans at Cafe Dominican Restaurant for plantains, rice and beans, salami, and eggs. Venezuelans lay claim to the arepa, a corn masa cake stuffed with savory ingredients (my go-to is Arepa Mia), while Salvadorans at Pupuseria Mi Tierra prefer the thinner, moister pupusas. What can you find at a Honduran restaurant? Baleadas, thick flour tacos stuffed with steak, eggs, and avocado (try them at Las Palmeras). Like the Colombians, Argentineans and Uruguayans share a love of grilled meats and blood sausage, which you can find at Pampas Steakhouse and Chimichurri Steakhouse. Still want to stick close to Mexican food? Guatemalans at Xela Pan like their dishes mild and make tamales with potato dough wrapped in banana leaves.

Field Notes

  • Is it just me or are those distressed metal-top tables in Ponce City Market’s Central Food Hall uncomfortably sticky? Putting down napkins for placemats won’t help either, as they tear when you try to peel them off.
  • Note to Linton Hopkins: I’ve seen hors d’oeuvres bigger than the chicken biscuits you sell at Hop’s Chicken.
  • Hat tip to Mihoko Obunai, who, when she isn’t manning ramen pop-ups, assembles snacks and bento boxes at new Japanese coffeehouse Huge on Peachtree.

This article originally appeared in our December 2015 issue.