If you find it hard to get psyched about rice, you must be depriving yourself of Persian food—an abstinence you should quickly break by ordering the sabzi polo (“herb pilaf”) from Delbar. Persians are rice gods, and sabzi polo is their ambrosia—a dish commonly served on New Year’s but one that’s so unbelievably good you’ll want to eat it every day. The basmati takes on a springy-chewy, cheeselike texture, and the abundance of herbs adds vegetal snap, but the most amazing part is the crust of crunchy, near-blackened rice that forms along the bottom of the pan. (The pan is inverted onto a plate, so that the rice holds its form and resembles an upside-down bowl.) The crunchy layer even has its own word in Persian, “tahdig,” and, I kid you not, it is reminiscent of—and every bit as lustworthy as—the burnt-cheese raised crust of Nina & Rafi’s Detroit pizza. Even crazier, when you eat the leftovers out of the fridge the next day, they’re no less delicious. (Yes, I’m even psyched about cold rice.) What should you order with your sabzi polo? Fish is the traditional option, and Delbar’s trout stuffed with walnuts and pomegranate is lovely and travels surprisingly well, if you’re opting for takeout or delivery. The falafel is a fine choice—the fried chickpea balls appropriately green-hued from parsley—as is the kashk bademjoon (fried eggplant with crispy onion, mint, and cream of whey). But none will transfix you the way that $7 rice will. 870 Inman Village Parkway, Inman Park, 404-500-1444, delbaratl.com
The first time I tried to grab a Cubano at Buena Gente, the food truck that recently expanded into a North Decatur strip mall, the shop had sold out of everything by 1:30 p.m., a cruel blow to those stuck in line. I returned earlier the next day with better luck—and was able to determine, after a solid wait on the sidewalk (no online preordering here), what all the fuss was about. The pressed Cuban bread had a crust rivaling the crackliness of creme brulee and a center just as soft. Most impressive, though, was the pork, so deeply fragrant and superjuicy that it easily stood up to the sandwich’s interior walls of gooey Swiss cheese and salty bolo ham. Note that this sandwich is best consumed with a Cuban coffee or mango milkshake. 1365 Clairmont Road, North Decatur, 678-744-5638, buenagenteatl.com
Hero Doughnuts & Buns
Considering that some of the other occupants of Summerhill’s redeveloped Georgia Avenue include a barbecue joint, pizza place, hot dog stand, and ice cream shop, it was only a matter of time before doughnuts joined the fray. As is true of its neighbor Hot Dog Pete’s, Hero Doughnuts was conceived in Birmingham and peddles guileless comfort food—in this case, the type of straightforward sugar bombs you fetishized as a kid. While I typically prefer yeast doughnuts, Hero’s cake ones won me over: The pleasantly crunchy exterior encapsulates soft-yet-dense, not-too-sweet dough. The buns in the shop’s name cradle, say, eggs and sausage in the morning and fried chicken with buffalo sauce and ranch in the afternoon. The latter evokes a messier Chick-fil-A sandwich overdosed with Zesty Buffalo. I’m not complaining. 33 Georgia Avenue, Summerhill, 470-369-6800, herodoughnutsandbuns.com
The Savannah-based coffee roaster made a genius decision when it opened a shop in Atlanta: It brought on baker extraordinaire Sarah Dodge (who currently runs her Bread Is Good delivery service and pop-up and formerly served as 8Arm’s star pastry chef) to create and oversee its menu of pastries and sandwiches. If your culinary prayers include a fluffy biscuit stuffed with soft-scrambled egg and peppery bacon, fragrant sourdough slices piled with herb chimichurri and miso-roasted shaved squash that mimics lunch meat (but yummier), oil-slick and salt-dusted focaccia graced with sliced heirloom tomatoes and Duke’s mayo, or a just a perfectly chewy everything bagel heaped with whipped cream cheese, you can consider those prayers answered. 2380 Hosea L. Williams Drive, East Lake, no phone, perccoffee.com
This article appears in our October 2020 issue.