Atlanta: Latinland USA, a Tiki Tiki Guide
This essay is part of the Hispanic Heritage Month Series, Latinland USA, a Tiki Tiki Guide.
by Bren Herrera
Welcome to the “A,” also known as Atlanta! This southern city is southern in geography, but making its imprint as a burgeoning metropolis. Yeah, we’re no NY, LA, Miami or even D.C., but we do have our share of eclectic neighborhoods and must-see, must-do spots you simply can’t miss if you can weather the brutal heat!
If you’re Latina — or a lover of all things Latin — and find yourself visiting the city, here’s my personal take on what you must do!
Most Eclectic, Authentic Latin neighborhood: Buford Highway
About 15 minutes North of downtown, the Buford Highway area which is made up Norcross, Doraville and few other ‘burbs is replete with pupuserias, Cuban sandwich shops, farmers’ markets stocked with our native foods and other stores selling chucherias. Plan to spend at least a half day there.
Best Mexican Restaurant and Free-standing Taco Truck
There are so many Mexican restaurants to choose from seeing as though Mexicanos make up the largest Latin population here, but of the ones I’ve visited, Los Bravos is it for me. It has great chicken and avocado soup for only $5! They also have great lunch special plates ranging from $6-$10, served with bottomless fresh chip and salsa. The location on S. Cobb Drive, Smyrna, GA is jam-packed on Friday nights and usually has a 45-minute to 1-hour wait. But, it’s well worth it. Plus, it’s owned by Cubans!
I scoured the city for a really yummy taco truck like the ones L.A. boasts having. I finally found one in Marietta (a heavy concentration of Latinos, including Brazilians (see below). This truck is in a random parking lot next to country corner store, but the lines wrap around the sidewalk between 11 and 2. Americans, Latinos, Asians and everything in between get a fix of their tripe, barbacoa, chicken and carne tacos topped with repollo all for $1! You can not beat that. Check out a review here at Flanboyant Eats.
Best All-Around Latin Restaurant
We have celeb chefs in Atlanta, in case you didn’t know. Among them is Chef Hector Santiago whom appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef. His restaurant, Pura Vida is nestled in a super quaint and totally unassuming street in Virginia Highlands, a Georgetown-like ‘hood. Have anything and everything on his menu.
Sabroso Eats and Beats
Eclipse di Luna (Buckhead/Miami Circle and Perimeter). This Latin tapas restaurant, with ambient lighting and eclectic styling stays packed every day of the week. Specializing in a variety of staple Latin appetizers like empanadas, yucca frita and queso Manchego with olives, makes it a go to spot for that sabor fix. To top it off and make it “must visit” while in Atlanta, the live music is one of the best in the restaurant scene. Both locations have great music, but the Perimeter location has an incredibly sensual band that plays Brazilian & Cuban music, soca, merengue and vintage baladas. There’s plenty of dance space, so go on and work off your calories!
Best Venue for World Music and Latin Sounds
The Rialto Center is the Arts theater for Georgia State. Their season is always exciting with acts and performers from all over the world. I’ve seen Paquito D’Rivera, Los Muñequitos de Matanza, Eddie Palmieri and a host of other Latin folklore, jazz and salsa groups perform there. There’s not a bad seat in the house.
Not really catered to Latino-centric wares, but if you’re looking for fun and sexy shopping, you must hit Atlantic Station, Little Five Points, Buford Highway, Cumberland Mall and Virginia Highlands.
Best Place to Get Our Hair Done
If you like the Dominican way of doing hair, you will find more than 10 whole in the wall salons doing fantastic roller sets con crema que train directly from D.R. All you have to do is drive to Windy Hill in Marietta, GA (about 15 minutes from Downtown) and you’ll step into any chancletera hablando typical Spanish with all those chismes and dichos you grow up listening to in the privacy of your home! Because gossiping at work is just so, uh, politically incorrect.
Best Dancing and Night Out
You have to go out dancing when you visit a new city, right. Otherwise you won’t sweat off any of that food you just indulged in! Go to Havana Club . Get your dance-on to all kinds of Latin grooves, drink mojitos, be sexy with the chicas, have a chulito get you another drink and enjoy the vibe! The ambiance is typical Latino, but a slight posher.
There is a strong Brazilian contingency in Atlanta. I’ve found that the best bakery is owned by them. At the Brazilian Bakery Café, located in Marietta, GA, you can stock up on all kinds of delicias they’re known for including pan de queso, BRIGADEIRO and BEIJINHO, a favorite of mine made up of coconut with sweetened condensed milk cream topped with coco flakes! To die for. You can also stay in for sandwiches, soups, and other specialty’s. Visit their site for a full menu.
Bren Herrera is a professional singer/songwriter, classically trained cellist, self-taught chef and published writer. The Cuban-born Herrera, who lives in Atlanta, writes the food blog, Flanboyant Eats, and the fashion site, B So Chic!