Food & Drink

Where You Definitely Need to Eat and Drink Along Buford Highway

Published On 10/31/2016 Published On 10/31/2016
El Rey Del Taco
El Rey Del Taco | Sebastian Davis/Thrillist

Spanning across roughly three miles and multiple counties from Atlanta proper to the suburbs of Buford, GA, Buford Highway is a multi-ethnic linear community that many consider to be the holy grail of ethnic food in metro Atlanta. This stretch of highway boasts impressive shopping centers and strip malls that are home to a variety of international cuisine, including Mexican, Bangladeshi, Korean, and Chinese. Originally attracting immigrants to the area due to all the construction surrounding the 1996 Olympics, Buford Hwy continues to be a go-to spot for communities of various nationalities. Fun fact: the neighborhood is home to the highest concentration of foreign-born residents in the U.S. If you are visiting and would like help deciding where to go for the best of the best international food and drink in Atlanta, you’ve come to the right spot.

El Rey Del Taco

El Rey del Taco

5288 Buford Hwy NE

El Rey del Taco has one of the best tacos in Atlanta and serves up Mexican fare -- including fresh, handmade tortillas -- on a late-night schedule (the restaurant is open until 5am). Some menu highlights include the pork belly quesadilla and the lengua taco. Wash it all down with a classic margarita or michelada.

Canton House Chinese Restaurant

Canton House

4825 Buford Hwy NE

If it’s dim sum you’re after, Canton House offers traditional Cantonese cuisine that's a favorite of the local Chinese community. The Peking-style pork chop and steamed rice with Chinese sausage are not to be missed, and neither are any varieties of Chinese hot pot (seafood bean curd and black mussel with garlic and black pepper are two spectacular choices).

Lee's Bakery

Lee's Bakery

4005 Buford Hwy NE

A combination plate featuring pho and a half banh mi, a buy-five-get-one-free banh mi takeout special, and fresh French bread every day are only a few of the reasons to check out this popular and inexpensive Vietnamese spot. It's also the best banh mi you'll find in the greater ATL area. You shouldn't need any more reasons to drop by.

Crawfish Shack Seafood

4337 Buford Hwy Suite 170

Popular for its “Cajun-Asian” cuisine, Crawfish Shack Seafood serves up traditional Cajun food with a Vietnamese twist (think of flavors like lemongrass in a crawfish boil). Menu items include seafood platters of crab, crawfish, and mussels for up to four people, boudin balls, fried red snapper po-boys, and a king crab Cajun boil. The restaurant also sells fresh fish by the pound, making it a bona fide Buford Hwy favorite.

Lips Atlanta

3011 Buford Hwy

There are plenty of karaoke options on Buford Hwy, but if you’re looking for maximum entertainment while you kick back cocktails, we encourage you to check out Lips Atlanta, a “drag show meets dinner theater.” Lips, a longtime New York favorite that's made a home in Atlanta since 2013, has been described as “Ken and Barbie’s dream house on acid.” Take it all in and watch from a seat at the bar (order a Kick the Bitch to the Curb -- a raspberry vodka and rum concoction). There is no cover; simply a two-drink minimum you'll have no problem hitting.

Flickr/Lee Summers

Karaoke Melody

5979 Buford Hwy

Any “Where to Drink on Buford Highway” list is simply incomplete without mention of Karaoke Melody. This Buford favorite features private karaoke rooms that make up the entire club (reservations are $50/hour). With a mile-long karaoke song list, sake on the cocktail menu, and two locations now on the Hwy, Karaoke Melody is sure to be involved in stories that begin with "You'll never believe what happened last night... "

The Rusty Nail Pub

2900 Buford Hwy

If a classic dive bar is more your thing, make your way to The Rusty Nail Pub. Look for the giant 18ft “gun” and smoker -- a working smoker the pub uses to smoke BBQ -- out in the parking lot. Whether it’s a low-key vibe, trivia (Thursdays at 8pm; Saturdays at 9pm), cheap pitchers of beer, or a jukebox with over a thousand amazing options, come find out why this watering hole is known as the “Cheers of the South.”

Funtime Bowl Northeast

Funtime Bowl

3285 Buford Hwy
After you’ve had your share of delicious tacos and beer pitchers, indulge in some nostalgic late-night bowling at this 24-lane alley. On Friday and Saturday evenings, bowlers are treated to “Cosmic Bowling," complete with glow lanes and black and dancing lights.

Buford Community Center, Town Park & Theatre

Buford Community Center/Buford Museum

2200 Buford Hwy
For those looking for daytime entertainment, head over to the Buford Community Center. Some of the main attractions are the live theater and a vaudeville act. On the ground floor of the main building you’ll find the Buford Museum, which is worth checking out, especially if you want to be the Buford expert of your group -- and every group needs a Buford expert. Come see a library collection of funky Georgia history books, as well as a Buford Artists Past and Present exhibit.

Buford Highway Farmers Market

5600 Buford Hwy
The Buford Highway Farmers Market is located inside a mega-sized grocery store and features produce (as well as meat and seafood) sourced from various international locations like Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, West Africa, China, Thailand, Vietnam, and more. The market also offers cooking classes, in-store demos, and is open from 8am to 10pm seven days a week.

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Teresa Finney is a food writer and recipe developer in Atlanta. Follow her on Twitter at @teresatothemax for cat GIFs and recipe tips.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Taqueria El Rey Del Taco 5288 Buford Hwy NE, Doraville, GA 30340

The cow’s cheek may not sound like the best cut of beef, but the King of Tacos slow-cooks and seasons it to tender perfection. You don’t need to habla español to get your order taken, but it will definitely earn you some cred if you can pull it off convincingly.

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2. Canton House 4825 Buford Hwy, Chamblee, GA 30341 (Chamblee)

This casual Cantonese dim sum house in Chamblee is a favorite among Atlanta's Chinese community. The menu is expansive and has everything from shrimp dumplings to vegetable sides and barbecue-stuffed sweet rolls. The dumplings are some of the best in the city, and the food is served as it should be: on rolling carts.

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3. Lee's Bakery 4005 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30345

You're coming to this unassuming strip-mall spot for its cheap and hard-to-come-by pho/banh mi half-sandwich combo, which fans swear is some of the most authentic Vietnamese food in the entire ATL area. In addition to the seafood pho, go for the grilled pork banh mi, which, alongside crisp pickled veggies, comes tucked into French bread that's baked fresh every day. Order a taro smoothie on the side and you'll be making excuses to drive up Buford Highway in no time.

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4. Crawfish Shack Seafood 4337 Buford Hwy, Atlanta, GA 30341

At Crawfish Shack you'll find Vietnamese chefs cranking out some amazing po-boys. Perfectly seasoned seafood, like shrimp and grouper, with zingy, spicy sauce on a crisp, yet fluffy baguette.

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5. Lips Atlanta 3011 Buford Hwy NE, Brookhaven, GA 30329

Forget the many karaoke options of Buford Highway and kick your night up a notch at Lips Atlanta, where drag meets dinner theater. A longtime New York favorite, Lips extended its flashy entertainment to Atlanta back in 2013, putting on shows beneath grand chandeliers and disco balls inside a space that's been described as “Ken and Barbie’s dream house on acid." There's no cover if you grab a seat the bar, just a two-drink minimum, so order a “Kick the Bitch to the Curb” (a raspberry vodka and rum concoction) and prepare for an electric performance.

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6. Karaoke Melody 5979 Buford Hwy NE, Doraville, GA 30340

A favorite among the Buford karaoke bunch, Melody offers multiple private karaoke rooms that easily fit groups of eight, where you can choose your jam from a mile-long song catalogue, and sip classic cocktails, wine, sake, and even homemade shōchū. You can also nosh on snacks like chicken strips, edamame, dumplings, and spring rolls to keep your strength up as you belt that Spice Girls hit.

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7. Rusty Nail 2900 Buford Hwy NE, Brookhaven, GA 30329

Known as the “Cheers of the South," the Rusty Nail is a classic dive bar on the Buford Highway, sporting a dark interior, cheap beer, jukebox tunes, and from-scratch BBQ. How do they make this BBQ, you ask? You won't be able to miss the 18-foot "gun" in the parking lot that they use to smoke pork and brisket. Stop in for trivia and a cheap pitcher of beer, and get your hands messy with a pulled pork sandwich, a burger, or the decades-old family-recipe lasagna.

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