Driving along Atlanta’s Buford Highway is like taking a high-speed shuttle through a dozen countries in fifteen minutes. Mexico gives way to Viet Nam, which gives way to Thailand, which gives way to China, which gives way to Korea, which opens up into Ethiopia and India before curling back up into Mexico again.
Much to my delight, many of these immigrants have brought their cuisine with them. The restaurants that line Buford Highway represent opportunities to sample authentic world cuisine — an opportunity I cannot resist.
My latest find is Puras Tortas, one of a dozen or so eateries in the Plaza Fiesta (4166 Buford Highway). The entire mall is a delight — stepping through the doors is like teleporting to Mexico and leaving Atlanta far behind. Here, instead of the Gap, you will find family-owned bakeries, tiny stalls selling prayer candles and Tarot cards, and huge retail shops devoted to authentic cowboy apparel.
And, near the back, you will find Puras Tortas, where, for remarkably low prices, you can feast on fresh guava juice, authentic tacos, unusual sandwiches, and some of Atlanta’s best handmade milkshakes.
The proprietor is friendly, inviting visitors to belly up to the bar and gleefully walking first-timers through the menu. I asked for the most popular dish, and he presented me with a Cubana sandwich: roasted pork loin, Mexican sausages, beef franks, eggs, and ham pressed between two slices of bread. Half a Cubana would make a generous meal — and the entire sandwich costs just seven bucks.
Friends ordered enchiladas; the proprietor, sensitive to mild Southern palates, suggested substituting a generous serving of melted white cheddar for the spicy green sauce. The resulting dish was a hit — and, again, more than our friend could eat in one sitting for just $7.50.
Since arriving in Atlanta, I’ve been craving milkshakes, and I’m happy to report that the milkshakes served at Puras Tortas are among the city’s best. They’re made from several scoops of hand-dipped ice cream, whipped up with an old-style mixer, and served up cold, thick, and creamy. At $3.50, they’re a bargain.
This Sunday, instead of eating at The Colonade (again), pack up the family, head for the Buford Highway, and treat yourself to Puras Tortas.
(A hint to the wise: while conversational Spanish is not required — most of the shop owners we met were bi-lingual — the most feeble efforts to speak the local language are richly rewarded. Trust me on this: no matter how rusty it may be, whip out your high school Spanish and give it a whirl. The results will delight you.)