- By Bob Townsend For the AJC
Whether you call them post-fusion or mashup, some the most exciting restaurants are crossing cultures and cuisines to create concepts and dishes that bridge the distance between people and places. And, in Atlanta, as elsewhere, younger chefs are behind some of the most lively examples. Here are 10 to check out right now:
Chai Pani — The Decatur Indian street food spot from Meherwan Irani, who grew up near Mumbai, specializes in “mindblasting” offerings that teeter between past and present. In the mix: lime-salted okra fries, and the Sloppy Jai, a Sloppy Joe take with spiced lamb hash. 406 W. Ponce de Leon Ave, Decatur. 404-378-4030, chaipanidecatur.com.
Eat Me Speak Me — Chef Jarrett Stieber’s move to SOS Tiki Bar in Decatur has given new life and added hours to his witty global mashup of fine dining and comfort food, like fry bread and rice porridge. And, sometimes, there’s a pop-up within a pop-up, with the likes of a Vietnamese night. 340 Church St., Decatur. 404-377-9308, eatmespeakme.com.
Pijiu Belly — Pijiu is the Mandarin word for beer, and this Westside watering hole-in-the-wall gets busy with a crazy-cool mix of American bar food with Southern and Asian influences. Think Thai tots, Korean bulgogi kimchi tacos, shredded barbecue chicken on a hoagie roll, and an assortment of ramen bowls. 678 10th St. NW, Atlanta. 404-343-6828, pijiubelly.com.
Masti Atlanta — This Bollywood-styled restaurant in Toco Hill favors “fun Indian street eats,” with a menu that mixes traditional chaat snacks and Indian-spiced versions of American fast-food hot dogs and burgers. Masti masala fries with special sauce, paneer cheese and tomato, anyone? 2945 N. Druid Hills Road, Atlanta. 470-236-2784, mastiatlanta.com.
Noona — In downtown Duluth, the newest concept from Chinese-American business partners Michael Lo and George Yu is a steak house and oyster bar with a wood-fired grill and Korean flavors. See grilled octopus with shimeji mushrooms, fermented soybean, seaweed powder and smoked black sesame. 3550 Lawrenceville St., Duluth. 678-404-5001, noonaduluth.com.
Snackboxe Bistro — Laotian-American husband-and-wife team Vanh Sengaphone and Thip Athakhanh recently opened this Doraville restaurant to bring Atlanta a contemporary take on the food of their native land. A spin on saku (tapioca pearl dumplings) trades pork for vegan soy filling. 6035 Peachtree Road, Doraville. 770-417-8082, snackboxebistro.com.
Steinbeck’s — Mexican-American chef Andy Gonzales does pub grub with surprising flourishes of flavor at this tiny Oakhust storefront. His cheeseburger, dubbed the Tower of Power, has made multiple best-of lists, but the eclectic menu boasts a Chinese breakfast bowl, and mucho Mexican specials. 659 East Lake Drive, Decatur. 404-373-1116, steinbecksbar.com.
Talat Market — At the 30-seat Gato space in Candler Park, former Kimball House chefs Parnass Lim Savang and Rod Lassiter present a pop-up menu of up to eight creative Thai dishes made with Georgia-grown ingredients. Look for a permanent location in Summerhill in 2019. 1660 McLendon Ave. NE., Atlanta. Instagram: Talat_marketatl.
Taqueria del Sol — Owners Mike Klank and Eddie Hernandez led the way with the original fast-casual Mexican-meets-Southern place. The genius of Hernandez’s cooking is its elegantly deceiving simplicity, as found in chile-spiked turnip greens, and chicken-green chile puffy-tortilla potpies. Multiple locations, taqueriadelsol.com.
The Blaxican — Both a food truck and a brick-and-mortar takeaway restaurant in Peachtree Corners, this fun concept fuses Southern soul and Mexican with a tricked-out L.A. vibe. On the menu: Mexy mac ’n’ cheese and a quesadilla with collard greens . 5260 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., Peachtree Corners. 404-606-3737, blaxicanfood.com.
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