It’s easy to travel the world in DeKalb County, whether for a day or just a few hours. Visitors can see colorful displays of food from all over the globe; hear lively chatter in multiple languages and dialects; enjoy the tastes and smells of far-away lands; feel the thrum of deep African drumbeats gently pouring out of the windows of an otherwise quiet Clarkston community building; and so much more.
Here are some suggestions for visitors who want to explore international DeKalb. The “best of” list is based on recommendations by members of the county’s diverse international community.
BEST PLACE TO BUY INTERNATIONAL FOOD
There can only be one: The Buford Highway Farmers Market, or BHFM, which is a fixture in DeKalb’s international community. The sprawling 100,000-square-foot grocery megastore is abuzz with shouting vendors and rummaging customers. Since 1974, the market has offered a vast variety of exotic produce, meat, seafood, breads, cheeses, spices, herbs, healing remedies, and even cleaning supplies from Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. The BHFM also offers cooking classes where people can learn how to prepare authentic ethnic meals from native chefs—from Thai massaman curry to a Mongolian hot pot.
BEST PLACE TO GET A BANH MI
For a selection of fresh and delicious banh mi (traditional Vietnamese sandwiches), locals typically flock to Quoc Huong Banh Mi Fast Food, located at the Asian Square in Chamblee. People from nearby offices come here during lunchtime and stand in line. Another Atlanta institution is Pho Bac, also on Buford Highway, which is famous not only for its banh mi, but also for beef noodle soup, chilled and steamed rice plates, and authentic Vietnamese coffee.
BEST CHINESE IMMERSION
Be sure to check out Maomi, a Chinese bookstore located in the Atlanta Chinatown Mall in Chamblee. Maomi offers a unique selection of books, magazines, CDs and DVDs, and Chinese learning materials for people of all ages, from kindergarten to adults. For a more hands-on language immersion experience, stop at Dinho Market, a very traditional Chinese grocery store where the staff enjoys engaging non-Chinese visitors in conversation and offering advice about Chinese food and culture.
BEST PLACE TO EXPERIENCE INDIA
Every spring, Atlanta’s Indian community celebrates the Festival of Colors. It signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, and the end of winter. It takes place at different venues, often in DeKalb County, and is open to the public. There are food stalls where vendors prepare authentic Indian street food; booths where Indian designers sell traditional jewelry and fashion; and performances by Indian dancers, actors, and musicians.
BEST INDIAN CURRY
Cafe Bombay, tucked away in a strip mall on Briarcliff Road, offers a lunch and dinner buffet, which is a big draw for Indians and non-Indians alike. Among the most popular items on the menu are the goat and lamb curries. For those who want to prepare their own curries, all the authentic ingredients are available at Patel Brothers in Decatur, an Indian supermarket mini-chain.
BEST FRESH GUACAMOLE
There may be tough competition among all the family-run Mexican restaurants in Chamblee, but you can never go wrong visiting Plaza Fiesta on Buford Highway, one of the largest Hispanic shopping malls in Georgia. After checking out authentic Latin American apparel and hand-painted tableware, stop at the 53 food court to snack on freshly prepared avocado dip, accompanied by Latin American beverages like Inca Kola.
BEST PLACE TO WATCH FUTBÓL
Futból, or soccer, is a big deal for Latin Americans of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. You won’t find an authentic Latino eatery where the TV is not showing a futból match and where staff and guests are not passionately debating a referee’s decision. One of the liveliest places to enjoy a game with the locals in DeKalb County is Las Delicias de la Abuela, a Columbian restaurant where most patrons are Columbian natives.
BEST PLACE FOR THE SPIRIT OF AFRICA
Clarkston, a 1.4-square mile area east of Atlanta, is one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the United States. A large portion of the 12,000 people calling Clarkston home are refugees, many of whom hail from Africa. The Clarkston Community Center organizes international events each year. One of the most popular is a food tasting fair. People from different ethnic groups—mostly Ethiopian, Sudanese, Kenyan Nigerian, and Somali—prepare and showcase their dishes, from tasteful stews and traditional East African flatbreads to shahan ful, a fava bean paste with minced vegetables.
BEST SOCIAL COFFEE SPOT
The answer is Refuge Coffee, a shiny red truck-turned-coffee shop in the heart of Clarkston. The coffee shop is staffed with refugees from many different countries; it caters to refugees, residents, and visitors alike. It’s also a meeting spot for people to connect with peers, listen to African music, mingle, chat, and exchange information and gossip. The truck serves pretty tasty coffee as well.