Rico’s World Kitchen comes up on your left as you travel north on South Lee Street, a converted garage (what isn’t these days) much larger than the four table spot Rico used to have near the Mall of Georgia. Parking is a mess. We found a spot between a sign and a van and squeezed in, and were glad for the bit of luck. It was a chilly evening and one where we were glad to be inside.
The staff was, well, surprisingly Caucasian for a place where I expected a bit of an ethnic influence. In fact, you could have dropped it all into Decatur and no one would have known the difference. When we asked about the lumpia – my wife is Chamorro, and lumpia, Filipino eggrolls, have become a big part of the fiesta culture of Guam – we were told that Rico and his mom were gone. So, no lumpia, and not even a chance to ask if they ever have pancit on special.
I wasn’t sure what I could eat from the entrees at Rico’s, so I ordered an appetizer as an entree, their New Orleans shrimp and mussels. My daughter had a habanero chicken sandwich. My wife had the shrimp po boy. We also ordered one large salad.
This was good, but not mind blowing food. The best of the meal was the po boy, well cooked and flavored shrimp on chewy tender bread. The fried green tomatoes were fine sides, and often shared. The habanero chicken had no spice to speak of, my daughter thought. She ate it quickly, so it was still pretty good. Her hash brown casserole was deliciously cheesy to my taste. The shrimp and mussels were decent. The mussels were a smaller variety, and to be honest I thought there was better flavor in my bite of the po boy. It was hard to add bulk to the menu as presented (no grilled vegetables, for example), and my wife eventually had us get her buffalo wings after we dined here. Rico’s is far better suited to a lunch crowd.
Rico’s left us with mixed emotions, ones that might have been less mixed had Rico and his mom been there. It had taken an age to get my family here, and I’m not sure if wanting to roll the dice and find this owner is going to be worth it. As the small owner run shops become successful, the owners turn their attention to different things. Rico’s has an excellent reputation, but if it loses those elements that make it unique, it just becomes a sandwich shop on the way to the Mall of Georgia. A couple other spots, such as Gourmandises, can also fill that role.
Verdict: Light menu, well suited to lunch, perhaps losing its ethnic touch. Recommended.
Rico’s World Kitchen
306 West Main Street
Buford, GA 30518