Columbian


Costa Verde is a small Latin restaurant in a strip mall on Buford Highway, just a little south of Jimmy Carter on the east hand side of the road. It’s not Mexican and couldn’t be mistaken for Atlanta Tex-Mex if it tried, though, as the lunch menu is all on a placemat and written in Spanish. In place of a Speedy Gonzales, they serve this:

It has a tamal (a tamale), chicharrones (chunks of pork), some sweet potato chips, cooked onions, and some rolls I didn’t sneak into the photograph above. They have a dinner menu with translations, but I was feeling lucky today and didn’t bother. I loved the flavors in the tamal, unlike the generic yellow tamales that you might buy in BHFM, and the onions were fine as well.

They hadn’t finished their lunch sign until I left, but I managed to get a couple photos as I departed. Peruvian cuisine is a spicy Latin cuisine, and I’ve enjoyed it most when I get some fish or shrimp along with a bit of the spicy green sauce often seen in these restaurants.

This is a place with an original menu and original options, and if you’re into modest restaurants with original food, this is a place for you.

Costa Verde
6200 Buford Highway 1C
Norcross, GA 30071
(770) 449-3221 ‎

Costa Verde on Urbanspoon

I stepped in because BuHi tweeted he would be there, and I wanted to be sure he was okay after his ligament issue. Two fingers are wrapped these days, but he can still handle a knife and a fork, and spin a yarn. I had La Casona’s lengua a la criolla. It was tomatoey, savory, and unbelievably soft. Too bad rice and starchy vegetables are too much for me  these days.

La Casona
3820 Stewart Road
Doraville, GA 30340
(770) 458-6657

La Casona Taqueria Y Billares on Urbanspoon

La Casona is a reasonably well known Columbian restaurant, roughly at the corner of the road that passes Brands Mart USA and the new Super H, and Buford Highway itself. It’s set back; to get to this restaurant, you have to make a sharp 135 degree turn to the right once the feeder meets Buford Highway. This is the place where BuHi’s third get together was held. As a consequence, this is going to be as much a report on the get together as it is the food. To note, the food is good. But some of the more popular items, such as La Casona’s empanadas, were sampled by others, and my impressions are second hand.

The hot Chrysler is BuHi's ride.

Who was there? I was the third to arrive, so already at the eatery were the star of the show himself, and an friend, Lena. It was Lena who suggested this spot. “Reader” soon came. I’m calling him “Reader” as he’s a reader of BuHi’s blog, a Tweeter, and has been at every meeting. I can never remember his name. Also present were Jimmy and Julia, oft found on “285 Foodies”. Julia works for a cheese merchant, and spun wonderful stories of dealing with cheeses. Later Mark, Julia’s husband, arrived.

Jimmy and Julia

Opposite where I sat were a friend of Buhi’s, male. Three other people arrived a bit after Buhi’s friend. There was the author of Hopeless Foodies, another blogger, whose name and blog escapes me, and a young lady who was a self described Yelper. I’m sorry if I have forgotten names, it was a dizzying place to be and I have hearing issues with my left ear.

l to r: Buhi, friend, staff, HF, blogger, and Ms Yelper.

In terms of food, first out was a dessert, a mix of custard and sweet. People seemed to like it. I couldn’t sample. They also had chicharrón (pork rinds), which I could. They’re really not like the kind of pork skins you’ll find at the gas station and quick mart, but more akin to pork belly half sliced into bite sized pieces. Pieces of this taste like thick chewy bacon.

Empanadas came as well. I’ve encountered empanadas since Guam. These were clearly hand molded, a bit smaller than the empanadas I’ve seen in Cuban restaurants in this city. They were very popular with this crowd.

My dish was the muchacho relleno, a beef tenderloin stuffed. Thing is, it’s stuffed not by slicing the steak along the thin dimension, they stuff it by cutting an ‘O’ shaped hole in the middle of the meat and dropping extra goodies in there. I wasn’t expecting that, and it confused me when the dish arrived.

It was good, in a beefy stewy sort of way. Sides for the meals here typically included rice, and either maduros (sweet plantains), or tostones (green plantains, flattened). This led to a discussion of Mojito’s maduros, which are cooked a bit more than others. Actually, that’s the way my wife likes them, a little toasty.

While there, discussions ranged wide and it would be impossible to recount them all. There were discussions of Fung Mei opening on Pleasant Hill (and BuHi made it clear that it was *F*ung Mei), of bad experiences at the old one. We discussed where the old Fung Mei chef went (now if I could just remember where), where good Chinese could be found on Buford, on the ins and outs of chickens, and why “free range” is essentially meaningless. I kind of wish I had sat a little closer to Hopeless Foodie, as I think she has quite a nice site, and the hearing in my left ear isn’t the best in the world.

Before ending this article, I want to step back a little and echo something BuHi said during the dinner. This is that  La Casona is going to seem a little different for a typical American, when they enter. But staff here, if given half a chance, will go out of their way to accommodate you. I saw this in their handling of this meal. A lot of attention, a lot of very friendly staff. Yes, the food is a little different from the typical Mexican or Cuban eatery, but thematically a lot the same, and the staff is truly helpful. Of course, with Lena, Jimmy and Julia quite conversant in Spanish, it made things perhaps easier for the whole of us. But in short, la Casona handled this affair quite well, and I not only enjoyed the company, I very much enjoyed the presentation and the food.

Verdict: Go there. Friendly staff, good food. Highly Recommended.

La Casona
3820 Stewart Rd
Doraville, GA 30340

La Casona Taqueria Y Billares on Urbanspoon

My first encounter with any kind of Columbian food in the Atlanta area came as Patacon Pisa’o was built on the ashes of an abandoned Del Taco on Jimmy Carter in Norcross, east of I-85. I stopped one day while heading home and found they sold fried plantains, which my wife loves. After a while we found other dishes, such as the empanadas they served, or arepas, small corn tortillas, thicker than the Mexican kind, on which they heap different meats. It was a welcome change when we wanted something inexpensive and a little exotic.

Patacon Pisa'O on Urbanspoon

A word of warning: though I’ve eaten at Columbian restaurants, I hardly know the cuisine. A lot of what I’ve learned has come at considerable trial and error. For those who want to know more, Maureen McCarty has done an excellent review of La Casona, a restaurant near Buford Highway, and she describes many of their dishes in detail. Eat Buford Highway (an Atlanta blog, highly recommended) has a fine review of Casa Vieja, off Shallowford Road.

First Impression of Cositas Ricas

Cositas Ricas is in a strip mall on the north side of Pleasant Hill Road, about half a block before the Racetrack gas station and a block or so before Lowes, as you’re traveling east from the I-85-Pleasant Hill intersection. It’s small, with just a few tables inside, a ‘L’ shaped counter, a cooler for drinks, a rack on the counter that has empanadas, and a flat screen TV tuned to a Columbian television station. There was a young man in the store, minding it, with his mother working in the back.

I was hardly the only customer in the place. There was a man waiting for takeout when I entered. There was a couple that came in as I sat, and finally, there was a young lady, mostly on the phone, who ordered the bandeja paisa, and then was trying to get a slightly different kind of banana with her food.

I was offered a menu and it took a minute to note that the dishes were listed in Spanish in black, and in English in red.  Since I had no clue what the restaurant offered, I was groping, but I picked up on the arepas and asked for two of them, one a ham arepas and the other chicken (arepas con pollo). I had a smoothie style drink (jugos con leche) using a blackberry base as well. The smoothie was excellent, and of the arepas, the ham one was ok, and the chicken one was pretty good. The chicken arepas was spicier, offered more meat, and had more flavor.

I asked for a take out menu, but was offered a card instead:

Cositas Ricas uses a card to advertise their offerings

Cositas Ricas uses a card to advertise their offerings

As this is a first impression, I’ll offer no verdict on the place. It’s just opening. But for those who are adventurous, drop by on a Saturday or Sunday. That’s when you’ll get the richest menu and the most offerings here.

Cositas Ricas
960 Pleasant Hill Road, Suite E
Lawrenceville GA, 30044
770-806-0120

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