The dish is called, modestly, mejillones, Spanish for “mussels”. But it isn’t just mussels. They toss in Spanish sausage, and bathe it in a tomato beer creole sauce. The sauce is chunky and a little spicy. It is delivered in a cast iron skillet, piping hot. Alongside the dish are strips of bread, to take this goodness and scoop. The result is one of the best servings of mussels – well, food of any kind – that I’ve had in the city.

Mejillones. Really excellent.

Mejillones. Really excellent.

Armando’s Caribe is a restaurant that serves largely two cuisines, Mexican and Cuban. There are hints of other cuisines here and there, a jerk chicken wing, but it’s mostly Mexican and Cuban, aiming for a tropical atmosphere. The staff are clearly Latin, and the restaurant collectively gives you the feeling that it’s the real deal.


I also had the ropa vieja that day, a Cuban dish. Good, but not the mind blowing delight of their mussels. In any event, a restaurant that can put out a great dish and otherwise some good ones is worth keeping on the radar (for example, the old Checkered Parrot’s nachos). And with the mejillones at Armando’s, it absolutely qualifies.

Armando’s Caribe
3170 Peachtree Industrial
Duluth, GA 30097
(770) 232-9848

Armando's Caribe on Urbanspoon

It’s full of shrimp and chicken, with a spicy tomato sauce as a base.

I couldn’t eat the starches provided with it, but I didn’t care.

Great little lunch entree.

Mambo’s Cafe
5950 North Point Parkway
Alpharetta, GA 30022

Mambo's Cafe on Urbanspoon

I found Papi’s on a day when I couldn’t choose a place to eat. I ended up on Duluth Highway, heading south towards Lawrenceville. At roughly the intersection of 316 and Duluth Highway, I caught Papi’s out of the corner of my eye and turned. At the time I thought Papi’s was a “one of”. Only later did I find out it’s the fourth edition of a small Atlanta chain, and very well respected. At the time, though, I was just hungry and curious. I’d had conversations with men wanting to set up Cuban restaurants in the Lawrenceville area. Was this one of those, a new start up?

Inside, there were chairs and booths mostly circling around a bar in the middle. There was outside seating, but the day was too warm to really want to sit outside. The crowd ranged from ordinary families to beautiful couples dressed to the max. Staff was around; my waitress was good and dropped by my table often. Seating was soft and woven, as opposed to wooden, and the green plastic palm tree leaf place mats on the tables kind of cute.

Though there is Caribbean in the name, there is precious little Caribbean food here. It’s essentially a Cuban eatery, with the option of getting jerk wings and a jerk chicken sandwich. No peas and rice, no patés, none of the accoutrements of a serious Caribbean place. It does have a nice selection of Cuban foods. While looking over the menu, I ordered a salad and also a Cuban sandwich.

The salad was decent, not overwhelming. The mango vinaigrette wasn’t bad, but I’d much have preferred a balsamic. I don’t need stray sugar in my foods, and the mango product was a little sweet. The Cuban, as well, was good, and the shredded pork, ham slices, and melted cheese quite welcome. But the bread looked like a regular po’ boy loaf, and not the flatter grilled breads I’m accustomed to seeing with a Cuban sandwich. The taste was just a little different as well. As I had Cubans regularly when I lived in Orlando FL, it left me wondering what accommodations had been made in the sandwich so far “north”.

I’ll note that other reviewers (examples here and here) of other locations have much the same reaction, that the food is good and worth some trouble, but not really exceptional. As there is simply nothing like it in this part of Lawrenceville, I’m sure Papi’s will do well.

Papi’s Cuban and Caribbean
911 Duluth Highway
Lawrenceville, GA 30043
(770) 237-8889

Papi's Cuban and Caribbean Grill (Lawrenceville) on Urbanspoon

Other locations include:

216 Ponce De Leon Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30308
(404) 607-1525
Papi's Cuban & Caribbean Grill (Midtown) on Urbanspoon

745 Chastain Rd NW
Kennesaw, GA 30144
(678) 797-0502

Papi's Cuban & Caribbean Grill (Kennesaw) on Urbanspoon

1375 Rock Quarry Rd
Stockbridge, GA 30281
(770) 506-9664

Papi's Cuban & Caribbean Grill on Urbanspoon

Mambo’s Cafe is a popular Cuban-Peruvian eatery, well liked by its patrons. I came here for lunch recently, liked it, and came back with my family the next day. Lunchtime is crowded. It took 5 minutes until the rush grew slow enough that staff even made eye contact with me, much less offer a word or a table. Once two tables cleared, a waitress then smiled, pointed, and I was seated.

This eatery is located on Haynes Bridge Road, just before the intersection with Old Minton Road. It’s on the left as you’re heading north, in a shopping center whose supermarket has abandoned the complex. There is no sign visible from the street and the eatery itself is almost impossible to see until you’re in the parking lot. I guessed, based on the map Urban Spoon provided and a feeling I was at the right intersection.

Once inside, there aren’t very many seats, over a dozen but not by much. There is a small bar in the back and a screen covers the opening into the kitchen. Once seated, staff will supply a basket of a very good garlic bread, and what Chow Down Atlanta has called an aji sauce. First time I was served this, I made enough room in my diet for a chunk of the bread and some sauce. Very much worth it.

For lunch I had the pan con bistec. It’s a sandwich with grilled palomilla steak, onions, greens, potato sticks and mayonnaise. I scraped off the sticks – there were plenty of those – and ate about half the bread. Serving sizes in this restaurant are large, and for their size, lunch sandwiches are pretty cheap. Rather than fries, Mambo’s let me substitute salad greens. That was certainly welcome.

picante de camarones

Yellow rice, and plantains.

At dinner I knew my family was going to go for the paella, and I wanted one of the Peruvian dishes that Mambo’s offered. I ended up choosing the picante de camarones, and since the paella takes at least 30 minutes, we started with ceviche mixto.

ceviche mixto

The ceviche was quite good, a mix of seafoods and fish in a good citrus base. I spent my time digging out bits of red onion and lettuce and soaking them in the sauce. My daughter rummaged through the dish looking for bits of octopus; she especially liked the short bits of tentacle. The picante de camarones was also good. The shrimp are cooked in a yellow pepper sauce. There may have been a hint of sweet in the sauce, but not enough to make a difference.

paella. The pan is about 13-14" across, and pretty deep.

The paella was the star of the meal, coming out in a large metal pan, the serving size so large that both my wife and my daughter were eating from it and they left about half of it to be doggie bagged. It’s a huge serving, given the price. That’s typical of Mambo’s, to provide a lot of value for the dollar.

The sides were good. My wife spent a good deal of time looking for the toastier plantains and eating them. She doggie bagged the ones less cooked. Service, once you catch staff’s eye, is pleasant, thoughtful, and good. My wife described our waitress as “very sweet”.

Verdict: Good to excellent food, exceptional value. Very Highly Recommended.

Mambo’s Cafe
11770 Haynes Bridge Road, Suite 601
Alpharetta GA, 30009

Mambo's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Havana South Restaurant and Bar is just off I-985 and exit 4, to the west maybe one block, just south of Buford Drive. I’d call it a little place but it isn’t small, really. My recollection is a bar, and maybe 10-15 tables and booths. However, this not-so-large restaurant does a lot of things right, including its outsized effect on your taste buds.

Entrance to Havana South.

Entrance to Havana South.

We dropped by for lunch. After a few minutes with the menu, I chose the black bean soup and a Cuban sandwich, and my daughter chose their masitas puerco. Maduros (sweet plantains, fried) came with the Cuban.

I have to say, the more I have black beans, the more I like them. They are earthier in flavor than kidney beans or pinto beans, and Havana South’s bean soup did not disappoint:

Black bean soup.

Black bean soup.

My daughter’s dish contained large chunks of marinated pork, a side of black beans, and yellow rice.

Masitas Puerco

Masitas Puerco

The serving size I’d judge as large. The pork was really good, crispy and chewy on the outside, soft, hinting of the marinade inside. Everything on her plate was the opposite of plain. The beans had flavors that just baking won’t give, hints of onions and other influences I couldn’t entirely tease out, but mixing well with the dark flesh of the beans. I thought her beans were even better than my bean soup. The yellow rice came across the same way, a full body of flavors, more than just something simmered in a pot.

The Cuban I liked as well.

Cuban sandwich and maduros, fried sweet plantains.

Cuban sandwich and maduros, fried sweet plantains.

The sandwich was made with good quality bread, and had a nice balance between the pork and ham. The pickles and cheese only added to the flavor mix and the serving size was large. The maduros were good and sweet, though I know my wife, who likes most things well done, would prefer her maduros a little crunchier.  That said, I’m pretty sure I could take her here.

In short, the meal was great. The only thing I’d do differently if I came back again is get the side of black beans. In my opinion, they’re better than the soup.

Service was very good throughout the meal.

Verdict: Quality food with flavors that surprise on almost every bite. Staples done exceptionally well. Very highly recommended.

Havana South Restaurant and Bar
4060 Buford Drive
Buford GA, 30518
(678) 546-2252

Havana South Cuban Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Chow Down Atlanta has an excellent review of Havana South. You might think she’s praising Havana South too much, but in my judgment, she’s actually on the mark.

This is going to be a short photographic survey of places to eat in Norcross, and not an exhaustive survey either.  The focus is Mojito’s, and we’ll show some images of some other interesting places to eat in Norcross along Jones Street.

The first image is Paizano’s. It’s a pretty restaurant, both inside and outside, and I’ve eaten there perhaps three to four times. My impression of their dishes goes from pretty good to really good.  Their antipasto salad is excellent. Service ranges from decent to good.


Paizanos on Urbanspoon

The next image is that of Zapata, which we have reviewed before.


The third is the Iron Horse Tavern. In terms of their food, they are essentially the same as the Royal Oak Pub, which I have reviewed in the past. I recall having Harp and the lamb tikka (very good) at Iron Horse.  Their service is good, and they may have a bit more space than Royal Oak.


Iron Horse Tavern on Urbanspoon

The Norcross Station Cafe is a landmark in the area, being a converted railroad stop.


Mojito’s is really what we were aiming for. I think this restaurant is beautiful myself.



We ordered their beef empanadas. The habanero sauce that comes with this dish is really really good.


These are Mojito’s sweet plantains. They are a little crisper than most, and my wife really likes that crunch.


Cuban sandwich with black beans. The beans are richly flavored.


Media Noche with yellow rice. Both the Cuban and Media Noche are full flavored sandwiches and highly recommended.


A grilled Chicken sandwich with a side of congri. Not as good as the Cuban, but grilled flavor is clear in the sandwich.


Yes, a bit heavy for lunch, but my wife was craving beef empanadas and this was as close a place as we knew to get them. If you know of places closer to Snellville, tell us about them.

Notes: You can get to downtown Norcross quickly if you use the access road that parallels I-85 on the west, Brook Hollow Parkway. Take Ronald Reagan to Pleasant Hill, Pleasant Hill to I-85 S. Exit I-85 S at Indian Trail and at the intersection, head straight, do not turn left or right. Stay on the Parkway until you reach Mitchell Road. Turn right on Mitchell and take the road until you can go no further. At this point you are in Norcross facing the fire station and are three turns from Peachtree Street (left, right, left).

Mojito’s Cuban-American Bistro is a pretty little restaurant in downtown Norcross on Peachtree, run by the Fernandez-Cortez family. I commute through Norcross in the evenings, and it had caught my eye while commuting, the name etched gracefully in script in their windows. Once inside, it’s far longer than it is wide, with wood paneling being the dominant interior element, and ceiling fans pointing the way to the back of the room.

Once inside, I was quickly seated, though the staff expressed concern about a party that was being held nearby, the noise that they might make. I assured them it wasn’t a concern and then got lost in their menu.

The most attractive dish to me was their shrimp creole, but I have Louisiana roots and I didn’t want my expectations of what a Louisiana shrimp creole is to diminish any feelings about the Cuban recipe. So I ordered a ropa viejo instead. This is a beef brisket simmered with peppers and onions in a tomato sauce. In the meantime I ordered beef empanadas as an appetizer.

The menu warns customers that the food may be a little slower than they might get from a chain, and the staff were obviously concerned about their party. And it did take a bit longer than a stock chain might, but it was rather pleasing watching staff of all ages, from the very young to grandfatherly men serving food to customers.

About the time the empanadas arrived, the owner appeared and introduced himself, and warned me that the sauce with the empanadas was habanero based and might be a little hot. I’m glad for the warning because it is hot, but not “to die a small death” hot. The empanadas were very good, by the way, nice crusty pastry stuffed with a mix of juicy meats and root vegetable. And the empanadas and the habanero sauce was enough to fulfill any need I had for complex flavor and heat.

I didn’t let them take that habanero sauce after the empanadas were gone, it was too good to leave behind.

The rojo vieja arrived, a decent sized serving and it was good. The meat was very tender, the rich tomato flavor came through clearly. It was not at all spicy, but I hated to waste that good habanero sauce, so I spiced up mine. There was white rice, black beans, and plantains with the dish, and the black beans and rice were good, but the plantains were excellent. They were a little crunchy outside, and creamy inside.

I picked up two desserts to go, fried plantains for my wife and a mango pie for my daughter and myself. My wife loved the plantains and she’s by far the pickiest eater in the family. The mango pie was also quite good.

The prices in Mojitos are reasonable, about 8 to 9 dollars for sandwiches, and entrees run from 10 dollars to 16 dollars. A typical entree costs 12 to 13 dollars.

Service is generally good. They are a family owned restaurant, so they don’t have an army of staff. They were focused on the big party when I arrived, but that soon ended and people, food and questions flowed my way. They ask the right questions, they do genuinely try to see that you’re comfortable, they are friendly and chatty and the owner comes out and speaks with you.

Verdict: Recommended, especially if you like tropical food. After trying the plantains, my wife told me I have to take her here soon, sometime.

Mojitos Cuban-American Bistro
35 South Peachtree Street,
Norcross GA, 30071.

Mojito's Cuban-American Bistro on Urbanspoon


You can get from Snellville to downtown Norcross quickly if you use the access road that parallels I-85 on the west, Brook Hollow Parkway. Take Ronald Reagan to Pleasant Hill, Pleasant Hill to I-85 S. Exit I-85 S at Indian Trail and at the intersection, head straight, do not turn left or right. Stay on the Parkway until you reach Mitchell Road. Turn right on Mitchell and take the road until you can go no further. At this point you are in Norcross and three turns from Peachtree Street (left, right, left).