Inside Hae Woon Dae, there are perhaps 20 years of Atlanta “best of” awards all set out on rich wooden walls, thickly paneled. It doesn’t take long to gain the impression that they’re all earned. Just watch the staff. Watch how they talk to tables. Look at the size and thickness of the meat servings. Look at the “charcoal guy”, coming out to top off those folks cooking food at their tables. Yes, they charcoal broil meats here. There isn’t any of that portable butane torch gear being used here.

Hae Woon Dae’s banchan

LA galbi, thicker than most and richly flavored.

I’ve been in the past, long before I was a food blogger and recalled I liked it. I went back on a day I couldn’t think of a better Korean place close to work. The corner of Buford that Hae Woon Dae is on is not my favorite, especially at night, so I went at lunchtime. It was a pretty late lunch and still there were people peppering the eatery.

The LA galbi I had was as thick as my thumb, unusual in this city where 5 millimeter thick meat is more the norm. Thinner meat cooks faster, you see. But sometimes, to develop flavor can take longer. What I had at my table was worth the wait and the couple extra bucks. There was some chew in the meat, but I’ve not ever found galbi with the consistency of pot roast.

Whatever I might say further about this restaurant would hardly change its decades old reputation. Just count me among the many food fans who raise two thumbs up to this venerable Atlanta institution.

Hae Woon Dae
5805 Buford Highway
Doraville, GA 30340
(770) 451-7957

Hae Woon Dae on Urbanspoon

The sesame balls at Shoya Izakaya are something my wife favors. She’s not as high on the ice cream, but my daughter is happy to finish that.

Shoya Izakaya
6035 Peachtree Road
Doraville, GA 30341
(770) 457-5555

Shoya Izakaya on Urbanspoon

I seemed to have surprised my waiter when I ordered mookunji godenguh. He warned, “This is a very traditional dish.” I’m not sure entirely the purpose of the warning, but I told him that I didn’t care. What I didn’t tell him was that a mackerel and kimchi stew sounded just about perfect: small oily fish and plenty of vegetables was entirely all right by me.

The dish looked fantastic:

And in retrospect I should have taken a photo of everything, not just the dish. They pay a lot  of attention to color at Woo Nam Jeong, and the array of food is always visually appealing. The taste? The spicing here seemed really on, the fish was moist and delicious, the kimchi really hit the spot. This was easily  the best dish I had in many days.

Woo Nam Jeong
5953 Buford Highway
Atlanta, GA 30340
(678) 530-0844

Woo Nam Jeong - Stone Bowl House 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

It was an event organized by the 285 Foodies crew, and I caught wind of it through a personal invitation by Mike “Gadgetgeek”  Stock. I was hesitant. He told me to sign up, and he’d make sure it all went well. In retrospect, I’m glad he did, because the event was pretty fantastic and I’m both overly stuffed and grateful for the opportunity this group gave me.

Gu’s Bistro lies about one block north of Buford Highway Farmer’s Market, in a strip mall mostly full of wholesale stores these days. It’s a bit off the highway, so you need to drive into what appears to be a half-abandoned mall. It’s in the same location as the now-defunct Chong Qing Restaurant. When I drove up and saw it, I thought I recognized the location. I have a photo, too blurry to scope out the name of the place.

It was a large crew, 27 at final count. It was a 15 course meal. No, I can’t remember all of it. Some of the photos came after people ate. Not everything is pristine. Some photos are of personal servings, some are the “left behinds”. That said, let’s start working our way through the food.

Lotus root was an appetizer and it was good. Spicing reminded me of a lighter version of  the cumin lamb served later. It has some starches, and so would be considered a carb in an exchange diet. 3/4 cup would equal one exchange.

Husband and wife (meat and lung) was good. There were a series of dumplings and noodle dishes about this time. I didn’t eat those. Doesn’t work with my diet.

Spicy chicken in hot pot was good, richly spiced, and reminded me of the excellent soups in the Chinatown food court. The fish maw soup was very well received, and the stuffed tofu surprised everyone.

Squirrel fish was a pretty dish. The version of dry fried string beans we had here was respectable.

Cumin lamb and the tea leaf duck were excellent, the smoked duck, when you could get a dark burned looking piece, approaching the sublime. Not everyone at the meeting agreed with me and the cumin lamb. I ended up taking some of that home.

After the meal, the chef came out and greeted us. I wish my photo of Julia (Foodgeek) and the chef had come out. Having a great photo of the two people most responsible for this meal would have been a terrific ender to this article. Let’s just end instead by suggesting that if you have the opportunity to share a meal with this crew, it will be memorable.

Gu’s Bistro
5750-A Buford Highway
Doraville, GA 30340
(770) 451-8118

Gu's Bistro on Urbanspoon

Girls, model pretty and impossibly thin, are chatting with their boyfriends. Young gay men are conversing, voices so silvery I look up, expecting to see a girl.  Young serious Asian males with razor thin eyeglasses are sipping tea, looking as if they should be in a revolutionary Parisian coffeehouse of a previous century.  Asian families of fifteen or twenty are celebrating a birthday.  These are typical clientele of Man Chun Hong, a well respected and popular Chinese eatery in Doraville. It is well known for good food, great noodles, and huge portions.

It’s also a difficult eatery to puzzle out. Those huge portions make it much harder to explore the large menu – or menus, as they have an American-Chinese/Korean-Chinese menu and then an authentic Chinese menu here. So recently I came here with my family, in part to show them Man Chun Hong and perhaps, to explore their foods a little deeper.

Mussels from Man Chun Hong (American menu)

Lots of coriander and cumin in this lamb (Chef's Special, Chinese menu)


It’s in the same strip mall as the celebrated Woo Nam Jeong, almost next door to it, and just south of the “L” shaped mall that houses Sushi House Hayakawa. The parking lot is small and narrow, a little tricky to navigate.

Ordering has been a little different each time. My first time it was the American menu without question. Second time, I was handed the American menu and senior staff then countermanded what my waitress did, and gave me the Chinese menu (both menus are in Chinese and English). When my family arrived, we received the Chinese menu without question (Soon after, the wait staff were trying to speak to my wife in Chinese).

Man Chun Hong starts meals with kimchi, as an appetizer. A spinach and tofu soup soon followed. My wife loved the soup.

We also ordered dry fried green beans. Those were a hit.

Entrees this time were a fish dish recommended by our waitress, a beef dish similar to the lamb, and my wife asked for something with “chicken and plenty of vegetables, but spicy”. There was some negotiating there.

“Do you want any specific kinds of vegetables?”

“No, just plenty of them.”

Having just finished the Fortune Cookie Chronicles I was silently wondering whether my wife would end up with broccoli in her dish. She did. But the richness of the spicing, and the variety did please my wife. She ended up with something she liked a lot.

My daughter chose a beef dish, after flirting with the lamb I had ordered. We all had mixed opinions of it. My wife vastly preferred her chicken. My daughter liked other dishes more. I thought there was nothing wrong with her beef, though I thought the coriander and cumin of the lamb dish I had previously had more ‘zing’.

I had a spicy fish soup, mixed with plenty of vegetables. I had picked and unpicked foods several times. We were walking through the possibilities, and this is where we stopped. When tasting, phrases that come to mind: spicy, fishy, oily, good, too much too eat. It made great leftovers.

We had plenty of leftovers.

Verdict: A blogger favorite, Man Chun Hong is a versatile restaurant with a big reputation for excellent noodles. Highly recommended.

Man Chun Hong
5953 Buford Highway
Doraville, GA 30340

Man Chun Hong on Urbanspoon

Notes: Other reviews of Man Chun Hong are here, here, and here.

It’s new, it’s spicy, and heat makes me happy. The  pic below is the cumin lamb from Chong Qing, the one on Buford Highway, not the one in the food court. Spicy, but not as blazing hot as the waiter claimed. Located in a dead part of Buford, a forgotten mall perhaps a block north of Buford Highway Farmer’s Market, on the west side of the street, this is a new eatery in town. There are good reviews on this spot by BuHi and Blissful Glutton. Both reviews I recommend. I’m more the curious “point at  this and hope” stage at the moment.

I liked what I ate but no “WOW” from here as of yet. The other restaurant of the same name tends to give me “WOW” moments. I’m hoping. Fingers are crossed.

Chong Qing Restaurant
5750 Buford Highway
Atlanta, GA 30340
(770) 457-1994

Chong Qing Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Woo Nam Jeong is a smallish restaurant on Buford Highway, tucked away in a narrow strip mall north of Oak Cliff road and south of the larger ‘L’ shaped mall that houses Sushi House Hayakawa. It’s very much a family affair. There are postings, on entry, of a previous restaurant. The owners are thus veterans of the restaurant scene, and I’m not clued into the reason for the movement to the warmer climate of Atlanta. Sean P. has written what I consider to be the definitive set of reviews of this restaurant in a series of articles, both on his blog and on UrbanSpoon. There isn’t much I can add to his exhaustive coverage of their 12 course tasting menu. What I can give you is my personal reaction to a restaurant that is regarded by some as the best Korean restaurant in town.

How can you resist a restaurant that lets Grandma have a break?

Initially, this establishment is quite friendly,  but they have a very small staff. That means you will be greeted, seated, but don’t expect to be doted on as you might in other establishments. The food is good. Though I’m hardly a banchan expert, the sprouts and the kimchi have a fresh taste I don’t often get at other locations. The stock soon dubu jigae has a lot of little things added, friendly touches, such as multiple kinds of onion, bits of meat, tiny clams and either baby squid or baby octopus as well. Their house hot sauce will warm your mouth but is hardly scalding. I wonder at times if it is toned down a little for Atlantan tastes. Banchan are plentiful but are generally served once. This  isn’t a place with the time for many refills.

What I can confirm is that I’ve seen an older man and woman around and active in this eatery, and “Grandma” does come out, greet people, and say a few words. When I mentioned that I was a diabetic, she said “So am I” and told me that I shouldn’t eat white rice, but ask for their brown rice. If  they do serve brown rice, I’ll have to take my wife here sometime. Not many Asian restaurants will serve brown rice, and my wife has grown to make that exclusively at home.

Verdict: Graceful restaurant, good food, a family atmosphere unlike any other. Highly recommended.

Woo Nam Jeong
5953 Buford Highway
Atlanta, GA 30340
(678) 530-0844

Woo Nam Jeong - Stone Bowl House 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

Sushi House Hayakawa is a small place, perhaps 10 tables total wrapped around a sushi bar that could seat perhaps a dozen. The inside is full of white surfaces and natural wood frame, a look I like. The intimacy of the eatery puts others almost at your feet. When a neighboring diner said, “This is my birthday”, it was impossible not to notice. When a couple walked in, and seated their really cute daughter at the corner of the sushi bar, it was pretty clear who the star of the eatery was from that point on.

Most items are served are in the small plate (tapas) style, intending to encourage a diner to buy a lot of them. There are no sign of large vegetable plates, of things that are free of starch and filling. That’s an issue with me these days, because I’ve been ravenous coming off work. There is plenty of sushi, of course, but rice is starchy.  They have plenty of udon (noodle) and donburi (rice bowl) dishes, but again, starchy, not entirely suitable for a diabetic.

That said, the food they do serve is really pretty darned good. They started with a bit of spinach in dashi as a starter. A small salad plate soon followed.

Afterwards a seafood sautée showed, which was to be my main entrée. This was one of the house’s daily specials. The sauce was wonderfully creamy in taste, the mushrooms adding a touch of umami. The bits of seafood included some very tender scallops.

These were followed by eel and octopus sushi and a bit of squid sunomono.I especially liked the sunomono, the chewiness of the squid hit the spot.

Service is intimate, focused and good. They inquired about my diabetes, they asked if I were doing okay. They had both Asian and Caucasian staff, dressed nicely in black tops, Staff were careful, for those who wanted it, to explain everything they served. One of Sushi House Hayakawa’s specialties is an extensive tasting course, their omakase. A couple nearby were indulging, and the staff patiently explained everything being served.

Verdict: Small, intimate, with an emphasis on small plate dining. Highly recommended.

Sushi House Hayakawa
5979 Buford Highway
Doraville, GA 30340-1366
(770) 986-0010

Sushi House Hayakawa on Urbanspoon

PS – Chloe has an excellent review of Sushi House’s omakase. Other reviews, too many to be given by name, are listed here.