Between attending the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, taking a spontaneous trip to Vietnam, and trying a bunch of new restaurants, 2015 was an epic food year for me (hence I had to hire a personal trainer in December). I really stuffed my face good, so it’s hard to pick just a few of the best dishes I ate, but nonetheless, here is what I believe to be my top 10 list for 2015 (in no particular order).
Chef Special Spicy Tofu – Mamak – Atlanta, Georgia
I started the year out with a bang, trying Mamak, a new Malaysian restaurant on Buford Highway, and becoming instantly obsessed with it. I was so excited, in fact, that I just had to do a video. There was lots to love about Mamak, but the Chef Special Spicy Tofu had me at “hello.” (Check out my post/video for more juicy details.)
Tonkotsu Ramen – Umaido – Suwanee, Georgia
I took a chance and selected this place (pretty close to my house) for my 2015 birthday dinner with some friends and family. I was a little nervous because the friends were coming from way ITP and aren’t typically that thrilled with the OTP experience. Luckily the swoon-worthy bowls of ramen at Umaido made them totally forget that they were approximately 42,000 miles from Atlanta (in their minds). A good time was had by all, and I have returned to Umaido several more times for that Tonkotsu (despite their lackluster service). Come to think of it, I should probably go there for lunch this week…
Zhong Style Dumplings – Gu’s Bistro – Atlanta, Georgia
Luckily I had a chance to dine at Gu’s Bistro on Buford Highway just before it shut down. (Though not in time to do a blog post on it while it was still in existence. It would have been good too, as I totally ignored my dining companions to take a ton of sweet video footage…) Anyway, Gu’s was filled with goodness, but the standout dish was definitely the Zhong Style Dumplings with their addictively sweet sauce. The owners are apparently looking to reopen Gu’s Bistro in another location, but in the meantime, a limited selection of dishes (including the Zhong Style Dumplings!) can be had at their smaller spin-off location – called Gu’s Dumplings – in the Krog Street Market in Atlanta.
Tacos de Carnitas – The El Felix – Alpharetta, Georgia
Having been obsessed with his first Atlanta restaurant, JCT Kitchen, for years, I was beyond thrilled to learn that Chef Ford Fry was opening a Mexican restaurant near my company’s office in the new Avalon complex in Alpharetta. Luckily, The El Felix did not disappoint – especially its delicious pork tacos (which, admittedly, I have gotten every time I have been because they are so good). If you have not checked out one of Ford Fry’s 37,000 (give or take) restaurants in Atlanta, you should definitely do so. The ones I have tried – JCT Kitchen, The El Felix and The Optimist – have all been superb. Additionally, if you haven’t been over to Avalon in Alpharetta yet, I recommend a trip out there because it is so cool – and will likely even impress the ITP diehards. I plan to do a full post on the development once I try a few more of its restaurants (of which there are many). In the meantime, check out all it has to offer here.
Country Ham Balls – Grits & Groceries – Belton, South Carolina
In addition to trying out some awesome Atlanta dishes this year, I also had the joy of sampling some other Southern cuisine at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. We all know that Southerners can throw down, but the most memorable thing I ate during that gluttonously glorious weekend were the fried balls filled with ham and blue cheese and served with pepper jelly from South Carolina’s Grits & Groceries. Based on what I experienced at the festival (there was also moonshine involved), I definitely need to take a culinary road trip through South Carolina stat!
Fried Shrimp – Kelly’s Roast Beef – Revere, Massachusetts
This dish is an oldie but goodie for me. Having lived in Boston for seven years before moving to Atlanta, I can honestly say that Massachusetts has some of the best food in the world. Unlike most New Englanders, I have never been much of a seafood fanatic, but when I was coerced into trying these shrimps one day, it was love at first bite. I just had to take my husband there to try them when we went up to Boston this past summer for a wedding. To me, what makes these shrimp so special (besides their colossal size and sweetness) is that they are pounded flat to maximize the crispiness, so you get no weird, chewy shrimp texture at all. There are several Kelly’s locations, but I recommend going to the original walk-up counter on Revere Beach for the authentic experience. Just be sure to guard your shrimp from the hungry seagulls, and definitely ask for extra tartar sauce!
Liquid Bliss – Terrapin Beer Co. – Athens, Georgia
Alongside seafood, another thing that has grown on me over the years is beer. My husband on the other hand is a beer connoisseur, so I knew we had to stop into the Terrapin Beer Co. when we spent the day in Athens, GA for our anniversary. Due to their delightful flavors, our brewery tour ended up being the highlight of the day for both of us. I for one could not get enough of the Liquid Bliss, containing both chocolate and peanut butter. Did you hear me??? I said CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER. IN A BEER. Yes please times a million.
Bun Cha – Hanoi, Vietnam
I took a solo trip to Vietnam this year, and it was easily one of the top five experiences of my life. You can read more about the trip here, including all of the awesome things I ate, but suffice it to say that the bun cha I had during the “Food on Foot” street food tour in Hanoi was life-changing. Grilled pork, noodles, broth and herbs combined in a way I had never tasted before and fear I never will again. Despite the million and one places in the world I still want to visit, I have a feeling I will be drawn back to Vietnam one day to experience more of its unmatched charm and hidden treasures.
Vietnamese Iced Coffee – Vietnam & Quoc Huong, Atlanta, Georgia
Speaking of Vietnam, their version of iced coffee takes me to heaven and back every time. Super strong and made with sweetened condensed milk, it gives you the jolt of a strong brew without all the bitterness. It is so sweet, creamy and refreshing that I could never settle for just one when I was exploring the streets of Vietnam in 90 degree weather. (Unfortunately the high levels of caffeine and sugar contributed to my jet lag by keeping me up a few nights, but it was definitely worth it for that sugary goodness.) I also found Vietnamese iced coffee at Quoc Huong on Atlanta’s Buford Highway (which has delicious banh mi sandwiches too). Good thing, or my cravings might have had me moving to Vietnam immediately!
Jerk Chicken Patties – Jamaican Flavors – Queens, New York
Okay so you got me – I’m obsessed with Asian food! But just when you think you have me figured out, I’m flipping the script and ending this round-up with Caribbean food (one of my other favorites). I am lucky enough to have a husband who is from Queens, NY and takes me to all the good local spots when we’re in town. Usually my response is, “that was really good, but in Boston…” That is until the day he took me to a tiny walk-up counter on Jamaica Avenue in Queens slinging beef patties. That shut me right up.
I had tried beef patties in the past and had never been that impressed – something about the dough turned me off. But the dough used at Jamaican Flavors is different than any other patty dough I have tried – it’s buttery, it’s light and it’s flaky – oh so flaky!!! I could eat a million of these suckers by myself. I first tried them two years ago, but when we were back in New York for Thanksgiving this year, I couldn’t leave without returning to Jamaican Flavors – and it was one of the highlights of my year! All of their patty varieties are good (due to that magical dough), but the jerk chicken is my favorite. Pair it with a pineapple soda, and tell them Angela sent you! (Just kidding, don’t. They have no idea who I am or that I live and breathe for them…)Tags: Asian food, Atlanta, Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, Atlanta Restaurants, Buford Highway, Travel, Vietnam, Vietnamese food