Culinary curiosity leads to Buford Highway

Assorted sashimi

Whether her global travels or her zeal for cuisine that’s anything but pedestrian are the catalyst, Emily Allred has embarked on an unusual culinary journey.

Allred and her husband Adam, both 28, began exploring ethnic restaurants and so far have dined at 100 in two and half years—all along Buford Highway.

Allred, who blogs about her culinary adventures on her spatialdrift.com website, said she and her husband have stayed away from chain restaurants and focused on Mexican, Korean, Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese and other eateries along the well-known strip. Most are mom and pop operations, and often communication can be challenging when owners and staff have limited English skills. Many of the restaurants have an exterior that is less than inviting but offer great food, she said.

“There’s a lot of authentic great food here that just kinda has a lousy exterior,” said Allred.

Allred said their 130-week journey began after she was seeking a creative outlet and one with which she could work on her photography skills. The Allreds rate their experiences on a one-to-five scale, giving details of each encounter. She said they focus on the food with less said about the décor or service, noting that various cultures put different emphasis on service.

“There are always cultural differences,” she said.

Nasi padang

Nasi padang

Allred has traveled to Tokyo with her husband, who works in information technology, on one of his business trips as well as to Hong Kong, Amsterdam and Grenada.

Allred, a graphic designer who lives in Toco Hills, said they usually head to Buford Highway once a week and started the endeavor along the southern end and have steadily moved north. Along the way they’ve had some great meals such as a Korean barbecue at Han II Kwan, ceviche at La Pastorcita, banh hoi at Nam Phuong and Shanghai dumpling at Chef Liu.

Allred said her adventurous spirit has led her to try many new dishes, many of which she isn’t sure of all the ingredients. Asked what was the worst dish she’s eaten during her Buford Highway dining experience, Allred immediately said tripe soup.

“It still smells like what it is,” Allred said of the soup made from an animal’s stomach.
She said she doesn’t research a restaurant’s health inspection report until after she’s dined there and so far hasn’t gotten food poisoning. Although she admits they both have had rumbling stomachs after a few meals.

To mark the 100-restaurant review milestone, Allred has compiled a list on her blog of nine of their favorite spots and seven others they recommend on Buford Highway.

She encourages locals to be more adventurous when dining out. “It is so easy for us to stick to what we are used to,” Allred said.

Asked for advice for those interested in exploring ethnic cuisine but who have reservations, Allred said, “Keep an open mind and try not to have any expectations. That way you can’t be disappointed but pleasantly surprised.”

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