Havana Sandwich Shop, Brookhaven GA

In 1976, Buford Highway looked very, very different. While today we celebrate it as the Atlanta area’s original home for cooking and cuisines from around the world, in ’76, it was just another busy suburban four-lane with all the same restaurants and shops as every other busy suburban four-lane. The Baldinos was then a Pizza Inn, the Monterrey was then a Shrimp Boats, the Farmers Market was then a Lionel Play World, and that patch of demolished flat ground at the intersection with Oakcliff was then a Hardee’s. Also, that porn theater that everybody giggles about was a mainstream movie house, showing Freaky Friday. Seriously. Continue reading “Havana Sandwich Shop, Brookhaven GA”


Derek’s, Marietta GA

Derek’s is the living definition of a rainy day restaurant. I’ve been saving it for a rainy day for more than ten years, figuring that I’d stop by eventually. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch from a wide, shallow building on Canton Road with very little parking, and I sometimes wondered what their food was like. Continue reading “Derek’s, Marietta GA”

Presto Latin Cantina, Marietta GA (CLOSED)

The real world had been doing that stupid thing that the real world sometimes does. It had been ages since I saw our old friend David; I suggested that we have lunch, and he suggested we meet up at a place near the Big Chicken called Presto. It’s a general “Latin” restaurant that is principally Columbian, but they offer recipes from Mexico and Cuba and everyplace else south of Florida. On weekends, they not only have live music, but a number of traditional Columbian soups and stews. Continue reading “Presto Latin Cantina, Marietta GA (CLOSED)”

Havana Restaurant, Atlanta GA (CLOSED)

Once upon a time, Atlanta was home to a pair of remarkably good sandwich shops where people could go for authentic Cuban food: Havana and Kool Korner. Then, across two terrible years, Kool Korner’s owner retired (only to move to Birmingham, get restless and reopen his beloved store) and Havana burned to the ground. Fortunately, around the time that Silvesonso Ramirez went back into business in Alabama, Debbie Benedit and her son Eddie Benedit Jr. reopened Havana using most of the same recipes that Eddie’s grandfather Guido had used when he first opened Havana on Buford Highway in 1976. Then there was, briefly, some bad blood boiling as Eddie’s uncle started his own sandwich shop with a very similar name. That’s all in the past now, but doing further reading of older stories about this restaurant – see the list below – will probably find traces of the family disagreements. Continue reading “Havana Restaurant, Atlanta GA (CLOSED)”

Chicago Delights and The Cuban Diner, Marietta GA

(Sticky Note June 2015: The first paragraph of this story is no longer accurate. Chicago Delights has since moved about a third of a mile away. Its former home, and the old Long John Silver’s described here, were both demolished earlier this month to make way for the Northwest Corridor / Braves Turnpike.)

The good people at Not Fooling Anybody might get a kick out of a little intersection in Marietta between the Big Chicken and I-75, where, once upon a time, three different national fast food chains once stood. These days, all three buildings house local ventures. Continue reading “Chicago Delights and The Cuban Diner, Marietta GA”

Havana Comida Latina, Asheville NC (CLOSED)

At the end of July, Marie and I made our first overnight trip without the baby. We made our annual trek to Asheville for Bele Chere, a festival of music, artwork, street performers and overindulgence. This was our third trip and we’re already looking forward to next year’s Bele Chere, in part because our visit didn’t allow us time to see the acts that we most would have enjoyed this time around. Last year, the act that I most wanted to see – Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – was scheduled for Saturday night and we only booked a room for Friday. This year, it was the other way around and we missed The Whigs on Friday night, darn it. Continue reading “Havana Comida Latina, Asheville NC (CLOSED)”

Papi’s Cuban and Caribbean Grill, Kennesaw GA

A few Fridays back, Marie and I found ourselves with just the baby. Our daughter had found a jawdropping sale on clothes at Plato’s Closet and I had made her an offer that she couldn’t refuse. If I forwarded her the next month’s clothing allowance so she could fill a bag and save something ridiculous like – no joke – 75%, then she could fend for herself for supper and Marie and I could enjoy some grownup time. The baby just sleeps at restaurants – long may that continue – so we could mostly get a break from kids.

Marie was in the mood for a sandwich, so I suggested that we give Papi’s a try. I had only been to this location once, right when it opened, and figured it was due a second glance. I did not know it at the time, but this is actually a small group of four restaurants, with one in midtown and three in the suburbs. They have daily specials and interesting entrees, but where they are said to excel the most is in their sandwiches.

We got to Papi’s just as the dinner rush was about to get heavy, and this apparently coincides with their closing a few tables to make space for a band in the second dining room. We did not have to wait, but quite a few other people arriving after us did. This is a very popular place on Friday evenings!

My readers who enjoy unusual sodas should certainly swing by one of Papi’s locations and check out the drinks on offer. They had quite a few cans of things that you very rarely see, including my beloved Ironbeer. A Cuban soft drink goes extremely well with a good Cuban sandwich.

In my mind, a Cuban sandwich is defined by its very good, slightly sweet bread, meats, lots of mayo and pickles. Marie had the medianoche sandwich with smoked pork and ham, and I had jerk chicken, and we both really enjoyed them. We were a little let down by the fries, which tasted rather too much like institutional mass-produced fries, and fried in the same grease used for the fish. Next time, we’ll have a different side. There certainly will be a next time. While perhaps not quite as tasty as the relocated-to-Birmingham Kool Korner, the sandwiches are still very good, and the atmosphere is fun and upbeat. I’d like to go again one day and enjoy the live music, and an Ironbeer.

Other blog posts about Papi’s:

Vainas Varias (July 12 2009)
Atlanta Restaurant Blog (Sep. 2 2009)
Food Near Snellville (June 22 2010)