Buford Highway can be a daunting place to dine if you don't habla espanol. This is especially true at many Mexican markets on the ever-expanding stretch of ethnic-food nirvana. Sometimes you just have to man up and deal, because these mercados serve some of the most authentic Mexican fare in Atlanta.
Supermarket Chicago (5263 Buford Highway, Pine Tree Plaza, Doraville. 770-452-1361) stocks a reliable assortment of Mexican groceries, but the real gold mine is the taqueria in back. A limited selection (tacos and tamales) is available during the workweek, but the weekend's expanded menu attracts crowds of large families and cowboy-boot-wearing laborers. Don't be discouraged if your Spanish is rusty or nonexistent. The homestyle specialties are in a steam table, and a little pointing – and patience – will have you stuffed in no time.
Tacos ($1.25-$2) abound, and the tender shreds of cabeza (steamed beef head), crispy carnitas (pork) and asada de res (chopped beef) are standouts and all served on handmade tortillas. Quesadillas ($1.50) and their seemingly never-ending strands of tangy Chihuahua cheese are best fresh out of the fryer. Gorditas ($1.50), a thick tortilla stuffed with various fillings, are available in plain cheese or packed with gelatinous chunks of chicharrones (stewed pork skins). As an added bonus, all the corn-based items are made with masa (corn dough) freshly ground on-site, which you can also take home by the pound. A bowl of menudo ($6), or tripe soup, will not only remedy that nagging hangover with each soothingly spicy sip, but also give you a reason to linger and watch the boisterous shoppers battle it out at the adjoining meat counter.
Any taco aficionado will tell you a taqueria is only as good as its salsas. And Chicago's stellar salsas – especially the piquant salsa verde made creamy with avocado and smoky salsa roja – will instantly transport you to a Mexico City street corner. As if the atmosphere isn't enough.