Atlanta’s Buford Highway

Atlanta's Buford Highway

The Buford Highway Oral History Project explores old Atlanta Highway 13, stretching 30-odd miles from Atlanta to suburban Buford, Georgia. While many major cities are divided into distinct ethnic neighborhoods (Chinatown, Little Italy, etc), the Buford Highway international corridor is jam-packed with strip malls featuring native cuisines of varied immigrant populations, one next door to another. One parking lot may be shared by restaurants offering Chinese potstickers, Salvadorian pupusas, Mexican beef tongue tacos, and Korean barbecue. The businesses are always changing. When an old favorite closes, a new spot opens, showcasing a different country of origin. Together, new and changing immigrant communities are forging a more global South.

Featured here are the stories of first- and second-generation immigrants who brought the foods of their homelands with them and were often inspired by other traditions they encountered in Georgia. Meet Eddie Hernandez, who received a gift of collard greens and ended up putting them on the menu at his taqueria. Read about Frank Ma, the grandfather of Chinese restaurants in Atlanta, who loves to eat at the Waffle House. And listen to Harold Shinn talk about the role produce plays in community-building along Atlanta’s Buford Highway.

Interviews

Buford Highway Farmers Market - Harold Shinn - Atlanta's Buford Highway

Buford Highway Farmers Market

Born to Korean immigrants in the United States, Harold Shinn picked up where his father left off, infusing Atlanta with a vast array of international grocery options. In 1974, Harold’s father opened Atlanta’s first Asian food store. After Harold’s freshman year at Emory, he helped his father lay the groundwork for what is now the Buford Highway Farmers Market.

Crawfish Shack Seafood - Hieu Pham - Atlanta's Buford Highway

Crawfish Shack Seafood

Hieu Pham is a born-and-raised Atlantan, but his parents bring a mix of Cambodian, Chinese, and Vietnamese heritage to the table. Born in 1983, shortly after his parents came to the United States as refugees from Vietnam, Hieu was often the only kid of Asian descent at his Atlanta public school.

Frank Ma, Retired Restaurateur - Atlanta's Buford Highway

Frank Ma, Retired Restaurateur

Originally enchanted with Georgia from an early read of Gone with the Wind, Frank Ma moved from his small village of Kailu in northeast China in 1972 to lay down roots in Atlanta. He quickly realized that his import/export business would not be the ticket to success in the United States. Instead, Frank decided to take the cooking skills that his mother had imparted and adapt them for an American palate (less spice, more sweet).

Panahar Bangladeshi Cuisine - Mirza Chowdhury - Atlanta's Buford Highway

Panahar Bangladeshi Cuisine

Mirza Chowdhury visits personally with each diner in this intimate Bangladeshi dive located in a nondescript strip mall off Atlanta’s Buford Highway. He calls returning guests by name. He blesses new guests with a generous coupon to return for more. For many of the visitors to Panahar Bangladeshi Cuisine, this is their first encounter with Bangladeshi cooking—biriyani, halim, and dhaan-shaag—and Mirza serves as an enthusiastic culinary tour guide.

Taqueria del Sol - Eddie Hernandez - Atlanta's Buford Highway

Taqueria del Sol

Taqueria del Sol’s founding chef, Eddie Hernandez, juxtaposes the food traditions of his native Monterey, Mexico, alongside the culinary traditions of the American South. As a child, Eddie learned to cook from his grandmother in her restaurant kitchens in Mexico.