Emory Point, a self-described “prestigious” mixed-use development, became a dining destination four years ago with the opening of The General Muir, regarded as the best deli in Atlanta by many. Since then, the number of restaurants has grown to nearly a dozen.
Two of the most recent are Papi’s Cuban and Caribbean Grill and Boruboru Sushi Burrito + Bowl. Besides sharing internet-friendly long names, both are also inexpensive and well worth visiting.
Papi’s (1540 Avenue Place, Decatur, 404-320-0165, www.papisgrill.com) will not be unfamiliar to Midtowners who visited the original location on Ponce de Leon, which opened a dozen or so years ago. Since then, it grew into a chain of seven restaurants, mainly in the suburbs. By the way, Papi’s name is not code for younger gay men’s wearisome attraction to men within sight of the grave.
I have to admit, I was never very impressed with the original Papi’s. I was married to a Cuban woman in my early 20s and gorged on incredible home-cooked meals. Later, I became addicted to the iconic Las Palmeras on Fifth Street, which closed a few years ago. There’s lots of good Cuban food in Atlanta, and I ranked Papi’s in the middle at best.
That may have changed with my visit to the new location with three friends. We didn’t get a broad sampling of the menu, but the three items we ordered all rated well. I actually ordered a Puerto Rican dish rather than a Cuban one – mofongo. It became one of my favorite piggy foods at Pura Vida (R.I.P.). It’s fried green plantains mashed with pork, garlic and some peppers, usually served in a ball over a slurpable pork broth. It’s available as an app or, as I ordered, an entrée topped with shrimp sautéed in a tomato-based sauce. There were a few problems. It could have used a bit more sauce in the absence of the pork broth and I would love to encounter crispy bits of pork fat. But I’ll order it again, for sure.
We also ordered masitas de Puerco, which was my favorite dish at Las Palmeras. Masitas are chunks of pork marinated in classic, garlicky mojo. They are pan-fried until they become almost crispy and served with black beans and rice. Finally, we ordered a traditional Cuban sandwich, adequate but not really anything very special. If you want the best there is, go to El Super Pan at Ponce City Market.
Boruboru (1568 Avenue Place, Atlanta, 404-458-5518, www.boruboru.com) is destined to become my new object of gluttony, even though I’ve only had one lunch there with greedy friends. It is the latest restaurant to offer the hyper-trendy and healthful poke (POH-keh) – a Hawaiian-inspired bowl of raw fish combined with vegetables served over rice. That’s kind of like a disassembled sushi roll. Now, here’s the special thing about Boruboru: the chef/owner is Michael Rome Noe, who worked at Tomo, one of the city’s best sushi bars. That means the fish is sparkling and the bowls are gorgeously assembled.
You can order house-designed bowls or assemble your own. I actually skipped the sushi and ordered the rice bowl with a perfectly sautéed soft-shell crab in a bed of shredded cabbage, pickled jalapeños, asparagus and the mysteriously flavorful house dressing. My friend Brad ordered a salmon bowl with avocado, roasted mushrooms, crispy fried onions and asparagus. His bowl was empty – I kid you not – before Brian and I had four bites. Brian designed his own sushi rice bowl with spicy tuna, avocado, mushrooms, crispy onions and cucumber.
You can order your bowls without rice or, most weirdly, as a burrito – known as a sushirrito. No, the wrapper isn’t a tortilla; it’s a sheet of nori, the seaweed wrap. Basically, it’s a take on a classic cone-shaped hand roll.
You have to try both. Maybe you could arrange a progressive dinner – perhaps a more delicately flavored sushirrito at Boruboru followed by a weightier burrito at Papi’s. Plantains at Papi’s. Go.