Roswell's Jewel Eateries
In the know with these out-of-the-spotlight gems.
Roswell has evolved into one of the premier cities in Georgia for dining. In great measure this is due to an abundance of hidden gems and no-frills dining options. As a treasure hunter for such jewels, I’d assert defining “hidden” is every bit as subjective as declaring who rises to the level of “gem.” Before listing some of Roswell’s best, here are some ground rules for “no frills, hidden gems”:
1. Not on Canton Street: Oh, we adore the food and beverages on Canton Street. But for the aims of this feature, it would be a stretch to contend anything in the core of Roswell’s synergistic business district is “hidden.”
2. Counter service, high percentage of takeout: It’s self-explanatory. These jewels may not necessarily be ideal options to sweep a non-foodie date off his/her feet. Some may have plastic silverware, and many do a high percentage of takeout. A good percentage don’t even have a liquor license. Here are some must-tries, lower profile eateries away from the foot traffic.
Here are some must-tries, lower profile eateries away from the foot traffic.
Mitch’s Meats & Fish: This boutique butcher and fish monger sells to-go soups that are better than any restaurant in both quality and quantity. Be forewarned, there are still strict guidelines from the covid era and soups vary daily. Which ones should you get? Your loyal correspondent has consumed at least 70 different kinds and there is not one I wouldn’t eat again. In fact, in most examples I have devoured again and again.
Mitch is all-but-certain to have some version of a seafood soup or chowder. Grab a large one. It’s an easy decision. Other favorites include the three-sausage pecorino soup, which loosely resembles a sausage chili. Yes, Mitch also has some of the best no-beans traditional chili too.
Vegetarians don’t let the name alarm you. The soup thaumaturge also whomps up a silky-smooth cauliflower soup. There is no milk, so it is classified how Mitch manages a creamy texture. Again, if you are headed for a specific soup, call and check the daily offerings. Oh, and the Caesar salad dressing is the best in the world as the young folks like to say…hands down.
Jerusalem Bakery & Grill: Their third location on Alpharetta Highway in Roswell is the biggest and best one yet. Everything is superb here, but first trip, get the chicken shawarma to highlight the greatness that is their pita bread. There are countless options for carnivores and vegetarians alike. I highly doubt you have ever had better baklava. What to get on your second trip? It doesn’t matter. You will want to work your way around the menu. You’ll make an 11th trip, I guarantee you.
Jerusalem Bakery is getting a brisk business in the middle of the afternoon for good reason.
Karachi Broast & Grill: Broasted chicken is similar to fried, but cooked in a pressure frier. The “exotic seasonings” make it an elite (but distinctive from Nashville) hot chicken. The tandoori chicken alfredo is one of the preeminent fusion dishes you will ever swallow. They also boast (but not always broast) a short, but impressive Pakistani menu.
Taco Takeout: An inspiring debut restaurant from a young 30-something couple. Speaking of fusion, check out the birria ramen. Of course, the tacos are exceptional from authentic ones such as chorizo, pastor, barbacoa, etc. on a corn tortilla a to a shrimp one served San Diego style on a flour flatbread.
Cylantros Venezuelan Cuisine: Before they opened a Roswell location, several informants of their original in Woodstock demanded I travel across town to savor. Now I don’t have to. Their East Roswell location is a short scamper away. The reina pepiada is beloved by my underground posse who venerate Cylantros. Yours truly concurs. My wife advises not to sleep on the Mexican side of the menu as she is a big admirer of their fajitas.
Athens Greek Restaurant: Owned by the same family for decades, the lines are deservedly long, but fast-moving. The gyro wrap is the best this side of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and the chicken version is every bit as noble.
Keenan’s Pit BBQ: Owned by long-time Roswell resident Brian Keenan, this popup, well pops up most often inside of Keenan’s hometown. The veteran pitmaster features the best brisket in the state, but all the meats are up there with the best of the best brick and mortar and popups. Proper Hop Taphouse and Variant Brewing are where I’ve relished his inventory most frequently. Also, a wine expert, Brian has done pairing appearances at Deep Roots Wine Market. In the spring and summer months, you will see long lines at his setup at Alive in Roswell.
Rhea’s Burgers: Well, okay, Rhea’s does have table service, but nobody would debate their no-frills credentials. All of Roswell mourned the passing of owner Mahfuz “Jimmy” Hussain, the personable, affable character and local celebrity, universally loved in the community. His family decided to permanently discontinue the original location, where Jimmy was almost always on duty. But two more remain in Roswell.
Served on Texas toast, for nearly four decades the burgers have been considered some of the best cheap eats for many miles. Nobody will ever duplicate his gregarious nature, but the legacy of the local icon continues.
Doodle Pies: I had my doubts that a place could produce a high-quality made-to-order pie within minutes. Not only does their special ovens do just that, but it creates a crispness on the high-quality crust that raises these sweet and savory pies to the next level. As impressed as I was with both lunch/dinner and dessert pies, a devotee told me I blew and did not sample the passion fruit, the supreme option on the menu. I will happily remedy that soon.
Mr. Taco: Well ahead of the curve in introducing authentic Mexican to Roswell more than a decade ago, there are also sundry choices for those who fancy Tex-Mex. The sizable menu includes some of the best chicken soup in town.
Custom Cakes By Liud: As the name designates, Liud is cherished for her cakes, but she also offers mostly takeout savory items (a few outdoor tables) a top-notch Cuban sandwich on Cuban bread unsurpassed anywhere. She modifies the menu occasionally (though the Cuban sandwich is staple). Hopefully the chicken press is also an option and don’t leave without an order of ham croquettes, another strong nomination for the best in the greater area.
A-Pollo & Taqueria: Note to self, I must get back. It’s been way too long. A-Pollo puts out rotisserie chicken much better than any supermarket or club membership warehouse club or as good as any restaurant. It’s also a Mexican taqueria.
San Pancho: How can this inexpensive taco haven survive in the same shopping center with A-Pollo and before that Leitos? All the above referenced restaurants manufacture a great product.
Southern Classic Foods: The do an outstanding job satisfying the void of a dearth of soul food in the area, not just Roswell but also environs. I really need to chow down on the weekends-only turkey wings. They also have some of the best fried chicken in town.
Elaina’s Café: Topping the list of Mexican staples is the best tamales (the masa is swoon-worthy) this side of the Duluth/Lilburn border.
Before you get distraught over an exclusion, please recall the criterion. If they have cloth napkins, table service, a large bar offering, or it’s a place to go on your anniversary, they don’t qualify on this topic. Those fantastic restaurants have been featured in previous and/or will be in future ones. Roswell is replete with those, too. But eat on the road less traveled because Roswell has an abundance of nothing-fancy, all-about-the-food destination worthy possibilities.