The Buena Gente of Atlanta

“What’s the corn dog one?”

It took me a few seconds to realize that my Anglo friend was referring to the picture of a croqueta.

Clearly, there’s a serious deficiency of ventanitas in Atlanta (and in L.A. for that matter) that pop out croquetas paired with cortaditos. That’s right, restaurants here do not have walk-up windows, which means there’s no such thing as having to elbow through a wall of viejos arguing about politics. That is a cultural experience exclusive to Miami…until now.

After much success with an adorable pink camper/food truck, Buena Gente is set to open their first brick and mortar Cuban bakery and sandwich shop in Decatur. While the pandemic has delayed their opening, you can already see their sign up over the location on Clairmont Road, in the same complex as the Po’Boy Shop and Ms. Icey’s Kitchen and Bar.

Last weekend I was feeling particularly nostalgic for Miami, so I reached out to them on a whim. They were kind enough to take my customized order of two boxes of twelve pastelitos — one for me and another for my “corn dog” friend. I thought it would be a good first step. A primer, if you will, before the lesson on croquetas.

The Power of Pastelitos

After surreptitiously picking up the pastelitos from behind the store (it was the most Miami thing I’ve ever done in Atlanta), I met up with my non-Cuban friends at the neighborhood park to make the drop (the second-most Miami thing I’ve ever done in Atlanta).

Extending the white box filled with goodies, through my mask I briefed them on the different shapes they were about to encounter:

“Circles are beef. Triangles are guava and cheese. The ones that look like cannoli are just cheese. And the squares are guava, but you’ll know that one because you can see it from the sides.”

I made them repeat it back to me like they were going to be quizzed on it for their Cuban citizenship exam. But just by merely having the box in their car they were already culturized, because we spent 45 minutes saying our good-byes. Muy cubichi.

Triangles Are My Favorite

The pastelitos are just the half of it. Once Buena Gente opens, the menu will include additional Cuban specialties like croquetas and empanadas as well as an expanded menu of Cuban sandwiches. Buena Gente will also serve Cuban-style coffee drinks and sodas. Hello, Jupiña!

Visit them online at buenagenteatl.com and give them a follow on Instagram @buenagenteatl

Fall in Love with Boston in 23 Hours

In the late nineties I cashed in a savings bond gifted to me by my godmother and used the $80 to pay for my first-ever flight. The trip was full of firsts: the first time I saw snow on the ground; the first time I got kicked out of a bar; the first time I saw the lights be turned on in a club to signal the end of the night. It was a thrill ride from the moment my cab drove on the sidewalk to when I stumbled into a comedy show headlined by Wendy Liebman to the simplest of delights of buying tulips at a corner shop.

After two decades, I returned to Boston. And in the span of a day, I rekindled my love for the City on a Hill. If you can spare 23 hours here, she may be able to charm you as well.

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Sweet Home Hialeah

The holiday season is officially in full swing and in the coming days travelers will descend onto congested highways and drab airports to journey to their childhood home or to the home of a marquis family member. I’ll be on a hero’s quest of my own, but nowhere near my hometown. So, on the off chance that your destination is somewhere in South Florida, please consider making a stop on my behalf to the croqueta captial of the world, Hialeah.

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Santa Barbara #Blessed

There is something magical about this place. The beach, the cliffs, the flowers, the trees. They all conspire together to thumb its nose at Los Angeles. Yet, Santa Barbara doesn’t need to be compared to another city to be better than. It earns that distinction on its own. If money and means were available to me, it’s where I would call home…at least part of the year.

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Art Basel: The bourgeoisie and the rebel

Photo courtesy of Flickr creative commons

The first week of December, Art Basel arrives in Miami Beach like an alligator in a swamp. Waiting. Lurking. Watching. And then it leaps out of the murky water with its mouth agape and tail flexing, showing off its massive power over us mere mortals. And we are left with no choice, but to pay the entrance fee and walk into its mouth, which happens to be located at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

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My Fine Feathered Friends from Flamingo Beach, Aruba

It was early November and the fall season air was already brisk. Sweaters and scarves, instead of sandals and spaghetti straps, were staples of my wardrobe. A few months prior I had moved to a new city and, for the first time in my life, I was four hours away from the nearest beach, instead of my usual hard-limit of no more than 45 minutes from door to sand. I needed an escape that required sun, swimming and frosty umbrella drinks, so I looked at a weather map kept heading south until I read 85 degrees and discovered my next destination: Oranjestad.

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Capitol Records: The House That Nat Built

In 1956, Nat King Cole traveled to Cuba to perform at Tropicana, but he couldn’t stay at Hotel Nacional because of the color of his skin.

That same year, 1956, the iconic Capitol Records building was completed. A thirteen-story, earthquake-resistant tower that was the world’s first circular office building. And its nickname became “The House That Nat Built,” because it was he who put the record label on the map.

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Market Watch: Ponce City in Atlanta

The produce section of the Whole Foods is where the best (purchased) seats of Ponce de Leon Park once stood. This baseball stadium was the home of the Atlanta Crackers from 1907 until the Braves arrived in 1966. If during that time you worked at the Sears, Roebuck & Co., however, you would be able to see the game for free.

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Hello Humpback: Whale-watching in Sitka, Alaska

Traveling to Alaska for many is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, yet I’ve been lucky enough to keep finding my way back. On my last adventure, I took a small boat out to Sitka Bay where I met the acquaintance of a very handsome humpback whale…unfortunately he had awful breath.

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