Raul's Latin Kitchen

PREP Atlanta has opened another tucked away gem in its growing arsenal of diverse table-service brick and mortar concepts. The commercial kitchen office park near Spaghetti Junction caught my attention last year with HotChick Peas, a middle eastern restaurant that operates out of a tiny space in the back of the PREP complex. Their shawarma, falafel, and hummus are the best I've ever eaten—and that includes the old city of Jerusalem!

PREP acts like a base camp for caterers, food trucks, and restaurants that need to cook offsite and then serve in a small space. Sprinkled in amongst these operations a few actual restaurants like Hotchick Peas do their magic. Next, I tried The Little Farmhouse Café and then a Taiwanese chicken spot called Java Saga that all blew my mind. All of these concepts were extraordinary; a delightfully international cultural mix and all with next-level, authentic cuisines.

New to the list: Raul's Latin Kitchen. Chef Raul Thomas from Puerto Rico has been making noise in the kitchen for over 30 years celebrities with an infectious enthusiasm for people, food, and culture. Most recently Raul has been operating a popular food truck and decided it was time to plant his Puerto Rican flag into a brick and mortar spot to provide table service as well as small Bodega, a small market selling imported delights like coffee, spices, soft drinks, and baked goods.

But if you are seeking Puerto Rican, Latin and Caribbean tastes, you would have to fly to San Juan, San Jose, or Negril to taste anything so spectacular. Sandwiches like the Pernil with slow-roasted pork, the Cuban with pork, ham, and swiss cheese, and the Tripleta with chopped steak, roasted pork, and American cheese are all gargantuan meals unto themselves and prepared with the care and love of a master chef. Platters like slow-roasted pork with yellow rice and sweet plantains teleport you so south of the border you will never want to come back. Jerk Chicken with fried yucca, garlic shrimp, and beef empanadas are also executed flawlessly, and you'll swear they are better than the versions you might have eaten on holiday in their countries of origin. I even adored Raul's tripe soup, a savory masterpiece made with—yes—cow intestine. Don't knock it until you try it!

PREP is on the verge of becoming its own mini-Buford Highway. They have started calling the enclave the Atlanta Food Junction and there are plans for a spring festival. Needless to say, I will be paying close attention to their forthcoming roster additions! So set your GPS for Raul's Latin Kitchen or else you'll never find it. But I promise your journey will be worth it!

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