Five Unique Atlanta Specialty Supermarkets

Sometimes the local big box supermarket just doesn't do it for you. Sometimes you're in the mood for something new and a little out of the ordinary. Or sometimes you want a nice big plate of the tastes and flavors your mother or grandmother would whip up especially for you. And there are days when you just want some tomatoes or a mango that doesn't look like it came out of the bottom of someone's backpack. These are the times you should consider shopping at one of Atlanta's ethnic and specialty food stores. They're just as big as the big box stores, but they carry a wide range of house made, locally produced or freshly imported items that are just what you've been craving.

Buford Highway Farmers Market, Atlanta
Whatever you're shopping for today -- fresh lychees, Mexican pastries, fresh packed kimchee, a nice bottle of Russian wine, half sour pickles or a pound of chickpea flour -- can be found at the Buford Highway Farmers Market. Located on Buford Highway just off I-285, this enormous market was founded by a local family that still owns and operates it today. In addition to a massive and exotic produce section, the market has every kind of international food, spices and other ingredients you could possibly crave. Even Anthony Bourdain has browsed the aisles on his TV show and stopped for a snack at one of the market's in-house food stalls. Follow his lead and get a honeydew bubble tea or some arepas from the food court for the ride home from the food court as you exit the market.

Your DeKalb Farmers Market, Decatur
It's big, it's crowded, it's cash-only (debit, but no credit cards), it's idiosyncratic (last time I was there, they wouldn't let me bring in my own shopping bags) and it's overstuffed with everything you could possibly want to eat. Your Dekalb Farmers Market (YDKFM to the locals) is a produce lover's dream. There's aisle upon aisle of fresh fruit and produce along with more exotic fare like durian, starfruit and papaya, more greens than you ever knew existed, Georgia peaches, Vidalia onions, California strawberries and Florida oranges. The bakery turns out delicious croissants, foccacia bread, cupcakes and danish and there's a selection of fish that shoppers may purchase alive or not-alive. There's also a pretty good wine section and an impressive selection of fresh herbs and spices.There's also a hot buffet inside the store. Park your cart outside and fill up a plate or a to-go box - just make sure you've got cash for the restaurant - unlike the market cashiers, they won't accept your debit card.

Super H Mart, Doraville (Branches in Duluth, John's Creek and Suwanee)
Super H is a chain of Asian markets dotting the area just north of Atlanta that we visit as often as possible to stock up on fresh produce (priced slightly cheaper than their American style counterparts but just as fresh and tasty), ramen noodles, tubs of Korean chili paste, and our favorite Japanese snacks; crunchy shrimp chips, wasabi peas, and green tea ice cream. The Super H in Doraville is also contains a small mini-mall with Asian cosmetics and gifts, a delicious pastry shop serving Asian pastries such as brioche buns stuffed with red bean paste or custard creme and a popular food court serving some of terrific Asian food including pho and sushi at modest prices.

Alon's (Two locations in Atlanta and Dunwoody)
Alon's is the kind of modern grocery cafe that stocks so many wonderful things you never knew you needed. From an assortment of French-style baguettes, macarons and pastries, cheeses, pates, milk, juice, little pots of spiced condiments,salads and sandwiches. Alon's really shines with its range of traditional house-made delights for the Jewish holidays such Passover, the Jewish New Year, and Hanukkah. Alon's offers a wonderful spread of main dishes and sides to create or add to a delicious meal at home. Shoppers will be delighted with the variety of traditional house-made dishes such house-made brisket, chopped liver, noodle kugel, and traditional pastries. Alon's also makes mains, sides and desserts to compliment almost every celebration from Thanksgiving and Christmas to Valentines Day and Easter. There are two locations, one in Virginia Highlands and another in Dunwoody, which has much more parking and more outdoor seating.

Patel Brothers, Decatur
Indian food lovers from all over the city flock to Patel Brothers to stock up on Indian spices, breads, candies, chutneys, dal and other specialty ingredients to make authentic and delicious meals. Regular shoppers rave about the competitive prices on almost everything from pickles to saffron to fresh produce that's often fresher and less expensive than elsewhere. The Atlanta store is the local branch of a Chicago-based chain known for a wide range of products including more different types of beans and rice than you ever knew existed and a well-stocked beauty section stocked with hennas and cult brand soaps and other items. Because of all this and the fact it's located in a strip mall with other popular Indian shops and restaurants, you can count on it being busy and crowded no matter when you decide to shop. However, the sheer variety and availability of almost everything you could want should make it worth the trip.

Frances Katz is a writer and journalist who has been known to drive for miles to stock up on ramen noodles, a decent curry or a chewy bagel. Previously, she was a staff writer for a number of publications including The Atlanta Journal Constitution and the Boston Herald. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times and Wired News. You can read more of her work on Medium and you can always drop by and share your shopping secrets with her on Twitter.