December 28 – Scattered across the Atlanta Freeway, restaurants with authentic Mexican, Dominican and Salvadoran flavors have served Gainesville residents for more than two decades. While some are well known for their unique flavors, others are some of Gainesville’s best-kept secrets.
As the old saying suggests, the path to a person’s heart is through their stomach, so we decided to take a similar route and experience firsthand what the Atlanta Highway has to offer.
Whether it’s homemade ice cream or mouthwatering tacos, these places on the Atlanta Highway are sure to satisfy your cravings.
La Mejor de Michoacan
Stepping out of Pearl Nix Parkway, you won’t miss the bright yellow building serving everything from homemade ice cream to tostilocos. The ice cream maker makes its popsicles in-house every day, concocting flavors like guava, tequila, rice pudding, tamarind, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, cookies and cream and coconut. A must is their chamoyadas and mangonadas: mango ice cream topped with chamoy, tajin or pieces of mango.
Where: 403 Atlanta Highway, Gainesville
When: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Friday to Sunday
More info: lamejordemichoacan.net
Since 1994, El Carreton has been serving authentic tacos, burritos, tortas and quesadillas. Each taco order comes with double-layered corn tortillas, cilantro, onions, and homemade green salsa. Their self-proclaimed “best tortas in the universe” are filled with your choice of meat or a vegetarian option and a variety of toppings.
Where: 608 Atlanta Highway, Gainesville
When: 9 am to 1 am Sunday to Thursday; 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday
More info: elcarretongainesville.com
Salvador Bakery and Pupuseria
Just down the street, rich scents of baked bread and freshly baked pupusas welcome your first steps in El Salvador Bakery and Pupuseria. The restaurant sells a variety of sweet and half-stacked breads, stuffed with cheese, guava or pineapple. As the name suggests, the restaurant also offers tasty corn and rice pupusas stuffed with cheese, beans, squash or your choice of meat. Freshly made tamales and empanadas are also available daily.
Where: 1403 Atlanta Highway, Gainesville
When: 8 am to 8 pm Monday to Thursday; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday
More information: facebook.com/El-Salvador-Bakery-Y-Pupuseria
Gainesville Seafood Market and Restaurant
Right next to El Salvador Bakery and Pupuseria, Gainesville Seafood Market and Eatery mixes the cultures of the world with Cajun-flavored shrimp broths, Mexican-inspired fish tacos and crispy tostadas. The savory, vinegar taste of pickled vegetables and shrimp crammed onto a crispy tostada makes market ceviche tostadas a staple. The market also sells a variety of fresh fish and other items to accompany a seafood dinner.
Where: 1403 Atlanta Highway, Gainesville
When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
More information: gainesvilleseafoodmkt.com
Seafood and grill Marisquería Playa Azul
Serving everything from fried fillets to plates filled with snow crab legs, Playa Azul brings the flavors of the coastal beaches to the Atlanta Highway. Among many things, the restaurant offers a choice of fish on a bed of rice, accompanied by a salad and a wide choice of margaritas, micheladas and bloody marys. A simple staple is Playa Azul Fish Tacos, which come with freshly cooked fish, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and a homemade sauce to pour on top. The soft tortilla is just the right container to hold the ingredients together for a perfect bite.
Where: 1736 Atlanta Highway, Gainesville
When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
More information: playaazul-seafoodrestaurant.business.site
Dominican restaurant El Caldero
If this is the last stop on this route, it is certainly not the least. Opened in January 2021, El Caldero brings authentic Dominican cuisine to the Gainesville table. Their menu offers a selection of main courses, sides and desserts, but it’s the starters that steal the show. The restaurant’s bollitos are served as four fried balls of dough stuffed with a choice of beef, pork or cheese. Another classic dish is mofonguitos: three cups of fried plantains filled with melted cheese, shrimp, peppers, tomatoes, and a mouth-watering Creole sauce.
Where: 2550 Atlanta Highway Suite 900, Gainesville
When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday
More info: elcalderogainesville.com