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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Food Courts Fit for Foodies

There's no denying that a food court is a great place to take kids for a meal.  Spacious, loud, quick, cheap.  When you're in a food court, nobody cares if your kids are standing on chairs, blowing bubbles into their drinks, fighting with each other over a shared dessert, or singing Old MacDonald Had a Farm aloud on repeat.  Yes, food courts are a great, kid-friendly dining option.  But where do you go if you really don't want to eat Sbarro or Great Wraps at the nearest mall?  This week we tried out a few local food court options that even hardcore foodies might find interesting...

Toddler Foodie Rating:  3.5 out of 5 Gummy Bears.
:) = Decent variety of authentic North and South Indian food, plus Chinese-Indian food.  Very affordable.  Very kid-friendly dining area filled with children.  Neat stores selling Indian apparel and other brightly-colored goods that make the entire experience fun for little ones.  High chairs available.  Reasonably clean restrooms. 
:( = There's definitely better Indian food to be had at restaurants, but remember this is a food court.  And this food court definitely has a hole-in-the-wall feel to it.  This is not Lenox Square - lower your expectations.

Note:  Credit cards are accepted here, but prepare to make minimum purchases of $10. 
Photo Credit:
Global Mall is a little gem in Norcross dedicated exclusively to selling Indian goods, services, and food.  If you like Indian food and don't feel like going to an actual restaurant to get it, Global Mall's food court is a great option.  The food court has a handful of counters serving various types of Indian food - meat dishes (chicken tikka, lamb vindaloo, etc.), vegetarian dishes (dosas, chapatis, etc.), and even Chinese food with an Indian twist at a neat little stand called Chinese Dhaba.
We visited the Global Mall food court for the first time on a cold Friday evening.  When we arrived, it was packed with children chasing each other around tables and happily slurping Styrofoam cups of mango lassi.  Our kind of place!  Daddy was intrigued by the idea of Chinese Indian food, so we found a table right in front of Chinese Dhaba.  Mommy got us two boxes of Indian mango juice to sip while she and Daddy explored the many menus available to us.
"Why is it taking so long for these parents to decide what to eat?"
The best thing about food courts is the variety.  You can order an appetizer from one restaurant, an entrĂ©e from another, and a dessert from another.  And that is exactly what Mommy and Daddy did.  From Chinese Dhaba, we ordered the two mango juice boxes and an order of the Indo-Chinese chicken hakka noodles.  From Curry on the Go we ordered Daddy's go-to Indian staple, chicken tikka.  And from the South Indian stand Sri Krishna Vilas we ordered the mulaku bajji, cheese masala dosa, and a mango lassi to share for dessert.  Overall, the food was good.  Not the best Indian food we've ever had, but very tasty considering the atmosphere and prices.  Our favorite dish was the cheese masala dosa.  We will definitely be back to try other dosas on Sri Krishna Vilas's menu.

Mulaku Bajji - a little too spicy for us!
Cheese masala dosa. 
We loved this dish!  It was like a huge Indian quesadilla!
"You have to have-a the hakka noodles!" 
If you're looking for quick, inexpensive Indian food in an extremely kid-friendly environment, Global Mall is a great option.  Check it out next time you're in the neighborhood!
Toddler Foodie Rating:  4.5 out of 5 Gummy Bears.
:) = Huge variety of delicious, authentic Chinese food, pastries, and bubble teas.  Spacious dining area filled with diners who do not care at all how your children are behaving.  And it's loud and a little chaotic in here - loud and chaotic enough to drown out and neutralize the misbehavior of small children.
:( = We can't stress enough how authentic this place is.  Many of the menus, and especially the listings of daily specials, are in Chinese with not-quite-accurate English descriptions; so ordering can be challenging.  Unless you know exactly what you want, expect to take a little time to figure out what to order.  

Notes:  Credit cards are accepted here, but prepare to make minimum purchases of $5 (for bubble tea) or $10 (for food).  Also, Mommy recommends parking toward the back of the parking lot, far away from other cars, when you come here if you want to avoid getting dinged by a grocery cart - or worse.

Photo Credit:
Great Wall Supermarket has a fantastic food court that offers an array of super authentic Chinese dishes.  We visited early on a Saturday evening to find it was packed with families eating everything from dim sum to steamed dumplings to platters of whole fried fish.  Our mouths began watering as soon as we stepped inside.
We ordered a mid-sized feast so that we could try food from a few different stands:  pork soup dumplings and ma po tofu from Yummy Garden; the roast duck and rice plate from Best BBQ; and a mango smoothie and roasted milk tea (for Mommy and Daddy) from Chatime.
"Check out my roast duck plate with rice and pickled greens!"

Soup dumplings and ma po tofu (caution - this dish is spicy), plus a small hand stealing a bite of rice.
Photo taken by 3-year-old Toddler Foodie.

The food didn't disappoint us one bit, and we honestly can't pick a single favorite dish.  We liked it all.  In fact, we would even venture to say that the Chinese food in this food court is just as good as the Chinese food you can get at some of the well-known Chinese restaurants around town.  We highly recommend making the trip to Duluth to check out this awesome food court - and the supermarket, too.   

Toddler Foodie Rating:  3.5 out of 5 Gummy Bears.

:) = An Atlanta landmark.  Food court/cafeteria-style dining area inside the market with a variety of international foods, including a significant selection of vegetarian options, sold by the pound.  Laid-back crowd that doesn't mind kids.  Adjoining pastry/coffee shop offering an array of delicious desserts and baked goods - a must-try. 
:( = Shopping carts are not allowed in the dining area, so navigating the buffet line with multiple toddlers alone is a bit challenging.  Also, the DeKalb Farmers Market is usually crowded and a little chaotic - in addition to folks who actually shop here, it's often filled with sightseers.  Prepare yourself mentally for a little pandemonium, and you will survive the visit.  (Walk in expecting a calm, quiet atmosphere, and you will not.)      

Note:  The cafeteria and pastry shop are cash only.
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Your DeKalb Farmers Market is the "OG" of international farmers markets in Atlanta. We come here all the time with Mommy to buy spices, exotic cuts of meat, fresh crawfish and blue crab, pungent cheeses, Jordan almonds, Argentinian wine, whole-wheat croissants, or whatever random food she happens to be craving for the day.  (Isn't it obvious who passed us our foodie tendencies?)  We love visiting Your DeKalb Farmers Market because it symbolizes so much history for our family.  Daddy remembers walking there as a child, from the pool hall his parents owned nearby, to visit his uncle who worked in the market's maintenance department.  Mommy remembers watching in awe as her mommy pulled fresh blue crabs from the market's large metal bins; visiting the market with her elementary school for a field trip; and taking her uncle there to apply for his first job after immigrating to the United States from the Philippines.  No matter how many other international markets pop up in the Atlanta area, this one will always have a special place in our hearts.

Even though we've visited the market many times, until today we'd never eaten at the cafeteria.  We were a little overwhelmed at first.  There were lots of options - and probably 80% of them were vegetarian.  So just dove in and filled our plate with whatever looked good to us.  We ended up with yellow rice with raisins and almonds; leek casserole; butternut squash lasagna; steamed broccoli; broiled honey butternut squash; boiled purple cabbage; a lentil samosa; a square of cornbread; and two boxes of apricot juice.  Total cost for all this food?  $7.80.

"$7.80 for that whole plate?  If I eat this all the time, maybe Daddy will stop
complaining about how expensive kids are!"
As far as the food goes, it was tasty but not crave-worthy.  The butternut squash lasagna was our favorite dish - sweet, mashed butternut squash spooned over handmade lasagna noodles and topped with herb-infused mozzarella cheese.  So. Yummy.  We ate the rest of the food, too, but not without a little bribery and coaxing from Mommy.  We will probably not eat in this cafeteria regularly; but we will continue shopping here for as long as we live in this city.  We can't wait to tell our kids about how Mommy and Daddy pushed us through the crowded aisles in a grocery cart, pointing out their home countries' flags to us and telling us about our origins. 
Well, that concludes our foodie food court tour!  The take-home is:  food courts are a great place to take little ones, and we hope you got some new food court dining ideas by reading this post.  Until next time, friends, happy eating!     

"We're never happier than when we're eating together!"
~The Pham Brothers

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