Mouthful - Nice buns

Five ethnic bakeries for fun, funky treats

Tired of the same old, same old during the season of indulgence? The Atlanta metro area is rife with intriguing ethnic bakeries — often tucked into inconspicuous corners — that offer authentic variations on near-recognizable sweet treats. These five favorites provide but a glimpse of the sometimes funky yet undeniably delectable goodies available out there.

Joli Kobe

This French-Japanese classic in Sandy Springs is one of those rare places where the gleaming, highly styled creations taste as rapturous as they look. If you get intimidated by the fancy French names of the gleaming chocolate and fruit cakes, take a gander at the savory offerings in the bin in the center of the floor. Red bean croissant? Tuna onion mayo bun? Hmmm. I think I'll stick to the bakery's signature chicken curry salad for lunch, and grab a Fraisier (sponge cake with vanilla buttercream and strawberries) or Matignon (flourless chocolate cake and chocolate mousse) to go.

5600 Roswell Road. 404-843-3257. www.jolikobe.com.La Piccolina

The deft panini may be the lunchtime draw at this tiny shop, but the baked goods alone are worth a trip. Cannolis have choco-late chips and pistachio bits suspended in sweetened ricotta and piped inside a toothsome shell. The counter is lined with samples tempting you to buy breadsticks, biscotti baked with a touch of wine (perfect with cheese) and booze-infused cakes. These folks can put together a mean gift basket to boot.

2834 Franklin St., Avondale Estates. 404-296-1624. www.lapiccolina.com.

Mozart Cafe and Bakery

Inveterate explorers of Buford Highway know this Korean bakery by its former name, Boulangerie. Under new owners, the moniker's accent may have switched from French to Austrian, but it's still the same quirky tea-parlor-meets-Twilight-Zone hangout filled with rows of Asian sweets. Peruse shiny buns filled with sweet potato, coffee bean cream and red bean paste. Nibble on vanilla sponge cake, walnut-chocolate squares and sweet green bean pastries. Giggling, friendly cashiers ring you up, ensuring you walk out the door with your own lopsided grin.

5301 Buford Highway, Doraville. 770-936-8726.

Pao de Mel

This no-frills spot is packed at noontime with Brazilian ex-pats jonesing for a taste of home. I'm partial to the savories here, like coxhinha, surprisingly delicate and crunchy fried dumplings filled with shredded chicken and cheese. Quibe is a crusty sphere of ground beef and bulgur wheat with a cream cheese bonus in its center. Breads are fluffy, yeasty and eggy, and cakes are enriched with tropical ingredients like yucca, pineapple and coconut. This is a fun place to swing by and collect a box full of culinary exotica to bring back to co-workers with the munchies.

2359 Windy Hill Road, Suite 340, Marietta. 770-690-8007.

Royal Sweets

Indians are renowned for their collective sweet tooth, and Royal Sweets seems to be where much of Atlanta's Indian population goes to get its sugar fix. You'll want to hone in on the gulab jamun, the fried milk fritters seen on Indian buffets everywhere. Cooked in three shades of doneness, the quivery globes will open your eyes to the potential of this ubiquitous dessert. Not in the mood for sweet? The vegetarian samosas stuffed with potatoes, peas and spices are ethereal.

1766 Lawrenceville Highway, Decatur. 404-327-5799.


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