Buena Gente Cuban Bakery on Clairmont

Adella Miesner

The brick-and-mortar expression came in August: a welcome slice of old-school Miami, sandwiched between the Po’Boy Shop and Community Q in Decatur. Five mornings a week, the cafe brews coladas (three shots of espresso, traditionally shared and sipped from tiny shot glasses), cortaditos (two shots with steamed milk) and cafe […]

The brick-and-mortar expression came in August: a welcome slice of old-school Miami, sandwiched between the Po’Boy Shop and Community Q in Decatur.

Five mornings a week, the cafe brews coladas (three shots of espresso, traditionally shared and sipped from tiny shot glasses), cortaditos (two shots with steamed milk) and cafe con leches — perfect jolts for pairing with a heavenly pastelito or papa rellena (fried potato ball stuffed with picadillo).

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This takeout order from Buena Gente Cuban Bakery includes an unwrapped Cuban and a croqueta preparada. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Because the shop was imagined as a tiny spot with just a few tables and mostly takeout, “we didn’t have to do some huge pivot,” Antich said, though COVID-19 did wreak havoc on the construction schedule.

For now, there are two tables out front — that’s it. Only six customers are allowed in at a time. Once orders are placed, patrons wait outside for their food and drink.

That’s how I found myself outside Buena Gente shortly after noon on a recent weekday, slurping a comforting papaya milkshake and waiting for a box of pastries, two pressed sandwiches and a trio of sweets from the cold case.

Customers ogle the pastry case at Buena Gente Cuban Bakery on Clairmont Road. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

On the menu are seven sandwiches and a vegan wrap. New to me is the croqueta preparada, in which three ham croquettes are smashed into Cuban or medianoche bread, along with ham, cheese, pickles and mustard. Yowza! To think, I’ve been missing out all these years.

In order for me to declare their Cuban the best in town, I’d have to drive around and try ’em all. I can say Manny’s is perhaps the most lovingly crafted version I’ve had, anywhere. No wonder: The bakery makes the bread and roasts the pork in its own mojo sauce. The $9.50 beauty is hard to finish, especially if you sneak a croqueta on the way home, or want to save room for a wedge of terrifically tangy Key lime pie or a cup of luscious flan.

I was gobsmacked by nearly everything I tried at Buena Gente, from the creamy papaya batido, to the chicken croquetas (textbook examples made with béchamel and a touch of nutmeg), to the gorgeous, irresistible square of tres leches cake with the cherry on top.

Buena Gente is the genuine article, a Cuban ventanita come to Clairmont.

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BUENA GENTE CUBAN BAKERY

Menu: classic Cuban pastries, sandwiches, coffee drinks and batidos (milkshakes)

Alcohol: no

What I ordered: Cuban sandwich, croqueta preparada, guava and cream cheese pastelito, beef pastelito, chicken croquetas, chicken empanada, tres leches, Key lime pie., flan, papaya milkshake

Service options: walk-up only, though the shop promises phone and online ordering soon

Outdoor seating: two tables

Mask policy: yes, for guests and all employees

Address, phone: 1365 Clairmont Road, Decatur; 678-744-5638

Hours: 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays

Website: buenagenteatl.com

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