For this Midwest transplant, every day in Georgia brings new food and drink surprises. I had no idea that the Peach State is home to a bunch of ginger farms. Maybe I should have guessed that I have to wait until 12:30 p.m. on Sundays to drink a mimosa at a restaurant. And it wasn’t until recently that I learned that the city of Duluth is the destination for Korean fare. Time to go beyond Buford Highway and consider ethnic bites off of Interstate 85 in Gwinnett County.
There are dozens of Korean restaurants and bakeries in Duluth. I only had a couple hours to shove snacks, sweet breads and bulgogi in my mouth; there are many return visits and dollops of gochujang ahead of me. But, for the moment, here are my three takeaways from my first visit to the Seoul of the South.
1. One of everything is the best way to order at Tree Story Bakery and Cafe. Holy sugar high. The bread lover in me can’t get enough Korean pastries from custard buns to rice ball doughnuts stuffed with sweetened bean paste. I’m already a fan of the Filipino shaved ice dessert called halo-halo, so eating Tree Story’s decadent, bigger-than-your-face Korean version of patbingsu – with kiwi, strawberries, mandarin oranges, gummy bits of rice cake (mochi), azuki beans, dried cereal and ice cream piled over shaved ice and drizzled with condensed milk and chocolate sauce – was like hanging out with a cousin. Note to self: Every trip to the H-Mart shopping center for foodstuffs should end at Tree Story for this frozen treat.
2. Misugaru is going to settle my iced tea fix this summer. A glass of this milky iced tea made from a blend of powered grains is a great break from the tea routine. It’s thirst-quenching, just sweet enough and filling like a breakfast drink. Misugaru is healthy; some consider it a dieter’s drink because it’s high in protein without being fatty or caloric. Great! I’ll drink it at Tree Story to wash down all those baked goods and walk out feeling guilt free.
3. Breakers BBQ left me smiling, not smelling. Dining out for Korean barbecue is fun. There’s all that meat action on the built-in tabletop grills. There’s the constant plucking from the banchan spread – kimchee, marinated vegetables, bean sprouts, stir-fry glass noodles – with chopsticks that become harder to handle after each shot of soju. It’s great entertainment, yet you usually walk away smelling like whatever sizzled on the grill. Not at Breakers BBQ, thanks to superior ventilation, including electric downdraft grills. Come to find out, I’m not the only one to notice how Breakers sets itself apart from other Korean barbecue spots. It even recently registered on the national radar as a top KBBQ joint. That calls for another round of soju. And all I have to do to summon the server is push this little button at my table? Gun bae!
Tree Story Bakery and Café, 2550 Pleasant Hill Road, Duluth. 678-584-0000, Facebook: Tree Story Café.
Breakers Korean BBQ & Grill, 3505 Gwinnett Place Drive NW, Duluth. 770-946-1000, beakersbbq.com.