Look around Atlanta’s ethnic dining scene and you’ll notice that it’s changing.
You can still fill up on cheap, authentic bites on Buford Highway. Then, trek north to Duluth, and you’ll find more and more Korean restaurants opening their doors, growth that mirrors the increase of that suburban city’s ethnic enclave, which boasts the largest percentage of Koreans in Georgia and one of the largest in the South.
But, turn your head the other direction. Look intown.
“The craze is huge in the past five years,” Allen Suh, chef and co-owner of the new Korean restaurant Gaja in East Atlanta Village, said regarding the Asian cuisine movement within the city.
It is here that restaurants are cropping up from a younger generation of Asians. They are immigrants or children of immigrants, with ideas about food and dining that are distinct from their predecessors.
“We come from a different approach,” said Michael Lo, co-owner of Makan in Decatur, which offers Korean- and Chinese-inspired cuisine. “I have no desire to serve the food that my parents did out of necessity.”
Lo’s family emigrated from China was he was 2 years old. He spent his childhood in the mid-Atlantic region, his parents working in the restaurant industry.
Lo, who moved to Atlanta 11 years ago, was among Asian restaurateurs and chefs who participated at SouthEats, an Asian food festival held May 25 at Monday Night Brewing. The event celebrated the vibrant, diverse and ever-increasing Asian-American population in Atlanta while also raising funds to benefit the local chapter of nonprofit advocacy group Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Participating restaurants included Ah-Ma’s Taiwanese Kitchen, Bayou Boil, Brush Sushi Izakaya, Chateau Saigon, Gaja, Himalayas, Makan, Mamak Malaysian Kitchen, Sweet Auburn BBQ and Sweet Hut Bakery and Cafe, as well as Ama and Nexto, both opening later this year.