Gwinnett is a melting pot of cultures and diverse backgrounds that make up a delightful array of tastes and smells that provide culinary experiences in our own backyard – no passport or trip to EPCOT required. In this issue, we’re going back to Gwinnett’s cultural roots and checking out the top authentic restaurants we’re really DiGging right now.
Authentic Ramen (Japanese or Chinese…up for debate)
Paopao Ramen Factory & Bar Restaurant
3290 Buford Dr. NE A-2 | Buford, GA
No, not the .25 Maruchan Ramen; we’re talking authentic Chinese wheat noodles, in a meat or fish-based broth, topped with vegetables and meat. This staple of the Japanese working class and American college students is now one of the trendiest foods to hit restaurants. (The origin of Ramen is still up for debate; Google it and read about Ramen’s messy history between China and Japan.)
This new Gwinnett spot, complete with a full bar, serves homemade noodles and a variety of simmering soups in oversized bowls full of goodies to twist, slurp and ladle. Some like it hot, some like it hotter (or mild) …spice intensity is totally customizable. Bring in the sweet calvary to cool down your taste buds with rolled ice cream or Bubble Tea in authentic Asian flavors such as green tea and tao. Check out happy hour (4-7 pm M-F) for Asian street food small plates or order online and take you authentic Chinese/Japanese dining experience to your own dining room.
The Village Corner, German Restaurant
6655 James B Rivers Memorial Dr.
Stone Mountain, GA
Authentic to say the least, Village Corner has been owned and operated since 1974 by the Friese Family after immigrating to the United States from Germany. This traditional German tavern serves up groß (big) portions of comfort food favorites such as sauerbraten, schnitzel and spätzel and a sampling of German sausages (knockwurst, weisswurst and frickadellen) for a true taste of Deutschland. (Don’t worry about saving room for something amazing from the bakery, just take it home with you.)
For a truly German afternoon, we suggest hiking up Stone Mountain to burn calories (singing ‘The Hills are Alive’ whilst spinning is optional, but recommended—yes, we know The Sound of Music was set in Austria, not Germany) then retiring to the patio for a brewsky and pretzel with friends. The Bavarian pretzels are handmade daily and served with mustard bier cheese sauce, and just so happen to pair perfectly with an in-house draft from Stone Mountain Brewery.
Turkish Kitchen Mediterranean Restaurant & Bar
2720 Mall of Georgia Blvd | Buford, GA
Isa & Behice Guven (of Guven’s Fine Jewelry) brought in Chef Nurettin Ozan, a Turkish native with 32 years of international culinary experience, when they missed comfort foods of their native homeland. Traditional Mediterranean dishes such as gyros and hummus are on the menu, but they dive deeper into their roots with a menu of grilled meat kabobs served with a side of their specialty: grilled tomato. We suggest trying a sampling of cold meze (appetizers/dips) purees with bases such as eggplant or carrot. For a unique experience, pull up a chair, order a round of hookah, select a few meze to share among friends and enjoy the belly dancing performance.
Authentic Korean BBQ
3885 Venture Dr | Duluth, GA
If Gwinnett is known as the “Seoul of the South,” Gwinnettians have hit the jackpot when it comes to authentic Korean BBQ. We checked out K-BBQ Factory, one of the newer joints among a growing list of tried and true Korean BBQ establishments. Owned by the same team who runs 678 and 770 in Gwinnett, this chic restaurant puts a cooking twist on grilling – gas instead of charcoal (less smoke = unique flavor).
Superior cuts of a variety of meats are cooked right at your table in overindulgence abundance. It’s all about the MEATS – ranging from ribeye, short ribs, beef brisket, pork belly, pork shoulder, shrimp, spicy chicken and more. The sides (known in Korea as ‘banchan’) are colorful and flavorful: melted cheese corn and kimchi fried rice are local favorites. If you are really hungry, the AYCE (All You Can Eat) option allows you to experiment and taste to your tummy’s content.
The Varsity Norcross
6045 Dawson Blvd | Norcross, GA
“What’ll ya have, what’ll ya have?” is a familiar call known throughout the metro Atlanta region and a local favorite for many Gwinnettians who will still make the trek downtown to the ORIGINAL Varsity. But The Varsity is more than an iconic restaurant with its own secret lingo (do you know what a “Mary Brown Steak” and “Strings” refer to?). It’s a simple, comforting and consistent reminder of a slower time, compared to the hustle and bustle of the locations neighboring I-85 and I-75.
The Varsity’s car-hop style restaurant, specializing in hot dogs, pimento cheese burgers, peach fried pies and FOs, is the top stand alone restaurant in the world for Coca-Cola consumption. When out-of-state visitors come to town, The Varsity is a number one tourist attraction to showcase a taste of Georgia. The original Varsity has been in operation for over 90 years and only closed one day in its existence – the day Frank Gordy, original owner/operator, was laid to rest. The Gwinnett location in Norcross was opened in 1990, making it a whole lot easier to make memories for die-hard fans who like to stay OTP.