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Food & Drink

Equality Eats Here — Peachy Corners Café

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Owner Long Tran. Photos by Isadora Pennington.

Tucked away in the Spalding Center complex on Spalding Drive, the charming front patio decked out with string lights welcomes you to Peachy Corners Cafe. The menu features favorites like espresso drinks, drip coffee, tea and pastries, and also includes a variety of bubble tea and smoothies. Mellow music lends the space a relaxed vibe, while a chalk wall covered in doodles and rolling cart stacked high with board games suggests the kid-friendly fun that takes place here.

Interior shots of Peachy Corners Cafe. Photos by Isadora Pennington.

Owner Long Tran opened Peachy Corners Cafe with his wife Susie Martono-Tran in January of 2020. “My wife has always wanted to open a bubble tea shop since I met her,” explained Long, who was inspired to open a cafe when he struggled to find good local coffee during his sons’ karate lessons across the street. “We decided to merge the two and sell really good coffee and really good bubble tea and thought that could work. There’s something to it because we are still here, despite the pandemic.”

Trial by fire

2020 was quite a challenging time to open a coffee shop. “We had no idea,” said Long, shaking his head at the memory. Peachy Corners Cafe was among the first restaurants in the area to shut their doors as the information they received from their friends and loved ones who live in other countries gave them advance notice as to the severity of COVID-19 and what to expect. From mid-March to early June the doors at the cafe remained closed and their fledgling business could have been in serious trouble. Fortunately, they had an idea that allowed them to stay afloat during those early days of the pandemic.

They began making drinks to donate to healthcare professionals and first responders, and quickly word got out about these charitable acts. The community responded positively, with many regular customers stepping up to donate funds that allowed Peachy Corners Cafe to give back to those on the front line, find a use for their perishables so they would not go to waste and operate in such a way that they did not lose money on the products they already had on hand before the shutdowns. “We didn’t make money off the donations, but it kept us from losing money as well,” explained Long. “I think that was very crucial to us, and it also became a way for us to continue engaging with the community and get our name out there as a new business.”

It was important to Long to take precautionary action in response to COVID-19. Not only did he want to keep his family safe, he also wanted to ensure that he had the necessary supplies like hand sanitizer, plexiglass dividers and upgraded filters for the cafe’s HVAC system which would ensure his staff and customers would also be safe when they eventually reopened

.Their efforts seem to have paid off. None of the staff has gotten sick, and these days the customers have started coming in again. “By the end of July, we saw business slowly return, and now I think we are starting to get a sense for the potential of what this space might be.” Peachy Corners Cafe has a loyal following and Long knows many of the regulars by name. Popular among working professionals during the day, there are also a lot of families and kids that frequent the cafe after school.

No space for hate

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been those who have blamed Asian countries for the origin and spread of the COVID-19 virus. When those views were expressed in the media, the idea quickly took hold and Long witnessed a variety of responses from microaggressions and boycotting all the way to outright intimidation and violence.

“Atlanta has got this great community and great sense of community, but recently it seems there has been a rise in resentment,” said Long. “With rhetoric from our elected leaders, regardless of which political side they are on, when you are trying to score political points by going after North Korea or China, you can inadvertently paint targets on the backs of your Asian American citizens.”

Locally, the response to these ideas has been largely passive-aggressive rather than outright aggressive, unlike the hate crimes frequently taking place in cities like San Francisco and New York where Asian Americans are literally being attacked on the streets without provocation.

Throughout the pandemic, and amplified over the last four years, the rise in racism and hate crimes has set the stage for prejudice, hatred and fear. Armed protestors took to the streets of Chinatown in Chamblee last summer, telling Chinese business owners and citizens that they were not welcome.

Businesses on Buford Highway are receiving hateful phone calls or prank calls — and some have even had rocks thrown through their windows. Last spring ‘Wuhan plague’ plaques began popping up on signs and businesses throughout the city that depicted Winnie The Pooh eating a bat. These incidents represent a growing hostility towards Asian people as a whole, and ultimately culminated in the brutal slaying of eight people — six of whom were Asian women — working at historically Asian spas in March.

Long said he has heard reports of an increase in hatred and intimidation toward his Asian customers, especially teenagers and kids who have noted increased bullying at school. “I consider myself very fortunate,” said Long. “I think Peachtree Corners has been amazing and supportive of all of its businesses. I haven’t necessarily experienced anything like that, we haven’t gotten those phone calls to our cafe. But we have had times when a customer walks through the door and walks out, and I have no idea if it’s because of me.”

Making a difference

Not one to simply stand by and witness these upsetting trends and devastating losses, Long has taken an active role in helping the Asian American communities heal and find solidarity in the face of what is often overwhelming fear and worry. Though he does not lead any nonprofits, Long is well connected with a number of the organizations and community leaders that are making a difference. By leveraging those connections, he has helped to engage volunteers, spread information about the efforts of nonprofits he admires, like Stop AAPI Hate, and organize demonstrations such as the Stop Asian Hate rally which drew over 3,000 attendees to the Liberty Plaza in Downtown Atlanta. Long also organized a candlelight vigil for the victims in Dunwoody and a cultural celebration in Decatur which aimed to both educate and celebrate Asian American culture.

Back in April, Long was asked by the Democratic Party of Georgia to introduce President Biden during a drive-in rally at the Infinite Energy Center. During his speech, Long talked about his experience as the son of Vietnamese immigrants, the ways in which COVID-19 has affected the Asian American community and the recent election of two Democratic senators in Georgia. The fact that the rally happened to take place on the 46th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War cemented the importance of speaking on these issues for Long.

What can we do?

In addition to donating to causes such as Stop AAPI Hate, Long also has been advocating for local Asian-owned businesses by posting reviews online and encouraging people to frequent those restaurants and shops. He created and distributed Equality Eats Here stickers to display on the doors of eateries that are safe places for all people. Long also recommends talking to your kids about bullying and how to ensure their Asian American classmates don’t feel alone during these trying times.

“On a micro level, within our community, I would encourage people who live in Peachtree Corners to get to know the owners of local small businesses,” said Long. “It means even more when it’s an Asian or a Black-owned business and you get to know the owners by name. There’s a bond that you build, and it becomes harder to let all the hate and fear come into play when you personally know someone.”

Isadora is a writer, photographer, and designer living in Avondale Estates, GA. She has worked in print for the past decade and has been published in the Atlanta INtown, Oz Magazine, Atlanta Senior Life, and the Reporter Newspapers.

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Business

Kettlerock Brewing Announces First Anniversary Event

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Kettlerock Brewing is hosting its first-anniversary celebration from May 13 to 15, 2022, and is inviting the community to join them for this festive occasion.

Kettlerock Brewing is located in Peachtree Corners at 6025 Peachtree Parkway, Suite 1.  On May 14, 2021, they opened their doors for business, with a mission to provide excellent craft beer in a comfortable, attractive setting, and to engage our community.  

For the one-year celebration, they have giveaways and live music on Friday.  On Saturday, there will be a full day of events and activities, including an arts and crafts area, food vendors, and live music in the evening. The goal, according to the Kettlerock team, is to provide a community-oriented event to celebrate Peachtree Corners and Kettlerock’s first year as a small, family-owned business in the Peachtree Corners community. 

On Saturday, May 14, they are releasing their anniversary beer.  The release of Bear on the Roof celebrates the first year of accomplishments for Kettlerock Brewing.  The delightful bourbon barrel-aged beer is based on their popular Bear Tracks wee heavy Scottish ale, to combine the soft and silky bourbon notes with the natural honey and caramel flavors of the malt-forward wee heavy.

Kettlerock Brewing focuses on creating a “balanced and interesting beer that is both delicious and approachable.” They have a strong core set of beers in a range of styles such as IPA, Belgian, Blonde Ale, Stout, Wee Heavy, and a rotating selection of intriguing seasonal beverages.  The brewery strives to be a focal point of the community, both informally and as a location for events.  

Find additional information at KettlerockBrewing.com or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

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Food & Drink

A Passion for Latin: Peachtree Corners’ Newest Latin American Restaurant

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From left, Jay and Ofelia, David Aaron and Juanita (Photos by Isadora Pennington)

It was a sunny and warm spring day when I pulled up to Latin Fresh on South Old Peachtree Road. Pops of color alluded to the tropical vibe I was about to encounter in this charming and innovative restaurant.

Latin Fresh, open only since January 24, 2022, is a restaurant unlike any other in the area. Offering traditional dishes that hail from Latin American countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela, the menu is fresh, bold and creative.

For many Southerners, Latin American food might be synonymous with burritos, tacos and other Mexican or Tex-Mex dishes. That’s something that the family behind Latin Fresh wants to change.

“I realized there were a lot of Mexican restaurants,” said David Aaron who co-owns the restaurant with his fiancé Juanita and his parents Jay and Ofelia. Aaron, who recently moved to Peachtree Corners from Colombia, hopes to provide a menu that not only speaks to his personal passion for Latin cuisine but also offers an opportunity for locals to expand their palates.

A variety of flavors and experiences

“No Latin American country is exactly the same; we are all full of colors, cultures, music, traditions, dialects, all across Latin America. Latin America is composed of Central America, the Caribbean, South America and every single country is completely different,” Aaron explained.

Fortunate enough to travel extensively, Aaron has been able to see firsthand the variety of cuisines in the 33 countries that comprise Latin America. “The food in Colombia on the east side is completely different to that on the west, the south or the north side,” he said. “It’s completely different, and that’s just one country.”

Aaron, a chef who has been working in the restaurant industry for 21 years, has cooked in settings that range from cafeterias to Michelin Star restaurants. He grew up in Miami with his parents and a large, vibrant family.

Aaron’s father Jay was a pilot and when he retired, he opened a restaurant. He used his cooking skills to raise money for foundations he cared about as well as feeding his large family from his home kitchen.

“We had something like 70 first cousins, my mother has 15 siblings,” said Aaron. “We always had people coming to the house and my father was always cooking, trying different things, always homey foods and done from scratch. If he wanted a tomato sauce, he would cut the tomato and make it himself.”

Beyond his father’s obvious love for cooking, Aaron noted the financial element to making food from scratch. If you’re buying ingredients, as opposed to prepared goods, you can often stretch your dollar to create larger batches of food which is essential when you’re cooking for dozens of people on a given day.

“I have never been to cooking school, never ever, just learned from my mom,” explained Jay Aaron, David’s father. “When I came here, I was 20 years old. I never cooked in my house, but when my mom came here and saw that I was cooking, she couldn’t believe it. I like it. I really enjoy it, it’s really important that I enjoy whatever I do.”

The road to Peachtree Corners

At the onset of the pandemic, David Aaron was working in Miami and his catering business took a huge hit due to canceled events and ongoing shutdowns. As a result, he relocated to Colombia where he took a more hands-on approach in one the restaurants owned by his restaurant group.

While this restaurant in Colombia was incredibly successful, he and his fiancé Juanita Mesa decided they wanted to find somewhere in the States to settle down. Juanita’s background in hospitality — which led her to live in Australia, South Africa, Spain, London, Canada — and her ability to speak five languages has offered her a unique perspective, and it was with careful consideration that she chose this area.

Considering it to be family-friendly and inviting, they saw the area was also ripe for a dynamic Latin restaurant concept. “I think what’s special about it is it’s family,” Juanita explained. “It’s what Latin America is all about; we are all about having our family together. David and his parents, you can’t get closer to family than that. His sister lives 40 minutes away and having that support of being able to ask questions — they know the area — that was super important to us.”

Aaron’s parents relocated from Miami to be closer to their family and grandkids here and are deeply involved in the venture.

The feel and flavors of home

“The idea behind Latin Fresh is that everything is fresh, everything is cooked from scratch,” said Aaron. Customers are able to choose a base, a protein, a side and a couple of sauces. “In Latin America you drench everything in sauces,” Aaron explained with a laugh.      

Whether you prefer an empanada, a bowl or a wrap, you can craft a unique and delectable dish with flavors you may have never experienced before. Friendly and knowledgeable staff are there to walk you through all the different options, explaining the ingredients and origins of all the menu items to find a dish you’re sure to love.

“It’s very homey flavors to us, which we know is probably not homey to our customers,” said Juanita. “We want people to be able to come here and taste things and feel at home like when we went into our mom’s kitchens growing up. Having that, not only in the food but also the service, to have people who can approach you like family, like a friend, to be able to ask questions.”

Describing such a varied menu can be tough, but Aaron considers it a kind of Latin American soul food. “It’s food that warms the heart.”

In fact, the very design and aesthetics of the restaurant have been chosen to evoke a familiar feeling, like that of walking into a Latin friend’s house. Along one wall, a large mural was painted by a Colombian artist who the team flew in. The opposite wall is covered with wooden planks in colors that were carefully chosen to be light, bright and joyous.

Family owned and operated, they hope that Latin Fresh is approachable, cozy and comfortable, both for local Latin neighbors and those unfamiliar with Latin American cuisine.

A fresh, family concept

Another key tenet of the Latin Fresh concept is sustainability. All of the restaurant’s furniture was refurbished, and they source their food and juices locally and from independent farmers whenever possible. Even their plates, forks and cups are all ethically made from compostable materials.

“Fresh is the concept; we don’t use canned products, preservatives or GMOs. We are big on that,” said Aaron. “I’m a big vegan activist; I think it’s the future of food. All our bases and sides are vegan, and then we have three vegan protein options.”

A family affair, it is not uncommon to see Aaron’s father working in the kitchen, his mother ensuring everything is just right on the line, Juanita manning the phones and answering questions. “To serve people is my favorite,” said Aaron’s mother Ofelia.

If you’re fortunate enough to meet the family, you’ll find they are friendly and approachable, ready to offer unique insight to their one-of-a-kind menu.

During my visit I was fortunate enough to be able to sample several dishes, and I have to say that they were each incredibly unique, flavorful and delicious. Every ingredient, though vastly different in origin and preparation, was so thoughtfully prepared it seemed as though they were destined to be paired with one another.

The drinks, made from tropical fruits — many of which I had never tried before — were delightful. I found myself cycling through the offerings, sampling sauces and going back for seconds of every dish. Thoroughly stuffed and feeling the love, I headed home with several boxes of delectable Latin soul food. What an experience.

Peachtree Corners is truly lucky to have Latin Fresh in the neighborhood.

For more information visit latinfreshgroup.com

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Food & Drink

Three Peachtree Corners offerings are among the unique, limited-edition burger creations highlighted during the seventh annual celebration.

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Burger Week March 2022

Explore Gwinnett will host its seventh annual Burger Week beginning Sunday, March 13 through Saturday, March 19. During the week-long celebration local restaurants will offer limited-edition burger creations and a side for $10. Locals and visitors are invited to try as many of these unique culinary delights as they would like throughout the week for lunch and dinner to support the community’s locally owned eateries. 

 “With so many amazing restaurants in our community to showcase, we look forward to the creative and delicious burgers that Gwinnett Burger Week brings each year,” said Explore Gwinnett Executive Director Lisa Anders. “We are excited for both locals and visitors alike to experience the culinary talent that Gwinnett County has to offer as they try out new dining spots and return to old favorites to sample limited-edition menu items.”

 This year, there are 17 participating restaurants in Gwinnett Burger Week, each featuring an off-menu burger that will be exclusively available throughout the week. Three of those mouth-watering eats are from Peachtree Corners restaurants:

The Boss Hog

The Boss Hog, at Uncle Jack’s Meat House is a blend of prim beef, sweet and spicy barbecue sauce, seared Black Forrest ham, smoked gouda, cheddar fondue, crispy serrano peppers and shallots on a sea salt pretzel bun. It is served with hand cut French fries.

Grilled Turkey Burger

Grilled Turkey Burger at Marlow’s Tavern is created with romaine lettuce, Roma tomatoes, sliced red onions, pickled julienne carrots and cucumbers, sweet chili sauce on a wheat burger bun. It is served with Tavern fries.

Death by Peaches

Death by Peaches at Stäge Kitchen & Bar features ghost pepper yuzu aioli, peach pepper jam, aged white cheddar, dill pickle, arugula, fried onion, brioche bun. It is served with tater tots.  

 The limited-time burgers are available for dine-in, and many restaurants will also offer a to-go option. Diners are also invited to use the hashtag #GwinnettBurgerWeek on their social media postings throughout the week. 

For more information about Gwinnett Burger Week, go to ExploreGwinnett.org/Gwinnett-Burger-Week.

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