You won’t have to board a plane for authentic flavors of this island nation.
You may not be able to bring back the beautiful blue waters or sandy white beaches from a trip to the Caribbean, but thanks to a long-established local restaurant, you can enjoy the same food.
In July 1993 Tony “Granville” Reid and his wife Marcia left their home in Jamaica for the U.S. Six months later, Marcia’s brother E. Parry Hinds joined them. They soon found that their credentials from the island nation didn’t carry over in this new country.
“The jobs that we held at home were of an executive nature,” said Tony. “We spent a lot of time canvassing for employment, with the exception of my wife who was pregnant with our last child.”
Encouraged to take a leap of faith
After a year of striking out on the employment front, Hinds’ father-in-law, who was an entrepreneur and mentor to the young couple, suggested they open a restaurant.
“We don’t know anything about running a restaurant!” Tony countered. But the older man persisted. After all, the Reids had run a pharmacy in Jamaica, and yet neither were pharmacists.
“We weren’t chefs, but we did know how to run a business,” said Tony. So in 1994, Kool Runnings was born. It started in DeKalb County on Memorial Drive, but it has been at its Peachtree Parkway location for 14 years.
“It was all trial and error over the years,” said Hinds. “We made a whole lot of mistakes, made a lot of money and lost a lot of money.”
The fact that they weren’t chefs or trained in culinary arts forced them to take chances with people who claimed that there were professional chefs. “That messed this up a whole lot,” said Marcia. “We had to rely on people that weren’t honest.”
But the family could depend on their entrepreneurial skills and business acumen. “We had boots on the ground, literally,” said Hinds. “We were getting in the mix and learning as we went along, but we also relied heavily on the influences and the input of other people with experience.”
It took time, but they gradually gained enough knowledge to be able to identify the pitfalls. “…ad the shenanigans,” added Marcia.
It also took trial and error to get the right blend of spices to replicate the flavor they recalled from home. Once they found it, they regulated it so no matter who was in the kitchen, the food would be basically the same.
“One thing that people want is consistency,” said Tony. “If I come in here today, I want to be able to come in here a week from now, and if I ordered the same thing, I want it to taste the same.”
Customers learn to love it
The restaurant has gained a loyal following. “We’ve had customers who have been coming to us since day one,” said Hinds. “And we have their children coming and their grandchildren coming.”
But convincing Americans that curried goat and whole fish, with the head and eyes still intact, were delicious cuisine was an uphill climb. So in the early days, the food was on a steam table where customers could see the food as it was being dished up. “We’d offer samples,” said Marcia. “Once they tasted the good flavor, they were hooked.”
To date, about 80% of their customers are Americans. In fact, Air Jamaica recognizes Kool Runnings as a top spot for island cuisine. When they were at the Memorial Drive location, patrons and staff from the nearby Hooters restaurant would buy food at Kool Runnings to eat with pitchers of beer while they watched sports at Hooters.
“One evening at about six or seven o’clock, one of the Hooters executives came in through our door… he said, ‘We have 28 tables over there, and 23 of them have your food,” said Tony, laughing.
It’s that kind of proof that assures the family that they’ve done the right thing.
Challenges met and overcome
The family was doing so well that it had operations in the food courts at North Lake Mall in Tucker and Gwinnett Place Mall in Duluth. Then the Great Recession hit, which meant less consumer spending and a sharp decline in patronage at malls.
They closed their mall locations and focused on improvements at the main location, like a Sunday brunch buffet with music. Just as they were getting their groove back, another tragedy struck — COVID-19.
Unlike a lot of restaurants, Kool Runnings was able to stay open through the pandemic. Even with staffing shortages, the family persevered. “We worked hard every day and made sure everything got done,” said Marcia.
Once again, the business model changed. “We were used to most customers coming in to dine and then we became almost all carryout or delivery,” said Hinds.
Recently, of course, the prices have skyrocketed. “Some things we’re just not able to get,” said Tony.
That means it takes more effort for this family-run establishment to keep going. When restaurant suppliers don’t have the right rice for the rice and peas, sometimes they’ll go to a regular grocery store with prices and quantities geared toward consumers and not cost-effective for other retailers.
“Even a simple ingredient like coconut cream — that’s a primary ingredient in many recipes — is sometimes impossible to find,” said Tony.
He added that they can’t just pass on the additional costs to the customers because soon they’d have no customers. Still, they all are optimistic that things have leveled off somewhat and will soon get better.
Through it all, they don’t regret a thing. For a group of folks without culinary backgrounds, they’ve made quite an impact in the food world.
Although their children grew up working in the restaurant, they don’t believe the legacy will live on. “When we close, we will be done. But we’ll know that we’ve done well,” said Hinds.
Kool Runnings Jamaican Restaurant
5450 Peachtree Pkwy., Peachtree Corners
Great Barbecue and Strong Community Spirit Bring Families to Moe’s Original BBQ
Born and raised in Peachtree Corners, Harris Carlock probably didn’t give much thought to Alabama-style barbecue. But he did while attending the University of Alabama.
There he became good friends with classmates who eventually founded Moe’s Original BBQ — Ben Gilbert and Jeff Kennedy.
According to Moe’s company history, another founder, Mike Fernandez learned to fire roast meats back in 1988 from Tuscaloosa legend Moses Day, whose distinct style makes up Moe’s original flavor of barbecue.
Eventually the founding partners all relocated to Vail, Colo., where each refined their cooking skills, according to the Moe’s website. Together, they created something special by using fruit wood to smoke their meats and complementing them with two sauces — a classic red and an Alabama white.
The first Moe’s that’s part of the franchise is actually located in Vail, said Carlock.
With a day job selling commercial real estate, Carlock said he always wanted to open a Moe’s in his hometown — in the spot where it is now.
“I had been watching that particular location for years hoping that it would become available,” he said. “My hope is that it would be a really a big part of the community. I see it as a place for families to come after t-ball and soccer games.”
In 2021 his wish came true. He partnered with his cousin, Scott Carlock, who has an extensive restaurant background, as well as another Moe’s Original BBQ owner, Kyle McCarter.
“I live a mile from Moe’s and that’s really why we started it — to add to the local community,” said Harris Carlock. “I know the brand, because of my friends, but also, I know it’s a great product. Knowing that there are not a lot of other barbecue places in Peachtree Corners, I thought it would be a good fit.”
Family, food and fun
Harkening back to his youth, Harris Carlock reminisced about playing football on Norcross High’s offensive line. “On Thursdays, the coach would take us to Sonny’s BBQ and we would eat all we could eat. …That’s pretty neat,” he said. “I love that we’ve set up the same program with Norcross today. The Norcross offensive line comes every Thursday.”
Not to be outdone, Johns Creek has started the tradition this year.
“To me, that’s really what we’re about. That’s exactly what I want to do. You know, it’s not about making money. We do that at our cost, and it really makes us happy to see those kids out there. They love it; they come in and eat lots of wings and pork,” Harris Carlock said.
Moe’s isn’t just a one-sport spot, however.
“We also have a partnership with the Peachtree Corners Football Club, which is the soccer program that plays out of Jones Bridge Park,” he added. “We’re all about families coming in. We have ‘Kids eat free’ on Wednesday night.”
Keeping it fresh
Harris Carlock wants everyone to give Moe’s a try.
“Ribs are really what we’re famous for, but in addition to that, our smoked wings are probably our best seller. The other thing, I think, that sets us apart is we make our sides fresh daily from scratch,” he said.
In addition to the side dish staples that are on the menu every day, there are specialty dishes — mainly vegetables — that rotate. On occasion, a customer may get perturbed because their favorite has run out and there’s not a vat of it in the back to scoop out.
“Our philosophy is that all our meats are smoked fresh every day — same with the vegetables. So when we’re out of them, we’re out,” he said. “We purposely don’t cook more than we think we’ll sell because we don’t want to reheat it the next day.”
That’s kind of a pet peeve, he said.
“There are a lot of places where you can get good ‘cue, but then they’ve got potato salad that they just got from the deli or whatever, and they didn’t put that same kind of care into the sides,” he said.
It’s in the smoking and the sauces
The big thing that stands out is the Alabama-style of smoking the meat. Traditional barbecue in Alabama centers around pork cooked in open pits over hickory wood. Other hardwoods, such as oak and pecan, are also used.
Sauces vary by the proximity to other states — the closer to North Carolina, the more vinegar based; the closer to South Carolina, the more mustard based; the closer to Memphis the sweeter and more tomato-y.
But the white sauce — a mayonnaise-based concoction with vinegar, lemon juice, horseradish and cayenne pepper — is an Alabama tradition by itself.
McCarter, who’s actually a metro Atlanta native from Roswell, was trained under the original franchise owners in Vail and runs the day-to-day operations.
“Kyle smokes all the meat. He runs the restaurant. He’s the one responsible for the delicious food,” said Harris Carlock.
Moe’s invites families and friends to trivia on Thursday nights and ‘Kids eat free’ on Wednesday nights. Everyone is welcome to watch the Braves or the Falcons or the Hawks on one of the eight TVs.
Of course, there’s always the option to dine while sitting on the patio and enjoying being part of a great community.
Moe’s Original BBQ
5005 Peachtree Pkwy., Ste. 810, Peachtree Corners
Photos by George Hunter
H&W Steakhouse Opening in Peachtree Corners
Norsan Restaurants has announced the upcoming opening of its new restaurant concept, H&W Steakhouse. H&W is the third fine-dining steakhouse concept from Norsan Restaurants.
The company also operates Pampas Steakhouse in Johns Creek and Frankie’s The Steakhouse in Duluth. H&W aims to bring modern fine dining to Peachtree Corners with USDA Prime Steaks and a variety of seafood options.
The restaurant was designed by architect Filipao Nunes out of Monterrey, Mexico.
“It fills us with great pride to be part of such an important project, which was designed to create an experience on par with the menu,” says Nunes. Our goal was to allow for elegance to shine in every single detail, staying faithful to the essence of the brand.”
Chef Thomas Minchella leads the culinary team at H&W and has served as Norsan Restaurant’s Executive Corporate Chef since 2020.
Chef Minchella, formerly the Executive Chef of McKendrick’s Steakhouse, looks forward to the opening and sharing his menu and creations with guests. He states, “Creating delicious food is my passion, creating a culinary staff is my ambition, and creating guests is my love!”
Norsan CEO Norberto Sanchez shares, “We are very excited to open our new concept H&W Steakhouse. Taking center stage at H&W will be handpicked premium steaks and a fantastic array of seafood offerings. Our hospitable and professional service team has one goal: to make our guests feel at home.”
H&W will soft-open late September with a limited number of reservations available.
Source: H&W Steakhouse
Photography by Bruce Johnson
Shah’s Halal Food Celebrates Opening in Peachtree Corners
Mayor Mike Mason, Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA), business professionals and community well-wishers joined the Hameed family, owners of Shah Halal Food, and staff to celebrate the opening of its new Peachtree Corners restaurant with a ribbon-cutting celebration and lunch event.
Khurran (Kay) Hameed shared, “At Shah’s Halal, we take pride in offering the highest quality, most authentic and delectable halal cuisine at a fair price. We are excited to bring our exceptional dining experience to Peachtree Corners.”
In addition to dining services, Shah’s Halal also offers to-go orders and catering for special events.
Mayor Mason, along with PCBA Board Members Lisa Proctor, Allison Reinert, Suzanna Martinez and local business supporters were on hand.
“The city council and I are delighted that you have chosen Peachtree Corners for your business location,” said Mason. “We are pleased to have this new restaurant available as part of our business-friendly city.”
Shah’s Halal Food is located at 5450 Peachtree Parkway, Suite 8B, in Peachtree Corners. Check them out at shahshalalfood.com/peachtree-corners/ or call 678-292-6426 to find out more.
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