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Food & Drink

Kool Runnings Offers Taste of Jamaica

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Kool Running Jamaican Restaurant
E. Parry Hinds and sister Marcia Reid and her husband Tony “Granville” Reid, all owners of Kool Runnings. (Photos by George Hunter)

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

KoolRunningsRestaurant.com, 770-652-7104

Arlinda Smith Broady is part of the Boomerang Generation of Blacks that moved back to the South after their ancestors moved North. With approximately three decades of journalism experience (she doesn't look it), she's worked in tiny, minority-based newsrooms to major metropolitans. At every endeavor she brings professionalism, passion, pluck, and the desire to spread the news to the people.

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Food & Drink

Sucré: New Orleans-Style Luxury Pastry Shop Opening in Peachtree Corners

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Opening this fall at The Forum Peachtree Corners

Abney Harper, co-owner of the luxury New Orleans brand Sucré, shares her journey into the culinary world. Sucré recently opened its first location outside of New Orleans in Woodstock, Atlanta, marking an exciting expansion. Abney hopes to create a beautiful, magical experience showcasing handcrafted, complex pastries while ensuring quality and consistency. The Forum Peachtree Corners will open this fall, 2024. This interview by Rico Figliolini

Podcast Timestamp (where to find it in the podcast):
00:00:00 – Abney Harper’s Journey
00:01:44 – Sucré: New Orleans-Style Luxury Pastry Shop
00:03:37 – From Law to Pastry: A Serendipitous Journey
00:06:16 – Expanding Sucré’s Presence in Georgia
00:08:09 – From Restaurants to Pastries
00:12:47 – Navigating the Challenges of Scaling a Business Across States
00:15:18 – Navigating Regulations and Expansion Plans
00:17:22 – Expanding Sucré Brand Beyond New Orleans
00:20:08 – Discovering A New Orleans Passion
00:21:24 – Bringing the Essence of New Orleans to Atlanta

Podcast Transcript:

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Food & Drink

New dining experience opens at Hilton Hotel

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Dahlia’s Restaurant & Porch // Photo by Bruce Johnson

Dahlia’s Restaurant & Porch offers southern-style fare and easy entertainment

Just in time for the summer season, Hilton Atlanta Northeast has launched a new dining option, Dahlia’s Restaurant & Porch.

The casual dining experience brings understated luxury to an easy, breezy setting with comfortable patio furniture on a spacious outdoor deck, a full bar with top-shelf spirits and an impressive wine collection. The cuisine is Southern style and utilizes regionally sourced, farm-fresh ingredients.

“You really can’t ask for an easier setting or a more comfortable way to unwind,” said Andrew Stegen, executive vice president of operations for FullG Capital, the hotel operator. “In the old days, hotels had restaurants for the travelers, and the locals came occasionally. Now, it’s the other way around. You have to appeal to the people who live here.”

At a press preview on May 15, Dahlia’s Restaurant & Porch was unveiled for the first time.

Dahlia’s plans to offer weekend buffets, sports viewing on the patio and family-friendly cookouts.

Photo by Bruce Johnson

“Dahlia’s is a great addition for our hotel guests but also for the local community! We are most excited about our new porch, which is the perfect place for happy hour spritz, outdoor dining and future programming,” said Mike Roling, general manager of Hilton Atlanta Northeast. 

The food is led by executive chef Robert Chafflin, who said he likes to bring an approachable yet flavorful take on southern culinary staples. For the preview, guests were wowed with shrimp and grits, braised beef short ribs, mushroom risotto, shrimp po’boys, cheesecake with caramelized peaches and a whole lot more. 

The beverages were just as tantalizing – from the signature Black Dahlia to the unexpected Southern Dandie to an array of seasonal spritzes. 

“We are excited to bring a newly renovated restaurant space, brand new porch, and refreshed menu to our property,” said Roling. “We welcome the public, both locals and hotel guests alike, to come join us for a dining experience elevated by our southern hospitality.”

Dahlia’s Restaurant & Porch also has a private dining area and a lounge area—perfect for relaxing after a busy day, grabbing a sumptuous meal with the family or meeting friends for lunch or dinner and drinks. Dahlia’s also provides catering for hotel events. For more information, visit dahliasrestaurant.com.

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Food & Drink

U&ME Coffee Bakery & Wine Celebrates Grand Opening In Peachtree Corners

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Mayor Mike Mason and members of the Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA), business professionals, and community well-wishers recently celebrated the opening of U&ME Coffee Bakery Wine, a new establishment in Peachtree Corners.

The event was marked with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by friends, family members of the owners, Paula Gil and Pablo Vicens, who are married, and their dedicated staff.

Left to right:  Paula Gil & Pablo Gil, Owners

U&ME Coffee Bakery Wine, a local family-owned business, focuses on creating a welcoming space where families can gather, students can study, and friends can hang out.

This establishment offers free high-speed Wi-Fi, weekly specials and a cozy environment for all.

Paula Gil emphasized the importance of offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner options that cater to various tastes and needs.

Family and Friends, Staff, Pablo Gil, Paula Gil, Mayor Mike Mason, Lisa Proctor PCBA Board, Suzanna Martinez PCBA Board, Donna Linden PCBA Board, and Audrey Boyce PCBA Outreach.

The goal is to deliver the highest quality specialty items at fair prices.

“We are excited to bring our blend of coffee shop, wine bar, bakery, and diner spot to Peachtree Corners,” stated Paula.

U&ME Coffee prides itself on using 100% Colombian Medellin Coffee and ensuring all baking is done on-premises to guarantee freshness and quality.

Further distinguishing themselves, Paula and Pablo have incorporated homemade empanadas, pizzas, and pastries into their menu, all made from scratch to offer a unique taste experience.

In addition to their dine-in services, U&ME Coffee caters to those on the go with their to-go orders and provides catering services for special events.

Mayor Mason, alongside PCBA Board Members Lisa Proctor, Donna Linden, Allison Reinert, Suzanna Martinez, and numerous local business supporters, expressed their delight in welcoming U&ME Coffee Bakery Wine to the city.

“The city council and I are delighted you chose Peachtree Corners for your business location. We are pleased to have this new specialty restaurant available as part of our business-friendly city,” Mayor Mason remarked.

Contact:  U&ME Coffee Bakery & Wine
Telephone: 470-359-6972
Facebook:  Facebook U&ME Coffee Bakery Wine
Located at 3433 Medlock Bridge Road, Peachtree Corners

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