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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

Gwinnett Burger Week Set for March 19-25

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The Mexican Burger at B&W Burgers, Buns & Brews

Eighth annual celebration will feature limited-time, chef-created burgers at 25 locally-owned restaurants.

Explore Gwinnett has announced the return of its eighth annual Gwinnett Burger Week will take place from March 19 to 25. The weeklong celebration will feature limited-time burger creations for just $10 at restaurants across the county.

“We can’t wait to celebrate the return of Gwinnett Burger Week and look forward to trying new and unique recipes while supporting our locally owned eateries,” said Explore Gwinnett Executive Director Lisa Anders.

“This highly anticipated event is an excellent opportunity for locals and visitors alike to experience delectable chef-crafted burgers from some of the best restaurants in the area, at an affordable price.”

This year, 25 restaurants are participating in Gwinnett Burger Week, each featuring an exclusive off-menu burger throughout the week. A sampling of this year’s offerings from some Peachtree Corners area participating restaurants include:

  • The Pepper Ranch Burger at Marlow’s Tavern: a hearty hamburger topped with Pepper Jack cheese, fried jalapeños, and smoked chili cream, served on a wheat bun.
  • The Jack Jack Burger at Uncle Jack’s Meat House: two three-ounce smash wagyu beef patties, each with double-stacked cheese and with secret sauce on the bottom bun, topped with onion, pickle, bacon, and tomato relish purée, all on a buttered potato bun.
  • The Mexican Burger at B&W Burgers, Buns & Brews: a half-pound ground beef and pork patty with ham, bacon, cheese, avocado, onions, lettuce, and a grilled jalapeño.

Participating restaurants include:
Lawrenceville
o Cosmo’s Pizza + Social
o Local Republic
o McCray’s Tavern
o Parkside District
o Scrum-did-dly-ump-tious
o The Boujee Southerner Eatery
o Uncle Jack’s Tavern
o Universal Joint
o Village Burger
Buford
o Diesel Tap House
o Over The Top Burger Bar
o Parma Tavern
o Tannery Row Ale House
o The Dawg House
Duluth
o Local on North
o Marlow’s Tavern
o Uncle Jack’s Meat House
Peachtree Corners
o Marlow’s Tavern
o Uncle Jack’s Meat House
Suwanee – Craft Burger by Shane
Loganville – Philanthropy Grill and Ale House
Sugar Hill – The Diner at Sugar Hill
Norcross – B&W Burgers, Buns & Brews
Dacula – Old Fountain Tavern
Lilburn – 1910 Public House

For additional information on the limited-time burger offerings, visit ExploreGwinnett.org/Gwinnett-Burger-Week.

All participating restaurants will have the chance to win the “People’s Choice” award for Gwinnett’s best burger, which will be selected by participating diners. There will also be an optional “Judge’s Choice” award; restaurants choosing to participate will bring their burger to the Explore Gwinnett office for the judges to taste and score. 

Get details about this year’s competition at ExploreGwinnett.org/Gwinnett-Burger-Week/voting.

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Food & Drink

The Mediterranean Diet A Determinant of Eye Health

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Ocular Health Visual

On February 13, a meeting held, a meeting was held between MAGISNAT researchers and the committee of the Fondazione Policlinico Agostino Gemelli IRCCS (Rome, Italy) to discuss the effect of the Mediterranean diet on eye health. MAGISNAT, part of the Italian company MAGI’S Lab, is located in Peachtree Corners.

In this day and age, many factors affect our daily life and health, such as environmental pollution, inadequate eating habits, and unhealthy lifestyles. One of the consequences of these situations has been a huge increase in eye diseases worldwide, such as cataracts, dry eye disorders, or diabetic retinopathy.

Eye and vision health have extensive and overwhelming effects on the overall quality of life, affecting health, education, sustainable development, and even the economy.

Another important aspect that makes this scenario even more complex, is the lack of access to high-quality and even affordable eye care.

The aim of the Feb. 13 meeting was precisely to discuss this relevant issue and possible solutions.

The discussion determined that nutrition, being a key lifestyle factor, can also exert long-term effects on ocular health and play a key role in preventing visual dysfunction, which can lead to permanent visual impairment or even blindness.

Specifically, the Mediterranean Diet (MedDiet) has been in the limelight since the 1980s because of the many health benefits it offers, including eye health.

The MedDiet is characterized by the consumption of small amounts of red meat and by the intake of fish, eggs, nuts, legumes, citrus fruits, green vegetables, olives and their derivatives (particularly olive oil), and a proportionate amount of dairy products. The diet helps to achieve maximum health benefits.

The antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties of these foods, together with plenty of physical activity, offer a valuable intervention in the fight against the tremendously increasing risk of ocular disorders — such as the progression of myopia, dry eye disorders, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma.

The intake of the recommended daily doses of certain micronutrients — such as minerals, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and carotenoids — ensures good overall health and exerts positive effects on the eye and visual system health.

In short, the Mediterranean diet would seem to be the best solution for leading a healthy life and for preventing the possible occurrence of certain eye-related diseases.

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Community

Peachtree Corners Sports Bar Celebrates 10 Years of Community Commitment

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James Woo and Jeff Jang

Three Dollar Café’s quality, service, and dedication have kept it a staple throughout metro Atlanta for 40 years and locally for a decade.

Don’t come to Three Dollar Café expecting cheap food. The name doesn’t reflect the prices or the quality, but the desire of an immigrant to find his piece of the American dream.

Joe Woo, a co-owner of the Peachtree Corners location, is the son of the original Mr. Woo who came to America in 1979 with three dollars in his pocket. (See what he did there?) By 1983, Mr. Woo opened his first restaurant in Sandy Springs. To pay homage to his struggles and commitment to keep the business going, he named it Three Dollar Café.

Although the Peachtree Corners location isn’t the original, it has the same family-oriented spirit and commitment to fresh, well-made pub grub as the first restaurant founded 40 years ago.

There are currently nine locations with a tenth one set for Buford in the near future.

Café grows with the city

When the restaurant on Peachtree Corners came online in February 2013, Peachtree Corners had just become a city. The strip mall location was being re-imaged from a Kroger grocery store and some nearby landmarks, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Since then, Three Dollar Café has grown with the city and served many metro Atlanta favorites, like its famous, award-winning wings and a variety of burgers, sandwiches, wraps, and appetizers — all made fresh.

“It was cool that someone purchased this property and had the vision to make it what it is now,” said Joe Woo. “They realized that there was a lot of traffic on 141 and that if people had a place to stop, it could be a good fit.”

As the city grew, the location grew, and so did the relationships with families in the area.

“We’ve just always been here. And as part of the community, we participated in community events like the Peachtree Corners Festival,” Woo said.

Quality and consistency earn high ratings

Although a decade may not seem long, it is in the restaurant industry. One of Three Dollar Café’s testaments to longevity is its quality and consistency. When others were scrambling to keep the doors open during the pandemic, Woo said he and his staff stayed focused on good food and good service.

“I think the neighborhood appreciates that we kept things consistent. Our goal is to provide really good, high-quality food with good service by getting food out really quick,” he said. “I think how we fared during the pandemic is indicative of the quality of service that we provide, but it’s also indicative of the quality of food we provide.”

Woo pointed out that followers of the digital media brand Eater Atlanta have rated Three Dollar Café’s chicken wings best in the metro. He added that the restaurant also gets consistently high marks from food blogs and media outlets.

He added that, at the end of the day, Three Dollar Café is just a casual place where people can sit down, whether for a lunch meeting, dinner with a family, or later in the evening to catch a game and have a drink at the bar.

Using successes to move forward

Although he just recently came on board, Woo’s partner Jeff Jang agreed wholeheartedly. The décor reflects hometown sports favorites, whether they’re pros, colleges, or local high schools. 

“We see a lot of kids come in with their families in their baseball or soccer uniforms and it’s nice that we may see them in a few years bringing their own kids in with similar uniforms on,” said Jang. 

Woo is turning more of the day-to-day operation to Jang, who has renewed vision for the establishment. “During the pandemic, we did a lot more takeout, and we’re looking to maintain that,” said Jang.

“We’re also looking into more catering. There are so many businesses and office parks nearby, our menu can easily accommodate more catering,” he added.

Three Dollar Café Peachtree Corners

6050 Peachtree Pkwy., Peachtree Corners

770-441-8520, facebook.com/ThreeDollarCafe141

Photos by George Hunter

https://www.facebook.com/ThreeDollarCafe141/

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