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Old Classic Has New Twist

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Photos by George Hunter.

Beard Papa’s cream puffs gives the traditional pastry new life with international flavors. Photos by George Hunter.

If you polled most Americans, they’d probably admit that they’ve never had a cream puff the way it was intended to be eaten — freshly made with quality ingredients. The dessert shop Beard Papas is ready to save the day.

Originally founded in Osaka, Japan in 1999, Beard Papa’s started as a small bakery and quickly grew to more than 400 locations in 15 countries and territories, according to a press release. It soon gained global recognition for its light and airy cream puffs.

The Peachtree Corners franchise, located at the Town Center, provides the perfect bite when you crave a little something sweet that won’t set your teeth on edge.

Co-owner Esteban Tan let his love of the desserts and his desire to spread his entrepreneurial wings send him looking for a way to become a part of the Beard Papa’s international family.

International background for global brand

The road to owning his own dessert spot winds a little for Tan. He’s originally from Taiwan, but his parents moved to Argentina when he was small. He met his now-wife at a sort of Chinese language school. Even after both families left for the U.S., the two stayed in touch.

“Her family moved from Argentina to Los Angeles and my family came here to Atlanta. So, because of that we were dating long distance. I would travel to LA …to see her while we were in high school and college,” he said.

Besides courting his future bride, Tan took in the cool franchises that didn’t exist back east — bubble tea places and one of his favorites, Beard Papa’s.

“There were all these different stores that we’d never seen around here. And they all tasted awesome,” said Tan.

It was a friend’s desire to get the Beard Papa’s treats back home in metro Atlanta that prompted Tan to look into starting his own small business. He was on a trip to LA with his new wife and some friends when one woman reminisced about the amazing cream puffs she’d had in China as a child. She said Beard Papa’s were just as good as the pastries of her childhood.

“I’m an accountant. I’ve been doing accounting ever since I started working,” said Tan. “But I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I always wanted to be able to be my own boss and run a business.”

When he discovered that the commitments of money, time and experience weren’t more than he could handle, his dream became a reality.

“I’m like, ‘why can’t we have a Beard Papa’s store here?’ It’s something different. …It’s not another donut shop or another cupcake store,” said Tan.

If you make cream puffs, will they come?

He contacted Beard Papa’s home office with the help and backing of two good friends from church. Since Atlanta is a hot market and Peachtree Corners has an attractive demographic, the franchise came on board in 2019.

Despite the fact that Beard Papa’s sells a low price-point item that not everyone has heard of, business is going great. So great, in fact, that Tan and his partners are opening another location in Duluth at the end of this year, or early next year.

“It’s near the Costco on Steve Reynolds and Satellite Boulevard,” said Tan. “With so much foot traffic at Costco, we’ve got to be able to lure in customers for our cream puffs.”

The international nature of the corridor has made both store locations perfect, Tan said. The cream puff, or choux pastry, is a French invention, but it has gained a lot of popularity in the last few decades among Asian markets.

Beard Papa’s adds non-traditional flavors, such as matcha, that one probably wouldn’t find in a typical French patisserie.

What has helped his business is the support he has received from the City of Peachtree Corners, Town Center Mall and other local entities that make this area a business-friendly place. “The new playground, the activities and other factors make this the perfect place to run a business,” said Tan.

Even though he’s opening another spot soon, Tan said he will let those grow before he looks into other endeavors.

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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DiBar Grill: A Taste of Persia in Peachtree Corners

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DiBar Grill manager Larry LaRose

International Restaurants: Find Cuisines from Across the Globe Just Down the Road

In the heart of Peachtree Corners, a culinary gem is weaving rich Persian flavors into the fabric of the community. The epicenter of ancient Persia was located in what is now modern-day southwest Iran, and its cuisine is known for unique spice blends, savory meats, and herbaceous vegetables.

Kamel Fadavi is originally from the Middle East and moved to the Peachtree Corners area in 2014. When moving to the area, Fadavi wanted to make sure he brought some of Persia with him.

Fadavi attempted to open his first restaurant in 2014 but had a few setbacks during production.

“It was very difficult at first, trying to find a space,” Fadavi said about finding the perfect location for his restaurant. He also faced difficulties trying to get a license and permit to open his restaurant.

Saffron Lamb Shank with Sagnak and Saffron rice

Yet, Fadavi persevered and was able to pursue his dream. His first restaurant opened in September of 2015. Originally named Taaj Market and Restaurant, this eatery offered both shopping and dining experiences, allowing customers to experience Persia inside and outside their homes.

Despite the success of Taaj Market in marrying the market and restaurant experience, Fadavi felt inspired to elevate the concept further.

Brand new look, same great food

In 2023, Fadavi decided to redesign the restaurant and offer customers a more elegant and exciting experience. Thus, DiBar Grill was launched.

Fadavi hired a new manager, Larry Larose, to help him with this process.

Larose has been in the service industry for several years but was looking for a change when he came across Taaj Market.

After hearing about Fadavi‘s new ideas for the restaurant, Larose stepped up to help bring them to life.

To really elevate the experience, DiBar Grill added a full bar and designed the space with a more eye-appealing look.

Revamping an established brand was a new experience for Fadavi and Larose, but together, they created and executed a beautiful vision for DiBar Grill.

Persian cuisine 101

Persian cuisine is a diverse culinary tradition that reflects the region’s long history and varied climate. It’s characterized by its bold and distinct flavors, including hardy meats, filling starches and savory sides.

Muhammara roasted red pepper with Sagnak

Spices, including saffron, turmeric, cinnamon, dried lime, cardamom and rose petals, are staples in Persian cuisine. Fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, dill and mint are also frequently used.

“Expect a lot of red meat in many dishes, ” Kamel said. Lamb is one of the most popular meats in Persia, so when dining at a Persian restaurant, you can expect to see many different lamb preparations.

Lamb shanks and kebabs are two classic dishes that foodies can relish. While these lamb dishes are Persian must-haves, customers can also enjoy a variety of chicken, beef and seafood dishes.

The full Persian experience

DiBar Grill offers flavorful spreads and appetizers, such as hummus, labneh and roasted red peppers, along with its variety of lamb dishes. These small appetizer plates are also entirely vegan on their own. You can expect these spreads to be served with a warm sangak, a whole wheat leavened flatbread.

Labneh with smoked salmon and Sangak

Cheese is another favorite in Persian dishes, but labneh is a distinctive dish patrons must try. Yogurt strained in cheesecloth for two to three days produces a smooth, creamy spread with a tangy flavor.

Whether you are in for a full meal or a palatable snack, DiBar Grill gives customers the perfect Persian dishes.

DiBar Grill offers delivery for its entire menu, which you can order from its website. Whether you’re celebrating a Sunday night at home or a special occasion at a location of your choice, DiBar Grill has you covered.

DiBar Grill
6385 Spalding Dr Suite B
Peachtree Corners, GA 30092
www.dibargrill.com
770-559-8799

Find two dozen more international restaurants in Peachtree Corners here!

Photos by Kendyl Clarke

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Lillie J’s Kitchen & Cocktails: Jamaican Spice with Southern Soul

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Exterior of Lillie J's Kitchen & Cocktails // Photo by George Hunter

International Restaurants: Find Cuisines from Across the Globe Just Down the Road

If you look at Tiffany Coleman’s resume, you’ll see an extensive background in talent management and talent production in film and television.

“I’m definitely a behind-the-scenes person, for sure. I’m too shy to be out front,” she said. “I’m good at managing things – schedules and stuff like that.”

But, if you look into her heart, you’ll find a person who loves her roots and the art of perfecting a delicious dish. Although she hasn’t given up her career in entertainment, Coleman has branched out into another field – restaurateur.

Tiffany Colman, Owner Lillie J’s Kitchen & Cocktails // Photo by George Hunter

Generations of culinary love

“I’m originally from New Jersey, but my mom was born in Jamaica. She came to America when she was very young,” said Tiffany. “She stayed in the kitchen with her mom, and that’s where she learned to cook.”

Like in many close-knit communities, neighbors and aunts also contributed to Annette Coleman’s culinary training.

“She just loves the kitchen,” said Tiffany. “I guess that was therapeutic for her … because she left Jamaica at such a young age to come to America that her cooking brings the families together. It was like a focal point for people to fall in love with her.”

Subsequently, the craft was passed down to Tiffany, who experiences the same love of cooking. But, unlike her mother, she doesn’t work at a quick pace.

“I know how to cook because I was always in the kitchen with my mom,” Tiffany explained. “But I really like to take my time. It’ll take me hours to cook a meal. So, I’m not the one cooking for a restaurant. But my mom can do it in no time with her eyes closed.”

Multi-talented Annette has owned, managed and consulted on numerous food businesses in the metro Atlanta area.

“This is actually our, well, my mother’s fifth restaurant,” Tiffany said. “It’s my first one all hands in.”

Customers at Lillie J’s Kitchen & Cocktails // Photo by George Hunter

Annette started a restaurant in New Jersey with Rita Owens, Queen Latifah’s mom before she moved to Georgia. The family also owned a breakfast bar in Jersey.

“When we moved down to Georgia in 2009, she opened another restaurant,” said Coleman. “We had two in Georgia before opening Lillie J’s.”

What’s in a name?

Ironically, Tiffany didn’t name her first restaurant after her mother, the person who nurtured her love of cooking.

“The restaurant is actually named after my dad’s mother, Lillie Jones,” she said. “We were trying to be funny. … She doesn’t know how to cook at all. She can barely boil two eggs.”

But Jones loved good food and good conversation.

“She’d sit in the kitchen with my mother while she cooked, and they’d talk and have a good time,” said Tiffany. “So, my mom wanted people to be like Lillie J and enjoy a meal in the same way my grandmother did.”

Annette is the head chef at Lillie J’s, but the concept and the management belong to Tiffany. She comes in early, gets things going, and moves through the many restaurant tasks.

“People think she’s Lillie J because they are her recipes,” said Tiffany.

Jodi Parker dining at Lillie J’s Kitchen & Cocktails // Photo by George Hunter

Jamaica meets the South

The food blends Jamaican spice and American soul, with Annette’s creativity thrown in for good measure.

Many of her New York area friends and family had Southern roots and taught her how the South fixes collard greens, yams and a whole slew of other mouth-watering dishes.

“I would say it’s a fusion restaurant,” said Tiffany. “We’ve got a little Jamaican, a little Southern American and a lot of love.”

Traditional fare such as shrimp and grits and Southern fried chicken are expected, as well as curry chicken and braised oxtail. But there are twists on the menu, like brussels sprouts tossed in guava or avocado toast topped with plantains.

Even the cocktails are diverse.

You could order an “Island Mule” or a “Dark and Lovely” as easily as a “Listen Linda” or a “Wrecked Side Car.”

Although she loves everything on the menu, Tiffany said one of her absolute favorites is the honey cornbread.

Tiffany Colman and Lillie J’s famous cornbread // Photo courtesy of Lillie J’s Kitchen & Cocktails

“I’m always mixing it on my plate with yams or even the mac and cheese – it’s just ridiculous!” she said.

Anyone who likes to lick their fingers and get personal with their meal will have a dilemma in choosing what to try.

“Just get one of everything,” Tiffany said. “You won’t be disappointed.”

Best of both worlds

Lillie J’s is in its second year and doing well, said Tiffany, but she wants it to do better. Splitting her time between two careers isn’t easy, but she believes she can make it work.

Besides being a phenomenal cook, Annette is a successful hairdresser.

“My mom has done hair for a very long time. Well, my whole, honestly,” said Coleman.

She worked on the Ricki Lake Show, the Queen Latifah Show and the Court Show with Judge Glenda Hatchett. Her connections helped open doors for her daughter, and the two formed a community within the television and film industry.

“I’d always go to work with [my mom] when I was on break from college,” she said. “I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and I fell into TV and film.”

Coleman said she loves what she does but wanted to try something different.

“For the past decade, I’ve been dedicating my life to other people’s lives, and I just felt like I wanted something of my own,” she said.

She doesn’t have plans to leave the film and television industry.

“It’s something I can’t get away from, but it’s more like I could do all my eyes closed,” she said.

So, the restaurant business is a new challenge she hopes will succeed – one bite at a time.

Lillie J’s Kitchen & Cocktails
5975 Peachtree Pkwy Suite 102
Peachtree Corners, GA 30092
www.lilliejs.com 678-395-4095

Find two dozen more international restaurants in Peachtree Corners here!

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Cafe Songhai: Western African cuisine meets high-end dining

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Exterior of Cafe Songhai in Peachtree Corners // Photo by Tracey Rice

International Restaurants: Find Cuisines from Across the Globe Just Down the Road

Although the U.S. Census Bureau uses five racial and ethnic categories (six if you count “other”), the world is made up of so many diverse cultures that it would be nearly impossible to categorize them all.

Perhaps more interesting than categorizing people is learning to enjoy the different cuisines they share with others.

One of the greatest aspects of living in one of the most diverse counties in the country is that Gwinnett is home to a variety of food styles.

While Italian, Mexican and Chinese dishes may be familiar, have you ever tried a West African, Jamaican or Persian dish?

Peachtree Corners Magazine visited purveyors of these different fares operating here in town. We encourage you to give them a try.

You’ll never know if your taste buds have more in common with a place across the globe than with the food you’ve been eating your entire life.

Bon appetit! Or, in other words, Ɛyε dε, Eat good or Nooshe jân!

If you’re craving fufu or jollof rice, you’re in luck. Those traditional Nigerian dishes are on the menu at Cafe Songhai, a West African-themed restaurant in Peachtree Corners.

Owners Matthew and Catherine Owusu opened the restaurant in 2017 with a desire to feature the cuisine of Matthew’s native land.

“My husband is Ghanian by birth and moved away from there in his early twenties,” said Catherine. He went to England to study and worked in the pharmaceutical industry.”

But his passion for cooking was strong. So, he worked part-time in an African restaurant as well. He eventually moved to the U.S., where the two met.

Cafe Songhai owners Matthew and Catherine Owusu

Catherine is a Bermudian and a professional in the banking industry. While studying in South Carolina, she applied for a Green Card during a lottery period for Bermudians. She was awarded permanent residency but was required to maintain a full-time job.

To do that, she worked at her uncle’s dental office in Nashville. Upon graduation, she applied for a banking job, but the city didn’t have many options for international banking, her specialty.

So, she ended up in Atlanta at Wells Fargo.

By 2008, Matthew was working with and helping one of the major West African restaurants in Atlanta. As a result, he wanted to open his own with his wife helping in the background.

“He’s the one that manages the restaurant day to day. I am typically there on the weekends because I still have a full-time position,” she said.

Catherine now works in fintech but enjoys her role at Cafe Songhai.

A new concept is born

With Matthew’s strong culinary skills and science background, it was clear that he would run the kitchen.

The two came up with the concept together and chose the name based on an old West African kingdom, the Songhai Empire.

“My husband did a lot of work to open the place, renovating it and everything,” she said. “I am typically the one who is there in the front, overseeing and managing it while interacting with customers and the staff.”

Cafe Songhai opened in 2017. Its goal was to be an upscale West African restaurant for metro Atlantans.

“We knew that there was a market for it. That’s why we chose a location in Peachtree Corners,” she said. “It met certain criteria — it had a diverse population, it was close to a population who would perhaps not be West African but would be open to trying that sort of food, and it had a patio for outside dining, was accessible and had parking.”

She added that Atlanta parking can be challenging to find, and accessibility is so crucial to customer satisfaction. Finding parking can add another $20 to the evening’s expenses.

A few years after Cafe Songhai opened, the COVID pandemic wreaked havoc on the restaurant industry, but Matthew’s versatility was a saving grace.

“Where many places had to close down or lay off their staff because they just weren’t getting the business, he was able to cook it, serve it up and hand it to those customers who were ordering takeout,” Catherine recalled.

“There were times when he was there by himself doing takeout online orders. We made it through because he could handle it,” she explained.

At the time, the couple revamped their restaurant style and pivoted to online takeout only.

“I distinctly remember that day; it was a Friday. That sounds like a song or an intro to a book,” she said. “It was a Friday, and I was there, and I remember we just started getting a lot of phone orders.”

Again, luck was on their side. They had just implemented an online takeout system and managed to keep up with the demand of loyal patrons who still wanted Ghanaian and Nigerian dishes but wouldn’t eat out in public.

“We never closed. I know a lot of places closed for a couple of weeks,” she said. We reopened to full service a little later than others, but we needed to rebuild our staff, and we wanted to do it right.”

Catherine credits resilience, reputation, and customer loyalty for their continued success.

“We have customers who have been with us from the beginning,” she explained. “I wouldn’t want to go through that again, but [my husband] was able to keep us going, whereas maybe some other owners weren’t necessarily able to do that.”

Come for the food, stay for the ambiance

Now that everything is back up to speed, the Owusus continue offering an excellent West African dining experience. During the day, the focus is more on takeout and quick orders. But in the evening, the operation turns to upscale dining.

Jazz nights at Cafe Songhai

“We aim to educate people,” she said. “I know there are some who come, and they just want to try West African food. They’re not familiar with it.”

She and the staff have no problem explaining the options.

“We’ll even try and equate the food to the familiar,” she said. “For instance, I will ask someone, ‘Where are you from? Where is your family from?’”

Those familiar with Black American soul food can relate to black-eyed peas, rice and okra.

Someone with Caribbean roots might be steered toward a whole grilled fish, plantains and spicier options.

“We might have someone who just wants to try a certain dish like fufu,” she said.

More Americans are familiar with African fare thanks to food and travel channels and social media.

“There was a big fufu challenge on TikTok or Instagram not long ago,” she said. “So, we had quite a few people who would say, ‘I want to try fufu.’”

“It’s a starch that you eat with something else,” she said. “There are soups and stews that go with fufu.”

For the complete experience, the eatery offers live music on some Friday evenings.

“We have good food portions and a really good quiet but comfortable atmosphere,” she said. “My husband has excellent music. He plays anything from Marley to Afrobeat to jazz to pop. And we’ve had customers who will ask for a copy of his playlist.”

The Owusus work hard to make Cafe Songhai very personable and unique based on the food, the atmosphere and the art.

Cafe Songhai
3380 Holcomb Bridge Rd
Peachtree Corners, GA 30092
www.cafesonghai.com
470-359-2969

Find two dozen more international restaurants in Peachtree Corners here!

Photos by Tracey Rice

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