Hop on a plane and travel, they say. Get your passport and just go. You need to see the world. You have to experience different cultures.
And yea, that’s true. Leaving the comforts of home exposes you to food, people, and realities that aren’t like the ones we’re afforded. I believe there is real value in traveling the world. But there’s also a lot to explore within the United States. I realized this last weekend during Explore Gwinnett’s Seoul of the South food tour.
Though I work in Duluth, I wasn’t aware of all of the Korean restaurants in the area. Granted, I knew that Gwinnett had a huge Asian population but I wasn’t aware of how many Koreans actually live here. According to International Marketing Coordinator of Explore Gwinnett Sarah Park, 1/3 of all Koreans that reside in the state actually live in the county. So of course their influence would extend into the culinary realm too.
To highlight this, the food tour trolley took us to The Stone Grill, Honey Pig, Suwanee Chicken and Pizza, and Arte 3.
The Stone Grill and Honey Pig are located close to the Gwinnett Place Mall area. Though both are Korean barbecue spots, their approach is different. The Stone Grill uses an actual grill to prepare the meat whereas Honey Pig uses the lid of a large cast iron pot for their presentation. Watching the respective waiters prepare our kimchi, pork belly, beef, and chicken made me think of hosting future dinners or friend reunions at one of these Korean BBQ places instead of a typical chain place or a hibachi restaurant.
After we left those restaurants, we went to Suwanee Chicken and Pizza. This restaurant offers potato and sweet potato pizzas in addition to your standards. They also have a variety of fried chicken choices too. I imagined a mom or dad picking up a few pizza and wing combos for a lazy Friday night instead of cooking or ordering from one of the standard pizza delivery spots.
Next door to Suwanee Chicken and Pizza was our final stop on the food tour—Arte 3. Arte 3 is a cute Korean cafe that had a variety of boba teas, lattes, and desserts. I noticed the huge booth to the left immediately when you enter the restaurant. I thought to myself that it’d be a great location for a meeting, study sesh, or another coloring party. Here, I was introduced to misugaru, a roasted grain-based powder that you can prepare to eat or drink. The other food bloggers and I had the chance to try their shaved ice and waffle desserts. Koreans love fruit, so most of their desserts are paired with an assortment of kiwi, watermelon, bananas, and other fruits.
I left the food tour full. Not only was my stomach satisfied, I found myself consumed with knowledge. As I mentioned earlier, I work in Duluth. Actually, my job is within 10 minutes of all four restaurants. I didn’t realize how similar and unique Korean food can be from American cuisine. Granted, I’ve visited Korean BBQ restaurants and bakeries before, but I wasn’t aware of the variety of their cuisine nor how close I was to it. And I didn’t have to pull out my passport to experience any of this.
Exposing oneself to the different cultures relative to their metropolitan area is a great way to expand ones horizon without hopping on a plane. Hugely diverse areas like metro Atlanta afford people like me an opportunity to try a variety of cuisines and drive home afterwards. So to anyone that’s itching for more exposure to different cultures, I’d suggest finding an international community or neighborhood close to home and fully indulging in their food and shops. It’s not going to add another passport stamp, but it deviates from the norm.
Disclosure: Explore Gwinnett invited me on this food tour where all of my meals and drinks were compensated. All opinions and commentary are mine alone.