At Empanada House, you’ll find many different takes on the flaky, fresh-baked stuffed pastry — including savory Bulgogi BBQ Beef, Chicken, and Pulled Pork, and sweet Guava-Cheese, Banana-Nutella, and Fig-Mascarpone empanadas.
Yuwachit’s Sweet Octopus Thai offerings feature the likes of Bangkok Ribs, and Red Curry Chicken and Shrimp with green beans, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, broccoli and fresh basil.
Both Poke Burri and Lifting Noodles are owned by Seven Chan and Ken Yu of Atlanta’s KSP Restaurant Group. And both concepts originally opened in East Atlanta, but have added franchises, with several locations around metro Atlanta and in other states, since.
Serving up colorful Hawaiian-style sushi burritos, seafood bowls, and even sushi donuts, Poke Burri is perhaps the most buzzed about concept in the space. That’s due in part to the novelty of many of the dishes, and the secret menu, which has become a social media hit.
Last week, Chan and Yu also opened an Asian-focused food hall called Ph'east in The Battery Atlanta adjacent to Truist Park (formerly SunTrust Park). Lifting Noodles opened at Truck and Tap in Alpharetta this week. And another Poke Burri location is opening in the Collective at Coda at Tech Square soon.
Recently, I talked with Chan about Sweet Octopus, his company’s poke and noodle concepts, and the surge of food halls opening everywhere.
“We started Poke Burri in 2016, and started Lifting Noodles in 2017,” Chan said. “It was supposed to be like a side project for us, but it blew up into this thing, and now we have all these stores everywhere. We’re hands-on people by choice and by default, so we’ve been traveling around to make sure every store is successful. Duluth has been one of the really exciting ones, and it’s been doing really well.
“But Poke Burri has been one of the most award-winning restaurants in Atlanta, which is shocking to me and Ken. Our secret menu has gone viral every single time. We’ve hit millions of people with our twist on sushi. It’s probably the least secret secret menu in America. But sushi pizza, sushi corn dogs and sushi doughnuts are all massive hits. Lifting Noodles is more traditional, but the twists are there, too.”
Asked about the future of food halls, Chan offered a bit of history.
“Food halls are an evolution and progression of the food courts in malls,” he said. “They’re more chef-driven. They’re more food-based than just convenience-based. You have a lot of great opportunities as a vendor to share common maintenance and utilities, and drive different customers to each other. I definitely think it’s something that’s here to stay. But at the same time, I would say that not all food halls are created equal. A lot are good. And a lot are bad.
“Like any place, you have to have good food and good service. I think people are looking for better food at lunchtime and more variety at dinner, with more options for everybody. And it’s not just about the food anymore. It’s a social gathering place. It’s a place where there are events and programming and cool stuff you don’t often get in other individual restaurant settings. The experience is really a big part of why food halls are happening now.”
3559 Lawrenceville St., Duluth. 678-825-2990, sweetoctopus.com.
Scroll down for more images from a First Look at at Sweet Octopus in Duluth
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