The Diner is a place we’ve spoken about before. If the sign is correct, they have a catfish special they are running these days.

The Diner is pure eye candy if you’ve never been, with a classic US diner style (very unlike the popular Greek-American hybrids in Atlanta).

The Diner
730 Indian Trail Road
Lilburn, GA 30047
(770) 923-2961

Diner on Urbanspoon

We picked up my mother-in-law and brother-in-law from the airport recently. My brother-in-law will be here briefly, and my mother-in-law is here for an extended stay. She was formerly from Kagoshima Prefecture in Japan, and met my father-in-law (now deceased) some time after the war. They married and stayed married until my father-in-law passed away.  As she then had to raise 4 kids by herself on a clerk’s salary, I admire and respect her toughness.

In any event, my in-laws told us days in advance that they wanted to go to Cho Wan Korean Buffet. I’ve said before this restaurant is a favorite with my family. Recently, Tasty Chomps reviewed the restaurant, an excellent review with a lot of good pictures.

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Though this restaurant has some sushi, and various side dishes, to a first approximation, this restaurants is about the meats.

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You can get chicken, pork, beef, bacon, octopus, and shrimp here. The meat is cooked on your table. Waitstaff does most of the cooking, even if you end up choosing your meats. You can get condiments of various kinds: things like jalapenos, sliced garlic, and lettuce leaves. The leaves are used to wrap meats, and if you want, you can add grilled onions, or cook some of your garlic until it is browned, and add it to the leaf.

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They have rice in the back, and a couple soups as well. The pickles, of various kinds, are quite good.

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The waitstaff were doting to my mother-in-law, making sure she had her share of meats, and fetched sauces for her, explaining their use. The lighter sauce in this picture is for bacon, they said, and the darker sauce is for beef.

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When we left, there was a Volkswagon Beetle in the lot with a pretty interesting pair of head rests. The restaurant was also filling up, and people were walking to the restaurant as the parking lot around the restaurant was completely filled.

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Cho Wan Korean Buffet
3635 Satellite Blvd
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 476-0458

Cho Won Korean Buffet on Urbanspoon

Sweet Tomatoes (also Souplantation; evidently there has been some kind of merger) is perhaps the most successful chain restaurant in Atlanta focusing on the soups and salads market. These are restaurants where people line up to get a plate full of lettuce, carrots, celery, and other sliced vegetables, plus dressing perhaps, as the focus of the meal. There are a few Sweet Tomatoes in Atlanta, but not too many. Unlike McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken, they seem to expand slowly and selectively. The closest one to Snellville that I know of is the Duluth restaurant, close to Gwinnett Place. This review will largely focus on that location.

Over the years Sweet Tomatoes has expanded their repetoire to include prepared salads.   These will be at the front of the line, before any other vegetable choices can be made. At the end they now have chicken strips you can add, for a small fee. We tend to ignore these, because one of the staple soups of Sweet Tomatoes is their chicken soup, which has much the same meats for free.

I’ve eaten here so often that I’m liable to forget something in my familiarity with this place. If it happens please forgive me. But once you’re through the line you have an abundance of other foods at your disposal. There are usually 5 or 6 soups, of which chicken soup and a chili are staples and the rest rotate. There are muffins, small cornbreads, foccacia, whole grain breads of various kinds, and usually a sourdough bread. There are slices of melons available, usually watermelon, cantelope, and honey dew melon. There is frozen yogurt, with sparkles. There are usually three different pastas served, usually in rich alfredo style sauces.  There was also a bowl of chocolate chip cookies this last time I went.

Some things to note about the Duluth location: the fancy flavored lemonades are available, but you have to ask waitstaff to get some of those. Otherwise it’s mostly soft drinks in the main drink island. Seating: there are a lot of booths, and some tables in the middle. The restaurant can easily handle dozens of patrons.

Verdict: The best and closest of the soup and salad chains, and highly recommended.

Sweet Tomatoes
3505 Mall Boulevard
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 418-1148

Sweet Tomatoes on Urbanspoon

I have a large, multiethnic family, with people of most races, creeds, colors. And when we are entertaining guests, we keep an eye to places that can both feed everyone and offer value.  More members than not like spicy foods, and like a lot of it.  And in that vein, back in the day when Bites was an active restaurant we would take my family there.  Understand, my wife generally does not like coconut milk or mint in her foods, and she would regularly request to go to Bites.

Bites is gone now, replaced by Thooms, and the food, while good, isn’t crafted the way the former Bites owner would do. Eric’s masaman beef dishes were a work of art.  But hopefully Tammy and Eric are enjoying their retirement. Toward the end you could see how weary the job would make Tammy.

In the strip malls on the south side of Pleasant Hill, just west of the Pleasant Hill I-85 intersection, are a number of restaurants I take seriously. To mention three,  there is Haru Ichiban, which I consider to be one of the best Japanese restaurants in town (my mother in law is Japanese. I have a little familiarity with the cuisine). There is Sydney’s, a buffet style restaurant that is sometimes really good and sometimes not. Third, a converted  Black Eyed Pea has become one of the more unusual Korean restaurants I’ve seen, Cho Wan BBQ of Duluth.

Korean BBQ has been in this town forever, but it was cooked for you. At Cho Wan the meat is all you can eat. You select the meats yourself, you cook the barbecue yourself, at your table. When it opened it was packed. Korean families in tens and twenties filled the restaurant and the average food bill (they had too many bills to hide them) were running about $300.00 – 500.00. I asked relatives in San Francisco, former coworkers in New York City, net-friends in Seattle whether they had heard of any other Korean restaurant using this arrangement. And at the time I heard of no one else doing this.

Cho Wan succeeds because it’s a “one of” in Atlanta, and the price is not exceptional if you’re prepared to eat a lot of BBQ. This restaurant is what my relatives from San Francisco ask to go to when they are in town. This is where my sister-in-law celebrated her birthday. This is where my wife celebrated her last birthday.  In the price/value equation, this restaurant hits a sweet spot with my family.

Cho Wan on Urbanspoon