Chef Allen Suh built a following cooking inventive Japanese and Korean comfort food at Atlanta pop-ups Gato Arigato and Jook #0. Now he’s got a full-time gig at Gaja in East Atlanta Village. You’ll know you’ve found the right place when you spy the mint green paint job and small vertical sign. The menu inside is bonkers, reading like a who’s who of delicious weirdness: peanut brittle with anchovies, silkworms in kimchi juice with roast garlic and mung beans (a “taste-e” Korean street food), fried gimbap, Spam lettuce wraps, spicy soft-shell crab soup laced with chrysanthemum leaves, and Korean-style hot dogs with homemade Kewpie mayo, kimchi, seaweed, and bibim sauce. If you try nothing else with your makgeolli and soju, go for the so-called “corn cheese,” a #WTF mashup of mozzarella, fresh and canned corn, popcorn, and seaweed that somehow manages to win bar snack of the year—and possibly even the century.
Note: Gaja also has one of ATL’s most creative cocktail menus, featuring daring frozen drinks like the Asian Orange (white rum with curaçao, orange curd, OJ, lime, and Calpico) and welcome riffs on the classics, like a stiff Red Fashioned Leather made with rye, vermouth, amaro, red bean syrup, and a gochugaru tincture. Travelers should follow the restaurant’s Instagram feed for updates on special events. Recent happenings included a Puerto Rican pop-up with Chef Marky Hatch and a Korean movie night co-hosted by cult film store Videodrome.
491 Flat Shoals Ave SE A, Atlanta, GA; 404-835-2126.