New to the dining scene in downtown Athens, Takorea opened for business on Dec. 1.
It is the latest culinary venture for Mark Haidet and Tomas Lee, who was the head chef at the Buckhead Diner. Their partnership includes three other restaurants in the Atlanta area: Hankook Taqueira, Midtown Takorea and Ssam Bar and Takorea in Dunwoody.
We spoke with Haidet about the Athens Takorea, which offers a fast-casual style with a bar at 311 E. Broad Street.
Q: Were you eyeing the Athens market for a while?
A: I had seen some opportunities. I follow the local markets around Georgia. We started out in Atlanta. That’s been the area we’ve been most focused on. We were interested in the Athens market. We had looked at a couple of spaces that opened up there. My son (Jack) is going to school there so I’ve got to spend a lot more time in the market and just the feel of the downtown area. Our first couple of locations are heavily frequented by Georgia Tech and Georgia State students. It just seemed to be a really good fit to be in a college atmosphere. We like kind of unique spaces. We don’t have a cookie cutter concept. We like to adapt to where we are and feel local. We felt like it was a great space to go into an older spot and reinvigorate it.
Q: What is the concept of the restaurant here and what was your vision?
A: The theme of it really is to be fast, affordable and flavorable. It’s a mix of different of flavors, primarily Korean and Mexican influenced, but the them is kind of a casual street food kind of environment so tacos, burritos, rice bowls, nachos, all with kind of different flavor profiles. The concept we started with and definitely will want to provide Athens is where you can come in and get unique food. You can get it reasonably priced in a casual environment and have a great craft beer or cocktail with it. Everything we do we try to make it a little bit unique. We make our own drinks. We use some Korean rice wine called soju that we make unique cocktails with that. We’ve got some Asian beers, some Mexican beers. Some things you’ll find in other places, but there are some things you’ll find only in our place. We also make everything fresh and in-house. All of our ingredients are fresh, everything is house made.
Q: How is the restaurant business these days?
A: In general, it’s a tough business. You’ve got increasing labor costs and scarcity of labor. Real estate costs have skyrocketed. It’s a tough business and there’s a lot of competition and a lot of people in it. Definitely, not for the faint of the heart.
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