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The Restaurant That Anchors Me to Home

A neighborhood spot like Yet Tuh will always make you feel at home

Andong jjimdak, braised chicken
Photo by Bill Addison

This post originally appeared in Bill Addison's newsletter "Notes From a Roving Critic," a twice-monthly dispatch from Bills travels across the country. Subscribe now.

From the time I started my job with Eater in April 2014, I had a ritual when I returned home to Atlanta after near-weekly work travels: I’d eat lunch or dinner near my house at a Korean restaurant called Yet Tuh.

It sits down a hill in a mixed-use building just off Buford Highway, the city’s ceaselessly changing corridor of strip malls filled with restaurants that serve cuisines from all over the globe. I’d enjoyed meals at Yet Tuh before this gig, but after, I came to downright depend on it as a touchstone that re-anchored me to my community.

The food at Yet Tuh is purposefully homey: The menu ticks off restaurant staples like haemul pajeon (plate-size seafood and scallion pancake) and bibimbap, but digging into the mix of dishes reveals finds like boribap jeongsik — a bowl of steamed rice and barley with lettuce served with a plate of vegetables, maybe spinach and zucchini and julienned burdock root and daikon. You tip the vegetables into the barley-rice and then stir it together, perhaps binding it with spoonfuls of soy paste soup and eggplant stew, both served on the side.

Boribap jeongsik
Photo by Bill Addison

When I knew I’d be on deadline and would barely leave my house, I’d ask for andong jjimdak, a platter of chicken, vegetables, and glass noodles braised in ganjang (Korean soy sauce); I could eke several meals out of this mountain of food.

Mainly, though, I had a standard order: a straightforward pan-fried mackerel, which comes with rice and seaweed soup. I could have simply made a meal out of just the banchan, the little plates that begin all Korean meals but are exemplary at Yet Tuh: The selection varies some each day, but always includes kimchi that nearly fizzes with fermented heat. I was always happy when a server also brought braised peanuts, coins of battered zucchini served cold, snippets of omelet or pancake, and broccoli salad.

Photo by Bill Addison

Being a regular, the servers recognized me, greeted me by name, and sometimes made some tough-love observations. At the end of my first year on the job, I walked in, and two of them pointed at my stomach and shook their heads, saying, “Too big.”

I mean, they weren’t wrong: I’d been visiting restaurants extra-nonstop and had gained weight. (My colleague Matthew Kang got a similar no-punches-pulled treatment when he filmed at Yet Tuh for Eater’s K-Townseries.)

I sold my house in May. By choice, I’ve given myself almost entirely over to travel this year. I have no permanent home; I stay with close friends in Atlanta when I fly through town, usually one or two nights at a time. These friends live nowhere near Yet Tuh. I haven’t missed owning a house (I was barely there anyway, frankly), but I did miss the restaurant.

I went to Yet Tuh last week over Labor Day weekend and found that the front-of-house staff had turned over completely. A second location had opened in Duluth, a suburb north of Atlanta that’s home to one of the country’s largest Korean populations; maybe the servers who knew me all migrated there. The banchan and mackerel were made with the same careful attention, but I’ll be honest: the sense of mooring, of being home, that I’d felt when I ate at the restaurant wasn’t there for me anymore. It’s changed. I’ve changed.

I’ll resettle myself early next year — maybe in Atlanta, maybe elsewhere — and I’ll find another neighborhood anchor to ground me when I return home. For now, I’m sustained by the gratitude I feel to Yet Tuh for its comfort and consistency all those years.

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