Three bites into the Shrimp Katsu Sando, I am certain this is the best shrimp sandwich I’ve ever had. And I’ve had a lot.
Because this is not your typical Po Boy. The shrimp is mashed into a burger, battered in panko and deep fried, then nestled between sweet pickles and a type of slaw. My taste buds delight in other flavors I cannot place.
I am so impressed that I have to find the chefs. I luck out. Typically, at a stall at Ponce City Market, a line cook works the grill. But at Punk Foodie, I find chefs Jess Kim and Jun Park behind the counter, preparing food for their restaurant Ganji.
I tell them how much I love the sandwich, and learn that the shrimp is topped with a tartar sauce made from yuzu juice – a citrus-flavored delicacy imported from Japan – along with housemade sweet pickles and chili crisp, which usually gives fire to dumplings. Southern, meet Korean.
How is it that one of my best meals in Atlanta this year is made with foods I’ve never heard of, by chefs I’ve never heard of?
That’s kind of the point.
“We wanted to serve this kind of food, but in a way that people could be more receptive to it, without it being too unfamiliar,” Jess says.
First off, Punk Foodie is not your ordinary restaurant. It’s a brick and mortar for chefs without a permanent home. They get business and exposure inside the massive tourist attraction of Ponce City Market’s Food Hall.
The rotation is both fixed and constantly changing. Ganji is the current resident on weekdays and Saturday brunch, with other popups floating in and out on weekends.
Why Ganji's Korean Food is so Good
Two days later, I am still savoring the memory of the shrimp sando when I sit down with Jess and Jun to learn more about Ganji.
Ganji’s roots are those of Jess and Jun, both of Korean descent, who grew up in the U.S. eating what American kids eat: fast food. Each grew up to work in the restaurant industry, starting out about a decade ago, and met while working at a ramen restaurant together.
Then, amid an explosion of popups, they came together last year to start their own – a popup in Oakhurst called Scepter. This caught the attention of Sam Flemming, who started Punk Foodie, and invited them to join in October. With this iteration, they are serving up popular American dishes but adding Korean influences. Or maybe it’s the other way around.
More about Punk Foodie coming soon.
The result: menu items like the Colonel Kim’s KFC Sando (that’s Korean Fried Chicken, y’all) and Quesotacos Coreano – their style of birria tacos. Both customer favorites.
Not to mention the Yuzu Pepper Wet Wings, a take on the lemon pepper wet wings that Atlanta is known for.
“We try to link what we grew up eating. We were just as American as every other kid on the block,” Jun says.
It works. I am not alone in worshipping the Shrimp Katsu. Atlanta Magazine named it one of their top 10 sandwiches.
It is the blend of familiar and foreign that pulls people in.
“Some people are like, I don’t know…but once they eat it, they’re like ‘Jesus Christ!’ ” Jun says.
And once their Ponce City Market residency is up at the end of this month, where can you find Ganji?
“Eventually, we want to have our own restaurant,” Jess says.
I hope they do.
But for now, get it while you can get it.
Ganji will be serving at Punk Foodie’s stall at Ponce City Market through December. The best place to check out the restaurants and menus for the day: Instagram. @punkfoodieatponce updates the offerings frequently.
Looking for a memorable culinary experience? Join a Food Tour on the Atlanta BeltLine. You will get a sampling of the diverse cuisines that make Atlanta a foodie town – from Southern fried green tomatoes to Detroit-style pizza to fruit-infused margaritas and more. Along the way, uncover secrets behind the vibrant street art, including ties to Hollywood. Come see for yourself how the BeltLine is completely transforming Atlanta, and find hidden gems you might not discover by walking the BeltLine on your own. Book early for spring!
An Atlanta native, Nicole Gustin is the Founder and CEO of BiteLines Atlanta Food Tours, which offers walking food tours on the Atlanta BeltLine. She considers the BeltLine her backyard, and is excited to see how Atlanta is reinventing itself. To sample some of Atlanta's best restaurants and street art, join us on our unforgettable Food Tour on the Atlanta BeltLine. Or bring your fur baby on Barks & Bites: Doggie Crawl on the BeltLine. Follow on TikTok, Facebook and Instagram @bitelinesatl.