By Food Blogger: Nathaniel Johnson (full article)
Fully Inviting Atmosphere
When you see Rustic Couch from the outside, like me, you get the vibe that this is most likely one of many cafe’s in the Duluth area that most like serve the basics (coffee, cake and bread). My first time really coming close to this place, I drove around a few times trying to get a glimpse of what kind of cafe it was without actually getting out of my car (real hard to do) and still was drawing blanks on what kind of atmosphere it was. Finally I decided to go and invited a friend of mine to test the waters with me. Coming in, I was a tad surprised…well – very surprised on the atmosphere I felt. The workers were extremely friendly and helped me choose my initial order of a black tea with pomegranate and strawberry flavor pearls (yeah..flavor pearls…) and Korean Tacos. Ive been in Duluth for about four months and have tried almost all of the cafe’s off Pleasant Hill (Join my cafe group to meet us with us here) and I hate to say it, but most cafe’s in this area are not too friendly towards non-asian people (this area of Duluth being predominantly Korean) and you tend to feel out of place when you go to many bakeries and cafe’s. The owners Ann and Ken have also felt this and wanted to create an atmosphere that would be inviting to all who are in the community and not just leaning towards one culture or nationality. This cafe has a mix of all nationalities not just as customers but as staff as well. Any nationality can come in and feel at home – there is no intimidating factor which is a huge plus. Friends who have come with me to Rustic Couch have mentioned on their first visit how they feel very comfortable there.
Rustic is the word
When looking at the outside of Rustic Couch, it has somewhat of a rustic appeal but not too much. The inside is a totally different story. You are met with a very unique for its time, rustic feel which includes brick walls, wood tables and chairs (not your typical booths or modernized cafe furniture). On top of the tables are randomly places couches for lounging as well as a private room for events. Another thing that threw me off were the bathrooms! (Granted – I only tried the men’s room). They have a strong rustic feel and even the sinks use an old time turn knob or hot or cold water (similar to the knob you see in your laundry room or under your sink). couches are spread out throughout the cafe with one on the front left entrance, another in the private room and others i an elevated study located on the right side of the cafe.
Amazing Food Not Found in Neighboring Cafes
Once you’ve met the staff and checked out the space, eventually you’ll want to order something to drink or eat. What I love the most about Rustic Couch is the unique variety of food! On the menu (to the left), most all items are made with a slight twist against the American or Asian tradition of the dish making it a truly unique dining experience. From sandwiches to wings to tacos; there is a big variety of American style dishes with a unique Asian twist. Since I have practically lived here now, I’ll break down a few dishes you need to try:
Banh Mi Burger: This amazing burger was one of the best burgers I’ve had in a while. Called the Banh Mi Burger because of its Vietnamese twist. is made from ground beef that’s been marinated in a house Vietnamese sauce used in banh bao (A Vietnamese dish also served here that consists of a french bread stuffed with seasoned meat). Its topped with cucumbers, jalapenos, pickled carrots and is served on a broche bun. This burger is one of the best sellers here for many reasons I’m sure but the main reason for me is that it’s a taste you can’t find at any neighboring burger spots. If you have had the Crispy Banh Bao it is another staple appetizer item you get 2 and they are pretty large. The American twist with this is that it is deep fried instead of steamed (I personally like it this way better).
Bulgogi Cheesesteak $6.75
I worked in a deli for two years and our #1 moving item was our cheesesteaks. That said, I’ve had my share of phillies, but have not tried a cheesesteak made from Korean BBQ until coming to Rustic Couch.This cheesesteak runs on the spicy side but is worth the pain. Its made from the cheesecake usuals: onions, peppers, jack cheese, green onions and sesame seeds (slight twist there). What makes it so spicy is that, on top of the Korean BBQ marinade, is is blended with Korean hot sauce which is a hot pepper paste based sauce. (if you’ve had Bulgogi at Iron Age or Cho Won (or any of the other 100 bulgogi places in Duluth), you’ll find out that the Korean pepper paste is a staple in every Korean BBQ dish. The cheesesteak runs $6.75 which is more then affforadable for what you get.
Rustic Wings 5.75
These are among the best wings ive had – in quite some time! The Rustic Wings are another dish that is known only to Rustic Couch. These wings are available in sweet and spicy or lemon peppered. The image below is obviously sweet and spicy. It is a perfect balance if you are like me and do not want your wings TOO spicy but like a good kick. As far as wing stops go, this is one of my favorites in the Duluth area.
Drink Menu @ Rustic Couch in Duluth
Wouldnt be a Cafe without Coffee and Tea
There are quite a few things that i love about Rustic Couch: the atmosphere, the food, the workers and of course the coffee! Unlike most of the cafes in the Duluth area, the owners of Rustic Couch pick their coffee beans locally (see green coffee bean benefits). My first take on coffee from Rustic Couch was trying their famous house coffee called the Rustic Java. The Rustic Java is a combination of a milk tea and Rustic Couches house coffee combined with coffee and topped with espresso. I have to say this is my first time trying “Coffee Jelly.” It combines coffee with bubble tea and is something i’ve never seen in atlanta. The coffee jelly is cubed compressed coffee (as shown to the right) in jelly form and can be added to any of the coffee drinks. This is now my favorite coffee drink and definitely not something you’ll find at Starbucks.
The smoothies are amazing!
Bubble Tea, Flavor Pearls and Smoothies!
On top of amazing coffee, Rustic Couch has a strong array of bubble teas, hot teas and smoothies. The owners pride themselves in focusing on the quality of their boba and making sure they are the correct softness and texture. Among the bubble teas are their cold and hot teas. My personal favorite is the black pomegranate tea (which was the first tea I tried after taking the advice from a store associate – thanks Allison). These teas can come with different addition including aloe vera, boba or popping flavor pearls. The flavor pearls are definitely something you ought to try. They are smaller then the boba used in bubble tea and pack a great flavor. When they are sucked into your bought they pop releasing an extra flavor to your drink. Its an awesome thing to experience it for the first time!
Not the Usual Cafe
All and all, I am extremely glad that I decided to check out this cafe and since have made great friends among the staff and other regulars. If you are local to the area or looking for a family friendly cafe in the Gwinnett area, check them out! If your looking to go with our group, check out our meetup group in the links below!