Happy Sumo, Norcross GA

One huge difficulty in doing anything around the sprawling mess of Atlanta is that the suburbs are so stupidly spread out and badly managed and maintained. Even something that looks, on a map, simple and straightforward like a twenty-mile shot east to the Gwinnett County suburb of Norcross is a forty-minute slog at the best of times, and better than an hour’s rumble in the evening traffic. I don’t mention this to object in any way to making a trip out that direction to a good meal; far from it, as there are plenty of good restaurants in Duluth, Norcross and points east and I’m glad to go visit them, but man, the traffic engineers who’ve been claiming to be at work on this job have been out to lunch for decades. At this point, there’s nothing wrong with the northern suburbs that two trolleys, twelve people movers, six newly-constructed bus lanes, sixty miles of north-south and east-west heavy-rail track and that big drilling Mole machine from Thunderbirds wouldn’t fix. You heard about that “Big Dig” under Boston? The northern ‘burbs need about seven of those.

At any rate, I’ve mentioned that we try to have some weekly get-together with some of our friends. We have to alternate days to accommodate different people that we know, and last week, between people being sick and people planning weddings and people having jobs, it was only Marie and the girlchild and I who were able to meet up with Matt. Almost all of us live in Cobb County on the northwest side of town; Matt and his wife live up in Gainesville, but he works thirty-odd miles south down around Johns Creek. His commute isn’t that unusual, either, which is why it’s so disagreeable that the city’s traffic planners have spent decades sleeping. Anyway, with the interstates, particularly the top end perimeter, a parking lot at 6 pm, we drove a wonderful back way that I know over to Roswell, and then spent a while crawling east along Holcomb Bridge Road to meet Matt at a place that he knows called Happy Sumo. Matt used to live just around the corner before marriage lured him to Gainesville, and this was one of his favorite places for dinner when he stayed here in Norcross.

Holcomb Bridge, it must be said, really is a depressing drive just for all the businesses that used to be along this stretch of road but have since closed. I counted two comic shops, one bookstore and one CD store that aren’t there anymore, along with two decent restaurants that I had enjoyed. To be honest, I’d rather not find the need to revisit Holcomb Bridge for this reason alone; it’s just too sad.

Happy Sumo is one of Atlanta’s many teppanyaki restaurants. These are often called hibachi steakhouses, but that’s not strictly accurate. At a teppanyaki restaurant, as popularized by chains like Benihana, the chef prepares the meal on a flat, iron surface heated by propane and uses soybean oil to cook the ingredients. We don’t often get out to Japanese steakhouses like this, although I don’t know that I’ve ever had a mediocre meal at one.

We got the requisite cutting up from our chef, who spun his utensils around and made an onion volcano and did goofy stunts involving Easter eggs and rubber chickens. It’s impossible not to be charmed by the silliness, and it put the girlchild in a pretty good mood.

Marie and I each ordered the teriyaki steak with fried rice – watch out for an additional $2 for having your rice fried rather than steamed – and my daughter had chicken. Matt had a nice combo meal of filet mignon and shrimp. It was a little pricy of a dinner, but everybody really enjoyed their food, and the tasty sauces. It was almost as good as Inoko in Athens, which is my standard bearer for hibachi/teppanyaki, and just the sort of evening out we needed.

The drive back, incidentally, was after the evening rush had ended and the interstates were accessible again. It didn’t take anywhere near as long to get home, but I still think International Rescue’s big drill could make it even quicker.

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