Two-Hundred Minutes In … Duluth + Suwanee


UNCLE JACK’S MEAT HOUSE JUST MIGHT BE THE BEST OPTION FOR any carnivore with an appetite. Although Willie Degel has parlayed his culinary success into many other avenues, namely as host of the Food Network’s wildly popular “Restaurant Steakout,” this New Yorker certainly knows his way around a table in the South. Start with his scratch buttermilk biscuits or Gruyère cheese popovers and then mosey on down the menu to the munchies. From Long Island duck meatballs and roasted bone marrow to Carolina shrimp and grits and beer battered okra, you’ll find plenty of tempting tasters.

Just be warned: that’s only the beginning of what promises to be a great meal with main dishes consisting of U.S.D.A. prime chops and steaks as well as fish, burgers and chicken. The Ooey Gooey Mooey Burger with secret sauce, maple pepper bacon and buttermilk blue cheese fondue might be a new favorite. The jury is still out as to whether the Peanut Butter and Banana Jar — peanut brittle, bourbon baked bananas and dulce de leche — or the homemade cookie plate takes first prize for dessert. We will have to go back for seconds … stay tuned for a decision soon.

FEW THINGS BEAT THE FEELING of cheering on the home team and Atlantans are lucky to have their fair share. While a trip into the city is always an option, I recently stepped into the Infinite Energy Center, which was truly buzzing with energy and the sound of shredding ice as I grabbed my ticket and headed into my first-ever Atlanta Gladiators hockey game. The mid-level professional ice hockey team, an affiliate of the East Coast Hockey League, is based in Duluth and the spirit of cheering for your hometown certainly didn’t go unnoticed.

Around me, kids and adults alike donned jerseys supporting their favorite player and made their way into the packed stands. The excitement was palpable as the lights dimmed over the gleaming ice and the players were announced. Every name called was followed by cheers from the crowd, building the tension until the puck finally hit the ice.

Throughout the three, 20-minute periods and all the way down to the final seconds of the game, the energy never faltered. The Infinite Energy Center packed in a home hockey game that had more than friendly competition — it’s a dynamic, family-fun experience that also happens to be affordable with tickets starting at just $12.

GRAB YOUR HELMET and hit the trails. Suwanee’s bike share program is a fun and quick way to get outdoors. Bike stations can be found at two locations: Town Center Park and Suwanee Creek Park. How does it work? Easy. Use your smartphone to download the free Zagster app and follow the provided directions on signage posted at each station.

Once you’re ready to go, you can take your bike near and far — and the first three hours are free! Both parks connect you to the Suwanee Creek Greenway, but offer something a little different. Start at Town Center Park for shopping and light dining. There’s an expansive green space for kids to play and dogs to run, or where on a quiet day you can string up your hammock and watch the clouds pass. On the outskirts of the green space, you can find charming consignment shops and clothing stores to satisfy most shopping urges.

Want to head straight for the trails? Start at Suwanee Creek Park to access the trailhead for the Suwanee Creek Greenway. Winding four miles through natural landscapes and over scenic bridges, you’ll forget you’re a stone’s throw from bustling streets and vibrant cities. Follow the path all the way to its end at George Pierce Park to experience forests, wetlands and an array of wildlife all year long. Suwanee Creek Park also boasts a variety of recreational amenities including an 18-hole disc golf course, picnic tables and rentable pavilions.

Don’t want to turn in your bike quite yet? Keep it past three hours for an additional $3 an hour, or $30 for an entire day. Explore beyond the greenway, too. Suwanee offers 16 miles of interconnected trails throughout the city and green space at PlayTown Suwanee, Sims Lake Park and Harvest Farm, Georgia’s largest organic community garden.

PREFER TO SAVE YOUR energy for jamming to live music? Take a seat in the spacious yet cozy auditorium for Red Clay’s Songwriters Open Mic Night and listen to some of the best local talent available.

Songwriter after songwriter took the stage to perform original works with the accompaniment of a guitar or piano, and I must say, the talent was incredible. Forgetting I was in downtown Duluth for just a moment, I could’ve mistaken my surroundings for a professional competition singing show. Heart and soul were felt in every song, and passion poured from the stage into the audience. Performers have 10 minutes each to make the stage their own. When finished, they snuck into the back rows of the theater to support the performers who were up next as they sung the night away.

From seasoned musicians to up-and-comers, Eddie Owen Presents: Red Clay Music Foundry is a songwriter’s paradise. The theater is located right on Main Street in Duluth, nestled within a quaint downtown and mere steps from free public parking. The Red Clay Theatre puts on a variety of shows, all hosted by the man who truly presents it all: Eddie Owen. He has an eye (and ear) for musical talent, as he is best known for giving a stage to once up-and-comers John Mayer and Sugarland.

You can wander outside the theater to grab refreshments without worry of missing a song as speakers are located throughout the Foundry and outside, too. The Songwriters Open Mic Nights take place the second and fourth Sunday of each month at 5 p.m., or you can grab tickets for an upcoming show; they’re affordable and the possibility of witnessing the next big music star is, well, priceless.

NO ONE WOULD DENY THAT STICKING TO A HEALTHFUL New Year’s Resolution is impressive, and there’s no need to give up when places like the Juice Bar in Suwanee are here to inspire a clean-eating, health juice craze — with a personalized twist.

From the moment I walked in, the quaint juice shop boasted an organic, health-centric vibe. Natural wood and shades of green entertain your eyes while the roar of the blender entices your ears. Glancing to the wall that holds their expansive menu options from juices to smoothies to shots, I realized Juice Bar wasn’t a “one and done” kind of shop. I would be coming back to sample and nibble to my heart’s content.

One of the options you won’t find on the menu, but can ask for by name, is the chance to mix your own drink. The formula is simple: start with a base, pick two additional ingredients and then ta-da! You can choose between a juice or a smoothie consistency, then your creativity takes it from there. Let your carrot, peach and garlic (yes, that’s an option) imagination run wild.

That kind of freedom can start to get overwhelming when you have so many options, but fear not. If culinary skills aren’t your strong suit, Juice Bar offers an even wider variety of pre-matched ingredients promising delicious and inventive drinks. Pick a classic childhood favorite like PB&J or get a jolt of caffeine from their “Coffee Janet.”

If you want something even faster, then shots are in order. Healthy ones, albeit. Juice Bar’s menu has its own, rather substantial, section for their shots classified under three categories: Essential Oils, Monster Shots and Power Shots. Does cold weather have your nose running? Order up a shot of “Sniffle Stopper.” It’s loaded with lemon, ginger, cayenne and a protective essential oil blend to get you through the winter.

It might also buy you more time once you’ve outlasted that 200 minutes you’d planned to spend in town and boost your immune system for the next trip.