Down-Home American, Korean Style via New York Times

Charlie’s Main Street Cafe in the heart of downtown here is a monument to small-town Americana. The menu offers down-home favorites: eggs and bacon, chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, chicken noodle soup, vanilla ice cream and, yes, apple pie. Polished timber panels provide a log-cabin atmosphere. Framed black-and-white photos from generations past adorn the walls: carriage-style cars cruising down Main Street, baseball players in stirrups and knickers, President Dwight D. Eisenhower in a black top hat shaking a man’s hand.

It is a gathering place for local leaders, and for residents to catch up on gossip.

This could well be a haunt on any idyllic American street corner. But Charlie’s is a bit different.

The purveyor at this landmark of deeply American culture in a town that is more than 97 percent American-born happens to be a South Korean immigrant who traces her earliest awareness of the United States to a story her mom told her when she was in elementary school in Seoul, about a place that boasted of 31 flavors of ice cream.

When Geewon Anderson, 48, bought Charlie’s in May, she not only embraced the tradition the cafe represented, she also worked to bolster it.

She overhauled the dirty and dilapidated interior and then decorated the walls with old pictures of Minot and its people that she found online. Her husband, Joel, a Minnesota native, carved an image of an American Indian and a buffalo out of bloodwood and hung it behind the cash register. She washed an old blue-and-white sign posted behind the building that read “Charlie’s Fine Food” and hung it inside the restaurant.

Most important, perhaps, she left the menu alone.

“Meat and potatoes,” she said. “That is a tradition of the Middle West. I want them to carry on. I don’t want to come here and disturb their tradition. I don’t want to modify it. I want to enhance it.”

She added, “I want my customers to feel this restaurant is theirs.”

Ms. Anderson moved to Anchorage in 1991 with her husband, whom she met while he worked in Seoul as a computer engineering contractor for the United… [Read Full Article]

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