The downtown Len Bergs restaurant -- a local landmark best known for its down-home cooking and order-by-the-alphabet menu -- is reopening with new owners and a slightly different name.
Lee Bergs will have a buffet with Southern-style favorites: fried chicken, country-fried steak and ... beef bulgogi?
Owners Alex Lee and his wife, Helga, plan to occasionally feature dishes from their native Korea, such as bulgogi -- a marinated and barbecued beef or pork.
We may serve sushi maybe once or twice a week, Alex Lee said.
When it closed in 2005, Len Bergs was Macons oldest restaurant. Leonard Berg opened the original in 1908 at Wall Street Alley, then later moved to the Post Office Alley behind the federal courthouse. Famous people, such as golfer Ben Hogan and baseball slugger Joe DiMaggio, ate there.
The restaurant was pretty famous in these parts for its menu cards, on which diners ordered dishes by writing down the corresponding letters of the alphabet, and for its homemade fresh peach ice cream (when peaches were in season), The restaurant often ran newspaper ads to promote the arrival of the ice cream that simply read H.M.F.P.I.C.
Alex Lee, who is new to Macon, admits he is not very familiar with the Len Bergs history.
I know they had good dessert.
Lee says hes been in the restaurant business for 30 years. He met his wife in Germany, and they moved to the United States. He had no intention of staying this long.
I came to Virginia as a student in 1981, he recalled. I went to school to get a degree and go back to Korea. Somehow I changed my life, stayed here and got into business.
Lee has run restaurants in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and, most recently, Atlanta. He learned from an ad in a Korean magazine that the Len Bergs location was available and decided to head south.
I was thinking about moving to a smaller town. There was no country-style (buffet) restaurant in this area.
Lee Bergs will have a full salad bar and also offer Greek salads. Lee said he hopes to open in the next couple of weeks -- provided he doesnt run into more unexpected delays.
We had some bad contractors who took the money and went away, he said.
The Lees have three children, all of whom are in college. Their son, the youngest, attends The Citadel. One of their daughters attends the University of Illinois in Champaign. Their oldest is set to graduate this fall from Emory University with a degree in public health, then begin work on her masters degree.
She wants to be a missionary, Alex Lee said.
The restaurant will be open for breakfast and lunch. If enough customers ask, Lee said he may open for dinner.
Lee is hoping customers wont mind skipping the alphabet menu card in favor of the buffet, which replaced the old lunch counter and vinyl stools inside the restaurants entrance.
Its faster, he said. People have to eat lunch on their lunch break.
To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.