For Pat Azogu, a battle with breast cancer was a sign to ditch the corporate world and pursue her passion for coffee and baking.
“When I got to the other side [of cancer treatment], I started thinking, ‘No, I don’t want to go back to the corporate world. I want to do something different, [something] that I’ll enjoy doing but maybe at the same time helping others,” she says. So she took the plunge and decided to open Garnet Gal’s Coffee Shop and Bakery in Buckhead.
Situated away from the neighborhood’s business tower cluster, Garnet Gal’s is located in Lenox Village (2770 Lenox Road Northeast)—a residential shopping center with ample parking—about a half mile off of I-85. When you walk in, make a beeline for the pastry case packed with baked goods. All of the pastries use house-milled flour, which results in a product that’s slightly denser and has “a really nice soft, moist texture, almost gentle,” Azogu says.
Azogu always loved baking, but when she was fighting breast cancer (“I always tell people to get tested early,” she says), she learned that freshly-milled grains retain more fiber and nutrients. So she started milling them in her home kitchen and playing around with different recipes.
Standouts in the pastry case include scones—which come in a variety of seasonal fruit flavors and sell out quickly—and a kale and cheddar biscuit that is slightly sweet with a little kick. “I think the secret ingredient in that is the cayenne pepper. That’s what really gives it its kick,” says Azogu. “Most of our recipes are pretty simple. We don’t have a lot of extra ingredients in them.” Garnet Gal’s ingredients are also mostly organic, which stems from the dietary changes Azogu made during her health battle.
If you happen to go on a day that Garnet Gal’s has the strawberry cupcake, buy it. It’s topped with a light whipped cream frosting and almond crumble which makes for an afternoon treat that won’t weigh you down. Azogu serves coffee from Counter Culture as well as locally roasted Peach Coffee from Johns Creek, along with juices.
If you’re really hungry, there’s a breakfast menu with items like quiche and baked oatmeal. For lunch, there are a variety of sandwiches made with focaccia bread, including a turkey, apple, and cheddar grilled cheese and a vegan chickpea and sunflower seed sandwich. Azogu, who once kept to a vegan diet, says the latter recipe “goes back to me trying to find [vegan] items that really tasted good, but [were] different from just a green salad.”
Despite the challenges of opening a restaurant in pandemic, though, Azogu has already made her dream of fostering a Cheers-like environment come true. She has regulars who know the staff and customers that have helped her with everything from brainstorming to marketing. “I actually had a customer come in one day and say, ‘I feel like I’m part of a family,’ and it really makes me feel good, because that’s really what I wanted,” Azogu says.