Forging business relationships from favorable zoning decisions – DC Aiken and Sharp Residential

Consider this perhaps an epilogue to the controversial Sharp zoning on Providence Road. But much more than that, this story demonstrates what may be a growing trend of Alpharetta Councilmen forging business relationships with those who previously had zoning decisions before the city. Follow along for now.

Sharp-DC Aiken

Photo from

Back in November 2012 Alpharetta approved a contentious zoning application from homebuilder Sharp Residential. The 79 acres of land along Providence, Bates and Mayfield roads was one of the largest undeveloped residential tracts in the city. The zoning represented the first real challenge to Alpharetta’s new Comprehensive Land Use Plan and its idea of a northwest character area. We chronicled the story here on Roots and a lengthy discussion followed. In the end, Alpharetta’s Council approved a plan very favorable to the developer despite the strenuous objects of the community.

Fast forward to this week. An alert blog reader forwarded this article from an Atlanta real estate website. It depicts Alpharetta Councilman DC Aiken, in his capacity as mayor pro tem, participating in a promotional event for Sharp. In the photograph he’s wearing his company’s golf shirt.

Aiken, a residential mortgage broker by trade, is Alpharetta’s longest-serving councilman. Since the time of the Sharp zoning, which he supported, he’s changed employers but is still in the mortgage business. In his new capacity he’s starting a builder division – and he’s become a preferred lender of Sharp Residential.

Therein lies the rub. Is creating a business relationship with a past zoning applicant kosher? Does it cause the appearance of impropriety, particularly when the zoning applicant left council chambers with a very favorable decision in hand?

In Aiken’s case Sharp isn’t directly paying him. However business from their Providence Road neighborhood, now called Hearthstone, is coming his way. It’s a relationship that, according to Aiken, would cause him to recuse himself from any future zoning decisions Sharp may have with Alpharetta.

And it’s a scenario that’s likely already happened with another councilman, a story this blogger is also investigating. The professional makeup of Alpharetta’s council is that of lawyers, those in real estate and construction. Given the expanding economy in town, professional opportunities exist for these gentlemen or their families to capitalize on the business generated by their own favorable decisions. By taking advantage of such opportunities, Councilmen are either shrewd businessmen or have compromised the integrity of their body. Which way is it?

Oh Boy Rotisserie & Tacos – Johns Creek

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

oh boy logoIf Boston Market married that saucy Latin girl you remember from high school, you’d have Oh Boy Rotisserie.

That’s the most succinct explanation I can give for Oh Boy, the Peruvian-themed rotisserie and taqueria that recently opened in the former BB’s Bagels location in Johns Creek. They didn’t do too much to the space since its bagel days. A fresh coat of paint really brightened the place up. The joint cleaned up nicely which makes you wonder what excuse BB’s has had over the years.

Oh Boy offers a menu that intrigued yet confused me from the get go. Rotisserie chicken? Tacos? Not a combination we’re accustomed to seeing. But it’s a combination that works, bringing roasted chicken together with bold and spicy chiles. It mostly works.

I usually order my yard bird with only dark meet, especially if it’s roasted. Thighs tends to hold their moisture much better than breasts in my opinion. But you need not have this concern at Oh Boy. Their rotisserie chicken is moist and tender in every bite. Even that white meat breast is moist and juicy. The skin is the right texture with a nice spice rub.

You pick a dipping sauce for your chicken when you order. The creamy aji amarillo sauce isn’t bad but Oh Boy’s verde sauce is the bomb. It’s a puree of chiles and cilantro that will set you mouth afire in larger quantities. On my first taste I knew this stuff was familiar. After a few bites it hit me… Mambo’s Cafe. Their menu also has Peruvian influences. And if you’ve even tried the dipping sauce that comes with bread at Mambo’s then you’ll know Oh Boy’s verde sauce. It’s very good and addictive.

Rotisserie comes with two sides. A few were duds, some decent and one knocked it out of the park. The falafel wasn’t bad, as were the green beans and cilantro lime rice. Corn on the cob left me disappointed. But their smashed butternut squash is the real deal. Almost the texture of a coarse mashed potato, the squash was tossed in a herb and spice concoction that was amazing. I’m sure chili powder was in there because it packed a little kick. The portion size was pretty big as well yet I still ate every bite.

oh boy tacosTacos at Oh Boy are not bad. They’re filled with pulled rotisserie chicken and tossed with difference sauces. That spicy verde sauce isn’t bad choice by any means. If that’s not enough there’s a bottle of sriracha on every table so knock yourself out. Otherwise Oh Boy’s tacos are just alright but not worth making a special trip for, especially considering the other taqueria options nearby.

The items I mention are worth trying but unfortunately there’s not much else on the menu that is enticing me to explore. Nevertheless Oh Boy is a unique place and worth a visit if you’re in the neighborhood.

Alpharetta Restaurant News – July 2014

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

This month we shuffle pizza joints around. We also are seeing a trend of simple and humbly-named shops. It started with Crust and continues with…

Simply Pizza. These are the guys who bought out Famous Original Pizza on Old Milton. They are already open and offering a simple pizzeria menu that certainty won’t offend anyone.

humble pie logoJohnny’s New York Pizza on Main and Windward has closed. Replacing them will be Humble Pie Pizza Company. Their buildout looks anything but humble as they’ve torn the place apart.

Johns Creek’s 12 Slices abruptly closed about a month ago after being open only a short time. Word on the street is that the property owner was having financial difficulty which resulted on the restaurant’s short tenure. We hope to see them open again somewhere else.

Uncle Maddio’s on Windward has also closed. They’ve promised to reopen after renovation to expand the restaurant but the work has yet to begin.

Oh, and Gino’s NY Pizza has closed as well, but we’ll get to them later. Good grief that’s enough about pizza.

Grilled cheese and tomato soup purveyor Tom and Chee will open an Alpharetta location near Guitar Center on North Point. This will be the second metro Atlanta location for the chain out of Cincinnati. Nearby will be another niche restaurant, Chicken Salad Chick. It’s very encouraging to see new restaurants and retail in this long-empty shopping center.

anabelles table logoAlso opening in a long-vacant shopping center will be a new French-inspired restaurant called Anabelle’s Table. They’re set to open at 1614 Peachtree Parkway not far from Sharon Road. They’ve already got a decent Facebook presence and website that my readers in south Forsyth should check out. This place has potential.

Troubles continue for the small little mixed use development Johns Creek Walk. Nearly every restaurant here struggles. Keso Mexican Grill has closed. It wasn’t a surprise as they recently took over a smaller space up 141 in Forsyth County. And like we teased before, Gino’s NY Pizza is a goner. Replacing them will be Mavrick’s Cantina. The concept is southern California Mexican, very similar perhaps to what’s being done at Forsyth’s Costa Vida. Check the already active Facebook presence for these guys.

And finally, a joint called Casita Latina Lounge & Billiards is nearly open on Mansell Road next to Bombay Flames. I’m not sure if gringos are their target market though.

Opening since last month are Zoes Kitchen at The Collection in Forsyth. This location seems bigger than that at North Point. Across the street is Roly Poly which opened this week in an old Quiznos location. Spice Afro Caribbean Cuisine is now open in Milton near Montana’s. They make a pretty mean jerk chicken. A small little Chinese and Thai joint called Rice has opened on Old Milton near Dunkin Donuts. They took the place of another little Chinese restaurant who’s name escapes me.

And finally, TGI Fridays on North Point has closed as promised back in this article. They’ll make room for a Jared jewelry store. Bahama Breeze will be next, soon to face the wrecking ball.

Restaurants Coming Soon

First Watch –They’ve announced an August 4th opening. Look for them in the new Twin Oaks shopping center on Old Milton and North Point.
Tower Burger – Finally got in touch with the owner! We’re told they will open in 2-3 weeks!
Costa Vida - Southwest grill set to open near The Collection in Fosyth County.
Senior Quintin Mex-Grill – Another Mexican joint to try opening on Peachtree Parkway in extreme south Forsyth.
Dancing Mouth Indian Restaurant - Small little Indian concept coming to Jordan Court near Costco.
Chicken Salad Chick – Coming to North Point near Guitar Center.
Boneheads – Opening on Windward near Sri Krishna Vilas.
South Main Kitchen – Louis Soon’s new restaurant on Main Street in downtown Alpharetta.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse - Their buildout has yet to begin in the old Rainwater building. They had better get to it if they want a Fall opening.
Made Kitchen and Cocktails – New concept from the Sedgwicks coming to Roswell Street in downtown Alpharetta.
2b Whole European Gluten-Free Bakery - New bakery to open on Milton Avenue in downtown Alpharetta.

Jekyll Brewing – one year later

Today we feature an article from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

I recently stopped by Jekyll’s brewery on Marconi Drive to see how they were doing nearly one year into business.  I had first encountered Jekyll, owner Michael Lundmark and brewer Josh Rachel last March to discuss their Kickstarter campaign to raise money to build the brewery.  As you may recall, they exceeded their $30,000 goal by many thousands.  The people wanted a local brewery.  How is Alpharetta’s own Jekyll Brewing doing in the first year of business?

Jekyll TastingAs it turns out, very well.  Jekyll has exceeded their lofty goals for the first year and are already moving into their five year plan.  They are brewing at capacity.  They’ve added many tanks and a lot of new equipment and still are having a hard time keeping up with demand.  They’ve nearly burned out their hot water kettle by running it too much.  There are several hot water on demand devices in place and ready to go to replace the giant supernova burner they are currently using.

They’ve installed a bottling system in the back of the brewery that puts out 100,000 bottles a month into the market.  Staggering.  And here’s the crazy thing.  Bottles are only about 30% of Jekyll’s business.  The rest is draught to bars, restaurants, growler stores etc.

There are two semi-tractor trailers that leave Jekyll every week sending the product into market.  Jekyll is in retail locations all over north Georgia down to Macon and on the coast down to Jekyll Island.  They are looking to expand into all of Georgia soon.

Jekyll’s Hop Dang Diggity Southern IPA is by far the biggest seller, accounting for over half of sales.  It placed in the top ten in a recent IPA competition where it went up against 250 brews from around the world.

Jekyll now employees 23 folks mostly full time.  The tap room is very busy on the weekends with live music, video games, tours and of course beer samples.

That’s the past and present, what about the future for Jekyll?  September 1st will see the first expansion of the brewery into an adjoining space adding 150% more capacity as well as a full bottling line.  Brewmaster Josh will be turned loose this year to make one special beer each week that will be available only in the tap room starting on Tuesdays.  It will push Josh’s creativity to the limit and we will all benefit.  Look for a new double IPA called A Hoot n’ a Holler.  I had some at the brewery, and I can report that it’s very good.

One pretty cool product that’s coming out is an English Barleywine called OTG.  It was brewed by Josh and his father, the man who got Josh into brewing, on Father’s Day.  This special beer will be a yearly event, limited batch, and sold only in bombers.  It’s a great story of a father and son sharing a passion and making a great story.

It’s great to see a local business doing well especially in the tough first year.  It’s even better when it’s a local brewery that makes outstanding beer, has a cool facility and very nice people.  So raise your glasses for many more years of success for Alpharetta’s Jekyll Brewing.  Cheers!

Restaurant broker Shumacher Group is big influence in Alpharetta

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

Shhh, don’t tell anyone. I’m about to reveal one of my sources for restaurant news. It’s The Shumacher Group.

shumacher logoActually it’s no huge secret. The restaurant broker has been around for years mostly representing sellers. Sometimes it’s a struggling restaurant looking for an exit plan. Other times it’s someone leaving the restaurant business for personal reasons.

Nevertheless, Shumacher’s business in north Fulton and south Forsyth seems to be growing in recent years. They’re the driving force behind a lot of the restaurant changes we report here. And they also provide a bit of a crystal ball for what’ll be in the news a few months from now.

What recent deals have they been a part of? They sold Famous Original Pizza on Old Milton a few months ago and sent Alfresco to Crust (which we reviewed last week). They’ve moved the former Rainwater restaurant building twice, once to Chill and again most recently to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. They sold Forsyth’s Buckhead Pizza to Rosati’s. In Roswell they sold Borocco to make way for Moxie Burger. I could go on and on.

Look at Shumacher’s current listing page for that crystal ball I spoke of. They’ve got Johns Creek’s Dal Cuore listed. The popular Italian restaurant started by restauranteur Jonathan Agri was recently sold to the chef running the kitchen. Looks like he wants out. It’ll be big news if the concept changes.

Also in Johns Creek you’ll find his listing for Mirko Pasta. It’s actually under contract and likely to change once the deal closes.

Down in Roswell (and out of Roots’ jurisdiction) Shumacher has Italian eateries Dominicks and Pasta La Vista both under contract.

More fun is when they don’t reveal the name of a restaurant that’s for sale. Can you figure out which Alpharetta/Roswell pizzeria he has for sale in this ad? I’ve got an idea. But this listing for a restaurant near the hospital in Johns Creek has confounded me.

So if you’re a restauranteur who wants out of the business, these are your guys. Or if you follow restaurant news, bookmark Shumacher’s page and check regularly.

Potential downtown Alpharetta developers revealed

Alpharetta has received responses from several developers interested in the private development at the city center project. These are the four outparcels, inauspiciously colored green on many site plans, that will be developed into multi-story mixed use buildings. The companies responded to the city’s request for qualifications (RFQ) process. And while their responses are private at this time, the list of participating companies provides some insight into the type of project that is likely coming to downtown Alpharetta. Here’s the list.

NAP logoNorth American Properties – The guys building the massive $600 million Avalon project. They seem to be interested in everything Alpharetta at this point. They’ve got a proposal in to the city for a convention center at Avalon that would be funded with increased taxes. And they had a hand in the Gwinnett Tech campus across the street. Their interested in downtown Alpharetta is curious. The city should be careful putting all their eggs into one developer’s basket.

Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart & Associates – Perhaps the most serious bid of them all. Smallwood was previously selected as the master planner for the entire city center project including the municipal buildings like city hall. They would be intimately familiar with what the city wants here. Smallwood choose to include with their bid the following partnering companies:

MidCity Real Estate Partners – Office developers with some mixed use experience.
South City Partners – Worked on downtown Kennesaw’s mixed use project that included apartments and was bonded. They do a lot of apartments and student housing.
Morris & Fellows – Experience at Vickery in South Forsyth. They also bought foreclosed assets at downtown Woodstock’s mixed use development. Alpharetta has long coveted Woodstock’s project. Two senior city staffers in Alpharetta have Woodstock’s planning department on their resume.

Selig Enterprises – Huge Atlanta retail developer with some mixed use experience.

SF Capital – Largely a residential developer of single family homes.

Callen Group – Can’t find anything on this bidder.

There are a few companies that were not involved in the process that one might have expected.

Solomon Holdings -Alpharetta-based developer of senior housing projects such as Dogwood Forest. They have no experience in projects like city center yet were selected as the previous city center’s contractor without a bid process. Of course those plans failed many years ago. Since then principals with Solomon have contributed money to political candidates in Alpharetta. And they participated in a previous RFQ process the city held last year for this project that was withdrawn. Thankfully Solomon is out of the running this time.

Also in last year’s pulled RFQ bit missing this time are Marthasville Development who developed Riverview Landing in Mableton and M.J. Lant Developments from Vickery.

So we know who might be involved but nothing else. Eventually we’ll know the structure of a potential deal. And of course the elephant in the room with this project is apartments. They’ve not been talked about openly among Alpharetta’s Council but are likely to be a part of this project. If they appear supporters will most certainly play the “vibrant downtown” trump card while opponents point to the city’s CLUP limiting them. It’ll be an interesting discussion.

Crust Pasta and Pizzeria – Main Street

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday. Today we feature an article from Mike Christensen. Thanks to Mike for filling in for me while on vacation. I’m back to blogging next week. -Lee

crust logoThere are no fewer than 20 pizza places within the 30004 zip code.  While that does count national chains like Pizza Hut, it is a staggering number.  How can this area support that many pies?  Because Americans consume nearly three billion pizzas a year.  Here in Alpharetta, we have a wide variety of pizzas to choose from ranging from New York and Chicago style and Neapolitan, to mom and pop joints vs. national chains.  It’s pizza mania I tell ya!

The newest contenders for your pepperoni dollar is the unfortunately named Crust, which is situated in the old Alfrescos location on Main Street.  I know that the crust is part of the pizza, but it sounds like a medical condition.  Not very appetizing.

The layout inside is very much like Alfresco with a bar in the front, mostly tables and a few booths.  The materials inside are nice and inviting.  Wood beams reclaimed from a place in Woodstock are hung from the ceiling and wood also surrounds several TV’s.   Brick and metal round everything  out.   It’s all very nice.  You can tell time was spent on the décor.  One nit-pick about the booths.  The pad that you sit on does not stay in place as you slide in.  It bunched underneath me and cause great shuffling and rearranging to get comfortable.

Enough HGTV, let’s get to the food, man.  The menu features salads, pastas, pizzas and sandwiches or rather “crustwiches”.  Those are sandwiches on nice and toasty flatbread.  I had the meatball crustwich and found it delightful.  It featured sliced house made meatballs smothered in cheese and just enough toast on the bread to give tons of flavor.  A winner.  We also had the mozzarella sticks and garlic knots.  The mozzarella sticks were large and flat.  Good crunch, but the marinara sauce was weak, watery and a little overloaded on garlic.  At least it does come out screaming hot.

The garlic knots were gigantic.  Looked like a nearly foot long breadstick tied in a knot covered with garlic butter sauce.  Soft and messy.  I hate that there were five.  It’s always an odd number.  My wife and I fought over the last one.

My wife had salads on each occasion.  The Greek salad tasted good, but it looked like it had been though a shredder.  It was so very hard to eat with a fork, we needed a large spoon.  She also had the buffalo chicken salad.  The chicken was very spicy and plentiful.  The greens were crisp.  It was a much better experience than the Greek salad.

Crust pizza sliceNow, to the pizza.  I was going to go with my traditional every-mammal-represented all-meat pizza.  However I was drawn to the BBQ chicken pizza.  I chose wisely.  It was outstanding.  Chunks of marinated chicken with red onion mixed in with gouda cheese and drizzled with BBQ sauce all combined for a heavenly pizza trip.  The red onion was small enough to lend some flavor, but to not overpower the taste or be too crunchy.  The fact that the sauce was drizzled on the pizza and not smothered all over was also an advantage.  All the flavors were in perfect balance.  A symphony of pizza.  The crust was the kicker.  Slightly sweet with a hint of pretzel.  The bottom was thin and crispy, yet was pliable like NY style.  I can’t wait to get it again.

Crust seems to be a good fit for Alpharetta.  Locally owned, locally sourced ingredients, and pretty darn good pizza.  Owner Darren Henderson has a long pedigree in the pizza business.  He spent the last four years as at Blue Moon Pizza, and before that was a managing partner at Carrabbas for 13 years.  Pizza is no passing fancy for him.  The staff has been friendly for the most part.  There are local beers from Jekyll and Monday represented as well as liquors from the 13th Colony distillery in Americus.

Crust Pasta & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Crust has the goods to at least outlive it’s predecessor if not continue on for many years.

Where are they now?

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday. Today we feature an article from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

I’ve been writing for this blog for over 2 years now.  I’ve reviewed tons of places and met a lot of great people.  One thing that’s always bothered me are the places that I’ve reviewed that have closed.  Starting a restaurant is one of the hardest things one can do.  The success rate is extremely low.  It got me thinking.  What if I took one of Lee’s restaurant news posts from April of 2012 to see where are they now?  Have they survived?  Thrived or failed?

Impanema Brazilian Steakhouse -  Lee and I have eaten there before.  It’s Fogo De Chou on a budget without table service.  You go to the meat.  Not bad.Ipanema

Pollo Tropical on Haynes Bridge – Proposed at the time.  Now open and seemingly doing very well along with the grouping of chains Chipotle, Zoe’s Kitchen and the Corner Bakery Cafe.

Kabab and Wraps in Milton -  Amazingly still around in the cursed location next to the Exxon and Subway on Webb Road at Morris Road.  It looks like they’ve broken the Yeti’s curse in this space.

Romeo’s NY Pizza in Crabapple -  Never been there but the pepperoni is still flying here.

Blind Murphy Craft Beer Market -  The growler craze was in its infancy in 2012. Blind Murphy was one of the first to take full advantage with a good location, extensive selection, great passion for beer and three free samples.  Blind Murphy was the first of the numerous local growler stores to be closed.  Previous owner David Sheets is currently working on a line of alcoholic sodas and craft beers.

Mirko Pasta in Johns Creek  – Was rapidly growing in 2012. Not the same story today. This location may soon be a goner.

One Star Ranch -  Still demolished and a distant memory. Now is a retirement home.

And for restaurant on the coming soon list back then…

Alfresco – Gone.  Now Crust.

Meat and Potatoes Kitchen & Bar – Closed.  I miss Rio Bravo.

The Velvet Note – Chugging along on Old Milton.

Joe’s NY Pizzeria – Open and very popular.

Uncle Maddio’s Pizza – Inexplicably still around.

Tassa Carribean Express – Now called Tassa Carribean Buffet and still open

What places have come and gone over the last few years that you would like to mention?

Alpharetta Restaurant News – June 2014

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

We don’t have a lot to report on this month. Restaurant news tends to be seasonal it seems, and summer is slow. But pretty soon we’ll need to revisit the Avalon restaurant lineup as they near a Fall opening. In the meantime, here’s what Alpharetta-area gastronomes can expect in the coming months.

Chicken Salad Chicks logoTalk about a niche restaurant. An up and coming new chain out of Alabama is set to make an appearance near North Point. Chicken Salad Chick will open near the new Guitar Center across from Best Buy. Their only other metro Atlanta location is in east Cobb. I love a good chicken salad sandwich which will probably translate into a visit. We’ll see if there is anything else on the menu to keep folks coming back.

Grilled fish and peri peri chicken purveyor Boneheads is opening on Windward. Look for them in the Windward Crossing shopping center at the corner of North Point. We’re not exactly sure which storefront they will control, but it’s likely on the left side of the building near Sri Krishna Vilas. This shopping center has reached critical mass. Good luck finding a parking spot during the lunchtime rush.

And for some news to make you ill tempered… The AJC reported this week that Alpharetta’s Grouchy’s Deli is being sued by South Carolina-based “Groucho’s” over name similarities. The suit is baseless in my opinion. Hopefully it will have the positive effect of bringing extra business to this little mom and pop deli. Unfortunately they will probably have to spend thousands on lawyers to defend against this nonsense.

oh boy logoThree new joints have opened in the last month in Johns Creek. Utopia on Medlock Bridge was the first. Senor Patron opened two weeks ago in the former Chepe’s. This is the second location for the Mexican joint out of Midtown. Also check out Oh Boy Rotisserie and Tacos in the former BB’s location on State Bridge. Their Peruvian-style eats impressed me on my first visit this week.

And folks over at have reported that the Old Milton location of Wok and Chopsticks has closed. The McFarland restaurant of the same name is still around.

Restaurants Coming Soon
Costa Vida - Southwest grill set to open near The Collection in Fosyth County.
Senior Quintin Mex-Grill – Another Mexican joint to try opening on Peachtree Parkway in extreme south Forsyth. A very cursed location.
Spice Afro Caribbean Cuisine - Coming soon to Milton, Highway 9 near Montana’s.
Dancing Mouth Indian Restaurant - Small little Indian concept coming to Jordan Court near Costco.
Tower Burger – I’ll buy you a beer if you can put me in contact with the owner of this mysterious new restaurant.
South Main Kitchen – Louis Soon’s new restaurant on Main Street in downtown Alpharetta.
First Watch – They will anchor the new Twin Oaks shopping center being built on Old Milton and North Point.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse - Planning a Fall opening in the former Rainwater space on Haynes Bridge.
Zoes Kitchen – New location at The Collection in Forsyth near Mellow Mushroom.
Made Kitchen and Cocktails – New concept from the Sedgwicks coming to Roswell Street in downtown Alpharetta.
2b Whole European Gluten-Free Bakery - New bakery to open on Milton Avenue in downtown Alpharetta. They’re at the farmer’s market a lot if you want to give them a try.

Ruth’s Chris will sell the sizzle in Alpharetta

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

Ruths Chris logo smallRuth’s Chris Steakhouse announced yesterday the relocation of their Sandy Springs restaurant to Alpharetta. And they’re entering town in a bold way. They won’t be leasing their new digs but rather have purchased the land and building at 11655 Haynes Bridge Road. Readers will know this as the former Rainwater restaurant.

Behind the effort are franchisees Jim Brooks, Phil Brooks, Mark Oswald and Nancy Oswald. They are the largest owners within the Ruth’s Chris chain with locations across the Southeast.

Blogger Caleb Spivak at had rumored of their Sandy Springs closure going back as far as 2010. The lease was coming to an end and the DOT has plans to widen Roswell Road at 285. Ruth’s Chris called this area home for over 20 years.

The former Rainwater spot is the perfect location. Measuring in at a staggering 18,000 square feet, the building includes a banquet hall and climate-controlled wine storage for 9,000 bottles. It was built in 2001 to be the home of Rainwater, an award-winning restaurant at the time. It closed and the space remained vacant for years. The short-lived Chill Restaurant and Lounge opened here in June of last year and abruptly closed three months later.

Given the current trend of restaurant openings, no one seemed to want a space this large. By comparison, Alpharetta’s Sedgwick Restaurant Group is chopping up a much smaller building on Roswell Street, reducing the restaurant space down to the size of a small apartment.

But the Rainwater space will fit Ruth’s Chris like a glove. And its proximity to the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce should give it a steady flow of business for years to come.

Expect an opening in the Fall of this year. The timing should make things interesting. Competition for expense account restaurants is heating up. Ruth’s Chris’ biggest new competitor will likely be Avalon’s Oak Steakhouse. The restaurant out of Charleston should make a big slash when they hit Alpharetta. And of course Ruth’s Chris will face ongoing competition from places like Cabernet on Windward. They were the first to bring prime steaks to Alpharetta a generation ago and are still at it.

Ruth’s Chris will put a lot of pressure on other higher-end joints nearby. Village Tavern is just on the other side of the parking lot and also comes to rely on the Chamber for business. And a block down the road is Sage Woodfire Tavern.

Is Alpharetta’s Rainwater a good fit for Ruth’s Chris? How will their arrival change the market for fine dining? Let me know with a comment.

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