Archive - June, 2010

He’s the Duke of Germany and He Needs a Bath

I’m not a police detective, but I do play one in the blogosphere. So this article on the caught my eye this afternoon. Let me set the stage a little.

Dateline: Roswell, GA. It is middle of the afternoon in a quiet neighborhood. The lady of the house arrives to find a man taking a shower. She strikes up a conversation with the man while he’s in the act. It seems that the man is not her husband or otherwise an acquaintance, although the AJC article isn’t real clear on this point. I’m thinking that isn’t the case because shortly thereafter Roswell SWAT arrives on the scene.

So it is safe to say this isn’t your ordinary shower. But wait, it gets better. The cops eventually get the man out of the house. He identifies himself only as The Duke of Germany. I know what you’re thinking… royalty, right here in Roswell!

So Herr Duke is arrested and taken to the north Fulton jail. Yet in a bit of brilliant journalism, the AJC ends the short article by saying “The motive is unclear, and the man has yet to be identified.” Um, hello? He’s the Duke of Germany and he needed a bath. This guy walks on diplomatic immunity.

Please Say “Independence Day” and not “The Fourth”

Many Christians take offense at how we are losing “Chirstmas”. People say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” For the most part I agree with the concern. I go out of my way to say Merry Christmas to people I meet in December.

I have the same sort of pet peeve in June and July when people say “Fourth of July” or just “the Fourth.” The patriotic American in me wants to just slap folks when I hear this. The holiday we are celebrating is Independence Day. It isn’t just the birthday of our country. It was the day when a group of very brave men signed their name to a document declaring our independence. It was a very bold measure of defiance towards the most powerful nation in the world (England). In short, it took some serious cajones. I believe we trivialize the significance of this event by saying “the fourth of July.”

So if you consider yourself even a tiny bit patriotic, why not say “Independence Day”? This year make a concerted effort to do so. And don’t forget to fly your flag this weekend. Check out the article I wrote at Memorial Day on proper suburban flag display etiquette. Have a terrific Independence Day and God bless America!

Studio Movie Grill on Holcomb Bridge

I hope SMG employees can see chiropractors as part of their benefits package. These poor servers have to walk around hunched over Quasimodo. I kinda felt bad for them.

Thursday night my wife and I made our first visit to the new Studio Movie Grill theater on Holcomb Bridge. I wrote a preview article about this a few weeks back. If you’re not familiar with their concept then read my article here. It’ll be interesting to see if this idea takes root in the burbs.

The theater is in an old grocery store, restored beautifully into a modern theater. Walking into the lobby feels nothing like a typical movie theater. Gone are cheesy video games and greasy pop corn stands. It is more like an upscale waiting room with a bar. You wait until they call you to enter the theater. It is almost like a train station or an airport terminal. “We are now seating for Sex and the City.” Excuse me, that’s my movie. Let me bring my cosmopolitan.

The theaters themselves are different of course. Each horizontal isle has seats on either side. The seats closest to the screen have a long bar-like table. On the other side of the isle are little tables big enough for two people. The little tables are perfect for a couple on a date because you have a tiny bit of privacy. On the other hand, these seats have more obstructions when Quasimodo walks by with drinks. If you want to avoid seeing the servers, sit at the bar seats.

You sit on chairs that are a lot like the big chairs in a conference room at work. They are comfortable but nothing like traditional theater chairs.

On each table is a little button and a red light. Pressing this alerts the staff that you need attention. The servers are very attentive and any of them can wait on you. I found that they have a small army of wait staff in each theater. We didn’t have to wait long at all when our button was pressed. The staff all carry little hand-held Palm-OS looking things to take orders. Very high tech.

So let’s talk about the food. The menu is heavy with stuff like pizza, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, etc. I picked a fried chicken sandwich and my wife a pizza. I didn’t care for the pizza much at all as it was a little on the bready side. My sandwich was pretty good but on par with something like Chili’s. It was about what I expected. This place isn’t going to win any culinary awards anytime soon, that’s for sure. It’s chain restaurant food with a couple-a extra bucks tacked onto the price.

Let’s talk beverages… They serve Pepsi products. Yeah, it’s a shame too. Someone from SMG corporate assured me here on my blog that they’d have Coke products in Atlanta. Not so much. They do have Diet Dr Pepper which is a decent alternative. Their bar has some interesting cocktails yet lacks a deep selection of beer.

The movie watching experience was nice. You can feel the quality in their projectors and sound system. The basic ticket prices for movies are in-line with traditional theaters in Alpharetta.

All in all, I thought it was a cool theater. The food isn’t anything to write home about, but I kinda expected this. There is some disruption to the movie from the wait staff but I expected this as well. They do indeed try hard to minimize the interruptions. Quasimodo won’t say a word to you without a button push.

I’d go back to Studio Movie Grill. Drinking Yeungling while watching a movie is terrific. Having someone refill your drinks ain’t bad either. But get dinner somewhere else before coming.

And for complete disclosure… I was invited to attend on media night and was given free admission and food. I don’t think it clouded my judgment though. I’ll let my readers be the judge of that.
Studio Movie Grill on Urbanspoon

Scratch Fresh – Burgers, Biscuits and Shakes

Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday.

I believe we are on the tail end of this burger craze. For the sake of my cholesterol, I certainly hope we are. But in the meantime, let’s add yet another custom burger shop to the mix.

Scratch Fresh quietly opened up about a month ago. I say quietly because they literally hung a banner sign and started cooking. They have a website with no content, have performed no marketing that I’m aware of and have almost no reviews online. Nevertheless, they have a terrific location and people are finding them. For lunch last Saturday they had a decent crowd.

It is easy to compare Scratch to Five Guys. They cook a hand made burger on a flattop griddle. You add toppings like you would at Five Guys and the prices are similar. They deviate from Five Guys in that their menu is more broad and the toppings more numerous.

But let’s get to the burgers, shall we? I enjoyed my Scratch burger a lot. It was perfectly cooked with a little singe on the outside, yet was juicy and flavorful. Is it the best burger in Alpharetta? I wouldn’t go that far. Is it better than Five Guys? Oh hell yes. The Windward location of Five Guys is pretty shitty anyway. This place would be a terrific alternative. Anyway, I promise not to mention Five Guys anymore.

This appears to be a family-run operation; the service is friendly and attentive. They are also very kid/family friendly. My kids enjoyed the chalk boards in the back of the store. They laughed and laughed while getting covered in chalk dust.

There are several things I believe Scratch can improve on. Among those are:

Fresh cut fries – They serve frozen fries. But to give them credit, they were cooked perfectly with a nice golden brown crisp on the outside. To remain competitive I think they need fresh cut spuds on the menu. Even, um, the other place on Windward does this.

Pepsi – I don’t tolerate Pepsi products. Really disgusting. I know it probably costs more to offer Coke, but this is metro Atlanta. Shame shame! Although their lemonade is very tasty.

Milkshakes – I tried one of the hand-spun shakes and it was pretty good. I’d suggest they hide the food service containers of shake flavors. They line a wall and look kinda tacky. It diminishes the experience a bit, taking it from a hand-spun shake down to something I’d expect from McDonalds. They also serve a cinnamon roll dessert which my wife didn’t care for at all.

All in all, Scratch is probably my favorite mid-grade burger joint in North Fulton. They offer a friendly environment that is welcoming to kids and a more diverse burger menu.

Scratch Fresh is located on Highway 9 near Windward, across from Walmart near Meyers Deli.

12872 Alpharetta Hwy 9 Ste 110

Alpharetta GA 30004
Scratch Fresh on Urbanspoon

New/Closed Restaurants – June 2010

Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday.

I post these lists from time to time as needed. In June you get two for the price of one. Crazy, I know. I’m just feeling generous.

The Windward area continues to see a lot of restaurant activity. Unfortunately most of it is negative. Here’s what my restaurant crystal ball is telling me.

Scratch Fresh Burgers – Windward

They’ve been open for about a month, yet have done almost no marketing. Hey, kinda like my blog! Stay tuned because a review of these guys is my very next post!

Rojo Taqueria – Closed

They were on Holcomb Bridge. “Were” being the operative word here, as they are no longer.

Bobby G’s Chicago Eatery – Moving

Bobby G’s has operated a small little shop behind Windward, on the corner of Morris and Webb Roads. Unless you happen to work in a cubicle back here, you may not even know about them. That’s about to change. They have closed this location and will re-open in a few weeks in the strip mall with Aldi on Highway 9. This should be a much bigger space with a lot more visibility. I was never a fan of Bobby G’s, but ex-pats from the windy city would love it.

Field Good – Closing?

Rumor has it that this place will soon be closing. Yet as of yesterday, they are still open. I’m not sure what the deal is.

Which Wich – Windward

Scheduled to open in the strip mall with Five Guys. They will be next to the new Yogli Mogli. I tried their location at the Avenue Forsyth and was very disappointed. I can’t decide which restaurant has the most annoying name on Windward, Lettuce Souprise You or Which Wich.

Alpharetta’s Visitors Bureau and the Getaway Giveaway

I’m a fan of the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau. I also think they have an amazingly difficult job. Their mission is basically to make Alpharetta a place people want to visit. Yes, that’s a tough mission… and no I’m not being sarcastic. There are plenty of cool things to do around here, many of which I’ve blogged about. I think it’s a difficult job because of the stereotypes surrounding our city. People think Alpharetta is just a mall and a bunch of chain restaurants. Overcoming that stigma is a challenge.

So in a way I’m like these guys… except I don’t have a board of directors, or a welcome center, or cool vacation giveaway contests. Who am I fooling; I’m not in the same league as these guys.

Ah, but the vacation giveaways! Yesterday the Alpharetta CVB announced the winner of their spring promotional getaway giveaway. Their press release reads like something out of the showcase showdown on The Price is Right. I pictured one of Barker’s Beauties standing in front of an Alpharetta hotel, holding a stack of gift cards. Her arms would stretch wide to reveal a picnic basket, Alpharetta t-shirt and bottled water. All this could be yours, if the price is right! Or would you rather bid on the other showcase?

So I didn’t win the spring getaway giveaway. I’d be curious to know if the winner, who is from Michigan, will make the trek down here to claim his booty. But I’ll bet you a $25 Sweet Tomatoes gift card that I’ll be entering the August promotion! Wish me luck!

Nomadic Hermits of Alpharetta

One of my good friends lives in Gwinnett County. We were roommates in college and for a year after college. I consider him a pretty close, lifelong friend, yet I haven’t seen him in probably seven years.

When I first moved to the Atlanta area I didn’t know anyone here, except one person. I had a cousin who was working on his MBA at Emory at the time. Over the two years he was in Atlanta I got together with him exactly once. That one time was for my wedding.

My wife has a friend who moved to Cherokee County several years ago. They grew up next door to each other for a long portion of their childhood. We have never met up with this friend, even though he has children the same age as ours.

Being a rootless relo is a concept that I try to come back to from time to time. People move to Alpharetta and have no friends, close confidants, no one to watch their kids, etc. But is that really true? I share the three little stories above to illustrate a paradox. There are five million people living in metro Atlanta. The chances are real good that you already knew someone before moving here. At a minimum you’re one or two degrees of Kevin Bacon from knowing someone close by.

So why is it hard to reach out to the people we already know? Is it traffic? Are we just too busy to make time for friends who live 30-45 minutes away? Or are they too far away to be considered close by? Or am I just strange for not getting together with my friends?

Peter Kilborn, the writer who inspired the name of my blog, called the rootless relos of the affluent burbs modern-day executive gypsies. Sometimes I think we’re closer to nomadic hermits.

Slopes BBQ – Alpharetta

Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday. This week I continue a summer series reviewing barbecue restaurants in Alpharetta.

I really want to like Slopes BBQ. There are several reasons outside of barbecue that make these guys so darn likable. First, they seem to hold some pretty conservative political views. If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know I’m a hardcore red state kind of fella. Behind the counter the Slopes folks have a cool collection of right-wing bumper stickers. I got a chuckle out of a few of them.

Slopes also does a great job at old fashioned social networking. I mean the face-to-face variety, not Twitter and Facebook. They are friendly folks who get to know their customers well. I have a lot of friends who are very loyal Slopes customers for this reason.

Slopes is probably the oldest Q joint in North Fulton that is still operating. They are also in the midst of expansion, currently with six stores across the northern burbs. Consider this a review of their Alpharetta location, which is actually in South Forsyth in the Midway area.

I have a hard time getting excited about the barbecue at Slopes. The pork comes finely chopped but not to the point of being minced. It is very lean, often dry and lacks smoke flavor. There is absolutely no outside meat (aka bark) served. I once asked about this, wondering if I could order it with some outside meat mixed in. I was told that they remove this in the morning and put it into the stew. I was stunned! The best most flavorful part of the barbecue is drowned in the Brunswick Stew.

They serve a sauce that I find similar to Williamson Brothers in Marietta. It is a tomato base with a little vinegar and some tang. There is also a spicy version available. I find that I use more sauce here than at any other local Q joint. The meat needs a lot of it.

I mentioned the Brunswick Stew before. As you would imagine, it is pretty good. Slopes makes the most authentic Brunswick Stew around. It is smoky and flavorful. The rest of the side items are above average for the most part.

I also like the cobbler at Slopes. On my last visit they had four varieties. I tried the peach and was impressed. You really should save room for a bowl of it.

I keep telling myself that I ought to just order a vegetable plate and cobbler on my next visit. Yet I keep trying the chopped pork hoping that I will like it more. They now offer beef brisket everyday which looks pretty tasty. I haven’t tried their ribs or chicken.

Slopes has a lot of potential to be a well rounded Q joint. I just find their pork to be one dimensional and not pleasing to a refined barbecue palate. Yet there are scores of locals who would disagree with me on that assessment. If you enjoy the Q here then that’s alright by me. They are for sure with a try.
Slope's Barbecue of Alpharetta on Urbanspoon

Manly Dad Things to do With the Kids

There are a lot of terrific blogs in the Atlanta area that offer ideas for things to do with your kids. I’ve mentioned Atlanta with Kid as one that I like. I also like Field Trips with Sue and a new local blog called Forsyth County for Families.

These blogs have something else in common… they are all written by moms, and I’m not a mom. Mom’s like places such as the Center for Puppetry Arts. There’s a time and place for puppets I suppose. But as Father’s Day nears, I thought I would offer up some cool and manly dad things to do with your kids.

The Gun Range

You’ve gotta love the feel of holding cold steel in your hands and squeezing off a few rounds. Celebrate the Second Amendment and go shooting with the kids! I suggest American Classic Marksman in Norcross. Kids need to be at least 12 years old and have a LOT of adult supervision. In all seriousness, children need to learn to respect guns and how to handle them.


If shooting holes in paper targets gets boring, try paintball! At least you can shoot other people here without killing them. It sometimes stings a little though.

I first tried paintball in high school. You’d be surprised how intense the experience really is. I gained new respect for soldiers after an afternoon of being a make pretend GI Joe.

Paintball Atlanta would be a great place to check out. Their field is located in South Forsyth not far from McFarland and GA-400. You can rent all the equipment necessary on-site. Kids need to be age 11 or older.

Peachtree Dekalb Airport Playground

Okay, this article isn’t all about guns. Plus, my kids are too young to participate in that stuff anyway. Here’s an idea for younger kids. Airplanes! See lots of them surprisingly close up. That’s the PDK airport playground. By playground standards, it isn’t that impressive. But it’s the location! You’re literally in the shadow of the control tower and right on the fence. You’re close enough to get occasional blasts of propwash as the planes start up. If your kid is even remotely interested in aviation, you’d ought to check this place out.

Andretti Indoor Karting

Boogity, boogity, boogity, let’s go racing boys! I had low expectations going into Andretti. Go karts sound so lame, but I assure you, these are not. You’re low to the ground on a tight course with a pretty powerful engine behind you. It really is a lot of fun. Plus they have a dad’s race free deal on Father’s Day!

Alpharetta Jobs – June 2010

Around the middle of each month I survey the career websites of Alpharetta’s largest employers. I count the number of openings and tally them up here. I trend the numbers month to month but otherwise I make little to no conclusions about the data. I’ll leave that up to my readers.

So what do you think of all this? Feel like the job market is all doom and gloom? Are you surprised that there are 350 job openings in this area? Is that a lot, or too few? Is McKesson a statistical outlier, propping up the numbers? And are these companies actually interviewing and hiring for these spots, or are managers squatting on open job requisitions knowing that there is no budget for filling them? Let me know what you think!

Alpharetta Jobs June 2010

Company Number of Jobs
McKesson 103
LexisNexis/Choicepoint 28
ADP 56
E-Trade 38
Equifax 33
AT&T 8
Verizon 11
Radiant 18
HP 30
Infor 6
Phillips 6
Alcatel-Lucent 5
Oracle 2
Total 344

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