North Point Parkway Dining – An Open Letter

Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday. Allow me the opportunity this week to write an open letter regarding our dining choices near the mall.

An open letter to the Alpharetta Convention and Visitor’s Bureau

Dear Sirs and Madams,

Alpharetta has a rather poor reputation when it comes to restaurants and dining. I tend to think this reputation is somewhat undeserved but nevertheless it is what it is. I believe the City of Alpharetta should revive North Point Parkway area as a dining destination by encouraging outstanding, locally-owned restaurants to open there.

I know what you’re thinking… here comes another person trying to bust on chain restaurants. To some extent, yes that’s what I’m gonna do. Yet there’s a place for the national chains. Just last week I ate at a Chili’s location… and liked it.

Many outside visitors to our little burb only see North Point Mall and the surrounding area. There’s nothing wrong with this; our mall is terrific and the CVB rightly promotes it as a destination. However, visitors form an impression of Alpharetta dining based on the restaurants near the mall. These restaurants are largely national chains and are sub-par. I can quantify the degree to which they are sub-par. More to this in a bit.

There are always exceptions to the rule. Places like Dalia’s Grill and Mangos Cuban are certainly not chains. Yet even those restaurants are lacking in some degree or are in locations that are hard to find. When outsiders drive around the mall they see Ruby Tuesday, TGI Friday’s, Chili’s, PF Chang’s, etc. They associate this impression with Alpharetta and the connection is made. Meanwhile, Roswell’s restaurant scene is getting national attention.

Just how bad are the restaurants near the mall? A few months ago I wrote an article on how bad restaurants are at outdoor malls. I used urbanspoon.com as a way to measure this. Their ratings, measured in percentages, provide a very granular way to gauge restaurants. It works much better in this case than yahoo, google or yelp ratings that only offer stars.

First I took every restaurant in Alpharetta that had a rating on urbanspoon. Next I averaged those ratings. The typical restaurant in Alpharetta has an 80% rating on urbanspoon. Then I made a list of every restaurant on North Point Parkway. I considered outparcels on the mall property like California Pizza Kitchen and places to the northeast like Sweet Tomatoes and Figo Pasta. Next I went southwest towards Mansell picking up joints like Buffalo Wild Wings and Atlantic Seafood. Twenty-seven of these restaurants had urbanspoon ratings. The average rating of a mall-area restaurant was 73%.

In short, the food at and near the mall is bad, measurably so. Visitors to Alpharetta often only visit this part of town. It would behoove the city to encourage outstanding restaurants to open near the mall. We need a dining renaissance on North Point Parkway.

Sincerely,

-Lee

p.s. – Thanks for being a favorite writing topic of mine. I hope I didn’t tick you guys off too much with my tongue-in-cheek suggested itineraries article. Ya’ll are the best!

6 Responses to “North Point Parkway Dining – An Open Letter”

  1. jimgilvin September 19, 2010 at 8:11 am #

    Great point Lee. Unfortunately,the cost in the Northpoint area is still prohibitive for most smaller operations even in this market.

    The Diner at Northpoint is a notable exception. I love that place. Great food, good atmosphere, extensive menu and excellent service.

    I don’t know what the city of Alpharetta could do and quite frankly I don’t like to see govt. get involved cuz they will probably just screw it up.

    The more natural location for the types of restaurants you mention are in the vacant strip malls where the costs are low and a small operation can establish a clientele without breaking the bank. Rosa Mia restaurant on Jones Bridge or Kozmo Gastropub on Douglas Road for example.

    Love your blog.

  2. Lee September 19, 2010 at 8:49 am #

    Thanks Jim. I compare us to Roswell. Visitors to Roswell gravitate towards the square (at least I do). And within walking distance is Canton Street where Roswell’s truly outstanding restaurants are clustered. Our best restaurants are scattered (like you mention) in random strip malls. Kosmo’s location is just strange. ‘Cue is in an awkward spot away from stuff.

    Maybe the answer for us is to forget North Point and revitalize our downtown area. I don’t know.

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. YankeeChef September 23, 2010 at 6:22 pm #

    I agree, Lee. I think a revitalization for the downtown area is more what Alpharetta needs. In my opinion, North Point area is a lost cause. Like the previous comment, the cost of operating there is a major turn off for an independent restauranteur, like myself. I have looked and am looking for a new concept in that downtown Alpharetta area but of course, mainly looking at the historic Roswell area because of its obvious attention. Alive After 5….built in marketing. Brilliant. Would love to see Alpharetta follow suit. Nice post.

  4. Ed Selby September 24, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    This is veering a little bit off topic, but – there is a Cursed Location at North Point, and unfortunately it is right where the Diner is. That place has been home to some really good and some really bad food. But nothing located there has survived.

    Best food in Alpharetta for me (best defined as casual, affordable, filling, and damned delicious), believe it or not, is Terra Humata. I wonder if they’d consider opening where Joe’s Crabshack was…..

  5. Lee September 24, 2010 at 8:55 am #

    @YankeeChef – Alpharetta is at least five years behind Roswell in terms of the downtown area. The city has a “Downtown Development Authority”, but they seem to be moving slowly. Recently they have been busy hiring consultants. See this article… http://www.northfulton.com/Articles-c-2010-09-20-184292.114126-sub_Alpharetta_economic_plan_moves_forward.html

    @Ed – I don’t care for much down along Mansell Road. I’m frankly surprised so many have stayed in business. I’m thinking about places like Buffalo Wind Wing (well-documented service problems) and Atlantic Seafood.

    I’m on the fence about Terra Humata. It straddles the line between ubiquitous Mexican joint (El Azteca, El Porton, etc) and innovative Latin American cuisine. Nevertheless, I’d love to see a place like this open on North Point. This is exactly the kind of restaurant the CVB should attract. Keep in mind that a Mexican restaurant is building out in the old Houlihan’s space right now.

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