Archive - October, 2010

Halloween – The Suburban Ice Breaker

Two doors down lives a fifteen year old girl who wants to start babysitting. In the cul-de-sac down the street are a bunch of UGA grads who like to do jello shots. What do these two unrelated things have to do with each other? Absolutely nothing… except that I learned both while trick or treating with my kids tonight on Halloween.

It amazes me how little we know about our neighbors despite living so close. It’s almost like the rows of leyland cypress that separate us have magical powers that keep us from community. Then comes Halloween. This is the only day when it’s perfectly acceptable to knock on a neighbor’s door at 8:00 pm and expect some hospitality (even if it’s just a piece of candy). Each year on this day I learn something about my neighbors I didn’t know. I learn something I ought to already know. I have only my kids to thank for the opportunity.

So the next time I have a hankering for jello shots I’ll know where to go. I’ll even have a sitter for the occasion.

Shrimp Basket – Milton

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

I try to be plugged into the community, especially the restaurant scene. But the other day I completely missed the obvious when it came to this new restaurant. As a matter of fact, I missed it twice.

Shrimp Basket is in the small strip mall on the corner of Morris and Webb Roads in Milton. It is near where Bobby G’s used to be. This space has seen at least three other restaurants call it home. If you’re keeping scoring at home, that would be Nana’s Sushi, Corner Room Cafe and Yeti Express. My early observations seem to suggest they might make it. It’s been crowded with cubicle critters every time I drive by.

The menu is mostly fried seafood of various types. I bypassed the fried stuff and went right towards the gumbo and jambalaya. That was a mistake. The gumbo was just spicy broth. It lacked depth and complexity that real gumbo brings. I’ll give them credit for putting some decent sized shrimp in there though. The jambalaya was equally disappointing.

However the fried shrimp my wife ordered were pretty good. They seem to be hand battered with a peppery kick. I was impressed. It kinda reminded me of another joint in town, my first missed clue.

The decor was all cheesy fishing junk. I really dislike stuff like this but it kinda fit into the seafood shack feel they are going for. And again, it reminded me of another place. Hummm.

The service was hit or miss. They had one fella working the entire space. He was overwhelmed and wasn’t multitasking well. He didn’t get any help from the other employees at the restaurant, some of which look bored. Strange.

The connection didn’t dawn on me until later that day when I just happened to be on Windward. I drove by the old Maryland’s Crab House to discover it closed. (cue the light bulb over my head) Ah ha! It’s the same folks! As I wrote on my review of Maryland’s, this place was doomed from the start due to the poor location. Looks like they took the concept and brought it to Shrimp Basket. I think it plays better in this space. Maryland’s had fried seafood and tried to take it upscale. Not gonna work. Shrimp Basket is the same stuff served casual for a cheaper price and in a better location. Much better idea.

I’ll probably give these guys another try. Stick to the fried stuff or perhaps the poboys. You’ll be in good shape. As for the service… it could be new restaurant jitters. However, back when Maryland’s was open they were getting some strange reviews on yelp and urbanspoon commenting on terribly bad service. I got a strange one here on my blog that’s along the same lines. Check it out here. It’ll be interesting to see if the same thing happens in the reviews of Shrimp Basket. In the meantime, don’t let this keep you from trying them. If you’re into fried seafood, this is as good a place as you’ll find around here.

Alpharetta’s 10 Year Plan – Schools

This is the third article in a series about Alpharetta’s ten year plan survey.

Brace yourself for the understatement of the year… The schools in north Fulton are good, really good. Don’t believe me? Check out blogger Bob Strader’s report on the schools around here and their test scores.

And we’re not alone as just about all the northern burb schools are awesome. Cobb has terrific schools. Gwinnett is winning national awards for their schools. Even Forsyth and Cherokee counties do alright.

But before I start talking about why are schools are awesome, let me completely disqualify myself from being an expert on education. My credentials are as follows… My oldest kid just started kindergarten in public school. Wow, that gives me a few months of experience as a PTA member, right? Otherwise I really have no authority to speak intelligently on this subject. Are you still reading? Great, let’s continue.

Are the schools in north Fulton great because of some administrative prowess on the part of the school system? Hardly. South Fulton’s schools are run by the same bunch, yet I don’t see them winning awards.

The schools here are good because of the parents. Sure, that’s easy for me to say, I’m a parent. No, the schools are good here because the kids come from homes with money. They come from parents who are highly educated, with good jobs and that have the time to devote to their children. And like we talked about last week, the college educated parents are here for the jobs. Yeah, it all goes back to the jobs. Good jobs bring educated people who have smart kids who fill the schools.

And after a while it begins to feed upon itself. My daughter’s teacher is a good example. She began her teaching career in a south metro Atlanta school system. After a few years she became frustrated with the schools and the lack of involvement from parents. She wanted to teach in a good school so now she’s in the northern burbs. Good teachers want to work in good schools. Duh.

Back to Alpharetta’s survey questions. Schools and education make up a bunch of the questions. It just goes to underscore how important this topic is to attracting and retaining residents. And yet even with so many questions asked, my answer to them all is simple… it is all about the jobs. The schools here are good because of the jobs. The single best thing the city of Alpharetta can do for the schools or otherwise is to attract and retain good jobs. There isn’t much else the city can or should do. They are not the “City of Alpharetta’s public schools” as the survey calls them. We have county schools here. Did I mention that this survey was put together by consultants who probably don’t know this area? Oh I did? Swell.

In case there’s a pop quiz later on, let’s review…

Good jobs -> educated parents -> smart kids -> good schools

The Cleaning Ladies and Policemen Don’t Live Here

This is a little sidebar article to my series about Alpharetta’s ten year plan survey.

Woodstock, Lawrenceville, Cumming, Loganville, Johns Creek and Alpharetta. This is where my co-workers live. I took an informal survey of the folks in my department and this is what I found. It is by no means a scientific sample, but based on my ten years of cubicle experience, this is typical.

I’ve seen this topic come up from time to time in several places. It is the issue that people who work here don’t live here. I first saw it in the 2005 New York Times article about Alpharetta that inspired my blog’s title. In that piece, the author points out that only a third of Alpharetta’s city employees lived in the city limits. Only three of the city’s police officers lived here. Keep in mind this was 2005, but you get the idea. The writer goes on to mention how landscapers and cleaning ladies commute 30 miles to work here.

This issue came up again last week in the discussion that ensued after my jobs and infrastructure article. Can people who work here afford to live here? Do we need a living wage ordinance to pay blue collar folks enough to buy homes in town? Or should we build higher-density neighborhoods at a lower price to provide affordable housing options?

I say none of the above. Why? Because of the illustration I gave at the start of this post. My fellow cubicle dwellers could easily afford to live in Alpharetta as I do. Why don’t they? There is probably not a single answer. Maybe they’ve established their family’s roots elsewhere. Maybe some want to buy more home for their money farther up GA-400. Who knows. My point is that these are people who could easily afford to live here and chose not to.

What’s to say that Alpharetta’s policemen, fire fighters, school teachers and others might want to do the same? With a higher wage or cheaper housing, would they want to move here? Perhaps. I’ll bet they make the same decisions my co-workers do. I’ll bet they scatter regardless of the other conditions.

And why is it important? Would my cleaning lady do a better job cleaning my house if she lived in Alpharetta? Would the policeman care more if he lived here? Perhaps. I’ll bet his radar gun will show I’m speeding regardless of where he lays his head at night. If I’m the police chief or school principal, I don’t want to worry about where my employees live, I just want them to do their jobs well.

You could make an argument on traffic. Having more folks living here would ease congestion on roads. Sure, I’m not going to argue that point. Then again, high density developments bring with them their own traffic problems.

It’s nice to think that a suburb could be a happy little cohesive utopia where everyone lives, works and plays in town. The reality is that this rarely happens. As much as I enjoy living and working here, I think enacting public policy to encourage this is fruitless.

Backyard Bash with Jeff Foxworthy

My blog is not really a place to go to find things to do. There are a lot of other blogs out there for that purpose. But from time to time I’ll post a coming event, especially if I have something to say about it. This is one of those events.

On Thursday October 28th Jeff Foxworthy will be featured at a comedy event in Alpharetta called the Backyard Bash. This is a fundraiser for North Fulton Community Charities and a few other local charities. I’ve written about NFCC before as I’m a big fan of their work. This event stands to be a big money maker for them.

I’m also excited to see Jeff Foxworthy perform locally. It’s cool to see him use his talents to support the community (he lives in Johns Creek). And strange as it may sound, I’m kinda excited about going to North Point Community Church as this will be my first time inside Alpharetta’s monster church.

Check out the event website at backyard-bash.org for a funny little teaser video Foxworthy put together. You can also purchase your tickets online. I’ll be there, making a surprise date night of it with my wife (hope she doesn’t read the blog this week).

What: Backyard Bash featuring Jeff Foxworthy
When: Thursday October 28th at 7:30pm
Where: North Point Community Church
Cost: $50 per person to benefit NFCC and others

K Cafe – Windward

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

So I’m sitting in one of my favorite Windward restaurants chatting up the manager. We’ve known each other for a few years so he knows my schtick about keeping up with the latest restaurants in town. He leans over and whispers to me “There is a new place almost across the street, K Cafe. They’re kind of a competitor.” Not that he was afraid of them, nor should he be, I just didn’t think he wanted his other customers to hear.

But I was disappointed in myself. How could a new restaurant open on Windward and do it almost completely under the radar? I drive Windward daily, surely I would have noticed something, right?

That night I googled this place. No website, no social networking presence, nothing. The only thing I find are a few articles on restaurant business websites. It seems that Krystal, the nasty little fastfood joint with the steamed burgers, is behind this operation. It is purely a test concept, the first of its kind. They are a fast-casual restaurant similar to Panera. Great, we need more chain concepts like Panera.

I dragged the kids, against their will, into K Cafe last weekend. They are located in the old Caravel spot in front of Costco, directly across the street from Five Guys. The joint feels classy with jazz music playing and nice decor. They have an amazingly big ceiling fan which mesmerized my youngins. The menu is mostly sandwiches, salads, burgers and hot dogs. What the menu doesn’t have is a kid’s section. Strike one. I had to order my kids adult entrees. This won’t fly in Alpharetta.

I kinda had my mind set on a burger, so I ordered what they call the “Basically Awesome Burger”. I love to see hyperbole on the menu, especially in the burger section! The burger patty tasted like a larger version of a Krystal burger. It was probably steamed and had little to no flavor. Strike two. However the bread was basically awesome pretty decent. It was ciabatta bread. There are other joints in town serving burgers like this, so they’re hardly new with the idea. But nevertheless it was good, as were the fresh toppings.

My kids got hot dogs and grilled cheese. Again, nothing spectacular. All of our entrees came with a huge serving of shoestring fries. They were actually pretty good.

The staff were obviously new and still being trained yet were nice and pleasant. The prices were on the reasonable side for Windward. I paid more than I thought given the lack of a kid’s menu. But lunchtime cubicle dwellers can probably get in and out of here for less than a Hamilton.

So there you have it. Given that this is a this is a test concept, they could gut the place tomorrow and try something completely new. Keep that in mind when you read my review. And even though they have carefully concealed the name “Krystal” behind the single letter “K”, there is a Krystal section on the menu. If nothing on the menu strikes your fancy you can always fall back on a three Krystal platter. Ick.
K Cafe on Urbanspoon

Alpharetta’s 10 Year Plan – Jobs and Infrastructure

This is the second article in a series about Alpharetta’s ten year plan survey.

With apologies to Starship…

We Built This City on High-Tech Jobs!

Maybe that should be Alpharetta’s theme song. Or maybe not, considering the original was rated the worst song ever. But you get my point.

Each of north Fulton’s cities have an identity. Milton is the horse farm town that shuns development. Johns Creek is the hoity toity country club town. Mountain Park is the lake silt lawsuit town. Alpharetta is the high-tech corporate campus city. That’s not a bad thing, it’s who we are. Like it, love it, embrace it. It is the backbone of Alpharetta’s identity. The topics here cascade into the other areas covered in Alpharetta’s 10 year survey, which is why I want to address it first in my series.

I’ve only been here ten years, so I can’t remember the dirt roads and chicken farms. When I arrived I recall seeing all the four lane roads. There were wide roads here long before all the retail and office space filled in. It really stuck out to me, especially when you ventured just a little ways out of town into places like south Forsyth or Cherokee counties. Even today our neighboring burbs don’t have the surface street infrastructure that Alpharetta had more than a decade ago.

And then there are the offices. I work with some long-term Windward cubicle veterans. These dinosaurs teammates remember when Alpharetta’s offices were being built in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know how the city managed to attract businesses like McKesson, HP, Equifax, and the telecoms to open shop here. Nevertheless Alpharetta did, and they brought with them a hundred thousand jobs for college educated professionals. In short, Alpharetta’s previous generation of suburban planners served us well.

So let’s get back to Alpharetta’s survey questions. Here’s one about jobs:

The ability for local workers and families to find quality employment and build personal wealth is very important. Please rate the following statements. Do you feel that Alpharetta provides:

  • Access to jobs that provide a living wage
  • Access to jobs that provide health insurance benefits
  • Affordable housing options
  • Access to affordable education/training programs
  • Access to affordable child care
  • Access to affordable, reliable public transportation options

Um, hello, Mr. Consultant man. Did you copy and paste this question from another town’s questionnaire? Of course Alpharetta provides jobs that meet these criteria, every single one of them. Are you paying attention?

Alpharetta’s success in the next ten years hinges upon the jobs. And every other question on this survey, from education to attracting/retaining residents goes back to jobs. If the jobs go away, the entire house of cards crumbles. It’s why stuff like E-Trade’s recent announcement to renew its lease is a big deal. Municipalities around the country will attempt to lure Alpharetta’s companies away with deals galore. The single most important thing Alpharetta’s leaders can do in the next ten years is to attract and retain the corporate offices and headquarters that call this place home.

And if you still have that damned song in your head… my apologies.

California Dreaming – Duluth

With apologies to The Mamas and the Papas…

All the food is bland
but the salad’s okay
I went to Gwinnett
on a winter’s day

The food was safe and boring
tastes nothing like L.A.
California Dreaming
it’s like Ruby Tuesday!

Looked at the menu
you could search all day
you’ll find no avocados
yet I decided to stay

They have steaks and pasta
But no fish tacos today
California Dreaming
looks like Ruby Tuesday!

They give you too much food
You’ll be too full to play
Dinner was very expensive
I didn’t want to pay
It’s like other food in the suburb
You’ll want to leave today

California Dreaming
Just like Ruby Tuesday
California Dreaming
I’d rather eat at Subway
California Dreaming
It’s like Ruby Tuesday!
California Dreaming (Duluth) on Urbanspoon

Cheap Eats in Alpharetta

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

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I eat out a lot. I’ve got the waist line to prove it! Working on Windward Parkway offers well over a hundred places within an easy range for a lunch hour. I’ve almost tried them all.

But eating out as a cubicle critter can get expensive. $10 to $15 lunches are fairly common, especially if you go somewhere decent. So I thought I would write about cheap lunchtime eats in the area. Sure you can go to fast food and get a value meal, that’s not what I’m talking about. I want fast food prices in a sit-down atmosphere. Can it be found around here? You bet!

Chinese Food

It is intensely competitive for these folks, especially during the lunch hour. As such they offer a significant value over their dinner prices. Authentic this food isn’t. If you don’t mind the Americanized version of the cuisine, then you’re in good shape. Try Simon’s on Old Milton. Again, very westernized grub but the prices are good. Most lunch entrees with chicken or beef will set you back $6.50 or so. Also try Lin’s on Windward. This place seems to be even more Americanized than I remember. They don’t offer a lot of choices in the lunch items. You’re stuck with the soup of the day unless you want to pay an upcharge. But it is a lot of food for the money. Watch out for their notoriously surly service. And like most Chinese joints on Windward, the decor is beautiful.

Xian China Bistro is by far my favorite Chinese joint on Windward, but they don’t exactly fall into the cheap category, even for lunch. Nevertheless, they are worth a mention.

And while this isn’t exactly Chinese food, don’t overlook the Thai restaurants in town. Satay House is a terrific lunch value with enormous portions. Their coconut soup is to die for.

Mexican

Again, very Americanized grub. I quickly lose interest in most of the ubiquitous Mexican restaurants around here.  Don’t even pretend to be authentic when you’ve got Speedy Gonzalez on the menu. Aye carumba!

But… there are some amazing values to be found on the lunch menus at these places. Try La Parilla. They have a $5 lunch special which includes a Coke. Most joints will ding you two bucks for a Coke these days. If the meal doesn’t fill you up, choke down a few baskets of chips and salsa. Most of the other Mex joints have similar prices for lunch. These would include El Porton and El Azteca. I’m pretty sure I saw a speedy with beans at El Porton once for $4.50. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that.

Costco

Sure, it isn’t exactly a full service restaurant, but no article on cheap eats around here can be complete without a hat tip to Costco. These guys are Clark Howard cheap. Their little snack bar has hot dogs, pizza and a bunch of other random stuff for next to nothing. You’ve probably got enough money in your car’s ashtray to eat here. And I’m pretty sure you don’t have to be a member. I’m never asked for my card when I order. I don’t care for much of the stuff here except the churro. If you can catch them right after they are made… on my! It is the best dollar you can spend on Windward Parkway.

Leave me a comment if you know of other dirt cheap eats in Alpharetta. These are tough times, right?

Alpharetta Jobs – October 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.

The number of jobs posted by McKesson continues to decline. But I have it on fairly good authority that they might not be filling these positions as fast as you might think. HP, ADP and Equifax have added job postings over last month.

I believe I’ve been making a mistake in calculating the number of openings at UPS. Their career website is not as intuitive in its navigation. So this month’s bump in overall openings is partially attributed to this mistake on my part.

Alpharetta Jobs October 2010

Company Number of Jobs
McKesson 69
LexisNexis/Choicepoint 38
ADP 59
E-Trade 21
Equifax 41
AT&T 10
Verizon 19
Radiant 17
HP 73
Infor 9
Phillips 8
Alcatel-Lucent 1
Oracle 1
UPS 16
Total 382

Page 1 of 212»

Switch to our mobile site