Archive - March, 2011

My Density Has Brought Me To You

My density has brought me to you. Oh, what I meant to say was… I’m your density. I mean… your destiny.
-George McFly, Back to the Future, 1985

Last week I attended the dog and pony show public meeting for the Alpharetta 2030 vision. As I was leaving I bumped into a city councilman I knew and discussed a few things. Before long the conversation turned towards the topic of density. He asked me how much density I thought was too much. It put me a little off balance. It’s such a simple question, right? I knew I didn’t like the densities at Peridot or the other large mixed use projects being approved. A Supreme Court judge once said of defining obscenity, “I know it when I see it.” That’s a lot like how I’ve felt with high density.

Density Is Easy To Measure

The councilman reminded me that density is easy to measure. It’s simple arithmetic… the number of residential units divided by acreage. He said that some would balk at densities above a few per acre, what you’d see in a typical cul-de-sac neighborhood.  I’m sure my threshold is slightly above that.

Density Is Hard To Measure

As simple as density is to measure, it’s easy to manipulate. Peridot is approved for 470 condos. They asked for over 500. They have 47 acres of land. That gives them a density of exactly 10 per acre. (A perfectly round number? Coincidence?) So how is this difficult to measure? Because the denominator of the fraction is often inflated, making the overall density smaller. Peridot’s 47 acres includes a lot of land that is either not suitable for improvements (greenspace, a lake, roads, etc) or has office or retail use. In fact, only 12.8 acres of the 47 total acres will have residential use at Peridot. If you use that number in the denominator of our fraction you’ll get a staggering density of over 36 units per acre.

So I left the meeting last week and began to drive home. As I was driving I realized my biggest mistake. I didn’t reverse the question on the councilman. How much density is too much for you? After all, it’s easy to measure, right? Where do you draw the line? At what point do you say “that’s too much!” Or is there a point? And while we’re at it, how do you measure density? Are we using total land or the footprint of the residential?

So let me open the question to my blog readers. How much density is too much? Post your answer in the comments. I know a few current and former councilmen read my blog. Feel free to use this space and and let us know your density threshold. I’d also suggest throwing this question at candidates for mayor and the open council positions. Do they have the guts to stand behind a number, or will they chicken out like I did. “I know it when I see it.”

 

Manly Pub Food – March Madness

Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday. This post continues my Manly Restaurant March Madness tournament.

Yeah, I skipped the burger category. I’ll get around to it, promise! In the meantime, let’s talk pub food. This was a difficult category. By Tuesday of this week my wife told me she had enough of the wings and loud sports on TV. Unlike our pizza or barbecue categories, you’ve got to consider a lot of different food. I’ve tried my best to sample the menus at these three joints but I didn’t try everything. Let’s get on with it.

Loco’s Deli vs Hudson’s Grille

These two contenders have similar backgrounds. Loco’s has a bunch of locations across Georgia with Alpharetta’s spot being on Haynes Bridge. Hudson’s has fewer locations but has the backing of the Metrotainment group of restaurants.

Hudson’s has a much classier feel than Loco’s. Their decor reminds me a lot of Alpha Soda (I hate making that comparison). You’ll find nice, comfortable booths and tile floors. On the other hand, Loco’s is a much more casual feel but not nearly as comfortable. Score one for Hudson’s.

The menu at Loco’s feels an awful lot like a chain restaurant, yet has some shining spots. The chicken wings are rather pitiful, the hot buffalo sauce coming in on the bland and wimpy side. The burgers are a decent choice, my favorite being the blackened burger with fried onions. My wife loves, and at times craves their shrimp burrito with cheese rice as the side.

Hudson’s counters back with a surprisingly delicious angus burger. I last tried it on a Monday, their $5 burger day. At that price it is a steal, especially considering that you get a half pound of meaty goodness. And unlike a lot of angus burgers, theirs still maintains a juicy feel. Pair it up with onion rings; easily worth the dollar up-charge.

On decor and quality of the burger, Hudson’s takes down Loco’s.

Wild Wing Cafe vs Mulligan’s Grill

Wild Wing on Windward is the undisputed wing king of Alpharetta. They have dozens of flavors and are willing to make them in small batches so you can sample. I sometimes find their wings to be on the overcooked side but otherwise they are very tasty. If you’re a serious wing aficionado then try them on Tuesday for “two-fer-one” wing night.

Mulligan’s in south Forsyth classifies as a hidden gem. You’ve got to look past the redneck decor (and clientele) to find some decent grub. The menu has expanded recently from what was mostly fried stuff. The best of the fried food still remains, my favorite being… tater tots! As a side on a burger these things are delicious and the portion generous. Is it enough to overtake an above average chicken wing from the competition?

Unfortunately for Wild Wing, the rest of their menu is the pits. I’ve tried the chicken sandwich and fingers. None of them do it for me. The nachos are decent but not enough to redeem a thin menu. Go here for wings or go elsewhere.

Wild Wing offers one of Alpharetta’s few spots for singles. The bar is usually slammed and has a reputation for being a pickup joint. That doesn’t factor into my competition, but I thought I would mention it.

In the end, a good chicken wing isn’t enough to overcome a thin menu. The unknown Mulligan’s advances.

Hudson’s vs Mulligan’s

I like this matchup… the classy versus the dive redneck bar. Mulligan’s loses ground here. Their decor is rustic wood paneling that doesn’t exactly come across as charming. The NASCAR posters are not helping matters. Their availability of TVs is acceptable but is no match for Hudson’s. Hudson’s manages to cram a zillion TVs everywhere without overcrowding their space. I’d much rather watch a game at Hudson’s.

Mulligan’s fires back with probably the best fried pub food around. Their chicken fingers, while probably straight from Sysco, are quite good and cooked golden brown and delicious. I order them for the kids but always snitch one for myself. Their fried pickles are very good as an appetizer and plentiful. And while the Mulligan’s offers a very good value, Hudson’s manages to compete there as well with terrific daily specials.

What will put Hudson’s over the top is beer selection. I don’t think they get much attention here considering they are just down from Taco Mac. By local standards, Hudson’s doesn’t have a great selection, but compared to the others in this article they are tops. On tap you’ll find stuff like Fat Tire and Stella Artois.

So Hudson’s will advance to the manly restaurant final four. Look for a mid-week burger matchup soon followed by the final four a week from today. Do you agree with the winners here, or am I loco? Do I need a mulligan? Leave me a comment!
Hudson Grille on Urbanspoon Mulligan's Grill on Urbanspoon

Wild Wing Cafe on Urbanspoon Locos Deli & Pub on Urbanspoon

An Alpharetta Lament

Before I get into my lament, I first have a confession to make. I don’t live within the political boundaries of the city of Alpharetta. I write a blog about Alpharetta, so what gives? I live just a short distance inside Forsyth County yet am still in the Alpahretta zip code of 30005. I spend the vast majority of my time south of McGinnis Ferry Road. That includes work, my son’s pre-school and my church (in which my family is very active). I suppose I have the best of both worlds; an Alpharetta lifestyle with none of the Fulton County taxes.

If my readers wish to discount anything I have to say about Alpharetta, especially politics, I would completely understand. I think I walk a fine line in writing about city politics considering I don’t have a vote. As such I try to stay on the periphery and will never suggest or endorse a candidate.

Only recently have I begun to pay attention to the happenings in Alpharetta city hall. The main reason for my focus is because I think Alpharetta about to make a change for the worse. Tuesday night’s unveiling of the 2030 vision is the closing act. I lament that the Alpharetta I’ve come to love won’t be the same for very long.

Alpharetta, a Mini-RTP

For one semester during my college years I worked a co-op job in the Research Triangle Park of North Carolina. I was with Nortel on their beautiful RTP campus. When I first discovered Alpharetta it reminded me a lot of RTP. There was a similar base of high tech companies. The research aspect isn’t exactly the same here as RTP draws from a huge pool of nearby colleges. Yet the corporate campus environment is very similar. Zoning kept both places beautiful with large buffers of natural trees surrounding medium-sized buildings. Never did any building really exceed the height of the native pine trees. Not far away were safe, upper middle class neighborhoods for families.

Alpharetta, a Mini-Perimeter

The 2030 vision of Alpharetta moves away from this Alpahretta that I’ve come to enjoy. It will make us feel more like the perimeter area of Sandy Springs and Dunwoody. High rise office buildings and condos will dot the landscape. Planners will tell you that this is alright since they are close to GA-400. At the perimeter every high rise is along GA-400 or I-285 (or both). The surface streets have been a disaster there for more than a decade. Commuters leaving the perimeter heading north may spend half their commute navigating surface roads before even getting onto GA-400. I fear this will happen in Alpharetta.

It Is Too Late to Reverse

The other thing I lament is that it is too late to do anything about this. The political reality is that the current Alpharetta City Council is unanimous in their desire to move in this direction. Unlike other suburban councils or county commissions, there seem to be no homeowner-friendly politicians currently in power. I hear none speaking out against density or height of buildings. And even with some members up for re-election this year, I doubt voters can flip the balance of power in a single election cycle.

It’s too late to reverse the zonings already on the books, namely Windward Mill, Prospect Park and Peridot. The North Point LCI is already set, with a downtown to follow and this 2030 vision which will be rubber stamped soon.

Sadly I think most in Alpharetta won’t become aware of this change until the enormous tower cranes appear, hoisting beams high into the sky. People will begin to ask, “What is this new construction going in at North Point?” Oh, that’s a 16 story office and condominium. It’ll be far too late to stop it then as it is too late to stop it even now.

So maybe Alpharetta residents will organize and rise up against these changes. But color be pessimistic, I think opportunity to stop this was years ago. The Alpharetta that attracted most of us won’t be the same in a few years. New Urbanism, as they call it, is here for good.

Photo Credit: Markhoward

If You Build It, He Will Come

Did you hear that whisper? “If you build it, he will come.” A lot of powerful people claim they don’t hear the voice, suggesting that perhaps those who do might be a bit loony. Nevertheless, they are building it, and eventually he will come.

I wanted one followup to last week’s MARTA article. The Field of Dreams analogy was something I couldn’t pass up. In case you’re not a fan of baseball movies, allow me to hold your hand through this. The baseball diamond in the corn field is high density development. Shoeless Joe Jackson is MARTA and Kevin Costner is being played by the Alpharetta City Council. If you build high density along GA-400, MARTA will come (or at the least will be very interested in coming). That part really isn’t up for debate. Who is hearing and responding to the voices? That no one will admit to.

What I’d like to see is for Alpharetta to take a stand on MARTA and act on it. It might be like how they roll in Milton…

If You Don’t Build It, He Won’t Come – Milton

If you don’t build sewer in Milton, density won’t come. It’s something I’ve written about and generally disagree with. They don’t wish to have high or even medium density in most of their city. The best way to accomplish this goal is to starve the density by taking away a food source. No sewer; no density. Right or wrong, at least Milton has taken a clear stand and they’re working towards that stated mission.

I don’t see this happening in Alpharetta. Does the City Council wish to have MARTA’s north line extended to Alpharetta? It’s a simple question. If the answer is yes, then say it and continue fueling it with very high density along GA-400. If the answer is no then let’s starve MARTA of its sustenance. But most of all, take a clear and unequivocal stand on MARTA expansion before the voters. The time for pussyfooting is over.

As an aside, today the Alpharetta City Council will vote to submit multiple transportation projects totaling $145 million to the Atlanta Regional Commission. These projects may be included in a 2012 penny sales tax referendum. Buried in the list of projects is $2.4 million to purchase the land reserved in the North Point LCI for the MARTA station at GA-400 and Encore Parkway. Alpharetta is building it. Let’s just admit is already!

Photo Credit: Scott Ehardt

Manly Pizza – March Madness

Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday. This post continues my Manly Restaurant March Madness tournament.

The basketball tournament is just beginning but we’re into our second week of the manly restaurant March Madness tournament. If you haven’t been following along, check out my introduction article and selection show for more info on the tournament itself. Last week was the barbecue round with Smokejack advancing to the final four.

Unlike barbecue, the northern burbs have some truly outstanding pizza. I attribute this to the number of relos from up north. Eventually you’re gonna get some skilled pizza makers to move down this way. It’s no wonder there are so many great New York Style pizzerias here. Picking the most manly pie was a tough one for me as I like all four of these restaurants. Let’s get started.

Mama’s Pizza vs Verra-Zanno

Mama’s on Old Milton comes into the tournament with some amazing credentials. They won the AJC’s reader’s choice award for the best pizza in Atlanta. No, not best in Alpharetta or north Fulton… the best in metro Atlanta. That puts them ahead of Atlanta’s nationally recognized pizza joints such as Antico. So right out of the gate, before the first bite, Mama’s takes a big lead.

Verra-Zanno decides to open the game with their garlic knots. No, these are not freebies like you might get at other Italian joints. They are well worth the price. You’ll find tender pizza dough gently baked and smothered with garlic butter. The marinara dipping sauce is good but I suggest soaking up the leftover butter on the bottom of the plate. VZ’s garlic knots are enough to even the score with Mama’s.

Let’s have the pizza battle it out! Mama’s baked a terrific NY-style pie. The bottom of the pizza has a nice texture to it with a good crunch to your bite. The crust is bready but surrounded by a golden brown exterior.

Verra-Zanno counters with a similar dough yet with a crust that is ever so delicately singed.  There’s a fine line getting pizza to this level of doneness without burning the fool out of it. Verra-Zanno manages to hit the mark consistently. It’s a tough call to make, but Verra-Zanno edges Mama’s out on quality of dough and texture of bread.

Mama’s counters with a thick Sicilian-style pizza, available by-the-slice at lunch. Yet even though it looks impressive on the plate, it disappoints. Compared to the NY-style pie, the Sicilian lacks depth, tasting more like cheese bread.

As the game nears its end, Mama’s earns points for their dive joint appearance but falls short for an extremely limited beer selection. In the end, Verra-Zanno wins the upset, ousting the Old Milton cubicle dweller favorite in the first round.

Sid’s Pizza vs Brooklyn Joe’s

Sid’s in south Forsyth on 141 enters the tournament with some favorable past reviews. Points North Magazine gave them high marks a few years ago. And of all the restaurants in this tournament, they have the hidden gem aspect best working in their favor.

Brooklyn Joe’s in Milton sports the best classic pizzeria appearance. It just feels like pizza walking in the door. But let’s talk about the pies. I find Brooklyn Joe’s NY-style pizzas to be inconsistent. They usually come out with a pungent yeast smell (like the smell of some beer). The crust and bottom of the pie have a decent texture to them but on occasion can be on the soggy side. But for big, manly and foldable slices of pizza, Joe’s is it.

On the other hand, Sid’s brings a completely different game. Their menu calls their pies “Sicilian style” but it’s not what you’re thinking. These are round Sicilian pizzas, not the thick, rectangular pizzas you might expect. Perhaps it is because the pizza recipe is said to have been handed down from family in Sicily.

Whatever it is, Sid’s crust is amazing. It’s airy and light yet singed and crunchy at the same time. On texture of the bread alone, Sid’s takes a commanding lead.

Brooklyn Joe’s counters with an impressive and broad menu featuring a lot of pasta. You’ll find chicken and eggplant parmesan and stuff like chicken francese that just isn’t available elsewhere in the tournament. But alas it isn’t enough to overtake Sid’s who cruises to an easy victory.

Verra-Zanno vs Sid’s

I like this final match-up featuring expertly-baked pizza from joints located right down the road from each other. Unfortunately for Sid’s, Verra-Zanno’s quality pie and deeper menu makes this match a blowout. The quality of the cheese and slightly spicy sauce at VZ is tops. Outside of pizza, the chicken parmesan and lasagna have no comparison. Sid’s counters with a chicken wing that gets some attention in online reviews. But it really isn’t close. Even their kind of cool surfer motif isn’t manly enough to take down a far superior pizza. Verra-Zanno’s real competition today was against Mama’s and not Sid’s. They earn the nod to compete in the final four of manly restaurants in Alpharetta.

Mama's Pizza on Urbanspoon Verra-Zanno Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Sid's Pizza & Grill on Urbanspoon Brooklyn Joe’s Pizza, Pasta and Grill on Urbanspoon

Alpharetta Jobs – March 2011

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, trending the numbers month to month.

The numbers look a little flat this month, but don’t fret. McKesson has always been an outlier in this report. Their number of openings dropped from 110 in February to 69 in March. However, the rest of the field made up for lost ground. I see increases in the number of job openings from Lexis/Nexus, E-Trade, Equifax, Radiant, Siemens, Infor and HP.

And as always, I’d love to hear from folks interviewing in this job market. I’m tracking nearly 650 job openings among Alpharetta’s largest employers. Is that translating into calls back on your resumes, interviews, job offers… or crickets?

Largest Employers in Alpharetta - March 2011

Company Number of Jobs
McKesson 69
LexisNexis/Choicepoint 60
ADP 58
E-Trade 26
Equifax 33
AT&T 11
Verizon 50
Radiant 22
HP 92
Alcatel-Lucent 1
UPS 23
Siemens 63
Traveler's 6
T-SYS 10
Total 524

Mid-Sized Employers in Alpharetta - March 2011

Company Number of Jobs
Research in Motion 26
Ciena 13
RedPrairie 13
Exide Technologies 10
Ryder 15
Phillips 8
Outcomes Health 0
New York Life 5
GXS/Inovis 5
Infor 10
Hanjin Shipping 3
Scientific Games 4
VeriFone 5
AIG 5
Farmer's Insurance 0
LaFarge 0
Crown Castle 1
Total 123

A “Conspiracy” to Bring MARTA to Alpharetta?

Bust out your tinfoil hats and call Fox Mulder. There’s talk of a conspiracy and I’m not about to let this one get away without an article or two.

And I use the word “conspiracy” in quotes because it isn’t my choice of words. These are the words former Alpharetta councilman John Monson used in a comment over on The Patch. Monson says…

I do wish to say the reference to some “conspiracy” for the City to “bring MARTA to Alpharetta” by approving the MetLife project is completely unfounded.

Do I believe the MetLife/Peridot mixed use project was part of a conspiracy to bring MARTA to Alpharetta? No. On the contrary. I believe Peridot is part of a larger game plan to bring us MARTA high speed rail. It is not a conspiracy because it is being conducted out in the open for all to see. The problem is that not many are paying attention. Follow me on the story, as I see it.

MARTA’s North Line Study

Blogger Jimmy Gilvin leads a wild and crazy life. Nothing excites him more than wallowing in the appendices of MARTA documents; what might be the cure to insomnia for most. Jimmy, you need to get out more often my friend.

Nevertheless, Jimmy found a gem and reported on it back in February. MARTA has been interested in extending the north rail line past its current end at the North Springs station. That interest goes way back to 2000. Several years later they formed the North Line Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Study. Jimmy referenced the appendix A document which contains minutes from meetings held in and around Alpharetta in the latter half of 2006. In the meetings they talk of several “TOD” sites, all along the major exits of GA-400. The crown jewel TOD site would be at North Point Mall.

The minutes suggest that “developers should be incentivised to concentrate development and create higher densities.” They call for the TOD study areas to become LCI’s (a GRTA term for “livable centers initiative”), stating that “GRTA has experience with getting land use in place before land use will support transit options.”

The minutes also say that projects “need a local champion.” That one puzzled me a bit. I don’t see elected officials in Alpharetta wearing the hat of MARTA champion. Diane Wheeler of the City of Alpharetta was in on some of the meetings, but I don’t think she’s the official champion. No, the MARTA champion came in the form of…

The North Fulton CID

If you’re not familiar with the North Fulton CID (Community Improvement District), let me explain. This is a self-funded group of property owners in north Fulton. Most of them are large office and retail real estate owners. For example, MetLife’s Paul Folger is on the board. More on Mr. Folger later. Some of the CID’s more visible projects include the pretty landscaping currently being installed at Windward and GA-400.

But… not many months following MARTA’s completion of the North Line TOD Study, the North Fulton CID released their Blueprint North Fulton Document. In it they call for three nodes or “activity centers” along GA-400 at Haynes Bridge, Old Milton and Windward. Humm, sounds a lot like the TOD areas. These areas are there to “encourage developers” and city planners. There is talk of creating “mixed-use village centers” to “support an extension of transit from the North Springs MARTA station.” This blueprint document leads to the creation of…

The North Point Activity Center LCI

In April 2008 the Alpharetta City Council unanimously approved plans for this LCI. Its model is nearly identical to that proposed by the CID. The diagram used by the city is almost a straight copy/paste from the CID’s document. The only major difference I can find is that the city actually draws in the MARTA line and its station near Center Bridge Road and GA-400.

So if you’re scoring at home… we go from MARTA’s transit orientated development (TOD) area to the CID’s “Activity Center” concept to an LCI plan incorporated into the city’s comprehensive plan. That brings us all the way back to…

MetLife/Peridot

Was the Peridot project a conspiracy? No. It was just another piece of a puzzle that’s been building for five years. Now that the MetLife puzzle piece is in place, the picture is starting to emerge.

What about this conspiracy-sounding quote from Mark McKean in the AJC?

Alpharetta is probably the only city in the country where a developer walks into the Community Development Department requesting a simple stream variance, and he leaves with the promise to push through zoning for a high density, mixed-use project.

Remember that Paul Folger of MetLife sits on the board of the North Fulton CID. I seriously doubt he’s so naive as to not understand the long-laid plans that effected his property. Perhaps I am wrong.

Nevertheless, I believe it is in the best political interest of the Alpharetta City Council to let these plans continue to fly under the radar. As Jimmy put it … “Alpharettans are too busy raising their families and struggling to keep their heads above water to notice.” With campaigns about to gear up in Alpharetta this year, will voters make this an issue? I’d imagine a few local bloggers will.

Photo Credit: Drvec

Manly Barbecue – March Madness

Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday. This post continues my Manly Restaurant March Madness tournament.

This week our tournament begins in earnest with the barbecue semifinals. Check out my introduction article and last week’s selection show for more info on the tournament itself. I also reviewed most of these joints last year in my barbecue series. Today five square off head-to-head. May the most manly Q joint win!

The Franchise Play-in – Shane’s Rib Shack vs Jim N Nicks

It’s rather humerus to watch a franchise barbecue joint attempt to pay homage to a barbecue heritage within the confines of a strip mall. Both Shane’s and Jim N Nicks are guilty of this, which puts them on equal footing going into this match. Shane’s begins our game with an involved franchise owner. He owns three locations, Alpharetta, Crabapple and south Forsyth. He’s fairly active on twitter and in local business networking. Mark that as a small gain for Shane’s right off the bat.

But this match is never really close. Shane’s starting lineup includes the Southern Pride line of smokers… or perhaps I should call them ovens. There is nothing manly about this equipment, and nothing that does the craft of barbecue a bigger disservice. Simply put, Shane’s Q lacks smoke and a beautiful smoke ring. It is set-it-and-forget-it, oven-cooked Q for the masses.

By contrast, Jim N Nicks serves up pork, beef and ribs that pack a powerful punch of hickory flavor. Smoke ring? Yeah, it’s there and noticeable on every variety of meat served. And while they may also cook on industrial-quality equipment, they at least have racks of hickory logs outside the restaurant for fuel.

This one isn’t even close. Jim N Nicks wins from the opening tip off.

‘Cue vs Smokejack

Through a cruel twist of seeding, Alpharetta’s two top boutique barbecue joints face off in the opening round. Either of these restaurants have the potential to go far in this manly food tournament, but alas one’s season will end here.

Smokejack takes an early lead before even setting foot inside. On an average day, their smokers can be smelled for blocks away, even as far as 52 Bistro. ‘Cue calls a timeout to regroup.

While both restaurants sport made-from-scratch menus, ‘Cue is by far the leader here. Their homemade bread, fries and even pickles run circles around the sides at Smokejack. Their veggie of the day is usually a winner as well, my favorite being items like campfire potatoes. Manly veggies? I’ll say. At the half, ‘Cue holds a decent lead.

In the second half the barbecue competes. ‘Cue’s chopped pork is delicious, moist and sports a delicate smokey taste. Smokejack’s pork, while basted in Carolina sauce, hits with slightly more smoke and a much more flavorful bark. They both are fairly evenly matched in this contest, and the game goes down to the wire with ‘Cue holding a slight lead.

In the waning minutes of the game, Smokejack makes a substitution, bringing in a well-stocked bar. ‘Cue’s decent beer and wine selection can’t compete with Smokejack’s manly libations. An awesome selection of single barrel bourbons is enough to push Smokejack over the edge. ‘Cue is history.

Slopes vs Jim N Nicks

Slopes enters the tournament with a high Urban Spoon rating supported by super friend service. They are also the oldest barbecue restaurant in the area. Unfortunately for Slopes, this doesn’t translate into delicious meat.

Again Jim N Nicks runs circles around Alpharetta’s oldest Q. Barbecue is smoke and Slopes simply doesn’t embrace it. Their meat is lean, lacks bark of any kind and is often dry. This game isn’t even close.

Slopes fires back with Alpharetta’s best Brunswick stew. It’s packed with flavor and the right amount of veggies. Other side items like their fried okra keep this game from becoming a total blow out. But it still isn’t pretty. The cobblers at Slopes are also superior to any of the desserts offered at Jim N Nicks. It just isn’t enough to overcome a seriously weak barbecue game. Jim N Nicks cruises to another easy victory.

Jim N Nicks vs Smokejack

Jim N Nicks starts their baby back ribs, an entree that remained on the bench for two games. It’s a smart move as they are the best rack of ribs available in this area. They are meaty with a pink smoke ring that is throughout the rib. The rub packs some peppery spice that goes well with a slightly sweet sauce. In the rib game, Jim N Nicks pulls ahead.

Both restaurants trade jabs on pulled pork. Jim N Nicks loses ground here for serving pork that is almost always too mushy.The meat sticks to the roof of your mouth…not manly. Smokejack gains ground.

As halftime approaches, both teams go to the bench to compete on manly non-barbecue grub. Smokejack scores with a delicious chicken and sausage gumbo. Jim N Nicks responds with a surprisingly good chicken finger plate, perhaps the best in the area. Yet Smokejack’s meatloaf and fried chicken score some easy layups. At the half, Jim N Nicks clings to a narrow lead.

The second half starts with a return to Q, but this time in non-standard forms. Both restaurants offer barbecue in stuff like nachos and quesadillas. Jim N Nicks offers a barbecue taco which is very delicious. Yet late in the game their pulled pork fouls out for being consistently mushy, even in a taco. Smokejack fires back with an inventive “Cue” Bano sandwich.

As the closing buzzer nears the game is tied. Smokejack calls a time out and brings in their brunt ends brisket. No other barbecue restaurant in Alpharetta offers burnt ends, what many beef aficionados consider a delicacy. It proves to be the game winner, propelling Smokejack into the final four.

Four Ways to Wreak Havoc on North Fulton Traffic

Suppose you’re an evil and diabolical villain, hell bent on destroying traffic for hundreds of thousands of commuters in north Fulton. How would you do it? I suppose you could create a catastrophe, maybe have a truck spill beanie babies all over the highway. But that’s been done already. No, you’re more evil than this. You want to create long-term mayhem on Alpharetta’s byways. Here are a few ideas. Surely politicians, policy makers and consultants would never dream of considering such things.

Make Roads More Narrow

Find a nice state highway, one that’s vital for moving cars from jobs to homes. Add unnecessary medians to the highway. Don’t acquire additional land to do this, just make the lanes more narrow. Traffic will bottleneck, backing up onto surface streets. Justify the project and its funding by calling it “transit-related” and launder the funds through MARTA. Sell it to an unknowing public by planting pretty trees and bushes. Surely no one would attempt this along, say, Highway 9 in Alpharetta.

Commuting on Bike Paths

Stock up on your granola for this one, dude. Let’s divert funds away from roads and build bike paths! Sure, everyone loves a park with walking and bike paths. The greenway is as popular as ever. Maybe we can throw some funding at these, in our transportation plans, and call it a commute alternative! We’ll highlight bike paths in press releases and community meetings, drawing attention away from the fact that we are not widening surface streets or making intersection improvements. We’ll help the press find crunchy granola types who say they’ll ride bicycles to work and save the environment. In reality, the bike paths won’t make a meaningful dent in traffic. The folks at the Georgia DOT are way smarter than this. They would never call a park a commute alternative.

Mix Pedestrians with Traffic

Hold out your evil pinkie for this one. Let’s encourage walkers to cross busy state highways! Of course we might have to lower the speed limits and add crosswalks. It sounds dangerous, but if we hire some consultants “professionals”, they could spin it to sound like a positive. We can even pay the “professionals” with tax dollars from outside Georgia. Responsible leaders in places like Milton would never give something like this the time of day. And if they did, they wouldn’t want the road to be known as New Milton Parkway. Nonsense.

High Density Development

Smart drivers avoid intersections like Windward and 400 during rush hour and the lunch break. But in the evenings and weekends it’s smooth sailing. Let’s spread out the traffic misery a little bit by build some high density housing at these intersections! Sure, it won’t add a lot of traffic at rush hour, it’ll just stretch it well past 6:00 and into the weekends. Alpharetta’s surface streets can be just like Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. Level-headed planners would never consider such an idea at an important interchange like Haynes Bridge and 400. If they were so misguided, never in a million years would it get a unanimous vote.

So there you have it. Were Dr. Evil to hold Alpharetta hostage, I’m sure this is how he’d do it. Sharks with frickin laser beams? Overkill.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Daily News

New/Closed Restaurants – March 2011

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

I scour the interwebs and stripmalls of Alpharetta looking for new eats. Here’s what I’ve found this month. And as always, let me know what I’ve missed.

Erwoods Kitchen and Keg – Crabapple

How does Rob Forrest do it? He’s one of the owners behind Tifosi Gastropub (quickly becoming a favorite of mine). Just weeks after Tifosi’s opening I learned of his second restaurant, Erwoods. Creating two new restaurants at exactly the same time? This guy is probably busier than a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest.

Nevertheless, Erwoods sounds a little more casual than Tifosi. They will have a gazillion beers on tap and enough flat screen TVs to give you a sunburn. I hope to give them a try soon.

thai2 – Windward

I hope I have this name right. I think the 2 is squared… like thai*thai. Or maybe it is multiplied. I forget all that algebra.

I discovered this place after getting a haircut at the nearby Alpharetta Barber Shop. They are building out in the old location of Logan Farms, next to the Original Pancake House on Windward. This is a lousy spot if you ask me. This shopping center in general is pretty lousy and has killed many restaurants. Can a Thai joint make it? Nahm is two blocks down Windward and gets a lot of praise. We’ll have to see. I know nothing more about thai2 at this point. How do I make superscript text in WordPress?

Café Efendi – Main Street

Cafe Efendi is moving. For years they have occupied the house-turned-restaurant at 38 Old Roswell Street. I thought this location had a lot of character. Nevertheless, they are moving out, relocating to a small strip mall on Main Street just north of Old Milton. There is a cigar store in this strip mall; it’s almost across the street from Tifosi. While they lose the charm of the house, they gain a lot of Main Street visibility.

Tacone Flavor Grill – Closed

I hate to see this place go. I reviewed them in December as part of my series on thinly reviewed restaurants. They closed a few weeks ago. I think the lady behind this store was named Diane. I wish her the best.

Kokopelli Bakery – Crabapple

Don’t know a lot about this place or how long it’s been opened. From what I hear they will combine cupcakes and frozen yogurt. It’s like a double whammy of trendy suburban treats. They are also very close to Scoops who offers a similar product.

Speaking of FroYo, new joints continue to open everywhere. I give up trying to keep track of them all. This froyo crazy is not sustainable. Expect to see closures around mid to late summer. That’s my prediction anyway. If you’d like to have $10,000 next year, just invest $100,000 today in a FroYo franchise in Alpharetta.

Tasca Latin Bistro – Johns Creek

They opened recently in the old Sazon location next to Pampas Steakhouse. Look for tapas and Latin cuisine with American influences. They’ve got a chef that used to cook at Sia’s in Johns Creek. Looks very promising.

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