Archive - August, 2011

The Drake House and Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin’

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

I used to be a Drake House doubter. I recall sitting in a pew at Alpharetta Presbyterian Church listening to our minister talk about the need for transitional homeless housing in north Fulton. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought. Surely this kind of program is needed in Atlanta or elsewhere. There’s no way our affluent suburb would have a housing problem for homeless women and their families. Right?

The weeks went by and I listened to our preacher get more and more excited about the program. Soon a few big donors came to bat. Next came some leaders who facilitated the purchase of an old apartment building in Roswell. I continued to doubt.

Before long our church was sponsoring an apartment and participating in its renovation. We were also kicking in mission funds to the charity, something we continue to do today. But I really didn’t begin to believe in the mission of the Drake House until I started to hear success stories. Unfortunately it took all that work to convince this stubborn doubter of the need for such a project.

Today, amidst a prolonged economic downtown, the Drake House plays a critically vital role in this community. Since their founding in 2006 they’ve helped over 200 single mothers and their families get back on their feet. I encourage you to spend a few minutes on their website and make yourself more familiar with this remarkable local charity.

So why am I talking about the Drake House in my Foodie Friday column? Because they sponsor one of the coolest (ha ha), most unique foodie festivals around. Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin is the Drake House’s premier fund raising event, bringing in tens of thousands of dollars. It is also your best chance to sample genuine homemade ice cream. With today’s absurd proliferation of frozen yogurt joints, I appreciate a bowl of honest-to-goodness ice cream. And I challenge you to find ice cream better than the stuff they’ll dish out at this event on Sunday.

At only five bucks for all you can eat, this event is an exception value. The fact that it benefits this awesome local charity is like having whipped cream and a cherry on top! There’s a ton of other activities for kids and families as well.

If you’re there for the ice cream, take this advice… get there early! The event starts at 2:00. There never seems to be enough crankers to meet demand. If there’s anything left by 3:00, the chances are good that the August sun will have turned it into goo. I’d suggest getting there a little before 2:00 with spoon at the ready.

Here are the details:

What: 7th Annual Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin’. A fundraiser to benefit The Drake House.

Where: The Roswell Square

When: Sunday August 28 from 2:00 to 4:00

Cost: $5 per person, $15 per family

My Involvement in the Alpharetta 2011 Elections

I had no intentions of writing about Alpharetta politics when I began blogging. Yet it didn’t take long before people started asking me what I thought of this and that. I felt I should keep up with what was going on in city hall, lest I sound like a complete imbecile. And like many who were new to Alpharetta politics, I was shocked to learn of the dramatic changes that were afoot in this city.

From there it didn’t take long before I was throwing in my two cents on issues. Yet that put me in an uncomfortable position. See, I don’t live within the political boundaries of Alpharetta. I live just inside Forsyth County – close enough to still have an Alpharetta zip code yet too far away to vote. And yes, the irony of my blog’s name doesn’t escape me.

I voted... except in Alpharetta

I talked about my residency back in March when I first started writing in earnest about Alpharetta politics. I also made a pledge at that time not to endorse candidates. I stand by that pledge; I’m not gonna tell you who to vote for!

I feel like I need to come back to this issue as the 2011 city elections loom. The issue of my residency is something I should remind my readers of on a periodic basis. At the same time, I’ve wrestled with what my role should be in these elections. Should I remain completely silent? Perhaps.

However, I believe I can carve out a niche in the coverage of this election that hopefully is valuable to my readers. By taking no sides and making no endorsements, I plan to focus less on campaign drama and more on elevating issues. This has been my goal all along anyways… simply to create open and honest dialogue on the issues that will shape this area. And being somewhat of an outsider, I don’t bring baggage with me such as neighborhood tensions or past affiliations.

What issues do I think Alpharetta voters need to pay attention to? I’m glad you asked!

Urbanization - No shocker here, we’ve discussed this ad nauseum. Don’t expect candidates to label themselves in this regard one way or the other. I don’t see campaign literature that says “I’m for creating new parks, reducing crime and urbanizing the GA-400 corridor.”

Disclosure - Candidates are required to list any fiduciary relationships in their ethics filings. What they don’t have to openly disclose is who they do business with. Often candidates have clients who may one day have business before the body they seek to serve. And while most politicians excuse themselves from such votes, the electorate should be aware of these affiliations well ahead of time.

Out of Touch? – It’s easy to show that politicians in Washington are out of touch with common folk. Can the same thing happen in a suburban town? I believe it can.

Regional Influences – Are suburban cities losing governing and planning autonomy to regional or state authorities (or beyond)? At what point should you stop thinking regionally and instead do what’s best for Alpharetta? Where’s the line?

There are many more issues such as downtown and the T-SPLOST. I look forward discussing it all this year. And even though I don’t get a vote, I still care a great deal about what happens in Alpharetta. I work in the city, worship at a downtown Alpharetta church and my son attends school in town. But… my head rests each night on a pillow in south Forsyth. I would understand if you find my involvement out of line. Feel free to leave me a comment or e-mail ( lee@rootsinalpharetta.com ) and let me know what you think. In the meantime, I look forward to creating a dialogue on the issues my readers find important.

Photo credit: finn (creative commons)

GoWaiter – Alpharetta and Roswell

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

GoWaiter is a chain of restaurant delivery services. Stephen Altenbach has opened a franchise in north Fulton. They went live this week with a handful of restaurants participating. My wife and I tried the service on opening day and were impressed.

The restaurant options are a little thin at this point in time. Their success will hinge upon increasing restaurant participation. On the flip side, I’ve witnessed several local restaurants express interest in GoWaiter on twitter.

My wife and I settled on Mambo Jambo as our restaurant choice. Ordering was simple on their webpage, like any online shopping experience for the most part. We picked a few Cuban entrees and added an empanada appetizer. The empanadas were an experiment to see how well they would travel. I was reasonably sure ropa vieja and black beans would survive the trip. Plus, Mambo Jambo makes a killer empanada! I scheduled our delivery for 8:00 and my order was a go.

As my time approached I started getting emails on my order’s progress. It was nice to know that the order didn’t disappear into an internet tube or something. I was told when the restaurant began cooking, when my driver arrived at the restaurant and when he was enroute. The email alerts are customizable, something I would imagine regular customers would want to turn off after a few orders.

My order arrived a little ahead of schedule. The driver introduced himself and shook my hand. What? The stoner-boy pizza delivery guy never shakes my hand! It was a very professional exchange that really was more like a waiter and less like a delivery.

Next he opened a huge insulated suitcase which contained my order. To say my order was still hot is an understatement. I’m pretty sure I burned the roof of my mouth with my first bite of black beans. The empanadas were still in reasonable condition, although they had steamed a little in the box.

All in all, it was a positive experience with no opening day glitches. A fee of $5 is very reasonable for a service like this, especially if they can boost their list of participating restaurants. I love the thought of getting grub delivered to my house from as far away as Crabapple or Holcomb Bridge. Saving the hassle of traffic is worth the five spot.

Also, watch these guys in the social media space as they seem pretty savvy with it. I’d suggest following on twitter @GoWaiter_Alpha

Disclosure: I received a promotional discount from GoWaiter on opening day. My disclosure policy can be found on my about page.

Scootz Gourmet Grill – South Forsyth

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

Sit at a table at Scootz and close your eyes. Imagine being surrounded by dozens of crazed and carbohydrate-fueled children. They’re giggling and laughing at Spongebob on television and playing video games.

I had this little flashback when first visiting Scootz. Yes, this place used to be a Cici’s Pizza. If you look around you might see something that reminds you of the franchise pizza joint. The pizza oven is still visible from parts of the dining room. The video games remain but their days are numbered, soon to be replaced by a private room.

A makeover has transformed this space into a much more comfortable eatery. The Scootz bar beckons visitors to the rear of the restaurant with a few flat screen TVs. Tables are separated by young little ivy plants, ambitious to climb a little trellis set up for each of them.

Like a lot of new, independent restaurants, the menu at Scootz is a hodge-podge of different ideas. It’s heavy on burgers yet includes a Maryland-style crabcake ($22.99 for the entree) made with lump crab meat. You’ll find fish and chicken sandwiches next to a handful of Italian entrees.

Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Parmesan French Fries

The menu didn’t make much sense until I met owner Scooter Aselton. “We’re trying to fill a niche between white tablecloth and everyday,” explained Aselton.

Burgers are a feature here and also a top seller. Their Scootz Burger ($7.99) is your basic, classic hamburger. They start with organic Angus meat, giving it a decent sear. It retained a decent amount of juice but not enough to make soggy the toasted bun. Burgers come to the table impaled through the top of the bun with a large knife.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say Scootz is “reinventing the burger,” a tagline they are using. However, they do an above-average job putting together a classic, well-made burger. It’s easily worth the visit.

The fish and chicken sandwiches at Scootz don’t get enough attention on the menu. The grilled chicken sandwich ($9.99) is made from organic free-range birds and is moist and tender. Topped with marinated and sauteed mushrooms, this sandwich is a winner.

The mahi mahi sandwich ($10.95) comes brushed with garlic butter. What steals the show is a lime aioli that comes on the side. There’s something about the combination of lime and fish that creates an explosion of flavor. I’d rank this fish sandwich among the best I’ve had in the Alpharetta area.

Chicken Piccata

On the Italian side of the menu, try the chicken piccata ($14.99). It features the same tender chicken from the sandwich. The lemon butter sauce is a little on the creamy side but still tasty. If you’re a Scootz regular looking for something different on the menu, I’d give their Italian food a try.

The talent in the Scootz kitchen comes from Chef Eric Banks. This Le Cordon Bleu graduate has a passion for baking. That explains the numerous pies on the menu. They even feature New Orleans style beignets, something not usually seen in our suburb.

Chef Banks is often in the front of the restaurant greeting patrons. His demeanor is friendly and genuine, asking for and usually receiving constructive feedback on every dish.

All in all, Scootz Gourmet Grill has impressed me on several visits. “I’ve catered to kids,” says Aselton of his restaurant’s transformation. “Now I’m ready to feed their parents.”

Scootz Gourmet Grill is located at 5905 Atlanta Highway in south Forsyth.

Photo Credit: Robyn Guy Photography

Scootz Gourmet Grill on Urbanspoon

A Letter to Donald Mitchell…

Donald Mitchell is a member of the Downtown Alpharetta Trade Association. On Monday he announced his candidacy for Alpharetta City Council in post 1.

Dear Mr. Mitchell,

Back in March you left a comment on my blog in an article I wrote about urbanization in Alpharetta. One portion of that comment stood out to me and many of my readers. It was…

More often than not the things that people dread the most with growth, involves our fears of having new people and cultures move into our safe, white, Monotheistic communities. We also fear that our life will be worse off if these types of people move into our community.

At the time I bristled at the insinuation I thought you were making. Now that you’re a candidate for Alpharetta City Council, let’s be crystal clear with what you mean. I would like for you to elaborate on this comment. In your opinion, why do some people in Alpharetta oppose high density development? What exactly were you implying here? Please explain to the voters of Alpharetta you seek to represent.

I will offer you a full, unedited guest post on my blog to reply. Please feel free to email me the text of your post to lee@rootsinalpharetta.com .

Please also take the time to explain to the voters your position on large-scale, high density, mixed use projects in Alpharetta. What is your vision for similar projects? Can you give examples of other successful projects in the Atlanta suburbs? Do you believe it is the will of the people of Alpharetta to have such development here?

I look forward to having a substantive discussion of the issues during this campaign season. Thanks for your consideration.

-S. Lee Guy
Blogger

Alpharetta Jobs – August 2011

Around the middle of each month the career websites of Alpharetta’s largest employers are queried. The number of jobs advertised are tallied and trended month-to-month. The results are published to the Roots in Alpharetta blog and used by permission in the Appen Newspapers. This month’s numbers were tabulated on August 15th. All attempts were made to maintain accuracy but some errors are possible.

Overall numbers are flat compares to this time in July. Siemens tops the list with over 100 jobs posted to their career site. On the flip side, HP has reduced their openings to 26. This is down from over 100 at the end of last year. Alpharetta employers adding openings this month include Phillips, Equifax and AT&T.

This month saw the opening of a small business incubator. The Alpharetta Accelerator will give entrepreneurs a jump start, providing office space and access to capital. Perhaps today’s fledgling tech start-up will one day join the Fortune 500 companies on this list!

Largest Employers in Alpharetta - August 2011

Company Number of Jobs
McKesson 87
LexisNexis/Choicepoint 49
ADP 52
E-Trade 38
Equifax 32
AT&T 13
Verizon 57
Radiant 23
HP 26
Alcatel-Lucent 1
UPS 15
Siemens 104
Traveler's 10
T-SYS 19
Metlife 9
Total 535

Mid-Sized Employers in Alpharetta - August 2011

Company Number of Jobs
Research in Motion 5
Ciena 7
RedPrairie 30
Exide Technologies not available
Ryder 11
Phillips 27
Outcomes Health 4
New York Life 1
GXS/Inovis 5
Infor 13
Hanjin Shipping 1
Scientific Games 13
VeriFone 7
AIG 9
Farmer's Insurance 0
LaFarge 5
Crown Castle 0
Total 138

An Open Letter to Prospect Park’s New Owner

North American Properties, the new owner of Prospect Park, issued a press release yesterday. It spoke of wanting community input on the project and touted a west coast tour of similar retail centers. You can read about it here.

Dear North American Properties:

Congratulations on your purchase of Prospect Park! The entire Alpharetta community is encouraged to see something happening with this tract of land. And thank you for including this humble blogger on your press list. I understand you want community input on the project, including what to name it. I will take it on good faith that you’re sincere in this request.

Allow me to offer this bit of early advice… Open Westside Parkway. I understand you have been in discussion with the city to do this. I would encourage you to get this done before you travel the country seeking inspiration for the project. For years we’ve sat in traffic, gazing in frustration at a four lane road that is 90% complete. You could create enormous goodwill with the people of Alpharetta right off the bat. This cannot be overemphasized. Get Westside open, or at least go public with a plan to do so.

It also wouldn’t hurt to demolish the half-built structures. Perhaps make a grand ceremony of the event, allowing City Council members to push the button on the wrecking ball. It might serve as a symbolic gesture, allowing politicians to experience a level of atonement for their past. These structures have stood as a reminder of Alpharetta’s failed adoption of large-scale mixed-use development, right at the gateway to the city. Get’em outta here!

And speaking of gateways… Your project will be a gateway to this community. Consider that as you ponder where to take this project. Ours is a community of affluent and well-maintained suburban neighborhoods with top amenities. Please don’t come to Alpharetta speaking the language of new urbanism or so-called “smart growth”. Urbanism doesn’t play in our version of Peoria. Don’t take my word for it, even Planning Commissioners understand our dislike of these buzzwords.

Again, you could create a great sense of goodwill by dramatically reducing the scope of the development. Cut the building heights to tree-top level, scrap the parking decks and severely reduce or eliminate the residential components. I get the sense that this might be the direction you’re aiming and I’m encouraged by it! We bristle at extreme housing density and high rise buildings.

We love shopping, restaurants, greenspace, outdoor malls, traditional architecture and all that neat stuff. The good folks of Alpharetta will talk your ear off with ideas if given the chance.

Thanks for reaching out to the community. We look forward to continuing the dialogue, especially in the social media space. You’ve got a tremendous opportunity to win the hearts of Alpharetta by quickly opening the road and nixing residential density. What do ya say?

Sincerely,

-S. Lee Guy
Blogger

You can follow North American Properties on Twitter @NAPatl or on Facebook.

Alpharetta Restaurant News – August 2011

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

About once a month I’ve posted a new/closed restaurant column. I’m going to change the format a bit, making this more of a general catch-all article on the Alpharetta-area restaurant scene. Let me know what you think. And as always, please comment if you see anything new or closed that I’ve missed.

Cupcakes in Alpharetta

Alpharetta continues to play catchup in this foodie trend. We’re not seeing a lot of new retail cupcake shops (along the lines of Jilly’s) but rather existing places supplementing their offerings. Here’s what I’ve found that’s new:

Yummy Pieces of Flour – North Point Mall – This oddly named shop opened in a kiosk near the food court. I have not tried them yet, but they’re getting a lot of buzz and playing social media well.  Check out their website, twitter and facebook profiles. Their cupcakes are not baked on site. Perhaps they come from a place like…

Simply Cupcakelicious – Opened last week in an office/industrial park off McFarland Parkway on Shiloh Road. It’s not exactly a retail location so I’m guessing this is more of a wholesale operation. Here’s their website.

La Cupcakerie – The Avenue Forsyth – These guys burst onto the scene back in January with Groupon specials and a lot of hype. Unfortunately they never got off the ground. I hear that Groupon is now refunding La Cupcakerie’s deals.

GoWaiter – North Fulton

GoWaiter is a restaurant delivery service. They have existing franchises in Atlanta, Gwinnett and the Vinings area. A North Fulton franchise is set to open next week featuring a growing list of popular eateries.

Delivery services for restaurants are hardly a new idea. GoWaiter seems to be a little more advanced with menus and ordering online. I’ll give them a shot next week.

Bite

Way back in September 2010 I reported on Field Good selling to a catering outfit called Bite Atlanta. Months went by and I feared that the bad economy swallowed up these guys before they took off. Not so as they finally opened a few weeks ago. I’ve heard glowing feedback on Bite from several people who’s opinions I trust. Put this place on your to-try list! They are located on the corner of Webb Bridge Way and Kimball Bridge, near the post office.

Crafty Draugh – Avenue Forsyth

What’s a growler? I didn’t know until I read Aldo Nahed’s story over at the Forsyth Herald. A few young beer connoisseurs are attempting to open this shop across the street from the Avenue Forsyth. If they can get Forsyth County to relax a few rules, you’ll be able to fill your growlers (small jugs) with craft brewed beer. Cheers!

Heavenly Gourmet Popcorn

100 flavors of popcorn? Bring your dental floss. Heavenly has opened on North Main Street in Alpharetta, a little south of Windward. I’m not a huge popcorn guy, but maybe they’re worth a shot.

Johns Creek Restaurants and the PGA Championship

Several restaurants hurried plans to open in Johns Creek ahead of the PGA Championship this week. Included in the list are Twisted Taco and Smashburger. Sinbad’s Feast also announced an expansion of their restaurant just in time for the golfers. Fore!

Closed Restaurants

K Cafe – Windward – This concept restaurant from the folks at Krystal’s has closed. It’s unfortunate as they were growing on me after a ho-hum first impression.

Durty Kelly’s – This Irish pub on North Main has poured their last pint.

Coming Soon

We’ve talked about these already. I’ll keep a running list in this column of each new joint, with updates when appropriate, until they finally open.

Azul Agave – I was mistaken when I reported they would open in July. Looks like they still have some work to do. My apologizes for the error. I expect them to open on Old Milton Parkway any day now.

Smashburger - Now that the Johns Creek location is open, Windward Parkway appears to be next. Smash has a PR firm running around generating buzz. You won’t be caught off guard when these guys open, trust me.

La Casa Italian Grill – Their making progress but still not open. Two new Italian restaurants in Johns Creek – Rosa Mia and Dal Cuore – have been very well received. I wonder if La Casa will get the same attention in Alpharetta? Look for them in the old Cafe Efendi location downtown.

Dulce Chocolat – A new high-end chocolatier in the works for Old Milton Parkway.

Twisted Taco Express - These guys are probably several months away from opening. Look for them next to Wildflour on Windward and North Point.

Marlow’s Tavern – The Avenue Forsyth

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

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this… I’ve never been to a Marlow’s Tavern. This successful metro Atlanta chain of upscale pubs got their start in Johns Creek on Old Alabama Road. From here they opened seven more locations. Somehow I’ve missed it all until about a week ago when the Avenue Forsyth location made its grand opening.

Marlow’s is in the old Little Azio’s space at the Avenue, directly across from the AMC movie theater. It is a prime spot, especially to host couples doing a dinner and movie date. More on this later.

Marlow’s has done an amazing job with the buildout. Even with a corner location and a fair amount of windows, the interior is dimly lit, creating a sophisticated atmosphere. Inside you’ll find a mix of high-top tables and booths yet few large tables. If you’ve got a big group, this might not be your place. The bar features a garage door that opens to the outside patio. It allows those in the sun the opportunity to belly up to the bar without going inside. It’s a neat set up.

If you’ve been to another Marlow’s location then you’re probably familiar with the menu. It features slightly higher-end pub food. The appetizers stood out the most to me in both taste and originality. My favorite by far was the shrimp and crab “nacho” plate. They take a single nacho chip and cover it with crab meat and a small shrimp. Next comes pepper jack cheese and a thinly sliced jalapeno. Under the broiler it goes until the cheese is golden brown. They are delectable yet pack a decent punch. I also liked the asparagus fries. The veggies are thin, lightly breaded and fried and come with an aioli dipping sauce.

The rest of the menu consists of burgers, sandwiches, salads and others. After setting the bar high with the appetizers, the rest of the menu was a big letdown. Their fish tacos, described as “infamous”, fell short. The tilapia was dry, begging for a sauce to rehydrate it. The menu promised a cream sauce but I didn’t taste much of it. By comparison, Cheeky’s around the corner has a much better fish taco.

The shrimp and grits earn high marks on presentation. Two grit cakes were set to balance at an angle to each other, then smothered with shrimp, tomato, greens and a sauce. Unfortunately the kitchen didn’t execute well on this dish as the greens were mushy and the sauce was under seasoned.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the kids menu. While I would not consider Marlow’s kid friendly for toddlers, your older children ought to be fine. The addition of surf and turf, on the kids menu, made me chuckle. Only in the affluent burbs can our kids dine on such an entree! Marlow’s kiddie surf and turf consists of a hamburger slider and a tempura fried shrimp.

Service was polite and hospitable but a little slow. If they wish to thrive next to a movie theater they’ll need to turn tables quicker so folks don’t miss their show. Keep that in mind if you’re considering Marlow’s before your movie.

Perhaps I’m being a little harsh on such a new restaurant yet these guys should have a lot of experience under their belt at this point. Nevertheless they probably need more time to work out all the kinks.

I was impressed with the crowd on a Monday night. It consisted of many good-looking young couples in the 20′s, something you don’t see a lot of in the burbs. Absent were the high school kids, who are normally thick as fleas at The Avenue Forsyth. It just goes to show that Marlow’s is likely to carve out a niche in this area. For a sophisticated and sexy date location before a movie, Marlow’s will become a great choice.  Once they hit their stride, I think Marlow’s will be tremendously successful here.

Disclosure: I received free appetizers from this restaurant during a pre-opening promotion. Read my disclosure policy on my about page.

Marlow's Tavern on Urbanspoon

A Racist and Anti-Muslim Flyer in Alpharetta?

Here we go again.

Wednesday night 11 Alive news lead off their late newscast with a story of a racist, anti-Muslim flyer being passed around Alpharetta. It comes from a group calling themselves the Milton County Tea Party Patriots and they are opposed to the planned Amana Academy school. Amana’s proposal for a school on Windward Parkway will go before the Alpharetta Planning Commission Thursday.

I have not seen the flyer. The racist and anti-Muslim nonsense that 11 Alive quoted is disgusting and isn’t something I want to reprint on my blog. The Tea Party of Georgia is condemning the flyer and says they have nothing to do with it.

It’s disappointing that this happens in Alpharetta. I continue to worry about the reputation our community is earning when it comes to issues surrounding the Muslim faith. Enough already!

Page 1 of 212»

Switch to our mobile site