Archive - September, 2013

The Corner Burger Shop – Midway Park

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday. Today we feature a review from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

Corner Burger ShopOk, ok.  Yes, it’s another burger joint in the already saturated Alpharetta/South Forsyth burger scene.  And yes, it’s a little far out there for normal Alpharettians to journey.  But take it from me, this little locally owned place is worth a chance.  Good food, friendly service and a welcoming atmosphere have lead me back there many times.

The Corner Burger Shop occupies the former Construct-a-Burger location at Midway Park.

Owners Larry and Cindy Pendleton have a long history in the restaurant biz.  Larry has nearly 40 years working for others including Big Daddy himself at Dreamland BBQ. Larry spent the last 20 years or so as a general manager of the Roswell location and director of operations.  His wife Cindy also worked at Dreamland as catering manager.  Larry had always wanted to open his own restaurant, and now he has.

Larry developed the menu himself that includes burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, wings and salads.  The burgers are made from a blend of ground steak and brisket which lends to a unique texture and flavor. It’s also the same type of mixture used by an legendary Atlanta burger spot The Vortex. Unfortunately it could have used a little more seasoning for me.

The burgers come in several varieties from the basic single, double, triple and (eek) quadruple patty monster called the Home Run.  There are also a few specialty burgers like the popular BBQ burger.  My favorite is the Special burger which comes smothered in cheese sauce and homemade burger sauce.  It’s very flavorful and worthy of at least four napkins.  The burger sauce tastes like bean-less meat chili similar to what you’d find on chili dogs.  It’s an old family recipe with a super secret ingredient.  Don’t ask me, but man, it’s good.

The hot dogs are Hebrew National.  The only items that are not made in house are the fries and chicken tenders, both frozen.  I personally enjoyed the fries.  Sure, they aren’t fresh cut, but they are seasoned perfectly and are consistently crispy.  My son gets the chicken tenders every time and I never hear any complaints from him.  They are pretty good; yes I ate some of his.  I’m just being a thorough reviewer!

There’s also a hidden gem on the menu – the sausage.  It’s covered in the meat and cheese sauce, but unlike a normal chili dog, the snap and the juice of the sausage is heavenly.  Another popular item are the onion rings.  These sweet Vidalia onions with the right amount of breading and a hint of cayenne were a huge hit with my wife.

The prices have increased recently on most items.  The burgers and such aren’t too pricey, but to add a drink and fries to make a combo is a slightly steep $3.50 up-charge.

The Corner Burger Shop on Urbanspoon

The decor will strike a familiar tone if you remember Construct-a-Burger.  The location is positioned to take full advantage of the hordes of kids playing sports at the park.  Future plans for the Corner Burger Shop include a catering service with home made food and possible expansion to new locations.  The Corner Burger Shop puts an emphasis on family and community, sponsoring the West Forsyth varsity football team.  They currently only have a Facebook page.  A website is in development.  Look for it to be live in a few weeks.

Is the Corner Burger Shop the best burger out there?  No.  Is it a solid burger place that’s worth a look?  I’ll see you there.

MARTA public meeting is tonight!

MARTA connect 400 logoOfficials from MARTA will hold a rare public input meeting TONIGHT at Alpharetta’s City Hall. The topic of the day – expansion of the heavy rail line from North Springs to Windward and the billions it will cost.

We talked last month about the sorry excuse for a study MARTA’s conducted thus far. Two weeks ago Alpharetta’s City Council seemed to agree, giving a tongue lashing to MARTA officials who spoke before a meeting. At issue was the lack of participation from Alpharetta residents. Unfortunately this may be one of the only remaining chances local residents have speak out.

The meeting will be in the Council chambers from 6:30 until 8:30. If you’re unable to attend you can watch the proceedings online at the city’s video portal. Citizens can also email opinions directly to MARTA using the email address connect400@itsmarta.com.

Regardless of your opinion of heavy rail expansion, please make your opinion known through one of these means. And if you’re at the meeting tonight, look for your favorite local blogger and introduce yourself!

5 Seasons Brew Pub – Still afloat in a sea of beer

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday. Today we feature a review from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

5NorthlogoSince I have been writing for this blog, I have become the de-facto beer guy.  I’ve chatted with nearly everyone in the north Fulton/Forsyth area.   I would be amiss to leave out the old guy on the block, 5 Seasons.  How has Alpharetta’s first brew pub weathered the storm of growler stores, breweries, and other brew pubs?  Have they been affected?  The short answer is yes.  And no.

5 Seasons was started by chef Dave Larkworthy back in 2001 as an avenue to offer fresh, local food paired with fresh, local beer.  At that time they were the only player in the game.  Dave’s friend Crawford Moran joined the show in 2004 as the brew master.  Crawford was exposed to beer early on, and he quickly developed a passion for brewing.  After a classic back packing through Europe trip, Crawford came back to his native Georgia with a mission; to brew the beer he fell in love with across the pond.

At that point in Atlanta, there wasn’t much of a choice beyond the mega beers, so Crawford took matters into his own hands and make what he wanted.  He started Dogwood Brewing Company in 1995 and closed it in 2004.  Crawford has a passion for brewing, and he is always excited to get hands on with some new styles, different hops and creative barleys.

The Alpharetta location opened about ten years ago on Old Milton Parkway, really all by itself.  The brewery sits right as you enter behind a large wall with windows.  The problem is, once you’re in the dining room, it’s easy to forget that there is a brewery there.  It’s just hard to see it.  It’s not so much 5 Seasons’ fault.  Per the law, a brew pub has to keep the actual brewery behind a barrier from the public.  For those wondering, Hop Alley skirts this a bit by having their bar declared a “barrier”.

The biggest change that has affected 5 Seasons is the 6% ABV law, where people can now brew and sell beers above 6% ABV.  That allowed Crawford to really open up the types of beer that he could make.

The thing that really sets 5 Seasons apart is the amount of change you’ll find in both the food and beer menu.  The lunch and dinner menu changes daily, and the beer menu changes nearly as often.  Locally sourced food from nearly a dozen farmers supplies the restaurant with the freshest meals available.

The million or so growler stores that have opened over the last couple of years have exposed a whole new population to craft beer, which is good for 5 Seasons.  Educating the public on new beers is a recurring theme in the Alpharetta beer scene.  The more people want beer, the more beer everyone will sell.  Sure, the growing number of options and outlets for beer is cutting into 5 Seasons’ business, but that’s offset by the quality food that’s available there.

One the biggest changes that would affect 5 Seasons hasn’t happened yet, and may never happen.  Crawford is helping work toward changing Georgia law to allow breweries and brew pubs to sell beer to go in growlers.  If that comes to fruition, then Crawford feels it would be a huge shot in the arm for business.  Also, look for more beer education, one-off styles and whatever else Crawford can get his hands on.

5 Seasons Brewing Company North on Urbanspoon

The guys at 5 Seasons are kind of out on their own without a lot of help or relationships with the other local Alpharetta beer folks.  They’ve been around the longest, but their location might have them left out of the discussion.  Don’t fret for 5 Seasons.  The ever changing menu and the passion for brewing will carry them far into the future.  You never know what you’re going to get, but you know it’s going to be good.

Developer free-for-all in Forsyth

While residential zoning requests have abated recently in Alpharetta and Milton, south Forsyth County has exploded. The list of rezoning requests on the county’s website spills across three pages.

Shiloh Rd Site PlanMost alarming of all is the number of proposed neighborhoods with very high densities. A typical request starts with houses on 6,000 square foot lots or smaller. And developers are often requesting variances to allow homes to be built as close as 11 feet from each other. Most of the requests don’t fit the county’s land use plan.

Leading the charge is Ryland Homes who’s bought or has contracts on dozens of tracts in the county.

A few are adjacent to industrial uses that would be unpleasant to homeowners. Ryland has a request on Shiloh Road that’s surrounded by industrial and office parks, including a data center. Enormous diesel generators would be in back yards of homeowners. But the worst offender of all was a project approved on Daves Creek Drive. This 247-home development will be surrounded on three sides by a granite quarry.

Several factors are contributing to the developer orgy in Forsyth. Last year the county watered down their residential classifications to allow for dramatically smaller lot sizes. Lower impact fees also encourage developers to choose Forsyth. And homeowners were politically weakened by the elimination of at-large election of commissioners a few years ago. It’s reduced accountability.

The result is this avalanche of rezonings from developers emboldened to push densities to the limit. Forsyth will continue to struggle with traffic on neglected two-lane country roads and a school system already over capacity.

Grass root opposition groups are sprouting up everywhere. If you’re a Forsyth County resident (like I am) then I encourage you to get plugged into one of these groups. A good place to start is Forsyth HOA and Homeowners. Fix Forsyth Traffic is another good website focusing on the Post/Mullinax corridor. If you know of other groups, please leave me a comment.

Apartments, apartments, apartments

They’re back! The proposed Deerfield Parkway apartment complex in Milton has resurfaced. If you’ll remember back about a year ago the city narrowly rejected a request from Crescent Resources to build a new complex on Deerfield Parkway. The developer sued Milton arguing that the city was violating the Georgia Fair Housing Act by rejecting affordable housing.


View Crescent Resources apartments in a larger map

Since that time Milton created a form-based zoning code in the Deerfield area. The judge hearing the lawsuit remanded the case back to Milton so that the developer could reapply for the zoning under the new rules.

This case will be interesting to watch. The argument was made in court that the developer wanted to build lower-end apartments. Will Crescent make this pitch to Milton, or will they come with a high-end product? We talked about this double standard last year. It’s all starting to play out now.

And back in Alpharetta… Tonight that city’s Council will consider creating something akin to a neighborhood watch program for apartment complexes. Traditional programs like this don’t work in apartments so law enforcement has to get a little creative. It’s a good program though. But remember, apartment opponents are unreasonable when they say apartments invite crime, right?

And while not technically apartments (yet), there’s another interesting nugget on Council’s agenda tonight. Council will begin discussing developer qualifications for the City Center project. This is for the four sections that will be privately developed.

Up until this point, the city has never mentioned the word “residential” with regard to their City Center project. They’ve tip toed around it but the word has not appeared in a single document or discussion – until now. I predicted the city would wait until after the election for this topic. With nearly everyone running unopposed, it’s now safe to have this conversation out loud in city hall. Bring on the high density residential!

And if condos over retail are still unfinanceable, then you can expect a developer to come with a plan for apartments in downtown. Remember, it’s all for the sake of having a “vibrant” downtown.

Alpharetta Restaurant News – September 2013

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

It’s been a busy month following restaurant openings… in south Forsyth. Alpharetta has been a little slow for some reason.

Myzenes logoThe biggest news in south Forsyth has gotta be Myzenes Indian Coastal Cuisine. They will open in the Stonebridge Promenade shopping center on GA-141 a little north of McGinnis Ferry. I don’t know much more about the concept, but Indian seafood sounds interesting.

I’ve learned a little more about Collet French Pastry. They will open in October on Old Milton Parkway in the Sabri Guven shopping center. Francois Collett will indeed be here working in the back of the shop. They’ll be open seven days a week featuring French pastries such as macarons and croissants and will have a coffee bar. A small lunch menu will feature quiche, crepes and pate en croute.

A few weeks ago I met Jim Prince, the new owner of Firefly on Windward. He will stick with the Firefly name and concept with a planned opening later this month. The menu will keep some of the old Firefly items but otherwise be completely new. Prince was behind the former Fratelli di Napoli on North Point Parkway. We wish him all the luck in the world. He’ll need every bit of it.

Mama’s Pizza has opened on North Point Parkway, relocating from Old Milton Parkway. Also now open near the mall is Pollo Tropical and Chipotle. Pollo Tropical is getting horrendously bad reviews online. My only visit wasn’t positive either. There are far better alternatives in the area. For example…

Cafe Caribe opened September 3rd in the same shopping center as Myzenes in south Forsyth. This humble little Cuban joint has potential. Their lunch menu features “media noche” Cuban sandwiches. My fellow Florida natives will know what this means.

And back in south Forsyth… 7 Tequilas Cantina and Corner Burger Shop are now open on Post Road in the Midway community. Casa Del Sol Mexican Grill opened last week on Hwy 9 and Bethelview where Bad Bob’s BBQ used to be.

Chepe’s Mexican Grill has closed their south Forsyth location on Mathis Airport Road near Old Atlanta. Their Bethelview location remains open as does the Johns Creek store.

And also abruptly closing this month was Chill Restaurant & Lounge on Haynes Bridge. Restaurant broker Shumacher Group reports that the owner relocated out of state. You can buy the restaurant for $225,000.

Restaurants Coming Soon

Salt Factory – Delay, delay, delay.
Rosati’s Pizza – No word on when they will open but probably soon. They’re in the old Buckhead Pizza location across from The Collection Forsyth.
Philly Factory – Franchise cheesesteak joint opening probably next week on Old Milton Parkway.
Tower Burger – The slowest buildout ever. Still got a long way to go on this South Main Street burger joint.
Great Harvest Bread – Sammich chain coming to Windward next to Mambo’s Cafe.
Main Street Kitchen – Coming to the old 52 Bistro space on North Main Street.
Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe – Alabama-based chain coming soon to Windward Parkway.
Jose’s Mexican Grill – The sign is up and the menu online for this new joint on North Point and Webb Bridge.
Hurricane Grill – Franchise wing joint out of Florida. They’ll open next week in Johns Creek on Medlock Bridge Road.
Dunkin Donuts – Building two new Forsyth locations; McFarland at Hwy 9 and Peachtree Parkway near Dutch Monkey Doughnuts.
First Watch – They will be in a new strip mall on North Point and Old Milton behind the huge oak tree. Land being cleared now. 2014 opening.
Corner Bakery Cafe/Zoe’s – Almost open on Haynes Bridge.

Alpharetta Retail News – September 2013

das Gallery logoAlpharetta will soon be home to a new fine art gallery. das Gallery will open this fall at 2225 Old Milton Parkway in the Sabri Guven shopping center. They will feature contemporary original art in the form of paintings, sculptures and mixed media.

Antique consignment shop The Green Bean Exchange is now open on South Main Street. Alpharetta is the third location for this Cumming-based business.

Bowling

We learned a little more detail about the proposed North Point bowling alley this past month. They informed the city that the concept would include laser tag, billiards and group/party rooms. Also they expect to have two restaurants – a fine dining spot called The Windy City Restaurant and a sports bar called Beyond Chances.

But they’re running out of chances. The yet-unnamed bowling alley is a real similar concept to Mansell Road’s Main Event, which will likely open sooner. Alpharetta’s Planning staff felt the same way, saying in their opinion that “careful consideration should be given by the applicant regarding future success given the similarity of the two event facilities and their proximity.” Such a strong rebuke of a business idea is rare from the city’s staff but completely warranted. This North Point bowling alley may never get off the ground. #gutterball

Main Event hasn’t starting their buildout but I expect that to happen very soon. And Stars and Strikes is still showing a November 2013 opening date for their new location just south of Roswell on Highway 9.

Gas and Beer

Convenience store chain QuikTrip has begun construction on their new location at Old Milton and GA-400. I’m told that their older location down the street will likely close when this new store opens.

Construction will begin very soon on Racetrac‘s new location next to The Collection in south Forsyth. It’ll measure in at 6,000 square feet and will feature a walk-in beer cooler and frozen yogurt. Expect most new QTs and Racetracs to have similar features from here on out.

Growler store Draft Beer Market finally opened this week in Johns Creek. They’re at 11730 Jones Bridge Road where Uncle Louie G’s used to be and will feature the area’s largest selection with 60 taps.

Making sausage at Avalon

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

Avalon logoWe’ve talked a lot about Avalon over the past two years. This is the 21st article I’ve tagged on this blog as being related to the mixed-use development. Hopefully I’ve brought you a lot of the back story of the development.

We talked about the project’s zoning and the showdown over apartments. We mention campaign contributions from North American Properties. Then I took Progress Partners to task for supporting the zoning.

Then there was the apartment swap and Alpharetta’s Ellman tract. And most recently we talked about the lucrative and controversial tax abatements North American Properties quietly received.

And the back story of this development probably isn’t over. Alpharetta is considering partnering with Avalon to build a convention center on the site. If the city decides to move forward with this then we’ll debate the use of public bond funds in this development and how appropriate that may or may not be.

And then there’s the talk about the restaurants and retailers at Avalon (This is my Friday column after all). I stopped keeping up with the changes a few months ago. It was difficult to tell who was in at Avalon, who was out and who was merely being kicked around in conversation.

Hopefully I’ve brought my readers a narrative of what it takes behind the scenes to put together a huge project like this. And I’ll admit that through it all my opinion of Avalon soured. A lot of this process was ugly.

But in the end, the product that’s likely to emerge will be a great one. Avalon’s restaurant list right now is amazing. Three in particular stand out.

First is spin-off concept restaurant Bocado Burger Bar. The Howell Mill restaurant makes a burger that tops many lists as one of the best in Atlanta. A burger-only concept from these guys should considerably raise the bar over the mediocre options we have in Alpharetta.

Second is a yet-to-be-named Mexican concept from Ford Fry. The celebrated chef and restauranteur will be making his first OTP venture here at Avalon.

And finally there’s Antico Pizza Napoletana. Never has a restaurant received as much hype as this one when it first opened in Midtown. Antico will be interesting to watch. They’ll be a formidable challenger to Campania Pizzeria Napoletana on Main Street (who recently made the cover of Atlanta Magazine).

Last week blogger Eli Zandman wrote about Antico’s expansion strategy. It’ll be hard for them to recreate the vibe of their Midtown location. There’s a certain backalley, hidden gem aspect to Antico that I don’t think can be replicated at Avalon. But their pizza knocks everyone’s socks off so who knows.

The rest of Avalon’s restaurant lineup isn’t too shabby either. All in all, North American Properties has done a superb job assembling this collection.

It takes a lot to get a project like Avalon going. It can be ugly. And we don’t know what other incentives NAP had to make to get these tenants to sign on the dotted line. Will they even be there on opening day? How about a year later? Maybe I’m being too pessimistic, knowing that Prospect Park failed at about this point in the process. Then again, I’ll believe it next year when the grease of a Bocado burger is running down my chin.

This Avalon thing hasn’t been pretty, but it’ll be great.

Doug DeRito vs Donald Mitchell

Doug DeRito ran a weak campaign for mayor. He hemmed and hawed about running, finally throwing his hat in pretty late. And as we all know, he finished third in a three way race.

But his 2011 run for mayor interrupted his third term on Council. This is an important detail as it paves the way for his campaign this year.

Alpharetta’s term limit rules restrict Councilmen from serving more than three consecutive terms in a single post. By running for mayor in 2011, DeRito reset the clock on his term limits. He’s free to run for his old job now, and could serve three more terms in the seat if voters will allow him. So perhaps rolling the dice for the Mayor’s job was a calculated strategy on his part, knowing he’d have a decent opportunity to fall back into the Post 1 seat.

Is this something Donald Mitchell might make a campaign issue out of? While DeRito isn’t violating the term limit rules, an argument could be made that he’s not following the spirit of the law.

Mitchell BRAA similar argument was made in 2010 when Jim Paine defeated John Monson for David Belle Isle’s vacant Council seat. Paine switched posts to skirt the term limit rules. Monson certainly made it a campaign issue then, but the voters didn’t seem to mind.

But this is just one of many issues that could surface in this campaign. Of course there’s Mitchell’s reality show appearance, a story you heard first on this blog. Or there is the controversy from 2010 involving DeRito, the Alpharetta CVB and the high school. This campaign could get nasty real quick.

But if discussion heads back toward the issues (and hopefully it will), things should trend DeRito’s way. He’s a policy wonk and loves the inner workings of municipal government. Mitchell is still getting his hands around the issues currently before Council. In a debate format, DeRito will eat Mitchell’s lunch.

But Mitchell is a terrific retail campaigner. He’s got a charming and friendly demeanor (his reality show character notwithstanding). If he knocks on enough doors this fall, Mitchell’s got a shot at this thing.

How do you think this campaign will play out? Will character be a driving issue? Or will issues separate the candidates?

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