A glimpse into Alpharetta’s restaurant scene 16 years ago

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

wacky world dragon

Last weekend I took the kids to the Wacky World playground at Alpharetta’s Wills Park. If you’ve never been, it’s a terrific playground filled with fun things to do for all ages. And even though the equipment is 16 years old and all made of wood, the city’s parks department maintains it well.

The playground was build by a small army of volunteers from across the community. Signs thanking those involved still hang at the entrance and read like a who’s who of Alpharetta life a generation ago. You’ll find old councilmen and newspaper guys who still get bylines today. There’s long-bankrupt companies that once had offices here. I laughed when I saw Bear Stearns, the investment bank that failed in the 2008 financial meltdown.

And scattered among the list of companies are over 30 restaurants. Then it jumped out at me. This was Alpharetta’s restaurant scene in 1997. These were the places that were active in the community, sending volunteers and money to make Wacky World a reality.

Having first set foot in Alpharetta in 1999, I remember a few of these places. But many I don’t. And it’s mostly the fast food that’s survived. How sad. But it provides some perspective into how competitive this business is and how many restaurants don’t make it.

So without further ado, I present the Alpharetta restaurants of 1997. How many of these do you remember?

  • Amore Pizza
  • Arby’s
  • Blimpie
  • Boston Market
  • Brueggers Bagels
  • Burger King
  • Chili’s Grill & Bar
  • Domino’s Pizza, N Main St
  • Dunkin Donuts
  • Fuddrucker’s
  • Hardee’s
  • Hooters
  • Houck’s Grille
  • Houlihan’s
  • Kenny Rogers Roasters
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken
  • Krispy Kreme
  • Lisbon Bakery
  • Longhorn Steaks
  • Low County Barbecue
  • Manhattan Bagel
  • McDonalds
  • Mozzerella Cafe
  • O’Charley’s
  • Papa Johns’s Pizza
  • Picadilly Cafe
  • Ryan’s Family Steakhouse
  • Sonny’s Real Pit BAR-B-Q
  • Southern Skillet
  • TGI Fridays
  • Waffle House
  • Wendy’s

23 Responses to “A glimpse into Alpharetta’s restaurant scene 16 years ago”

  1. Glen October 18, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    I wasn’t working up there at the time, but I do remember some of these places. Mozzerella Cafe was in the mall. it became The American Café before eventually closing. I think that it was next to what is now American Girl in NP. It was actually pretty decent for a chain of mall restaurants. Loved their bread. Surprised that Mick’s wasn’t on the list. Kenny Rogers was outside the Mall( I think where Wendy’s is now)and was almost like Boston Market, but a little better.

  2. Travis Allen October 18, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    Amore Pizza – don’t remember them
    Arby’s – now a car service center next to Dairy Queen
    Blimpie – was in the shopping center that Amana Academy owns
    Brueggers Bagels – don’t remember them
    Houck’s Grille – most recently the Crabapple Diner
    Houlihan’s – most recently a mexican joint across from the mall, but was also Famous Daves BBQ at some point
    Kenny Rogers Roasters – Wendy’s at the mall
    Kentucky Fried Chicken – about to be Salt Factory
    Krispy Kreme – recently moved to corner of Hwy 9 and Mansell Rd
    Lisbon Bakery – don’t remember them
    Low Country BBQ – don’t remember them
    Manhatten Bagel – currently Modern Bagel near Goodwill in Roswell
    Mozzerella Cafe – now American Girl at the mall
    O’Charley’s – now a Verizon Wireless store near the mall
    Picadilly Cafe – Atlanta Luxury Motors on Mansell Rd
    Ryan’s Family Steakhouse – part of Carl Black motors property
    Sonny’s Real Pit BAR-B-Q – Roswell Mitsubishi
    Southern Skillet – closed and empty

    I believe all the other places remain where they were back then

  3. S Lee Guy October 18, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    I knew Travis would rock this topic!

    Wasn’t Southern Skillet was on Old Milton and Main where Al Fresco is now?

    Low Country BBQ was a catering only joint that was just into south Forsyth. They briefly had a retail restaurant on 141 where Lupes Mexican is now.

  4. Cool Papa Bell October 18, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    Interesting source for the list. Obviously the corporate joints will have a lot more ability to donate than the mom and pop, so a bit deceptive indeed. Low Country, IIRC had a resto on Roswell Road near Hildebrand and Hammond area. I didn’t understand the hype.

    There was a southern restaurant where you describe but the Southern Skillet was in Roswell on Highway 9 for almost two decades. I can’t recall the name of the place you are talking about.

    I also think the greatest restaurant in Alpharetta history, Ruchi was around about that time. I wonder if they were even approached to donate.

  5. S Lee Guy October 18, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    Duh, you’re right. Southern Skillet closed just recently. I recall the Revue & News doing a piece on it.

  6. Glen October 18, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    Wasn’t the Krispy Kreme in Roswell, not Alpharetta? Same with Sonny’s, Ryan’s and Picadilly Cafe . O’charley’s was no major loss. Went there only once. Paid with a credit card for so-so food and service. They gave me the wrong credit card back! Never returned. BTW, I hear that the TGI Friday’s may be going bye-bye soon.

  7. Scsa31274 October 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    Lee, you’re thinking of the Dixie Diner where the parking lot where Alfrescos is now.

  8. Greg October 18, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    The building for the Southern Skillet sits vacant right now on Hwy 9 in Roswell, near Green St & Canton St.

    Lee, I think the place you mentioned that was in Alpharetta near the present location of Alfresco’s was called The Dixie Diner.

    Sure enough, Low Country BBQ had retail, sit-down locations in both Sandy Springs & South Forsyth. Their primary focus was always about the catering business & that’s what they continue to do. I cannot tell you how much of their pulled pork I ate at catered workplace lunch/dinners in the 1990s.

    Also, I think Amore Pizza used to be in the small center on Cumming St near Westside Pkwy.

  9. Travis Allen October 18, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    Yep, the Dixie Diner and before that it was the Jolly Chef Restaurant.

    Let me take a moment to promote my friend’s new local t-shirt company, which by coincidence has a picture of the Jolly Chef on their first shirt: http://reddsetter.com/shop/

    Thanks Greg, I remember Amore Pizza now…it was always off the beaten path.

    I also forgot to mention that the O’Charley’s was originally a Red Robin, although I never heard why it closed.

  10. Glen October 18, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Don’t remember it being a Red Robin. I would have thought that would have done good in the area. Maybe Fudruckers was to much competition for them?

  11. Kim October 18, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

    Vinnys on Windward was here even back then. If I recall correctly, there wasn’t anything between Vinnys and Hwy 9 back then.

  12. Travis Allen October 19, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    Yep, looks like O’Charley’s purchased it from Red Robin in June of 1997. I had to check, thought maybe I remembered it incorrectly. So it wasn’t around for longer than 4 years or so.


    My guess is that the O’Charley’s that donated the money was actually the one where El Porton is now located near Hwy 9 and Elkin’s Road.

  13. Scott October 21, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    Funny, I started working in Alpharetta at that exact time in one of the office buildings off of Mansell and Old Alabama Connector. Plus, I grew up on the Johns Creek side of Norcross. You are right on with everything. However, I didn’t see a couple spots listed.

    The building at the corner of Mansell and North Point Parkway. I think it is an AT&T store now. That place had the best Caesar Salad and chicken finger platter. They also had a location off Ashford-Dunwoody in the same strip center as Chili’s.

    And though it is technically Roswell, but just off Old Alabama…Aqua Blue started out as a Sizzler then became John Harvard.s Ale House.

    In the Publix shopping center at Old Alabama and Haynes bridge, there was a restaurant in the corner where the Key Worth Bank is.

  14. Travis Allen October 21, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    The AT&T store at Mansell and North Point was Grady’s, then later Smokey Bones BBQ.

    Another revolving door location in the area is what is currently the Lobster House. It was previously Bugaboo Creek and originally The Cooker.

  15. Glen October 21, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    Scott-Smokey Bones. Across the street was Champps. Oh and while we are at it-Happy Hermans was in the shopping center down from Service Merchandise.

  16. Travis Allen October 22, 2013 at 8:07 am #

    LOL, I had forgotten about Service Merchandise.

    Happy Hermans was pretty good, the biggest problem was that they closed at 6:30 or so and marked all the pre-made sandwiches as half-off an hour before closing. People picked up on that pretty quick and I believe that along with the early closing time it hurt their business.

    They sure could make some good sandwiches though. Nobody has been able to do well at that location since.

  17. Scott October 22, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    Grady’s…loved that place.

    Was Razzoo open at that time..now the cement slab behind Bahama Breeze?

  18. Scott October 22, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    Same shopping center where Service Merchandise was…

    Macy’s Furniture location used to be an Upton’s department/clothing store.

    And of course, we could drive ourselves crazy listing all of the car dealerships that have come and gone along Alpharetta Hwy, Mansell, and the immediate areas.

  19. Travis Allen October 22, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    Razzoo’s was open until late 2003 before closing.

    I never heard an official reason, but I recall that there were difficulties in selling an appropriate ratio of food vs. alcohol.

  20. Glen October 22, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    I took advantage of that half off Sandwich thing a few times while I was working at that Service Merchandise. However I really loved the Baja Fresh that took over that spot for a few years. Dalia’s was ok also.

  21. SCSA31274 October 22, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    Where was the Service Merchandise? Also, I loved Cooker. Great stick to your ribs food. Sad when it closed.

  22. Glen October 23, 2013 at 8:09 am #

    Service Merchandise was in the shopping center with Sports Authority. Rooms to Go in the parking lot. Its where Home Goods is now.I believe its called Mansell Crossing Shopping Center. Sorry, no casino’s there!

  23. Greg October 28, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    There also used to be an Applebees. Used to go to that place all the time in highschool.

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