Archive - March, 2014

Da Vinci’s Donuts – Main Street

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.

davincis logoThere’s a new player in the doughnut game after your wallet and waistline. And this ones doing it old school.

Ohio natives Andrew and Melissa Rudd have left corporate life behind to follow a dream that began a long time ago in Melissa’s childhood kitchen making doughnuts with her mother and grandmother. Da Vinci’s Donuts opened recently on Main Street next to the defunct Alfrescos. What makes Da Vinci different than all the other shops in town?

They serve an old-fashioned, classic grab-it-and-dunk-it-in-your-coffee kind of doughnut. A cake doughnut. It’s a dense, yet light delicious two bite fist full of flavor. Yes they come from a commercial mix and yes they are less labor intensive than yeast doughnuts but who cares? They’re great! Take a box to your office and time how fast they disappear.

The box is different in itself. Designed to look and function like a pizza box, it keeps the doughnuts in their place. It’s strong enough to stack several dozen on top of each other without the fear of crushing the lower layers.

DaVinci boxThere are tons of flavors to choose from. Flavors range from the classic powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar to the more outlandish Samoa and my personal favorite, maple bacon. Don’t squinch your nose at the thought of a bacon topped doughnut. It is worth your while. The sweet cake combined with the savory bacon tied together with the maple icing? Oh yeah it’s good.

Don’t see anything you like? You can have them build a custom doughnut. Start with a base doughnut and add any type of icing toppings or drizzles that your heart desires. While much of the menu is set, there will be rotating seasonal flavors. New creations are in development like a pineapple upside down doughnut or chocolate mint.

Right out of the gate, Da Vinci’s is putting a large focus on the community involvement. They encourage creativity with a large chalkboard wall in the restaurant where patrons are free to express themselves however they would like within good taste. They also have several items from a local artist for sale in the restaurant. Look for many other local artists work to adorn the walls in the future.

Da Vinci’s opens early 6 AM and closes at 1 PM. On Fridays they reopen at 6 PM and are open until 9, and Saturday they’re open all day long to catch the later day crowds that most of the other unique doughnut shops miss. They make donuts fresh all day long. Look for them to be open on Thursday nights also to try to capture some of the crowds that come downtown for Food Truck Alley.

Da Vinci’s Donuts on Urbanspoon

Da Vinci’s Donuts has a warm and inviting feel to the space like you’re coming into someone’s kitchen. My only complaint is the doughnuts are too darn small. That’s something I’ll have to learn to live with.

Council agenda: City Center and Northpoint LCI

Tonight’s Alpharetta City Council meeting has a handful of interesting items to follow, including City Center issues.

The first will be a proposal to add a Veterans War Memorial to the park in City Center. Tonight Council will likely change the master plan to allow for such a memorial. Design of the memorial and funding are still to be determined.

And the city will draft a second request for qualifications for development of the four outparcels at City Center. Alpharetta received interest last year from several developers but stopped the process shortly thereafter. This second, grouped effort begins again tonight.

Council is likely partially divided on the issue of allowing residential over retail in downtown. We’ll see if this issue comes up again tonight or if it will resurface once proposals are considered. Nevertheless this blogger thinks the votes are there to allow it to happen.

And finally, Council has a workshop agenda item to discuss the Northpoint LCI study. About a year and a half ago there seemed to be some interest in watering down this plan, perhaps reducing the densities it suggested. We’ll see if that interest is still present or where the conversation may lead.

This LCI plan sets aside land for the development of a MARTA transit station near the mall. If Council is truly serious about halting MARTA expansion into Alpharetta then they should remove this designation altogether.

Life is better outside, just not in Alpharetta

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

It’s that time of year again. The days are longer, the temps are warmer, the pollen is coming and the legs are whiter than ever. It’s springtime. Residents are venturing out of their homes to take advantage of all the outdoor activities the Alpharetta area has to offer, and that includes dining.

Many restaurants offer some sort of patio or deck for alfresco eats. The problem is that the vast majority of them are terrible. They’re just add on spaces with no real reason to exist. A few tables and chairs with umbrellas, a unique outdoor dining experience does not make. Places like Scratch, The Corner Deli, The KFC (sorry, Salt Factory) and Burger Fi have smallish patios where you can enjoy your entrees with a side of exhaust and nothing to look at but concrete.

Why can’t we have a cool place to eat outdoors? This is Alpharetta after all, the place where the elitists can drive high tech golf balls into giant nets.

Crab shack tybeeOne of the best outdoor spaces that I’ve eaten at is the Crab Shack on Tybee Island. It’s a true experience. Huge trees adorned with Christmas lights cover a deck overhead with a view of the marsh in the distance.

Now I know we have no such marsh or water feature here, save Lake Lanier or a rare retention pond, but can we at least have a view of something that wasn’t made by man?

Hop Alley’s front deck is pretty cool. The view isn’t too great, but at least there is shade (and beer) and you’re protected from the traffic. The potential rooftop deck at South Main Kitchen in downtown would be a large step in the right direction. Taco Mac on Windward as well as the nearby Hudson Grille have patios with giant TV’s all over. It takes away from the connecting with those around you, unless you want to stare at Sportscenter, then by all means.

The rooftop deck at Cincos as well as the patio at Tanners in Vickery Village are both winners in my book. The whole vibe of Vickery is pretty cool. You feel as if you are in a neighborhood.

Some places can transform to bring the outside in by opening up garage type doors like Pure or Marlow’s at the Collection. Nice, but it’s just not what I’m looking for and what Alpharettians deserve.

We’ve got great weather in the south. That’s why we all live here. Why are we trapped inside to eat? I would love someone to step up and make a truly unique outside eating experience. Your hard work will be rewarded.

Photo credit: jeanphony (creative commons)

Oversimplifying zoning opposition discredits hard-working, concerned citizens

Last week Hatcher Hurd with the Appen newspapers wrote an editorial titled “Zoning decisions: Why can’t they just say no?” He attempted to explain why zonings are contentious. Hatcher boiled down opposition to those who just want government to say no to all zonings. It was a very one-sided article.

kennedy hatcher tweet

Autocorrect gets me every time.

Unfortunately Alpharetta Councilman Mike Kennedy praised the article on both and twitter. He suggested the opinion I’m going to express here is not his experience.

Like Hatcher, I’ve followed a lot of zoning cases in north Fulton and south Forsyth. My experience with the opposition is quite different. The citizens of this area are intelligent, highly educated and generally slant towards being conservative Republicans. They understand property rights.

They’re not dummies. They understand that growth is coming but want it managed. Citizens are concerned with traffic and road capacity. And they’re keenly aware of the situation at local schools pertaining to overcrowding.

Citizens want things like comprehensive land use plans followed. Nearly every zoning request pushes the envelope, asking for a one or two notch jump in density classification. They usually get it.

As frustration grows, opponents form grassroots organizations. You’ve probably heard of a few of these. In Alpharetta you’ve got guys like Windward Homeowners Inc. Preserve Rural Milton has been very busy recently. South Forsyth has no less than four community groups working zoning cases. I’ve been fortunate to meet folks from most of these groups. They put in hours and hours of tireless work. They’re meeting with developers, planers and politicians, working to find common ground and compromise. These are smart guys and gals who know the process and are working within it.

But that’s not the narrative Mr Hurd and Mr Kennedy would like to be told. Their comments do a disservice to citizen groups like this and their hard work.

Are there some citizens who want no development at all? I’m sure there are. But don’t boil down all zoning opposition like this. The citizens are smarter than you think. They want growth managed and the processes followed. Is that too much to ask?

Alpharetta Restaurant News – March 2014

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

This has been an extraordinary week for new restaurant openings. So many have opened and announced surprises that I’m running this monthly column a week early. Let’s get right into it.

cafe 101The Buford Highway invasion of Johns Creek continues. Cafe 101 began their soft opening Wednesday. They also confirmed that their chef worked at the Doraville Cafe 101 three years ago before that restaurant changed ownership. They along with Liu Fu represent a small but hopefully growing trend of authentic Asian cuisine moving from the Buford Highway corridor to this suburb, perhaps following their clientele. Look for them at the intersection of Jones Bridge and Douglas Roads.

House of Hummus opened last week on North Point near the mall. This Mediterranean restaurant out of the Tallahassee area features shawarma, gyros, a real good lentil soup and hummus of course.

Neopolitian pizzeria 850°F Bar Pizza also opened this week in Crabapple. The big story here is that they hired Stefano Rea to man their oven. Rea is no stranger to this space. He put in a brief stint at Erwoods before it closed. But you’re more likely to remember him as the friendly chef at Campania. He left that gig three months ago.

Next to Campania you’ll find Kickshaw Tavern and Grill which is now open. And Volcano Asian Bistro is now open on Windward in Xian’s old digs. Both restaurants do sushi, but Volcano’s doing it right next to Sushi Nami. Gutsy.

12 slices logoNo restaurant news article would be complete without talking pizza. Back in January we talked about the parting of ways between Jersey Boyz and their Johns Creek franchisee. Looks like his promised independent pizzeria is coming to life. It’ll be called 12 Slices and will be in the same location at 9945 Jones Bridge Road.

Down on Mansell Road you’ll soon find a second location of Kennesaw’s Big Pie in the Sky. You might remember these guys from being on Travel Channel’s Man vs Food show a few years back. If you’re up for trying their carnivore challenge pizza, look for them across from the Melting Pot.

Zoes Kitchen continues their rapid expansion with a new location at The Collection at Forsyth (fka The Avenue). They will open in the former Movie Stop store near Mellow Mushroom. And while you’re there, froyo and cupcake joint Sweet Monkey is now open at The Collection.

We’ve been able to confirm that the Sedgwick Restaurant Group will open a restaurant in the long-vacant Coro spec restaurant building on Roswell Street in downtown Alpharetta. You’ll know the Sedgwicks from places like Pure Taqueria and Vinny’s. With Pure, their newly opened office and now this space, they’ll soon own this entire block of Roswell Street. We’re heard rumors of what the new concept will be but have not confirmed.

But if you want rumors, here’s one. Fried chicken and biscuit purveyor Bojangles may be eying a location in Alpharetta. Word is that they may have an outparcel at the new Twin Oakes shopping center at Old Milton and North Point Parkways. No plans have been filed as of yet.

And Florida-based Burger 21 announced the signing of a new franchisee for what they call “South Alpharetta”. Two years ago they announced a franchisee for the north part of our town. Again, we’ve seen no firm plans that they are building here at this time. They’re pretty late to the burger party.

And speaking of burgers… Indy joint Scratch Fresh will move down the strip mall into the former Fish House/Boga location. The new space will be larger and give them a bit more road exposure. Look for their new digs to open in about a month.

On the closed list this month is Rita’s Italian Ice on McGinnis Ferry and Lupe’s Cantina on Peachtree Parkway. And my blogger friend Eli Zandman reports that Windward’s Cosmic Deli will close this week.

Restaurants Coming Soon
37 Main – A Rock Cafe – Restaurant, bar and music venue coming to Johns Creek in April.
Sip Wine & Tapas – Second location coming soon to The Collection (fka The Avenue) in Forsyth.
Tin Roof Kitchen - The new restaurant at 52 North Main in Alpharetta.
Cuoco Italian Restaurant – The ever renamed Italian restaurant on GA141 near Sharon Road in Forsyth.
South Main Kitchen – Louis Soon’s new restaurant on Main Street in downtown Alpharetta.
Mary’s Bread Basket – Small sandwich chain opening in Forsyth’s Vickery Village.
Utopia Bar – Coming to Johns Creek near Sugo.
Crust – Pizza joint opening in Alfresco’s former location on Main and Old Milton.
DaVinci’s Donuts – This cake doughnut maker should open next week!
First Watch – They will anchor the new Twin Oaks shopping center being built on Old Milton and North Point.
El Don Bar and Grill – Mexican restaurant on Atlanta Highway in south Forsyth.
Tower Burger – Will they ever finish?

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