Two newbie chain restaurants that impress – Great Harvest and Zoёs

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

I have a confession to make. I eat at chain restaurants.

Terrible huh? Yes it’s true. Figured it was best to get this out of the way now, lest a blog reader discover me and my family out at pizza buffet after a little league baseball game and feel disappointed. Sure we try to support the mom and pop joints. I’m always dishing out generous helpings of free publicity, especially if they are good. But at the end of the day I’m just a guy who eats out a lot – and I’ve got the waistline to prove it.

great harvest logoTwo recent additions to Alpharetta’s chain restaurant scene have impressed me. They seem to be impressing others as well, especially the cubicle ladies and tennis moms. They’re on these two joints like white on rice. That’s usually a good sign.

Leading off is Great Harvest Bread. Technically this is a franchise operation, not a chain. Nevertheless the Johns Creek franchisee has opened a second location in Alpharetta at Windward and Main Street.

My wife and I have been trying to eat less processed foods. Great Harvest fits the bill perfectly. Their breads, baked fresh in-house, are made with simple ingredients. Contrast that to the garbage in the grocery store these days. Your average loaf of bread is a chemistry project in how to extend shelf life.

So go try some samples. Great Harvest is plenty generous with them. Try a French baguette? Merci. How about some of this snickerdoodle loaf we’re working on? Don’t mind if I do! Chocolate biscotti? Munch munch.

Save some room for your meal because they have an actual menu here. I tried the spicy smoked turkey panini. It’s not a hard pressed panini yet is still warm with grill marks. I liked the roasted red peppers and how their sweetness contrasted with the spicy chipotle mayo. It looked small but was filling. The samples didn’t hurt to fill me up either.

Skip the potato chips as your side and opt for a cookie. The oatmeal raisin is huge – the size of a frisbee. They’ve somehow managed to make a chewy cookie that still has a crunch to it. Great Harvest simply nailed it on texture.

Breakfast isn’t a bad choice here either but is a little on the pricy side. A blueberry muffin will set you back three bucks. Nevertheless it’s dense and will easily fill you up for the morning.

Overall, Great Harvest is a winner. It’s a terrific alternative to something like Panera, a chain I’m not fond of at all.

Rounding out my duet of new chain restaurants is Zoёs Kitchen. These guys are taking over suburbia. Fresh off their recent IPO, they are expanding rapidly. A location at The Collection Forsyth is in the works.

The store on Haynes Bridge near the mall is crazy popular. I dare you to find a parking spot. I couldn’t at 12:15 yesterday and risked a visit from the tow truck by parking at the nearby hotel.

Zoes Beans and Chicken rollupLike Great Harvest, Zoёs strives for simple and fresh ingredients, yet with a Mediterranean feel.

Try the chicken roll-up. Despite having a rather boring name, this little rolled up tortilla packs a flavorful punch. The marinated and grilled chicken is perfect. Feta and caramelized onions are simple but delicious. It’s a lite and refreshing warm weather lunch that doesn’t let you down. Unfortunately the salsa on the side seems like an afterthought. Resist the urge to dip your roll-up in it.

I liked my side item better. Braised white beans with rosemary hits the spot. Only decorum prevented me from swabbing my finger into the empty cup for every last drop of this white bean goop.

So give these two new chain restaurants a try. And when you speak of Zoёs, don’t forget the umlauts.

Zoës Kitchen on Urbanspoon Great Harvest Bread Company on Urbanspoon

11 Responses to “Two newbie chain restaurants that impress – Great Harvest and Zoёs”

  1. Katie April 25, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    I absolutely love Great Harvest! Their bread is definitely the best as well as the cookies. The one comlaint I have about this place is that they are WAY too proud of their sandwich prices. Sandwiches are good, but not that good. This will not turn me away from their delicious breads though. We need a Fickle Pickle type in Alpharetta to get a good, money worthy sandwich.

  2. Travis Allen April 25, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    I will certainly have to walk over to Great Harvest and give them another shot.

    After going when they first opened, I wasn’t too impressed by their workers knowledge of their offerings.

  3. Cool Papa Bell April 25, 2014 at 10:20 am #

    Katie, while I definitely like Fickle Pickle, IMHO Wildflour is much better. Bread and most meats (turkey not being one of them) made on premise.

  4. A April 25, 2014 at 10:37 am #

    We actually prefer the new Taziki’s on Windward over Zoe’s. Food is almost identical but Taziki’s is much cozier inside and feels less like a fast casual place.

    We’d love to try Great Harvest, but they are a bit annoying by closing on Sundays and Mondays. Why Mondays?? Doesn’t make sense. That’s a strike against them in my book.

  5. Frank April 25, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    I have to agree with Katie. I really enjoy the food but it’s a bit expensive. I get your paying for quality ingredients but that being said two loafs, and spreads cost me $33. That being said I’ll get breads on the occasion but I can’t justify going every weekend like I’d like. Maybe I’ll see you there Katie ;)

  6. chefmoss April 25, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

    Great bread is not far away at Theos Brothers and if you go half hour before they close it’s half price!

  7. Katie April 25, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    I’ll be there ;) but maybe only for the free samples…

  8. Mala April 25, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

    Chefmoss: thanks for the tip on theos bread. Lee is right on the money with grocery bread being a chemistry project. I grew up with an old world European mother who woke up at 5 am to go to the basement (the bakery) to make us fresh bread every morning. After 24 hours, real bread is as hard as a rock. Bread should not stay soft for 2 weeks. In the small country my family is from in Europe, fresh bread is sold from little tiny booths that can be found on any block. Everyone buys their bread from these booths before breakfast and the bread booths close by 10am. I love good real bread.

    The international gourmet food market on Main Street (near seven seas) brings in bread from a bakery in Laurenceville. This stuff is the real deal and inexpensive. No preservatives and very few ingredients. No worries about shelf life as it never lasts for more than a day in my house.

  9. Mala April 25, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

    Lee: I like your honesty about chain restaurants. Friends have told me that they don’t like Zoe’s because the portion sizes are too small and they leave still feeling hungry? Is this true?

  10. Ben April 25, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

    zoe’, taziki’s, and jim n’ nicks. Birmingham, Alabama does come up with some great eats.

  11. Sewducky April 28, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    It took me a few times for my picky self to find something I like but Zoe’s has a become a favorite. I found the “protein power plate” with just meat and veggies (subbed for slaw). Most other plates seem to have more items included, that have an ingredient I’m not a fan of/dieting. If you’re a picky eater you may go home hungry because you skipped the rice, pita, or salad included with most meals. So go with simpler items and you’ll be happier. When in doubt ask.

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