Archive - June, 2014

Crust Pasta and Pizzeria – Main Street

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. Thanks to Mike for filling in for me while on vacation. I’m back to blogging next week. -Lee

crust logoThere are no fewer than 20 pizza places within the 30004 zip code.  While that does count national chains like Pizza Hut, it is a staggering number.  How can this area support that many pies?  Because Americans consume nearly three billion pizzas a year.  Here in Alpharetta, we have a wide variety of pizzas to choose from ranging from New York and Chicago style and Neapolitan, to mom and pop joints vs. national chains.  It’s pizza mania I tell ya!

The newest contenders for your pepperoni dollar is the unfortunately named Crust, which is situated in the old Alfrescos location on Main Street.  I know that the crust is part of the pizza, but it sounds like a medical condition.  Not very appetizing.

The layout inside is very much like Alfresco with a bar in the front, mostly tables and a few booths.  The materials inside are nice and inviting.  Wood beams reclaimed from a place in Woodstock are hung from the ceiling and wood also surrounds several TV’s.   Brick and metal round everything  out.   It’s all very nice.  You can tell time was spent on the décor.  One nit-pick about the booths.  The pad that you sit on does not stay in place as you slide in.  It bunched underneath me and cause great shuffling and rearranging to get comfortable.

Enough HGTV, let’s get to the food, man.  The menu features salads, pastas, pizzas and sandwiches or rather “crustwiches”.  Those are sandwiches on nice and toasty flatbread.  I had the meatball crustwich and found it delightful.  It featured sliced house made meatballs smothered in cheese and just enough toast on the bread to give tons of flavor.  A winner.  We also had the mozzarella sticks and garlic knots.  The mozzarella sticks were large and flat.  Good crunch, but the marinara sauce was weak, watery and a little overloaded on garlic.  At least it does come out screaming hot.

The garlic knots were gigantic.  Looked like a nearly foot long breadstick tied in a knot covered with garlic butter sauce.  Soft and messy.  I hate that there were five.  It’s always an odd number.  My wife and I fought over the last one.

My wife had salads on each occasion.  The Greek salad tasted good, but it looked like it had been though a shredder.  It was so very hard to eat with a fork, we needed a large spoon.  She also had the buffalo chicken salad.  The chicken was very spicy and plentiful.  The greens were crisp.  It was a much better experience than the Greek salad.

Crust pizza sliceNow, to the pizza.  I was going to go with my traditional every-mammal-represented all-meat pizza.  However I was drawn to the BBQ chicken pizza.  I chose wisely.  It was outstanding.  Chunks of marinated chicken with red onion mixed in with gouda cheese and drizzled with BBQ sauce all combined for a heavenly pizza trip.  The red onion was small enough to lend some flavor, but to not overpower the taste or be too crunchy.  The fact that the sauce was drizzled on the pizza and not smothered all over was also an advantage.  All the flavors were in perfect balance.  A symphony of pizza.  The crust was the kicker.  Slightly sweet with a hint of pretzel.  The bottom was thin and crispy, yet was pliable like NY style.  I can’t wait to get it again.

Crust seems to be a good fit for Alpharetta.  Locally owned, locally sourced ingredients, and pretty darn good pizza.  Owner Darren Henderson has a long pedigree in the pizza business.  He spent the last four years as at Blue Moon Pizza, and before that was a managing partner at Carrabbas for 13 years.  Pizza is no passing fancy for him.  The staff has been friendly for the most part.  There are local beers from Jekyll and Monday represented as well as liquors from the 13th Colony distillery in Americus.

Crust Pasta & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Crust has the goods to at least outlive it’s predecessor if not continue on for many years.

Where are they now?

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.

I’ve been writing for this blog for over 2 years now.  I’ve reviewed tons of places and met a lot of great people.  One thing that’s always bothered me are the places that I’ve reviewed that have closed.  Starting a restaurant is one of the hardest things one can do.  The success rate is extremely low.  It got me thinking.  What if I took one of Lee’s restaurant news posts from April of 2012 to see where are they now?  Have they survived?  Thrived or failed?

Impanema Brazilian Steakhouse -  Lee and I have eaten there before.  It’s Fogo De Chou on a budget without table service.  You go to the meat.  Not bad.Ipanema

Pollo Tropical on Haynes Bridge – Proposed at the time.  Now open and seemingly doing very well along with the grouping of chains Chipotle, Zoe’s Kitchen and the Corner Bakery Cafe.

Kabab and Wraps in Milton -  Amazingly still around in the cursed location next to the Exxon and Subway on Webb Road at Morris Road.  It looks like they’ve broken the Yeti’s curse in this space.

Romeo’s NY Pizza in Crabapple -  Never been there but the pepperoni is still flying here.

Blind Murphy Craft Beer Market -  The growler craze was in its infancy in 2012. Blind Murphy was one of the first to take full advantage with a good location, extensive selection, great passion for beer and three free samples.  Blind Murphy was the first of the numerous local growler stores to be closed.  Previous owner David Sheets is currently working on a line of alcoholic sodas and craft beers.

Mirko Pasta in Johns Creek  – Was rapidly growing in 2012. Not the same story today. This location may soon be a goner.

One Star Ranch -  Still demolished and a distant memory. Now is a retirement home.

And for restaurant on the coming soon list back then…

Alfresco – Gone.  Now Crust.

Meat and Potatoes Kitchen & Bar – Closed.  I miss Rio Bravo.

The Velvet Note – Chugging along on Old Milton.

Joe’s NY Pizzeria – Open and very popular.

Uncle Maddio’s Pizza – Inexplicably still around.

Tassa Carribean Express – Now called Tassa Carribean Buffet and still open

What places have come and gone over the last few years that you would like to mention?

Alpharetta Restaurant News – June 2014

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

We don’t have a lot to report on this month. Restaurant news tends to be seasonal it seems, and summer is slow. But pretty soon we’ll need to revisit the Avalon restaurant lineup as they near a Fall opening. In the meantime, here’s what Alpharetta-area gastronomes can expect in the coming months.

Chicken Salad Chicks logoTalk about a niche restaurant. An up and coming new chain out of Alabama is set to make an appearance near North Point. Chicken Salad Chick will open near the new Guitar Center across from Best Buy. Their only other metro Atlanta location is in east Cobb. I love a good chicken salad sandwich which will probably translate into a visit. We’ll see if there is anything else on the menu to keep folks coming back.

Grilled fish and peri peri chicken purveyor Boneheads is opening on Windward. Look for them in the Windward Crossing shopping center at the corner of North Point. We’re not exactly sure which storefront they will control, but it’s likely on the left side of the building near Sri Krishna Vilas. This shopping center has reached critical mass. Good luck finding a parking spot during the lunchtime rush.

And for some news to make you ill tempered… The AJC reported this week that Alpharetta’s Grouchy’s Deli is being sued by South Carolina-based “Groucho’s” over name similarities. The suit is baseless in my opinion. Hopefully it will have the positive effect of bringing extra business to this little mom and pop deli. Unfortunately they will probably have to spend thousands on lawyers to defend against this nonsense.

oh boy logoThree new joints have opened in the last month in Johns Creek. Utopia on Medlock Bridge was the first. Senor Patron opened two weeks ago in the former Chepe’s. This is the second location for the Mexican joint out of Midtown. Also check out Oh Boy Rotisserie and Tacos in the former BB’s location on State Bridge. Their Peruvian-style eats impressed me on my first visit this week.

And folks over at 285foodies.com have reported that the Old Milton location of Wok and Chopsticks has closed. The McFarland restaurant of the same name is still around.

Restaurants Coming Soon
Costa Vida - Southwest grill set to open near The Collection in Fosyth County.
Senior Quintin Mex-Grill – Another Mexican joint to try opening on Peachtree Parkway in extreme south Forsyth. A very cursed location.
Spice Afro Caribbean Cuisine - Coming soon to Milton, Highway 9 near Montana’s.
Dancing Mouth Indian Restaurant - Small little Indian concept coming to Jordan Court near Costco.
Tower Burger – I’ll buy you a beer if you can put me in contact with the owner of this mysterious new restaurant.
South Main Kitchen – Louis Soon’s new restaurant on Main Street in downtown Alpharetta.
First Watch – They will anchor the new Twin Oaks shopping center being built on Old Milton and North Point.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse - Planning a Fall opening in the former Rainwater space on Haynes Bridge.
Zoes Kitchen – New location at The Collection in Forsyth near Mellow Mushroom.
Made Kitchen and Cocktails – New concept from the Sedgwicks coming to Roswell Street in downtown Alpharetta.
2b Whole European Gluten-Free Bakery - New bakery to open on Milton Avenue in downtown Alpharetta. They’re at the farmer’s market a lot if you want to give them a try.

Ruth’s Chris will sell the sizzle in Alpharetta

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

Ruths Chris logo smallRuth’s Chris Steakhouse announced yesterday the relocation of their Sandy Springs restaurant to Alpharetta. And they’re entering town in a bold way. They won’t be leasing their new digs but rather have purchased the land and building at 11655 Haynes Bridge Road. Readers will know this as the former Rainwater restaurant.

Behind the effort are franchisees Jim Brooks, Phil Brooks, Mark Oswald and Nancy Oswald. They are the largest owners within the Ruth’s Chris chain with locations across the Southeast.

Blogger Caleb Spivak at WhatNowAtlanta.com had rumored of their Sandy Springs closure going back as far as 2010. The lease was coming to an end and the DOT has plans to widen Roswell Road at 285. Ruth’s Chris called this area home for over 20 years.

The former Rainwater spot is the perfect location. Measuring in at a staggering 18,000 square feet, the building includes a banquet hall and climate-controlled wine storage for 9,000 bottles. It was built in 2001 to be the home of Rainwater, an award-winning restaurant at the time. It closed and the space remained vacant for years. The short-lived Chill Restaurant and Lounge opened here in June of last year and abruptly closed three months later.

Given the current trend of restaurant openings, no one seemed to want a space this large. By comparison, Alpharetta’s Sedgwick Restaurant Group is chopping up a much smaller building on Roswell Street, reducing the restaurant space down to the size of a small apartment.

But the Rainwater space will fit Ruth’s Chris like a glove. And its proximity to the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce should give it a steady flow of business for years to come.

Expect an opening in the Fall of this year. The timing should make things interesting. Competition for expense account restaurants is heating up. Ruth’s Chris’ biggest new competitor will likely be Avalon’s Oak Steakhouse. The restaurant out of Charleston should make a big slash when they hit Alpharetta. And of course Ruth’s Chris will face ongoing competition from places like Cabernet on Windward. They were the first to bring prime steaks to Alpharetta a generation ago and are still at it.

Ruth’s Chris will put a lot of pressure on other higher-end joints nearby. Village Tavern is just on the other side of the parking lot and also comes to rely on the Chamber for business. And a block down the road is Sage Woodfire Tavern.

Is Alpharetta’s Rainwater a good fit for Ruth’s Chris? How will their arrival change the market for fine dining? Let me know with a comment.

The meth lab explosion local media didn’t tell you about

Once upon a time a meth lab exploded in an Alpharetta apartment – and local media never said a word.

meth08092

Meth seized in a 2012 drug bust in Alpharetta. Photo courtesy of 11alive.com.

Last week a Federal grand jury handed down 17 indictments to suspected members of a Mexican drug ring. This blogger found the story this week in the website of the Revue and News. One of the indicted was from Alpharetta. But way down in the story is mention of a January 3rd discovery of a meth lab.
That’s the part that jumped out at me.

On the evening of January 3rd, 2014 an apartment exploded in the Alara North Point complex off Haynes Bridge. No one was hurt in the explosion which blew the doors and blinds of the apartment out, landing in the trees outside. Police were called to the scene who discovered an operational methamphetamine laboratory. They also seized 11 pounds of crystal meth in the bust.

I was astonished at the story, mainly because I never knew about it. WSBtv out of Atlanta covered the story, as did the CBS affiliate. But on most days I don’t get my local news by watching Atlanta television.

None of the local weekly newspapers covered the story five months ago. Not the Revue and News, the Neighbor and certainly the Alpharetta Patch missed it. This blogger of course did as well.

Was it because we were coming off the long Christmas and New Years holiday break? Perhaps.

Or was the story kept on the down-low? WSB’s reporter mentioned in his January 4th report that police were being “tight-lipped”. Certainly it’s not the news narrative we’re accustomed to seeing coming out of this community.

Either way, five months ago or now, this is frightening stuff. I’m disappointed that local media (including myself) didn’t bring this story to the community. And I continue to be amazed at how Atlanta television runs circles around north Fulton-based journalists.

Fulton Science Academy breaks ground, again

Fulton Science Academy has broken ground on their new school campus, again. The site on Fanfare Way just off Westside Parkway has languished incomplete for two years in what has become a “Prospect Park” version two.

Fulton_Science_Academy_Campus

Artist rendering of the FSA campus, version two.

FSA is the formerly embattled charter school turned private school. Back in 2011 the then charter school issued revenue bonds through the Alpharetta Development Authority to construct a new campus. Grading for the project began but the school soon faced serious problems. Their charter was revoked by Fulton County citing transparency issues. Attempts to charter with the state failed. The construction project soon stalled and a bond default quickly followed. FSA has operated as a private school since.

In February 2013 a private benefactor purchased the nearly 30 acre tract of land on Fanfare Way in a foreclosure sale on the steps of the Fulton County Courthouse. That benefactor, TruGlobe Inc, still owns the land according to property records available online.

Last week the school pulled a building permit with the city to restart construction on the campus. The figures on the permit suggest the project would be approximately 70,000 square feet, about 20% smaller than the previously planned campus. The permit suggest the project costs in the neighborhood of $10.5 million.

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