Archive - November, 2014

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

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.

Winter is upon is here in the South. And by winter I mean lows in the 30‘s and highs in the 50‘s, normally. I’ve lived in Atlanta for 40 years and can count on one hand the number of severe winters I’ve seen. Snow drifts and mittens are not why we are all in the great state of Georgia. We love to be outside, hiking on the Greenway, catching some rays on Lake Lanier, and cruising with the top down. We also love to eat outside.

A lot of restaurants in Alpharetta have some sort of alfresco space. No matter how small the patio or how terrible the views, folks flock to these outdoor spaces to take advantage of the 7-8 months of favorable weather.

But what happens in the winter? Most places put portable heaters outside or slap up plastic sheets to keep the cold at bay. Those are both fine, but I was looking for more. I drew back on my college days of bonfires in the field. That’s what I wanted. Fire. Primitive; it speaks to our deepest natures. Are there any restaurants in Alpharetta that would have such a feature? I found two, and oddly, both of them have the fire inside.

The Village Tavern on Haynes Bridge has a huge fireplace in the middle of the dining room. It’s impressive and certainly hot, but only the tables immediately around it can benefit from its warmth. The other is 5 Seasons Brewing on Old Milton Parkway. The mountain chalet feel of the building is echoed with the tall round fire pit near the bar. More show than go, it is a very cool place to hang out with your friends and have an in-house brewed beer.

You could say, why would any restaurant spend money making an outdoor fire feature considering the relatively short amount of time it’s cold here? I say why not? Restaurants are a year round business. Would you rather go to a place and eat outside next to the buzz of a rented space heater, or feast on a meal next to a roaring, crackling fire? Having the fire just makes the food better. Heck, I’d go hang out at a doughnut shop if I could suck down my glazed goodness fireside.

Avalon is on the right track. They have two areas of outdoor fire. There’s the “Living Room” with a fire pit and an outdoor fireplace near the skating rink. They aren’t involved with a restaurant, but you are encouraged to enjoy your open container by the fire.

It’s time we take advantage the worst time of the year called winter. I would love to see more outdoor fire features in Alpharetta’s eateries. Those places would get my cold hard cash.

Alpharetta rolls out Rately

The City of Alpharetta has partnered with local technology firm Digital Scientists to promote a new location-aware mobile application. Called Rately, the Android and iPhone app will offer shoppers rewards programs.

rately logoWe’ve seen apps like this come and go over the years. The idea certainly isn’t new. And technology like this isn’t new from even Alpharetta-based companies. Back in 2011 NCR (formerly Radiant Systems) rolled out a similar app that leveraged that company’s existing presence in the cash registers of restaurants. It didn’t gain acceptance in the marketplace. The challenge has always been either with flaky GPS locations or having a process that requires restaurant staff to check you in.

Rately stands a chance to make it here for a few reasons. First, they are using a bluetooth-based location technology to check users into a business based on proximity to a sensor. This should be more reliable that GPS however users will have to enable bluetooth on their phones at all times.

Second, Rately already has wide retail participation from the very get go. By partnering with the city and its tight-knit business coalition, they have a huge local adoption rate. Nearly every downtown retailer and restaurant is already on board in addition to several along Windward Parkway and at Avalon.

Another draw with Rately is it’s anonymous. Every other app wants to maintain profiles, collect data and build dossiers on your shopping and dining habits. Not Rately. No login is required and it isn’t spamming your Facebook friends.

This program is very new and way too early to review. However the biggest drawback I see is the lack of serious rewards from the Alpharetta restaurants and merchants participating. For example, South Main Kitchen is offering a paltry 10% off your bill after ten visits. Others are doing buy one get one free deals after several visits. That’s about it. Restaurants are going to have to sweeten the deal a good bit before consumers install apps. But we’ll see.

Do you think Rately will gain widespread use in Alpharetta? You can download it at iTunes and the Google Play store.

Alpharetta Restaurant News – November 2014

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

North Carolina-based fast food burger chain Cook-Out may open an Alpharetta location. The restaurant has filed plans with the city to open at 11475 Haynes Bridge Road in the former Backyard Burger location. This location has stood vacant for about six years but is perfect for Cook-Out as it will require little in the way of renovation and is already equipped with a drive-thru lane.

CookOutRestaurantMy blogging friend Eli Zandman has chronicled Cook-Out’s metro Atlanta expansion in a series of articles. Their choice to open in Alpharetta frankly came as a surprise to me. The restaurant competes at the low end and often targets college markets. And this particular location puts them directly adjacent to The Varsity who certainly would be a competitor. I’ve tried Cook-Out once on a recent visit to North Carolina and found it to be pretty good for fast-food.

And while we’re talking burgers, Tower Burger opened yesterday.

We’re hearing reports of another new downtown Alpharetta restaurant, although this one will be a tad up Main Street. The name will be Creative Studio Cafe. Details have not yet emerged on the concept but hopefully I’ll know more by this time next month. We’re hearing they may be a gallery and restaurant combination. Look for them at 160 North Main Street a little past the Methodist Church.

beer with frameLocal growler store pioneer Crafty Draught has closed their original south Forsyth location. Their Old Milton store in Alpharetta is still around. While Forsyth County was the first municipality in this area to permit growler stores, they refused to adapt their laws like Alpharetta and Johns Creek. This made it difficult or impossible for stores to offer perks like samples and flights of beer. As a result, every small growler store in the south part of the county is now gone. Way to be business friendly there Forsyth County. Or perhaps the growler business is going flat. It’s probably a little of both.

Taking their place will be Growler Works. That’ll be the name of a new growler store in the Medlock Bridge Shopping Center in Johns Creek. Look for them directly behind Egg Harbor Cafe.

2B Whole Gluten Free Bakery opened at the end of October in downtown Alpharetta. Looks like this was an actual relocation from Kennesaw, not a second location for these ladies. They’re at 42 Milton Avenue and also at the Alpharetta Farmers Market. Also opening since last month is Eggs Up Grill in the Publix shopping center in Crabapple.

And finally, Ruth’s Chris Steak House will open on November 24th after a speedy buildout. And according to a press release they’ll forgo the ribbon-cutting in favor of ceremoniously cutting into their first steak. Cute.

Restaurants Coming Soon

The Farmhouse – Coffee and crepe shop opening in Johns Creek.
Boneheads – Grilled fish and peri peri restaurant coming to Windward near Sri Krishna Vilas. Should be open by the end of the year.
Anabelle’s Table – Their lease in south Forsyth fell through. Removing after this month until they reannounce an opening.
Made Kitchen and Cocktails – New Sedgwick concept in downtown Alpharetta. Expect a December opening.
Jay’s Mexican Grill and Taqueria – Slow buildout on McFarland Parkway.
JD’s Sports Pub & Pizza – Replacing TPS Pizza on Peachtree Parkway in Forsyth.
Tom and Chee – Grilled cheese shop to open near Chicken Salad Chick on North Point.
Piece of Cake – Bakery and cake joint also opening near Chicken Salad Chick.
Nothing Bundt Cakes - More cakes. This time at The Collection at Forsyth.
Smallcakes - And more cakes, cupcakes that is. 4055 Old Milton Parkway. Let them eat cake.
Another Broken Egg - Another location, this time in Johns Creek Walk.

Goldbergs vs BB’s – Tale of the tape

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

Most of the restaurant talk this week has revolved around Avalon of course. Everyone is abuzz about things like poutine with duck fat fries, burgers at Bocado and $20 taco plates from Ford Fry. Somewhere lost in the conversation is Goldbergs. We’ve got another water boiled bagel joint in town. That means a BB’s comparison is in order.

BBs vs Goldbergs

BB’s on left, Goldbergs on right. Notice residue from unwrapped everything bagel.

I hatched up this plan with a coworker. Known to most as simply “Murph”, the Jersey native will be perfect to join me in this project. Here’s what we did. One morning this week I hit Goldbergs while he went to BB’s on McFarland. We both ordered exactly the same thing – a plain bagel, an everything and some regular and vegetable cream cheeses. We spread out our bagel loot in a breakroom at the office along with a camera and ruler. After measuring, photographing and comparing receipts we set out to eating. Here’s what we found.

At five inches wide by about three and a half, these carbohydrate grenades measure in at exactly the same size. But on physical appearance, BB’s has it. Their regular bagel is golden brown compared to pale white from Goldbergs. The everything looked better as well. There’s simply more everything on the BB’s everything as it’s completely covered. But while Goldbergs lacks some toppings, their mixture contains caraway seeds. Even a few of these little guys changes the flavor of the bagel in a big way. Perhaps it’s personal preference but I didn’t care for them at all. The caraway was enough of a turnoff to keep me away from Goldberg’s everything in the future.

But let’s talk about texture. It only took one bite of the Goldberg bagel to tell it wasn’t there. The bagel lacked that chewy exterior which is a signature feature of water boiled bagels. It bordered on being a little doughy and undercooked. Thinking that perhaps I got the runt of the litter that day, I returned later in the week to try a Goldberg plain again. It was a little better but that chew simply isn’t there.

Bagel aftermath

The bagel battle aftermath

It’s possible that Goldbergs needs time. Many restaurants at Avalon are not firing on all cylinders at this point. BB’s has had years now to perfect their process. This week’s bagel from them was worlds better than that from Goldbergs but not the best I can remember from their shop.

We’ll call the cream cheese battle a draw, at least for the plain variety. They were indistinguishable to me. Murph gave BB’s the nod for the veggie cream cheese.

Oddly enough our order was more expensive at BB’s, $6.61 versus $5.68 for the same thing at Goldbergs. The cream cheese is very expensive at BB’s and you get less of it compared to Goldbergs. But it’s interesting that BB’s costs more considering the rent at Avalon is probably ten times what it is on nasty McFarland Parkway.

And speaking of nasty… Goldbergs is certainly cleaner. Many continue to be turned off by BB’s and their long history of below par health inspection grades.

It’s a little easier to get in and out of BB’s. Avalon isn’t exactly where you want to go for a quick to-go meal. The place is designed to draw you in and keep you there to linger. If you happen to be there for something else in the morning then Goldbergs is a good choice. But it’s hard to grab bagels from here and take back to your office elsewhere.

And finally, service was pretty good at both joints. They remembered my name on my second visit to Goldbergs. However, BB’s remembered to individually wrap our everything bagel. Attention to detail is important.

So at the end of it all, bagels from fancy digs at Avalon cannot unseat BB’s from their bagel throne.

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