What’s the best new Alpharetta-area restaurant of 2014?

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

This article is becoming a December tradition here on Roots and certainly one of my personal favorites. It’s a time to look back at all the new restaurants we’ve talked about and pick a favorite. Next week I’ll write about my favorite but I always open the conversation up to my readers first.

In 2012 we honored Breadtime with this distinction and gave Grand Champion BBQ a runner-up nod. Last year it was Campania and Hop Alley. For 2014, rather than list every new restaurant I’m going to narrow the field down to some finalists. Please leave me a comment with your favorite and why you think they need to win. And if I’ve unfairly left someone off the list then by all means let me know.

The finalists, in no particular order, are:

850°F Barpizza in Crabapple made a big splash this year when they became the second Neapolitan-style pizzeria in our area. They also stole hired away chef Stefano Rea from competitor and 2013 winner Campania. That alone should make them a finalist this year.

crust logoIt’s an understatement to say there’s good pizza in this area. That’s what makes Crust Pasta & Pizzeria stand out to me. They entered this crowded market in 2014 and easily vaulted to the top of most best pizza lists. Their Crust Special pizza, with sausage, peppers, onions and mushrooms is amazing. And their transformation of this former boring pizza shop is stunning, fitting right in with the growing downtown Alpharetta restaurant scene. Their packed parking lot also proves that Alpharetta restaurant patrons have endorsed Crust.

Down the street is South Main Kitchen. The exploding downtown restaurant scene continued this year with the opening of this restaurant by a former Salt Factory alum. And I love that they are right across the street as well. South Main’s buildout was stunning and creative, and the food ain’t that bad either. A finalist nod here is certainly in order.

You’d have to throw something in from Avalon, however management did these restaurants a huge disservice by forcing a shotgun start on October 30th. By and large these joints were woefully unprepared and not afforded the chance to work out kinks at soft openings. Egregious service and execution problems were the result. That’s too bad because there are some gems here. I’d nominate The El Felix for this article even though I’ve only been once. Their grub stood out to me, but the prices are through the roof. We’ll open the floor for other nominations from Avalon, perhaps Bocado Burger?

We found some delicious new spots on the Alpharetta side of Johns Creek in 2014. Maverick’s Cantina has potential. You’ve got to pick around the menu a bit to find the good eats, but their fried chicken tacos really shined.

The intersection of Douglas and Jones Bridge Roads is turning into a foodie mecca. In 2014 we saw the opening of Cafe 101. Their steamed dumplings are amazing and certainly unique for this area. If you’ve not been, please go. And I’m going to nominate the little taco shack across the street. El Trompo Mexican Taqueria brought a taste of authentic street tacos to the heart of the affluent burbs. Can a cheap taco shack be mentioned in the same breath as all the outstanding and beautiful restaurants above? Indeed they can. But are they worthy of winning it all? Humm.

What is your pick for the best new Alpharetta-area restaurant of 2014? Let me know in the comments.

28 comments on this post.
  1. Raj:

    I liked Bantu in Avalon better. While El Felix is good, their menu selections and flavor are quite similar to TaraHumata, but at a much higher price.

  2. Franklin:

    I would vote for South Main Kitchen with Crust being a close second. I go to Crust more often and the pizza is consistently very good, but the food at South Main Kitchen has been outstanding both times I have been.

  3. A:

    Of those Lee listed, my vote goes to Crust. I have been to El Felix (meal comped due to order ticket being lost on the way to the kitchen!), but like others have said the food is good but on the higher end. Have not tried South Main Kitchen but would like to, even with their pathetic attempt at a loyalty scheme through Rately.

    I’ve been to Breadtime on a number of occasions since they opened, but they always seem to be on the brink of shutting their doors. Closed at weird times, almost empty. I wonder how a restaurant that was so well regarded just a couple of years ago is in that position, or if it’s just me and they are actually doing really well.

  4. Cool Papa Bell:

    Very accurate list, except that you left off unquestionably the top two: Foundation Social Eatery and Peach & The Pork Chop, though both “area” and not Alpharetta.

    850 Bar Pizza, El Trompo, Buzy Burrito, Café 101 are among the elite and just a tiny notch below the big two but certainly in the elite tier. There is a drop off after that with The El Felix and South Main Kitchen. Do we truly mean “new” or just new to the area? If the latter Bocado deserves some love, but in the secondary list with SMK and TEF.

    Moxie Burger (again new to area, but a second location) and The Real Fix Pizza are a bit further from Alpharetta but all also good enough for the second tier of newcomers.

  5. Mike:

    I would also vote for Crust. Great food and vibe. My second vote is for El Don Mexican Bar & Grill. It’s in a terrible location, but it seems to be getting a good following now. No knock on El Porton, but it is a great alternative.

  6. David:

    850, and it’s not even close to the other nominees. We eat there almost once a week. Stefano is a great host. He introduced himself after noticing we were regulars and treated us to a special pasta dish he was proud of and his homemade Limoncello. It’s an awesome addition to Alpharetta.

  7. Joe:

    I’ve been to Crust several times and love the atmosphere and beer selection but the pizza has been inconsistent, great once, borderline the next time. Since reading about El Trompo here, I’ve been several times and keep going back for more, food is simple, fresh and always very good. The couple who owns it are very helpful and always there interacting with customers, this one gets my vote for best new restaurant….

  8. Jen:

    I’ve only tried El Felix from this list. I liked their decor. They did seem short staffed, but the staff that was in place went above and beyond to make up for the waits. The food is heartier and has a more homemade/fresh ingredient feel than other Mexican places. We ordered kids fries and they were big hand cut wedges with the skin. The tortilla soup had nice big chunky fresh vegetables. Based on one visit during their first week I’d say it’s a contender.

  9. Guy Incignito:

    What, no love for Tower Burger?

  10. BHK:

    I’m throwing my hat in for Cafe 101. It is so good.

    If you haven’t tried it yet, order the Basil Chicken, the juicy steamed dumplings, the pea shoot leaves, and the scallion beef.

  11. Lionel Thompson:

    Good call on El Don. The location is not ideal, but once inside, the hand painted artwork is stunning with the Day of the Dead theme, their molcajete for two perfect (what do you mean I have to SHARE it?!?!), and their salsa competent, make sure you as for their spicy green sauce with the chips, it’s fantastic.

    It’s not the be-all end-all of dining experiences, but for the price, for the lack of pretentiousness, and for the quality of the food, it is consistently my go-to choice after a long run.

  12. Kelly & Michael:

    Thank you Papa Bell for helping us find a new restaurant we knew nothing about – Peach & The Porkchop. We just finished having a late lunch there and absolutely loved it!
    Regarding the restaurants from Lee’s list, we like El Felix. Food and ambiance was good and we’d go back.

  13. Alissa:

    Breadtime is in the process of closing by end of this month. El Don is amazing and we are there every Saturday. I need to try Crust sometime soon.

  14. Travis Allen:

    I don’t know if any of the Avalon restaurants fit the bill as well as South Main Kitchen.

    We’ve been to Burger Fi…oops, I mean Bocado twice…nothing special.

    Moxie in Roswell was a much, much better addition to the burger scene.

  15. ZB:

    1 – 850 F Pizza
    2 – El Trompo
    3 – Crust
    4 – Peach & The Porkchop

  16. jb:

    BTW, got a notice from Breadtime this week that they have been sold.

  17. Calb:

    From your suggested list – only South Main is worthy of this honor.

  18. Greg:

    I am a big fan of South Main Kitchen, it’s my favorite in this list. Not the largest menu, but what’s on there is really good.

    I also like 850 a lot, it can be phenomenal, though sometimes it can be uneven when Stefano isn’t manning the oven.

    Cafe 101 brings Buford Hwy to the ‘burbs and it’s great to have their authentic Chinese cuisine much closer to home.

    Finally, Crust is really a great option for very good takeout pizza, especially with their curbside pickup.

    Sad to hear about Breadtime, but they haven’t been the same since the original couple stopped running the show.

  19. Cool Papa Bell:

    Kelly & Michael, glad you liked. Yea, while South Main has its roots firmly in Alpharetta, unless Alpharettans are married to their zip code, they are a distant third best in that genre of new restaurants in the “area.”

  20. A:

    Too bad about Breadtime. As I mentioned above, they’ve always seemed to be on shaky ground. The last time I went, which was in August, they had changed their hours to where they were only open for dinner a few times a week. At the time I commented that it looked like the beginning of the end, and sadly I was not wrong.

    Their FB page says it’s been under new ownership for a while, so are they still serving a German menu or will they switch over to something else? That location probably didn’t help them.

  21. Elijah Snow:

    Cafe 101 is really a fantastic addition to the area. It’s truly unlike anything else around here. Yes, Basil Chicken, and, hey, soup dumplings, anyone? They have them. So good. I also love the salt & pepper pork chops.

    But I have to agree with Cool Papa Bell: Foundation is clearly the winner, and they don’t even get a mention. And why? because they’re not quiiiiiite in Alpharetta? Come on, son. This is Alpharetta. Things make no sense here. You’re listing restaurants in Johns Creek, for Pete’s sake. We’re not really going to pay attention to gerrymandering, now are we?

  22. Mike:

    Crust is the best! Great food and great service! Love the alla vodka!

  23. S Lee Guy:

    I don’t follow the restaurant scene in Roswell. The reason mainly is that I don’t get down that way very often. My sources are not established there either. And besides, I have to draw a line somewhere. So the coverage age is Alpharetta, most of Milton, Johns Creek close to Alpharetta and south Forsyth approximately below The Collection.

  24. Frank D:

    Foundation Social Eatery in far and away the best restaurant in the Alpharetta area. Really there is no credible other choice.

  25. Ashlee:

    Hands down Crust!

  26. A:

    FWIW, Breadtime appears to be closed for the holidays. No idea if the new owners plan to keep the German cuisine or try something new.

  27. Kevin:

    Lots of good choices, but Crust gets my vote. Consistently good food and friendly service. Every server we’ve had there has been exceptionally cordial.

    South Main Kitchen was OK. Food was good, but I felt like it was overpriced for what we got. Also, $14 for a basic burger is pretty brave given the choices available at Hop Alley and Smokejack just a few doors away.

    I drive by Breadtime everyday and I’ve seen no activity there over the last 2 weeks. Hate to see them go.

  28. Alissa:

    I heard Breadtime closed for good. The owner is suppose to open another mexican restuarant where Picante Grill used to be.

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