Looking back, gazing forward

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

Every year at this time I make some predictions on what’s likely to happen in the restaurant scene in the coming year. And usually I’m completely wrong. It’s embarrassing to look on these past columns. Case in point, pizza.

Big Pie sliceLast year I thought we’d had enough pizza. The bar was set very high, especially with New York-style joints. So what happened in 2014? Crust opens and hits it out of the park. The BB’s Bagels founders boldly say the pizza here sucks and open their own joint. And we’re about to have three Neapolitan-style choices available.

So keeping my track record firmly in the back of your mind, let’s look back and consider the near future.

Downtown Alpharetta‘s restaurant scene is nearing the critical mass it needs to sustain itself. Last year at this time we knew South Main Kitchen was coming and had vague knowledge of what would become Made Kitchen. Those combined with Salt Factory, Hop Alley and the aforementioned Crust have created our own little Canton Street. It’s what we desperately needed.

So what’s next in downtown Alpharetta? I’m not aware of another deal at this time. Rumors once suggested that new restaurant space may come to the Kell Building or perhaps the abandoned gas station but neither have proven correct. Certainly new restaurant space will be available in the city center outparcels. We’ll have to see what kind of choices the property manager brings in. And what will thriving new restaurants do to rents downtown? Can the handful of older restaurants here keep up?

The Mediterranean/Greek/Persian/Middle Eastern genre has exploded over the past two years, something I certainly didn’t see coming. Chains like Zoes Kitchen expanded rapidly. Additionally some very good indy joints have opened including Noosh in Johns Creek. They complement some terrific options that we’ve already come to enjoy like Jerusalem Bakery and Baba’s in south Forysth. Expect some closures this year in this space, particularly with smaller mom-and-pop shops and franchise operators.

And finally there’s the growler store fad. Alpharetta, who had the most progressive growler law in the area, is down to only one store in their city limits. The stand-alone, pure play growler store isn’t a sound business model. Combining growlers with stores that already offer alcohol by the package is the best bet. Milton did right by allowing their sales in convenience stores. Growlers would also do well in the big box liquor stores if municipalities would allow it. I predict a few more closures in this space, particularly in Johns Creek.

What new restaurant trends do you see in 2015 and who’s not going to make it? Let me know in the comments.

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