Archive - April, 2015

Julie Hogg’s Alpharetta Post

She’s back!

Longtime Alpharetta blog readers will remember Julie Hogg from her days writing for the Alpharetta Patch. She’s returned and has started a new blog called Alpharetta Post. You owe her blog a read, especially if you’re reading this from 2 Park Plaza.

I appreciate Julie’s perspective, even when we disagree. But recently we have not disagreed at all. Her City Council beat is top notch and is sure to ruffle feathers. It also helps that she’s a good writer, far better than this guy.

I don’t promote other blogs all that often, mainly because the newer writers that have emerged recently don’t offer original and compelling content. Julie’s certainly does that and much more. Bookmark her alpharettapost.com website or subscribe to her RSS feed.

The chain restaurant rumor mill

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

I wrote not long ago about locally-run eateries that are good replacements for chain restaurants. Let’s turn that article on its head and talk about chain joints. And to make things more difficult, let’s get predictive. Which chains or franchise restaurants may soon open new locations in the Alpharetta area?

I’ll preface the article by saying that my restaurant crystal ball has proven to be rather cloudy over the years. Rarely do my predictions come to fruition so take these ideas with a grain of salt, or perhaps file them away in the rumor bin.

FirebirdsWe’ll start off at the higher end. Charlotte-based Firebirds Wood Fired Grill serves hand-cut steaks, chicken, seafood and ribs cooked over wood-burning grills. They operate 36 locations throughout the southeast but none in Georgia at this time. I’ve heard rumors they are eying Alpharetta, in particular the new Atwater development across the street from Avalon. No definitive plans are in the works though so we’ll keep it at that. But it could be interesting to see how they fare against the restaurants in Avalon itself.

Expect a few more franchise sandwich chains to appear in town before too long. I’ve got my eye on two in particular. First is Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop. Last year the Las Vegas-based chain announced a franchise agreement that would bring stores to our area. Since then only a Duluth location has opened but Alpharetta is promised.

And in the same genre, Penn Station East Coast Subs could arrive. This month they announced a franchise deal with potential stores in Alpharetta, Cumming, Roswell and Johns Creek. They already have Atlanta-area stores in Suwanee and Druid Hills. Their made-to-order deli sandwiches probably won’t get too many foodies excited, but their website touts a good Philly cheesesteak, a sammich lacking in this area.

The burger craze is far from burning out and new fast-casual chains could still make an appearance in Alpharetta. While west Windward is thick with burgers, downtown Alpharetta is ripe for a concept. I also think Old Milton Parkway’s east end could support one and possible another near the mall. As for who might make an appearance? Florida-based Burger 21 announced Alpharetta plans years ago but got caught flat footed. Eventually they finalized plans to open at Johns Creek Promenade, a new shopping center coming out of the ground now along Peachtree Parkway. I’m also watching Texas-based Grub Burger Bar, Grindhouse Killer Burgers and Zinburger. All three have ITP locations and could consider making the jump north.

And finally we get to fast food. Watch out for Del Taco. I’ve heard credible rumors that they are eying a location in Milton along Highway 9 near Target or Aldi. And chicken fryer Bojangles doesn’t have a presence in our area even though they are slowly growing their exposure to the Atlanta market. I’ve seen their name penciled in for a few spots around town but none have materialized.

Alpharetta Restaurant News – April 2015

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

A new burrito joint may soon be rolling into town. Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina has plans to open at 5215 Windward Parkway in the former Uncle Maddio’s space. Started in Charlotte in 2000, the fast-casual Mexican concept is rapidly expanding through franchising. Currently they are in 19 states but curiously not in Georgia. That’s about to change.

salsaritas logoThe company at one time had a location in Savannah but closed it in 2013. This year they plan to test that Savannah market again with a new store. Their Windward location will be the first in metro Atlanta but they promise several more.

The location is an interesting pick and has proven to be unsuccessful to a few chains. Mini burger purveyor Krystal tried a test concept called K-Cafe here a few years ago. And of course there’s Uncle Maddio’s and their slow death spiral. A source very close to this piece of real estate once suggested to me that Your Pie was interested in the space but that didn’t come to fruition.

Then there’s the competitors. Chipotle, Qdoba and Moe’s have all had a long presence on Windward Parkway. How will Salsarita’s compare?

Avalon recently announced on social media that Chick-fil-A will open at the mixed use development. There were rumors of this years ago when Avalon was first zoned. However another Chick-fil-A operator once told me he didn’t think it would happen due to the real estate being too expensive. So the announcement came as a bit of a surprise to me, albeit a welcomed one. Avalon needs a cheaper food alternative.

That’s about it for restaurant news this month. Since last month Cookout opened on Haynes Bridge, but based on the crowds I think everyone in town has been there already. And Senior Fajitas Mexican Grill has opened on Highway 9 and McFarland in south Forsyth.

Restaurants Coming Soon

The Farmhouse – Extremely slow progress on this coffee shop in Johns Creek.
Cafe at Pharr – Also slow but steady progress on their new location off Windward.
Chad Thai Urban Asian Kitchen - Coming soon to Milton in the old pretzel store near Target.
Ceviche Taqueria & Margarita Bar – Opening on Milton Avenue in downtown Alpharetta next to 2B Whole Bakery.
Mondo’s Pizza Kitchen – Coming to Highway 9 in Milton in the original Zola Bistro location.
Starbucks – Tiny new free-standing location coming to Haynes Bridge near the mall.
Bawarchi Biryani Point Indian Cuisine – Replacing Mayuri in the old Pizza Hut near the mall.
CamiCakes – Another cupcake joint, North Point near REI.
Mugs on Milton – Second location for this indy coffee joint to open in Crabapple, former Scoops location.
Pura Enchilada Taqueria - Coming to Jones Bridge in Johns Creek.
Varasano’s Pizzeria - New buildout within North Point Mall. Construction has not started.

Dan Merkel announces candidacy for City Council

It looks to start early this year. Campaign season is kicking off in April as Dan Merkel announced yesterday he is running for City Council. He plans to run for the post 6 seat currently held by DC Aiken. According to a press release he has DC’s endorsement.

Merkel, who lives in the Kimball Bridge area, is a 20 year resident of Alpharetta. His community resume is consistent with that of an established guy running for office in Alpharetta. He’s served the newly-formed Alpharetta Chamber of Commerce as well at the Rotary, Public Safety Foundation and the YMCA.

While 2013 was a snoozer for municipal elections in this area, 2015 promises to be much more, especially in Alpharetta. DC Aiken is term-limited out of his post 6 seat. Michael Cross has announced that he will not seek reelection leaving that position up for grabs too.

Jim Gilvin’s seat is also up. As the most homeowner friendly and anti-establishment guy up there, you should expect a challenger to emerge for this spot as well. Mayor David Belle Isle will also face the voters this year.

With qualifying in August it is rare for candidates to announce this early. However David Belle Isle started very early in 2011, a move that obviously turned out well for him. Perhaps Merkel is taking a page out of this playbook.

Merkel will soon host a campaign kickoff party at Pure Taqueria. It was an unusual part of this announcement as most of these political guys party at Ron Wallace’s joint, Olde Blind Dog in Crabapple. Merkel’s campaign also appears to be managed by Fred Hicks who in past campaigns has had close ties to Wallace. But maybe we’re looking too much into things. With four months to qualifying and seven to the election, there is plenty of time yet to talk election politics in Alpharetta.

Show Me the Money – Alpharetta’s most expensive steak

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

I recently received a $100 gift card to one of Atlanta’s fine dining establishments. Reading the menu online made me realize that a hundred bucks wasn’t going to cut it. It got me thinking, where in Alpharetta would a sawbuck not be enough? Continuing on that line of thought lead me to want to find the most expensive single menu item in Alpharetta.

oak steakhouse logoThere aren’t a ton of “$$$$” priced places up here. As expected, most of them are steakhouses. If you want a prime slab of cow, you’re gonna pay for it. Cabernet, Ruth’s Chris, and Viande Rouge in Johns Creek all are candidates. Keep in mind, the steak joints are all al a carte, which is French for “You ain’t gettin’ nothin with that”. All sides are extra, so we’re just talking the price for one steak.

So, who’s steak will cause your wallet to cry for mercy? The most expensive menu item in Alpharetta isn’t in any of the above mentioned places. The distinction belongs to none other than Avalon’s Oak Steakhouse. Its “Master Purveyors of NYC 24oz. Dry Aged CAB® Prime Bone-In Ribeye” is far and away the most expensive steak I’ve ever seen at $85. You read that right. In fact, three of the five steaks offered are $50 and over. I’m sure the Millennials will be lining up to drop that kind of cash on dinner.

Ruth’s Chris and Cabernet barely touch the $50 mark and Vinny’s on Windward isn’t even in the discussion. Oak’s got them all beat. I’m sure the steak is good, but really, who’s going to fork over that much money? That’s a “I earned my PhD” or “I was just elected President” or “I really want to sleep with my date so I’ll try to impress her” kind of a meal. Would even an expense account justify that price? Maybe it’s one of those menu items like the Ol’ 96er or the 10 pound burrito where no one really orders it, but the restaurant has bragging rights. Well, go ahead and brag, Oak Steakhouse, you’ve got the most expensive menu item in Alpharetta.

Varasano’s Pizzeria coming to North Point Mall

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

You’ll soon have a reason to eat at North Point Mall again. Atlanta’s highly lauded Varasano’s Pizzeria is planing to open a location inside Alpharetta’s mall.

varasanoslogoPlans call for them to build a 4,500 square foot restaurant with outdoor patio adjacent to American Girl. The mall office and watch store will be relocated to a different part of the mall to accommodate the restaurant.

Varasano inked a strategic partnership with mall operator General Growth Properties that would have them anchoring restaurants near mall entrances. The first such location will be at Perimeter Mall and, after some delays, is very close to opening.

Alpharetta’s location will be nearly identical to that at Perimeter Mall. The concept will be a hybrid fast casual restaurant that focuses on a more convenient experience at a lower cost. Locally brewed beer and hand-crafted cocktails are also in the mix.

Despite being in the rear of the property, this entrance is the mall’s busiest. It’s something General Growth wants to exploit with the addition of the restaurant. And American Girl, rumored to have been saved from Avalon poaching, continues to be a huge regional draw.

Varasano should fit in well here in Alpharetta. It seems that a new Neapolitan-style pizzeria opens each year. First to market was Campania then 850 in Crabapple and of course Antico at Avalon. And all that is on top of a very crowded yet top notch offering of New York-style pies in Alpharetta. Varasano will carve out a niche with a cheaper option that doesn’t skimp on quality. Expect an opening in the Fall.

Where are the millennials at Avalon?

I liked this article from the Revue & News the other day about the residential development at Avalon. It was written like your standard economic development fluff piece they are so experienced in writing. But there are some interesting tidbits tucked away in the story.

First, only about a third of the apartments at Avalon have been rented. That came as a bit of a surprise to me considering how awesome North American Properties billed them. During the phase two proposal they talked of “unprecedented demand” for the apartments and long waiting lists.

The more interesting part of the article is the average resident age. An anonymous source reported to me that the average age of the Avalon renter was pushing 50 years old. The Revue & News article seems to confirms this citing an average in the mid to high 40′s.

Where are the throngs of millennials?

Remember that we have to build these dense mixed use developments to attract them, right? Alpharetta will die if they don’t move here and millennials don’t like the tired old suburban life we have. They will never buy a house or have children so we have to build apartments, apartments and MORE APARTMENTS! Apartments stacked on top of apartments!

Baloney.

Avalon is attracting rich empty-nesters. There’s nothing wrong with that as Avalon is very attractive to those who want to downsize yet still live the Robin Leach lifestyle.

So let’s call it what it is. Despite what you might hear during land use discussions, millennials are simply not moving to these developments in large numbers.

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