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Yesterday was Diwali, the Indian festival of lights. It’s a huge holiday for those from the subcontinent. It ought to be a bigger deal in the Alpharetta area. The Indian population here is surging as the IT industry again picks up steam. Indians are an important part of our economy and community today. Why there are not public events and recognition for Diwali is beyond me.

What does make sense is the surge of Indian restaurants in town. They’re too numerous to count. The smaller ones often change hands from time to time, trading chefs and shifting focus from one style of Indian cuisine to another. It’s tough to keep up with and quite frankly, I don’t know that I’m qualified to review the food.

skvThat’s a difficult admission to make considering that I’ve been to India. I was in Mumbai for three months in 1998 shortly after graduating from college. I was intimidated and terrified by the food. It didn’t help that my colleagues strongly discouraged me from being adventurous with their food lest I experience the finest gastrointestinal distress south Asia could offer. I heeded the advice and survived on vegetarian pizzas from a Dominos franchise out there (although I did partake of a few amazing home cooked meals).

My culinary experience there, or lack thereof, isn’t serving me well today as someone who lives amid these wonderful choices of Indian restaurants. Take for example my visit this week at Sri Krishna Vilas‘ newer location on Peachtree Parkway in south Forsyth. There’s no buffet here but rather a fast-casual feel. The vegetarian-only menu is on the board but no descriptions are available for guys like me. I selected something that ended with “chana” which I knew involved chick peas. I asked the man about “puri” and was told simply that it was round. So with that tiny bit of information I ordered the puri with chana and hoped for the best.

What I got was amazing. Puri is a deep fried bread, served hot and golden brown and puffed up like a fresh baked pita. Oh yeah, puri’s round too. It was amazing and went well as a dip into the spicy curried chick peas. I’d later learn, thanks to my google skills, that puri is a snack or breakfast food. Thankfully I ordered another familiar item, samosas. Again they were delicious.

Sri Krishna Vilas is worthy of your visit and popular. I drive by on weekends and the place looks like a Nissan Leaf sales lot. Clearly they have a following.

You’ll not go wrong at the various Indian buffets around town. Try a spoonful of just about everything and go back for seconds of what you like. Madras Chettinaad is the granddaddy of them all on Old Milton Parkway. My coworkers still call it Minerva, the name of the restaurant from a few years ago. It’s easier to pronounce. Whatever you call it, their selection can’t be matched. Sri Krishna Vilas‘ Windward location is probably your best bet on on that street although I occasionally like Abhiruchi Indian Cuisine down the road. Their selection is limited but decent. I like that they’re not afraid to dial up the spice level in their food. Grab an extra napkin to dab the sweat off your brow. And again, their unpronounceable name completes the experience.

But if you try only one joint mentioned in this column today, make it Myzenes Indian Coastal Cuisine on Peachtree Parkway in extreme south Forsyth. These guys prove that Indian food in our humble burb is diverse. They offer cuisine from the coastal city of Goa which was heavily influenced by the Portuguese. You’ll see it in the menu when things like chorizo make an appearance. Sausage at an Indian joint? And seafood? Certainly not something you see everyday. The owners are very friendly and will guide you through their menu. They’re even willing to describe the food in more detail than just the geometric shape. This non-desi likes that.

So get out there are try some Indian joints this weekend. Let me know your favorites. And wish your Indian friends a happy Diwali!

Diwali and Alpharetta’s diverse Indian restaurant scene

Whole Foods Market – Avalon

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.

WF Avalon now openThe Avalon doesn’t officially open for two weeks, but one small section is open now, Whole Foods.  It opened this week to replace Harry’s Farmers Market.  Me and 184,000 of my closest friends checked out Alpharetta’s newest organic grocer this week.  It was good to be able to be on Avalon’s property for the first time, well not counting the other times one snuck in and wandered around.  (editor’s note: This is a joke.  Mike did not trespass on Avalon’s property).

The majority are concerned about parking.  They are right to be worried.  The lot isn’t as big and it is tight maneuvering.  I have had to seek spaces across the street and had to hike in.  Good thing I was able to grab some trail mix inside to sustain me for the journey back to the truck.  If you have an electric vehicle you’re in luck.  Whole Foods has a few EV spaces with charging stations right near the front.  I didn’t see any of those expectant mother spaces, but I wasn’t really searching.

Entering the store, my first impression was “man this place is huge, bright and green.”  Farm inspired artwork adorns the walls and bright lights make everything easy to see.  Sometimes that’s a bad thing. It can also expose flaws.  It seemed that the produce section was a little small and the spaces around the displays were cozy.  I imagine if you get a few carts roaming around in there then traffic jams would be inevitable.

The seafood and meat counters are right next to each other.  Both are well lit, pleasingly arranged and well staffed.  The meat counter isn’t as long as the one at Harry’s so the meat is more condensed on display.  It’s not a bad thing.  The dry aging meat hanging behind a window was a neat touch.

The wine selection looks smaller than before, and the local options have diminished greatly. That’s disappointing considering the substantial North Georgia wine production.  I did enjoy the sign on the wall that marked the wine section that read, “Put a cork in it”.

One thing that’s made Whole Foods at Avalon stand out is the sale and consumption of alcohol on site.  There is a wine bar/cafe/cooking school located upstairs that overlooks the store.  Guzzle some vino while learning to cook?  Count me in.  It sure would make first dates there go much better.

WF Avalon GrowlersWhole Foods does sell growlers to-go as well.  From what I could tell, they have only the 64 oz size growler wrapped in a “Whole Foods Avalon” growler-cozy.  There are only four options to choose from, all local.  Current selections include beers from Orpheus Brewing, Monday Night, Second Self Beer Company and Eventide Brewing.  It seems that what Whole Foods lacks in local wine, they are making up in local beers.  I saw an end cap display for Jekyll and there is a very large cooler fully stocked with all the Georgia breweries represented.  Single bottles are also available.

Then you get to the eating food section.  Several serve-yourself bars are available. One bar was marked “Paleo choices”.  Dinosaur food?  I moved on.  This Whole Foods has more choices than most mall food courts.  It was dazzling.  A sushi bar, olive bar, make your own Wok place, pizza, sandwiches, it goes on and on.  If that wasn’t enough, there is a counter in the front of the store where you can order a beer or a coffee and pick out one of the several pre-made sandwiches from the display.  It had a very European feel to it. It makes for a very fast turnaround.

Once you’ve stuffed your face and drank your beer/wine, don’t forget dessert.  I always laughed at all the healthy choices, gluten free, organic, etc, and then the most popular spot was the bakery.  Tons of cakes, tarts and cookies are on display.  And do not miss the (echo voice) Wheel of Gelato!  My son was fascinated with the rotating tubs that resemble a spaceship from the planet ice cream.  Samples are readily given.

Let’s not forget, Whole Foods is after all a grocery store.  While the aisles themselves were narrow, there were a lot of them.  It seemed that the packaged food aisles at Harry’s seemed like an afterthought or an addition.  These at Whole Foods were designed to go here.  The sheer volume of products is gluten free, organic and other styles is staggering.

Yes, prices are high.  Whole Foods doesn’t have the nickname “Whole Paycheck” for nothing.  While the selection is great, the lights bright, and the food options are overwhelming, it just doesn’t have that neighborhood feel that Harry’s had.  Being the only organic grocer on the block will make Whole Foods a hipster, vegan, paleo paradise. But for me, it’s no replacement for Harry’s.

Alpharetta Restaurant News – October 2014

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

Let them eat cake!

How bad is it that I have more bakeries to report than restaurants? The pace of new restaurant announcements has slowed considerably over the past few months. Perhaps Avalon is to blame.

Let’s get these bakeries out of the way first. A new location of Nothing Bundt Cakes will open at The Collection Forsyth. Look for them near The Chocolaterie.

Cupcake makers Smallcakes will open on Old Milton Parkway in the same shopping center with Carmine’s and Ipanema. The franchise outfit has a handful of other metro Atlanta locations. I figured by now we’d have several pure-play cupcake makers in town. Looks like it will be just these guys and Jilly’s (and a small outfit in the mall).

piece of cake logoAnd finally, a shop called Piece of Cake will open on North Point near Guitar center. Alpharetta will be the seventh location for this growing Atlanta-based chain.

And in the rapidly expanding breakfast restaurant market… we sound like a broken record reporting on another location of Another Broken Egg. This one will open in Johns Creek Walk at the former Keso space. Nearby is Maverick’s Cantina which opened recently and was reviewed last week.

It will be interesting to contrast Maverick’s to Costa Vida which will open Monday in the Brandon Crossing shopping center across from The Collection. The franchisee here is Forsyth’s State Senator-elect Michael Williams.

Also now open in Forsyth is Pueblo’s Mexican Cuisine. Look for them in a former Chepe’s location on Mathis Airport Road.

And finally, we’re hearing reports from reliable sources that Kababish may be kaput. The Indian/Pakistani restaurant in Milton rolled the dice on an extremely poor location and it didn’t work out for them.

Restaurants Coming Soon

Tower Burger – A towering delay.
The Farmhouse – Coffee and crepe shop opening in Johns Creek.
Boneheads – Grilled fish and peri peri restaurant coming to Windward near Sri Krishna Vilas.
Anabelle’s Table – Promising new restaurant on Peachtree Parkway in south Forsyth.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse - About to sell the sizzle on Haynes Bridge.
Made Kitchen and Cocktails – Targeted opening in November for this concept from the Sedgwicks.
Jay’s Mexican Grill and Taqueria – Coming to McFarland in the former sandwich shop.
JD’s Sports Pub & Pizza – Replacing TPS Pizza on Peachtree Parkway in Forsyth.
Eggs Up Grill – Breakfast chain coming to Crabapple.
2b Whole European Gluten-Free Bakery - It’s too bad that 2b didn’t open this month.
Tom and Chee – Grilled cheese shop to open near Chicken Salad Chick on North Point.

Mavericks Cantina – Johns Creek

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

Let me warn you before we get too much into this new restaurant. They play Beach Boys music. It’s played quite often at Mavericks. I counted four of their songs over the course of my last lunch there. If their groovy 50′s tunes set you off then stay away. They have a tendency to linger in my head for unwanted periods of time. If you’re willing to suffer through it you’ll find Mavericks to be a promising new restaurant worth trying.

Mavricks logoNew Mexican restaurants abound these days. It’s a tough job trying to stay ahead of them. I get around, yeah I get around round round from town to town… trying these joints. We try them all, trudging through menu after menu of Speedy Gonzalez.

Yet two have stood out to me this summer, Mavericks and Costa Vida up the road a bit. Both are concepts going for a southern California surfer theme and featuring a Mexican cantina feel. Mavericks of course is the first to open and the only of the two that isn’t a franchise… yet. Success might change that.

The first thing that hit me here was smoke. Yes, smoke. We smelled it in the parking lot walking in. Is there a barbeque joint nearby? Nope. It’s a wood-fired grill in the Mavericks kitchen. So before we event set foot inside, I was pickin’ up good vibrations. This smoke was givin’ me excitations.

The wood-fired grill lead me right to Maverick’s grouper tacos. I’ll try any fish taco that isn’t made with tilapia. The thought of a smokey fish that was wild-caught left no doubt in my mind as to what I’d order. Like I’d later find with their other tacos, these guys know how to layer flavors. From a buttermilk dressing to mangos, pickled radishes and cilantro, there’s a lot of flavor and texture going on in this tortilla. If there was any ding to be made it was that any delicate flavor in the smokey fish was overpowered. Nevertheless these were delicious tacos. They’ll make you want to wear your baggies and your Huarache sandals too.

I wish Mavericks would let you mix and match tacos on the menu. Your best bet is to go with a group of friends and each order something different for sharing. That’s exactly what we did on our second visit. We hit the steak tacos first. The smokey meat came through this time, but these tacos were among the least favorite at the table.

Surprisingly delicious was the fried chicken taco. This had great texture and a bit of spice that was tempered with an Alabama style white barbeque sauce. They had me rockin’ and a rollin’, rockin’ and a-reelin’.

The beer braised brisket tacos are also not a bad choice. A salsa verde sits on top and a lime cream pulls it all together. If fish and chicken are not your thing then make a beeline for the brisket on your first visit.

The menu at Mavericks is still pretty limited at this time so a return visit might be in order once these guys get going. Prices are a tad steep compared to the competition. They’re similar to what you might pay at Pure but are not quite there food-wise.

But Mavericks has a lot of potential and some talent in the kitchen. Hopefully daddy doesn’t take this T-bird away.

Mavericks Cantina is located at 11030 Medlock Bridge Road, Suite 160 in the Johns Creek Walk development.

Humble Pie Pizza Company – Windward

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.

Yet another pizza joint has opened in Alpharetta.  Pretty soon, Big Creek will flood tomato sauce and the Avalon will be smothered in cheese and pepperoni.

humble pie logoHumble Pie has occupied the former Johnny’s location in the strip on the corner of Main Street and Windward Parkway.  It’s a good location but finding parking is a chore.  Try the lot out back and hike in.

Inside is a light refreshing change from the former digs.  Colorful booths are along the walls and plenty of tables are scattered around.  A dozen TVs are tuned to the latest sports and lots of hippy-dippy artwork will make most people think they are in the Mellow Mushroom.  It’s ok, I like the Mellow Mushroom.  I’ve been going there for the last 30 years.  The Humble Pie employees are super nice, polite, fast and professional.  I will say this though, when the place is full and busy it’s insanely loud.  I had to yell at the server to place my order.  Relief can be had on the outdoor patio.

Let’s talk food.  The pizza is the star of course but don’t skip the hoagies and salad.  The hoagies are huge and made to order.  My wife had the steak with cheese.  The bread was well done and the steak was tender.  All hoagies come with your choice of bagged chips.  Meh.

We’ve tried three different pizzas, the BLT, the buffalo chicken and the meatball with ricotta.  The BLT was the worst of the three – bacon with sliced tomatoes and lettuce.  The old Pepperoni’s had a BLT pizza that was bacon, chopped tomatoes and lettuce added at the end.  Humble Pie’s BLT has the lettuce mixed in.  It was wilted by the time we got it home to eat.  Not tasty.  I’ve never been a fan of sliced tomatoes on pizza.  You’ve got the sauce already.  It’s tomato-on-tomato crime.

The buffalo chicken pizza was pretty darn good.  Chunks of chicken ride on top of a ranch sauce with red onions and bacon.  The description says there was sliced celery on it but I didn’t see any.  No big loss.  The crust held up well under the onslaught of sauce, cheese and chicken.  And yes, it was crazy spicy.

The meatball with ricotta was my favorite by far.  Huge sliced meatballs dot the landscape with dollops of ricotta cheese.  It’s like a lasagne without the pasta.  Tons of flavor in the meatballs.  I could have used either a little less ricotta or maybe have it spread around more.  Biting into a mountain of creamy cheese can be a little much.

The pizzas are good, the hoagies are passable, but there is one thing on the menu that I cannot pass up whenever we go.  Pretzel twists.  These footlong twisted loafs of bread are covered in either garlic and Parmesan, cinnamon and sugar, or kosher salt with mustard.  They’re soft, fresh and delicious.  Pull them apart and share with others or be like me and keep it for yourself.

In the grand scheme of pizza, Humble Pie is above average.  If it’s on your way, it’s a great little pizza joint.  Not sure I would make a special trip for it.  Its not their fault.  There are so many pizza choices here that it’s nearly impossible to stand out.  Humble Pie has a smallish social media presence.  Only recently did they put the menu on the website.  Only time will tell if Humble Pie Pizza Company will stay afloat in the river of pizza sauce that will surely engulf us all.

Dubious restaurant awards of 2014

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

It’s about this time of year when the Revue & News releases their “best of” awards. The winners are chosen by readers and, unfortunately I fear, subject to shill campaigns at times.

It would be easy to mimic. We could go on and on about the best sushi, burgers or whatever in town. We could fight holy wars on who has the best pizza or barbecue. But it would be too easy to write that article, the equivalent of a food blogger’s layup.

So we’ll do something completely different. Without further ado I present what I hope may become a yearly article, our dubious restaurant awards of 2014.

The estrogen overload award – Never Enough Thyme
This place easily sport a four-to-one female-to-male ratio on any given day. Their menu of healthy yet delicious sandwiches attracts a mix of skinny cubicle dwelling ladies along with old biddies from the Windward book club. But it’s worth checking your man card at the door for a visit here. Their Texas-style chili is the best in town.

Most overrated new restaurant of 2014 – Chicken Salad Chick
The ladies that frequent places like Never Enough Thyme usually have pretty good taste. But they’ve missed the mark here. That same crowd is mobbing this new restaurant, pushing lines out the door for lunch. Don’t get me wrong, the chicken salad here is alright. I’d rank it a tiny notch above what you can get at any decent deli in town. But they’re certainly not worth waiting in line for. Sure their different flavors are cool, but it feels more like mix in ingredients. The rest of the menu is unimaginative. So what’s with the lines, ladies?

What I’d miss the most if I left Alpharetta – Shawarma from Jerusalem Bakery
God forbid if I had to more away from this cool place, shawarma is what I’d miss the most. The explosion of flavors and textures in Jerusalem’s chicken shawarma wrap is crave-worthy. If you only take one bit of restaurant advice from this blog, this should be it. Go have a shawarma today for lunch!

Best place for misbehaving kids – Wild Wing
Don’t let your kids misbehave in a restaurant. But if you’re concerned about a toddler meltdown and don’t want to bother your fellow patrons as you get little bubba outta there, try a loud sports bar. The sometimes raucous Wild Wing is my pick here.

The special sauce award – Jalapeno lime from Wildflour
They put it on fish, pork and chicken. They could pour it over the sole of a shoe and I’d eat it. This sauce is creamy, a tad spicy, a little tangy and all overall delicious. I take the corner of my bread and dab up every last drop as I finish a Wildflour sandwich.

If we did a deathwatch – Firefly
My friend Eli Zandman occasionally runs a restaurant deathwatch column on his blog Tomorrow’s News Today. It’s very controversial, too much so for us to emulate here. That’s not to say it would be hard though because we’d have places like Firefly on the list. The long list of failures looms dark over this Windward location. The present owners did themselves a disservice keeping the same name and concept as the previous failed restaurant. And their menu and offerings are just not hitting it out of the park, something that will be necessary of any restaurant that hopes to be successful here. Hopefully something will make it here, but Firefly version 2.0 probably isn’t it.

Alpharetta Restaurant News – September 2014

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

eggs up grill logoRise and shine, it’s time for another breakfast joint. We’re seeing a theme of beach-side breakfast restaurants that franchise and land in the suburbs. First it was Another Broken Egg then First Watch. Each of them can trace roots to the beach. The latest is Eggs Up Grill. The chain out of Pawleys Island, South Carolina will open at 270 Rucker Road in the Publix shopping center. Are any of these guys raising the breakfast bar?

Mexican joints come and go. Keeping up with them can be fraught with frustration, like trying to follow the froyo craze from a few years ago. But here goes.

The former Chepe’s spaces in south Forsyth are quickly filling up. A restaurant called Mezcalero Mexican Grill will open in the old Bethleview Road location. And we reported on Pueblos Mexican Cuisine last month. It seems they are now open in the old Chepe’s on Mathis Airport Road.

It appears that a small Mexican place, perhaps a taqueria, will open in the former Incredible Sandwich Factory space on McFarland Parkway. While I’ve not confirmed, the name may be Jay’s Mexican Grill. And finally, several readers have told me about the closure of Cinco on McGinnis Ferry. That leaves the chain with tres locations.

Rounding out our trip through south Forsyth – watch for JD’s Sports Pub & Pizza. That’ll be the name of the replacement at TPS Pizza on Peachtree Parkway. It’s a tiny little spot that you have to seek out.

Back in Alpharetta and worth mentioning is Smokin’ Mo’s. This barbecue food truck is spending a lot of time in Alpharetta these days, particularly at the Midas shop on Main Street and Mayfield Road. Do they have the Midas touch with the Q?

Restaurants Coming Soon

Tower Burger – <insert joke about longest buildout ever>
Costa Vida - Southwest grill very close to opening near The Collection Forsyth.
The Farmhouse – Coffee and crepe shop opening in Johns Creek.
Dancing Mouth Indian Restaurant - Small little Indian concept coming to Jordan Court near Costco.
Boneheads – Grilled fish and peri peri restaurant coming to Windward near Sri Krishna Vilas.
Anabelle’s Table – Promising new restaurant on Peachtree Parkway in south Forsyth.
Mavrick’s CantinaComing soon to Johns Creek Walk.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse - About to sell the sizzle on Haynes Bridge.
Made Kitchen and Cocktails – Targeted opening in November for this concept from the Sedgwicks.
2b Whole European Gluten-Free Bakery - New bakery to open on Milton Avenue in downtown Alpharetta.
Tom and Chee – Grilled cheese and tomato soup joint set to open near Chicken Salad Chick on North Point.

Spice Afro Caribbean Cuisine – Milton

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

Spice snuck up on us. Their buildout in Milton next to Montana’s flew under my radar until they appeared on the Taste of Alpharetta lineup in the spring. And I suppose spice, with a little “s”, also snuck up on me. More on that in a little bit.

Spice AfroBut Spice is here and opened around the first of July. Their buildout was simple and likely inexpensive. The walls and decor of this place are plain and rather boring, giving it almost a shack or hole-in-the-wall feel. Maybe Guy Fieri should pay them a visit.

The layout of the foyer is a bit odd leaving first timers alone and confused about where to go upon entering. But don’t turn for the door just yet.

Spice is a serious contender with their jerk chicken. Order a lunch portion and you’ll receive a generous helping of grilled leg and thigh pieces. First to hit your taste buds is a solid core of smoke flavor. It’s fantastic and much better than I can do on my own grill. Then that spice sneaks up. The jerk seasoning delivers a knockout punch, packing a wallop of flavor and serious heat. I wouldn’t dare let my drink go empty here.

Their jerk pork is the same – solidly smokey with that spicy rub. It’s so smokey I’d almost put it up there with some of the better barbecue joints in town (‘Cue is right across the street by the way). While it lacks the tenderness of slow cooked barbecue, it’s plenty delicious.

Lunch portions come with two sides. Rice and cabbage are popular. The rice disappointed a little, needing a little salt, but the cabbage was fantastic. A fried plantain tops it all off. Together with the meat, it’s a huge portion that you’re not likely to finish.

ackee and saltfishSpice’s pasta dishes are not bad and pair up surprisingly well with jerk chicken. Bits of spicy jerk seasoning and cream sauce make a terrific combination. Again, watch the portions… and your waistline.

Exploring the menu a little further lead me to ackee and saltfish, the national dish of Jamaica. If you’ve vacationed on the island then you’ve likely tried this. But for guys like me it’s completely foreign. And it’s certainly not available anywhere else in the Alpharetta area.

Ackee is a fruit that when boiled resembles scrambled eggs. The texture seemed about the same too. But this stuff soaks up fish flavor when sauteed with salt cod. It’s a very fishy taste even though there are not that many pieces of fish in it. I’m glad I ordered it, if for anything to say I’ve tried the stuff, but I likely won’t order again. There’s better choices on the menu. But if you’re nostalgic for this yellowy fish goo, they’ve got it.

Service at Spice can be very friendly at times to downright forgetful on other days. They’ve still got a few kinks to work out in this department. But again, don’t let that keep you away. These guys have the best jerk chicken in the area, easily surpassing Caribbean Fiesta and Tassa on Old Milton. Hopefully they won’t fly under the radar anymore!

Spice Afro Caribbean Cuisine is located at 13695 Highway 9 in Milton. Look for them across the street from ‘Cue near Montana’s.

Restaurant news interim report

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

My restaurant news article usually runs the first or second Friday of the month but there’s a few little stories can’t wait for September. Let’s run an interim article this week to catch the latest.

oh boy logoOh Boy Rotisserie & Tacos in Johns Creek appears to have closed. While I’ve not been by to confirm, several readers have emailed and tweeted about it. Opening in June, Oh Boy offered a unique twist on a product that’s rather ubiquitous. Perhaps that’s what did them in.

And the rumors unfortunately are true. Ice cream purveyor Scoops will close their Crabapple location in late September. The store was one of the last full-service ice cream parlors around. I was particularly fond of their banana pudding ice cream. Delicious. Their concept also included gourmet and retro candy similar to what you’d might see at Fuzziwigs. There’s no word yet on what will become of the other Scoops franchise locations. However every other location is well east of metro Atlanta, a little outside our coverage area.

Chicken Salad Chick opened last week in the Stonewalk at Northpoint Commons Shopping Center across from Best Buy. Expect women to outnumber men 3 to 1 when you visit. My first impression was that it was decent chicken salad but not good enough to make a special trip.

The downtown Alpharetta restaurant renaissance continues with the opening of South Main Kitchen. Their first official day was this past Monday. Former F&H alum Louis Soon is part of the team which will make competition with nearby Salt Factory interesting to watch.

Next to open in downtown will be Made Kitchen and Cocktails from the Sedgwicks but they’re likely a few months away. And we’re hearing rumors of another possible restaurant conversion along Main Street in downtown. It should be noted that the explosion of Canton Street-like restaurants is happening organically. We like that. It didn’t take a gaudy mixed-use apartment highrise to bring these guys to town.

And finally on the retail side… the Cumming location of Costco Wholesale opens today. Why am I mentioning something that’s way up on exit 15? Because I really hope this new location cannibalizes from the Alpharetta location!

First Watch – Alpharetta

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.

first watch logoI rarely go out for breakfast.  I’m either too busy in the morning, or sleeping too late on the weekend.  Probably the best reason why I don’t eat out for breakfast is that I make terrible choices.  I’m drawn to the bacon, the sausage, syrupy pancakes and French toast.  Pretty much anything that makes me go “Ooo” on the menu at a breakfast joint is sure to alert my cardiologist.

I was intrigued to hear about First Watch, a national chain started in 1983 for breakfast and lunch that advertises fresh, premium, finest ingredients made from scratch with no use of heat lamps or deep fryers.  Looked like to me that this was one place that I could eat a meal that is yummy as well as healthy.  I’ve been to the Johns Creek location and had the bacon and onion hash, a mix of bacon, potatoes, onions, and cheese.  Ok, not too healthy, but man it was good.  The portions weren’t huge and yet I was more than satisfied.

But this isn’t Roots in Johns Creek, so what am I talking about?

Well, Alpharetta can now claim it’s own location of First Watch.  Located on the corner of Old Milton Parkway and North Point Parkway, the Alpharetta First Watch still has that new strip mall smell.

It’s a little difficult to get in and out of the parking lot due to the divided nature of North Point Parkway, but once you’ve been there once, you will have no problems navigating it.  The space is open, light and inviting with tons of windows and extremely comfortable seating.  Bright colors blast out of the decor to wake even the sleepiest of heads.  Every employee I’ve encountered has been very pleasant, sometimes to a fault.  I have felt a little rushed a couple of times with both ordering and “here’s the check”.  Not a lot of time to relax and enjoy the food.

First Watch french toastAnd what food it is.  I’ve eaten both breakfast and lunch and have been completely satisfied each time.  First Watch offers nutritional info on the web site, so if you are watching calories, check that before you go.  Some items that seem healthy are pretty high in calories and fat.  Who would have thought a pancake could be so bad for you?

For lunch, I opted for the grilled turkey sandwich with a side of Italian wedding soup.  The sandwich came on toasted sourdough bread with tomato, bacon and cheese.  There was a little too much ranch dressing for me, but overall, the sandwich had the right amount of turkey and bacon to be juicy to counter the toasted bread.  Everything was in balance.

I was pleasantly surprised with the Italian wedding soup.  It didn’t have a lot of veggies but plenty of herbs with little meatballs.  Delightful.

My breakfast choices were a little more narrowed.  A little searching on the menu brought me to a unique discovery, raisin bread French toast.  With nearly a third the calories and fat of regular French toast, the order was placed.  It was some of the best French toast I’ve had.  Sometimes with French toast the bread can be too creamy and falls apart.  The raisin bread had more substance while still being able to be cut with a fork.  The sweetness was offset by the raisins and that, in addition to the slightly chewy bread, really woke up my taste buds.

My one complaint was the syrup.  It came out in a glass bottle with a little metal pouring top that resembled the spout on liquor bottles in bars.  All that is just fine. But First Watch must keep these things in the oven to make the syrup warm because this bottle was nearly unholdable, it was so hot.  Even after ten minutes I couldn’t hold it to pour it.  I had to use a napkin.  Hot syrup is great, but maybe a complimentary oven mitt would be nice.

I have really enjoyed my experiences with First Watch.  The food is satisfying and delicious, the prices reasonable, staff (overly) friendly and the environment welcoming.  All of the other breakfast places in Alpharetta should pay attention to what First Watch is bringing to the party.

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