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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.

Tower Burger – Alpharetta Highway

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.

Got you, didn’t I?  You thought that that mysterious burger place on Alpharetta Highway was finally open?

tower burger signHere at Roots, when a new restaurant starts a build out, we take notice and update our readers on the progress until the new place opens.  Then we visit a few times and we post a review.  That’s how it normally works but not with Tower Burger.

The old Sonic sat empty and run down for a long time.  Honestly, a lot of that section of Alpharetta/Roswell looked pretty sad.  The building stayed there, neglected until… wait! Signs of life appeared.  Everything was torn down except the main building.  Then, nothing.  Tumble weeds rolled through the parking lot.

Eventually we learned that a burger joint called Tower Burger was coming to that location.  Ok, another burger place, fine.  No big news.  The build out started, and stopped, and started, and stopped.  This continued for the next two years.

I was able to scope out some conceptual drawings online.  The place looked promising, with its second story deck serving beer and wine.  Anyone who drives Highway 9 daily has thrown at least a passing glance at the building as it now sits.  It looks done.  The sign is up, the landscaping done and parking lot paved.  So what’s the deal?

I’ve peeked in the windows and circled the building.  The last time I was there there were still unpacked boxes inside and no chairs and tables to be seen.  I can tell you this, the place is small.  In fact it’s tiny.  The downstairs patio couldn’t hold more than one or two tables comfortably.  It’s a cool looking place, but the function seems to be lacking.  And of course the second story deck will have a stunning view of J. Christopher’s.  If you crane your neck you might catch a glimpse of the Ferrari place up the street.  Granted, all these observations are just from my view in the parking lot.

I will be able to form more fair opinions once Tower Burger opens.  When will that be?  It’s anyone’s guess.  The mystery still remains.  Tower Burger has no social media presence, no website, no nothing.  It took an Indiana Jones-type effort to even get a name of someone who might be related somehow to the project.  Attempts to contact that person have been met with bupkis.  So keep your eyes peeled folks.  If nary a whiff of meat cooking escapes from that place, our readers will be the first to know.  After all, the most asked question from our readers is “Why do you hate Avalon?”.  But the second most asked question is, “What’s up with Tower Burger?”  You guys are in the dark as much as we are.  The one question I have is, when Tower Burger eventually does open, will anyone care?

Diwali and Alpharetta’s diverse Indian restaurant scene

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!

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.

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