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The Joneses – My Review

I finally got to see Alpharetta’s new movie, The Joneses. Being somewhat rootless, it is hard for the wife and me to find a sitter and get away for a movie without the kids. But alas we did yesterday. All in all, I was disappointed in the flick. Here’s what I thought…


As of a week after the release, there is only one theater in all of Alpharetta and Cumming that is showing the movie. I was shocked. The UA/Regal North Point is it. That should have been a sign.

Alpharetta Sightings

If you’re going just for sights of our little suburb, you’ll be disappointed. I think most of the twenty or so people in our showing were there for that reason. Every single person stayed for the closing credits. How often does that happen? There are not many Alpharetta sights to see. Never do you see them cruising down North Point or Windward. For a complete list of Alpharetta area filming locations, see this post.

Review of the Movie

So how did I like the movie? In a word, I thought it sucked. With such a broad topic (consumerism in the burbs), they could have gone in many directions. They seemed focused on this fake family and not so much on the neighbors and their attempts to keep up. The plot developed slowly until the point where their imaginary world started to unravel. At that point the writers tried to touch on way too many topics in a short time, such as teen drinking, infidelity, consumer debt, foreclosures, closeted homosexuality, etc. I’m not a film critic by any means but it all left a lot to be desired. The writing sucked and wasn’t funny or dramatic. The camera work was marginal and inexperienced.

I suppose I expected a lot more. It was more about the fake family living together and the awkward situations that created. There was some romantic tension between David Duchovny and Demi Moore who were essentially co-workers, yet living together as husband and wife. That part of the movie was alright. But if you’re looking for a well-written and dramatic commentary on runaway consumerism, you won’t find it with this movie.

Save your money and skip this movie. I predict it’ll be on cable television shortly… just without the Amber Heard topless scene (yes, she gets neekid in this one).

Reviewing the Review Websites

Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday.

I’ve come to rely on a few online restaurant review websites. As web 2.0 and social media continue to grow, the influence of the online review portals multiplies. Here is my take on those that have the biggest footprint in the Alpharetta area. Each of these places have their own uniqueness so try several and see what you like best.

Growing very fast. As someone who writes reviews, I don’t care for them much. On the site you give a simple thumbs up or thumbs down. Such a binary opinion isn’t very granular. But what I’ve found is that after a restaurant gets dozens or hundreds of these binary reviews, urbanspoon tends to get it right. The truly outstanding joints percolate to the top.

Urbanspoon is very good at integrating external blog content into their site. There are not a great deal of food bloggers in the northern burbs, something I hinted at recently. But nevertheless, they can direct you to cool content elsewhere. I’ve also found that they are more likely to be the first site to have reviews of brand new restaurants.

By far my favorite. Yelp mixes social media with online reviews. I’d say the functionality leans more towards the reviews and less towards social media. But you can have friends and vote on your favorite reviews. Yelp tends to be bigger in the cities where they have a paid community manager on the ground (of which Atlanta is one of them). The average yelp users also tends to be younger, a Gen-Y type person.

Yelp’s presence in Alpharetta was pretty thin a few years ago. Today they are much larger. I find the reviews to be well written and funny. If you’re reading reviews of a restaurant, I suggest sorting by the “useful” tag and go from there.


Losing ground in my opinion. For a long time they were just about the only game in town for Alpharetta reviews. That all has changed. They still have a lot of local reviews but I find that they are not as deep and well written as yelp. Still worth looking at.


I don’t know of any other sites that have a large presence here. Higher end review sites like Zagat and Gayot simply lack depth in Alpharetta. Yahoo and Google are a decent alternative, and of course they integrate well with other features on those sites. Google probably wins on the sheer number of reviews, but I find them to be almost complete devoid of detail. You’ll find reviews like “I like this restaurant. They kick ass.”

Things to look out for… Watch out for shill reviews from business owners or their acquaintances. In general you want to trust reviews from people who have reviewed a LOT of other local restaurants. If a reviewer isn’t active on the website, I wouldn’t rely on them much. Yelp does a great job here. They will simply hide reviews like this. This practice is getting them into some hot water, but it keeps the integrity of the review process in check. I appreciate that and I think general users of the site do too. Other websites are not as proactive so it is up to you to filter these shill reviews on your own.

Most of these sites have feature-rich apps for iPhone, Android and Blackberry. Yelp and Urbanspoon have some very cool mobile apps, with neat location-aware technology.

Blogs in Alpharetta

One of the reasons I started blogging was because of the lack of decent blog content in Alpharetta. I suppose all the relos here are too busy to write about their rootless lives. But nevertheless, there are a few terrific blogs in this area. Here are the ones I like. I’ll also add them to my newly created blogroll.

Live in Alpharetta – Bob Strader

Hands down the best blog in Alpharetta. Yeah, Bob is a realtor. You might expect his blog entries to look like… “I just listed this fabulous four bedroom house with wall-to-wall carpet and central air conditioning…” Unlike a lot of professionals who have a blog, his isn’t a shameless shill for his business. You can tell he puts time and effort into coming up with useful and timely content. Yeah some of it is about real estate in general, but in this market I appreciate his perspective.

Every marketing book out these days will tell you to create a blog about your business. This blog is a case study on how to do that the right way. Kudos Bob.

Northside Food

One of the better food blogs that is specific to this area. She reviews a lot of restaurants, especially in the Roswell area. I really should eat out down that way more often. She’s also got some great content on local farmer’s markets and stuff like that.

Atlanta With Kid Travel Blog

The mom behind this blog is Amy. She occupies the fabric covered box adjacent to mine in cubicle land. She also encouraged me to start my blog, so I’m grateful. Her blog has some great ideas for things to do with the kids here in the northern burbs. She’s got some terrific suggestions, many of which are free or inexpensive.

Stuff Christians Like – Jon Acuff

Okay, this isn’t exactly a blog about Alpharetta. But the author of this blog lives here and attends North Point Community Church. Reading his blog gives me a lot of insight into life in an evangelical mega church. Jon is a funny and gifted writer. His stuff about metrosexual worship leaders cracks me up.

Live Apartment Fire – Doug Richards

I don’t think my wife likes watching the evening news with me. Why? Because I’m always making fun of how poorly produced and ridiculously stupid local news reporting can be. Thankfully I’m not alone in my scorn. Doug Richards is a 20 year veteran of Atlanta television reporting. His blog pokes fun at this business, from the inside! Very funny stuff.

View from the Cop – Steve Rose

Okay, this is part of the AJC. Can you really call it a blog? I suppose so. Steve Rose works for the Sandy Springs police department. I never get tired of reading about stupid criminals, especially when they are in my neck of the woods.

Big Creek Greenway – Forsyth

I lead what some would call a “sedentary lifestyle”. My days usually involve sitting in a fabric covered box looking at a computer, followed by unwinding on the couch watching the tube. But you might be surprised that I’ve actually explored both greenways. Yes indeed it is true. I’ve walked literally hundreds of feet on the greenway before turning back to the parking lot. So I’m sure that qualifies me to write about it, right?

Or maybe not. Please take what I have to say with a grain of salt. Just wanted to get that out of the way.

Forsyth County now has a greenway! It is a lot like Alpharetta’s version. It follows the same creek. It is about the same width. There are lots of trees and nature and stuff. A mere trace of rain will make it flood. There are mosquitoes. And both make me huff and puff. I need more of this (the huffing and puffing part).

Here are some differences I noted between the two. The Forsyth side seems to have more raised wood deck surfaces that Alpharetta. It seems that the creek is more spread out here and not confined so much to its banks. That isn’t a huge deal unless you are in roller blades. We went with our neighbors a few weeks ago and they seemed to struggle a bit with this.

Forsyth’s greenway also has more road crossings. By this I mean the greenway doesn’t follow the creek under road bridges, you have to cross the street yourself. Alpharett’a trail does this at Kimball Bridge road but no where else as far as I know. Might want to keep this in mind if you have young kids.

Forsyth’s trail is still in its early phases and will be longer than Alpharetta’s upon completion. The next phase is still in the planning stages and may not follow the creek. The trail will probably head north towards Sawnee Mountain, which would create a bit of a climb. That’s something not seen elsewhere on the trails.

Alpharetta seems to have better facilities at the trailheads. I’ve yet to see decent parking lots or bathrooms on the Forsyth side. Hopefully that is in the works.

Will the trails ever connect? Everyone says they eventually will. I think the tough part is on Alpharetta’s side. They have longer to go to reach the county line. They would also have to cross a portion of Windward’s golf course (or go around it). I’m not sure how that would work. is a cool website/blog with information on both segments of the trail. It’s one stop shopping for maps and such without having to bounce between Alpharetta and Forsyth’s websites.

Cheeky Taqueria at Avenue Forsyth

Thanks for finding my blog, Roots in Alpharetta. If you’re interested in food and dining in and around Alpharetta, check out my weekly feature called Foodie Friday.


Adjective – obviously planned, artificial

That’s our word of the day, and it was the first word I thought of after setting foot inside Cheeky. Taquerias are popping up everywhere, and most are not true taco shacks. To Cheeky’s credit, they are going for that taco shack feel. But you don’t take a brand spanking new strip mall space and pretend it is a shack. Ask anyone who’s been to Jim and Nicks if they thought it truly felt like a down home barbecue place. All the folksy pictures and faux farm implements on the wall don’t change the fact that you’re in a STRIP MALL! So the fake garage doors at Cheeky were not fooling me, nor were the menus printed on wood.

My other first impression was that management was over-training the staff. They opened on Monday. I was there on Tuesday. Two employees asked me if this was my first visit. Duh! If you’ve been to Chepes Mexican, it is kinda like that. The employees are almost too friendly, to the point of smothering you with their helpfulness.

But even with these annoyances, I kinda liked Cheeky’s. For lunch I tried the trio of tacos. They use fresh ingredients and combine them in creative ways. I found my tacos to be a good mix of spice, heat and sweetness from things like pineapple salsa. They also had contrasting textures. The sliced pork in one taco was soft, delicate and flavorful. The shrimp tacos were pretty good, but could use a few more of the critters. The crab croquette tacos (a signature item) were just fair, I wasn’t impressed. The beans (both refried and charro) left a lot to be desired.

I really liked Cheeky’s bar. They feature tables with self-serve beer taps. You’ll also find TVs in the bar that measure how much beer of each brand has been served that night. If you are competitive in nature, this might be dangerous. But it is a concept I’ve yet to see in the northern burbs. Their margaritas also looked pretty good.

All in all, I think Cheeky might be a winner. They are in a prime location at the Avenue, right across from Barnes and Noble. It is certainly not like your run-of-the-mill ubiquitous Mexican restaurant, pushing entrees called “Speedy Gonzales”. Is it in the same league as Pure Taqueria or CANS Taqueria? No way, Jose.
Cheeky Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Maryland’s Crab House

Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday.

This place is cursed. No, not this particular restaurant, but this space. 3070 Windward Plaza Suite P, the back corner end unit on the double decker strip mall. As many as ten restaurants have operated in this strip mall, most of them successfully. But whoever opens up in suite P is doomed from the start. Maryland’s will be no different… mark my words.

First in suite P was Horseradish Grill. Next came Real Food, which was ‘real’ good in my opinion. A decent place to take clients. Then came the Loafing Leprechaun, an Irish pub that was mediocre at best. Now you’ll find Maryland’s Crab House.

I started seeing signs for Maryland’s about a month ago but found very little about them online. They are still thinly reviewed on the various online review websites. They also don’t have a website of their own. Very strange. I didn’t know what to expect in coming here for lunch yesterday. Real Food was a classy joint, so maybe Maryland’s will be too?

Well, not so much. The decor is that of a cheap fish house. They have fake crab traps and fishing nets on the walls. Just very tacky. Yet at the same time you’ll find white tablecloths and napkins. I don’t really know what they are trying to be, a fancy joint to entertain clients or something out of Myrtle Beach? The prices on the dinner menu suggest that of a fancy joint. The lunch options suggest deep fried tourist grub.

I ordered a pretty straightforward fried shrimp platter. On the lunch menu, this is about nine bucks. You’ll get about a dozen small to medium sized shrimp in a peppery batter. I was a little disappointed that cocktail sauce didn’t come with my meal, but they provided some upon request. The shrimp were decent but nothing to write home about. Most lunch items come with steak fries and two hush puppies. Drink prices are steep.

My wife ordered shrimp and grits. Strangely enough, the shrimp on this entree were also fried. The combination didn’t go well together.

I couldn’t get past the abundance of fried food on the lunch menu. That along with the decor made this place feel like a Myrtle Beach tourist trap. They should be serving this stuff on newspaper in a basket and not on white tablecloths. Maybe the dinner experience is different (it ought to be with the price tag).

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by predicting another restaurant failure in suite P. Maybe one day a restaurant will thrive here. Inside it is cool space for a restaurant… just not THIS restaurant.
Maryland's Crab House on Urbanspoon

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