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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.

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.

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.

Oh Boy Rotisserie & Tacos – Johns Creek

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

oh boy logoIf Boston Market married that saucy Latin girl you remember from high school, you’d have Oh Boy Rotisserie.

That’s the most succinct explanation I can give for Oh Boy, the Peruvian-themed rotisserie and taqueria that recently opened in the former BB’s Bagels location in Johns Creek. They didn’t do too much to the space since its bagel days. A fresh coat of paint really brightened the place up. The joint cleaned up nicely which makes you wonder what excuse BB’s has had over the years.

Oh Boy offers a menu that intrigued yet confused me from the get go. Rotisserie chicken? Tacos? Not a combination we’re accustomed to seeing. But it’s a combination that works, bringing roasted chicken together with bold and spicy chiles. It mostly works.

I usually order my yard bird with only dark meet, especially if it’s roasted. Thighs tends to hold their moisture much better than breasts in my opinion. But you need not have this concern at Oh Boy. Their rotisserie chicken is moist and tender in every bite. Even that white meat breast is moist and juicy. The skin is the right texture with a nice spice rub.

You pick a dipping sauce for your chicken when you order. The creamy aji amarillo sauce isn’t bad but Oh Boy’s verde sauce is the bomb. It’s a puree of chiles and cilantro that will set you mouth afire in larger quantities. On my first taste I knew this stuff was familiar. After a few bites it hit me… Mambo’s Cafe. Their menu also has Peruvian influences. And if you’ve even tried the dipping sauce that comes with bread at Mambo’s then you’ll know Oh Boy’s verde sauce. It’s very good and addictive.

Rotisserie comes with two sides. A few were duds, some decent and one knocked it out of the park. The falafel wasn’t bad, as were the green beans and cilantro lime rice. Corn on the cob left me disappointed. But their smashed butternut squash is the real deal. Almost the texture of a coarse mashed potato, the squash was tossed in a herb and spice concoction that was amazing. I’m sure chili powder was in there because it packed a little kick. The portion size was pretty big as well yet I still ate every bite.

oh boy tacosTacos at Oh Boy are not bad. They’re filled with pulled rotisserie chicken and tossed with difference sauces. That spicy verde sauce isn’t bad choice by any means. If that’s not enough there’s a bottle of sriracha on every table so knock yourself out. Otherwise Oh Boy’s tacos are just alright but not worth making a special trip for, especially considering the other taqueria options nearby.

The items I mention are worth trying but unfortunately there’s not much else on the menu that is enticing me to explore. Nevertheless Oh Boy is a unique place and worth a visit if you’re in the neighborhood.

Crust Pasta and Pizzeria – Main Street

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. Thanks to Mike for filling in for me while on vacation. I’m back to blogging next week. -Lee

crust logoThere are no fewer than 20 pizza places within the 30004 zip code.  While that does count national chains like Pizza Hut, it is a staggering number.  How can this area support that many pies?  Because Americans consume nearly three billion pizzas a year.  Here in Alpharetta, we have a wide variety of pizzas to choose from ranging from New York and Chicago style and Neapolitan, to mom and pop joints vs. national chains.  It’s pizza mania I tell ya!

The newest contenders for your pepperoni dollar is the unfortunately named Crust, which is situated in the old Alfrescos location on Main Street.  I know that the crust is part of the pizza, but it sounds like a medical condition.  Not very appetizing.

The layout inside is very much like Alfresco with a bar in the front, mostly tables and a few booths.  The materials inside are nice and inviting.  Wood beams reclaimed from a place in Woodstock are hung from the ceiling and wood also surrounds several TV’s.   Brick and metal round everything  out.   It’s all very nice.  You can tell time was spent on the décor.  One nit-pick about the booths.  The pad that you sit on does not stay in place as you slide in.  It bunched underneath me and cause great shuffling and rearranging to get comfortable.

Enough HGTV, let’s get to the food, man.  The menu features salads, pastas, pizzas and sandwiches or rather “crustwiches”.  Those are sandwiches on nice and toasty flatbread.  I had the meatball crustwich and found it delightful.  It featured sliced house made meatballs smothered in cheese and just enough toast on the bread to give tons of flavor.  A winner.  We also had the mozzarella sticks and garlic knots.  The mozzarella sticks were large and flat.  Good crunch, but the marinara sauce was weak, watery and a little overloaded on garlic.  At least it does come out screaming hot.

The garlic knots were gigantic.  Looked like a nearly foot long breadstick tied in a knot covered with garlic butter sauce.  Soft and messy.  I hate that there were five.  It’s always an odd number.  My wife and I fought over the last one.

My wife had salads on each occasion.  The Greek salad tasted good, but it looked like it had been though a shredder.  It was so very hard to eat with a fork, we needed a large spoon.  She also had the buffalo chicken salad.  The chicken was very spicy and plentiful.  The greens were crisp.  It was a much better experience than the Greek salad.

Crust pizza sliceNow, to the pizza.  I was going to go with my traditional every-mammal-represented all-meat pizza.  However I was drawn to the BBQ chicken pizza.  I chose wisely.  It was outstanding.  Chunks of marinated chicken with red onion mixed in with gouda cheese and drizzled with BBQ sauce all combined for a heavenly pizza trip.  The red onion was small enough to lend some flavor, but to not overpower the taste or be too crunchy.  The fact that the sauce was drizzled on the pizza and not smothered all over was also an advantage.  All the flavors were in perfect balance.  A symphony of pizza.  The crust was the kicker.  Slightly sweet with a hint of pretzel.  The bottom was thin and crispy, yet was pliable like NY style.  I can’t wait to get it again.

Crust seems to be a good fit for Alpharetta.  Locally owned, locally sourced ingredients, and pretty darn good pizza.  Owner Darren Henderson has a long pedigree in the pizza business.  He spent the last four years as at Blue Moon Pizza, and before that was a managing partner at Carrabbas for 13 years.  Pizza is no passing fancy for him.  The staff has been friendly for the most part.  There are local beers from Jekyll and Monday represented as well as liquors from the 13th Colony distillery in Americus.

Crust Pasta & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Crust has the goods to at least outlive it’s predecessor if not continue on for many years.

TopGolf – an inside look

We sent Mike Christensen to hack a few golf balls at the TopGolf media event. Here’s his report. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

We’ve all been watching.  Watching the progress on a lonely stretch of Westside Parkway.  The clearing of trees, the building of the structure, the erecting of the (oh my God) massive poles and nets.

TopGolf rangeOn May 20th, TopGolf will open its doors to the public and to Caddyshack quotes everywhere.  I got an inside preview of Alpharetta’s newest entertainment complex recently and what I found was a little surprising – and pricey.  But this is Alpharetta, so maybe not so surprised at the costs.

TopGolf, boiled down to its basic skeleton, is a driving range.  In all it’s fanciness, it’s a three story, semi-climate controlled, super high-tech, full bar, don’t skim on the materials and food… driving range.

The place is massive.  102 total bays to play a variety of golf-centric games.  The view from the tee-box  is impressive.  You’ll notice several holes of various sizes all over the yard.  In each hole are nets to catch the balls.  The object of the majority of the games is to hit the balls, equipped with GPS, into the different holes.  The computer will then calculate the distance and award points.  Pretty fancy, huh?

Each bay has seating and a touch screen to control the action.  And of course, there are TV’s all over.  You could watch golf, while playing golf.  Mind blown.  Don’t have any clubs?  No problemo.  Each bay has a selection of both men’s and women’s clubs to use.  Wave your club in front of the infrared sensor and a ball is deposited out onto the green for you. Very nice.  I never play golf, but I had a great time whacking away for over an hour.  There will be table service available when you’re playing so don’t worry about having to venture inside for refreshment.

If you do however you will be greeted by a very nice space.  There’s a full bar with seating like most high end restaurants.  Industrial stainless steel meets wood is the predominant theme with billions of TV’s scattered about.  The bar has a comprehensive inventory of local beers, which I was very happy to see.

top golf logoAfter you’ve played a few rounds of golf, you’re going to be hungry.  I tried a sampling of several miniature versions of items from the upcoming menu and was completely blown away.  The food was fantastic.  According to the presentation, 95% of the menu items are made from scratch.  There were little cheeseburgers with a green chile mac n cheese patty on top, house smoked brisket tacos with ancho chile sauce and slaw and shrimp and grits.

I asked the chef about the pickle fried chicken.  She said they take the chicken and brine it in pickle juice with jalapenos for six to eight hours.  Then they toss it with a rub and fry it in a pressure cooker.  It’s much like KFC, but KFC never made anything like this.  It was outstanding.  Juicy and not greasy.  A big hit.

The brisket tacos were spicy, but not too bad with the slaw offsetting some of the heat.  The burgers were my favorite.  The green chile mac n cheese adds a ton of flavor and texture to the burger and soft bakery bun.  I know the menu will have full-sized versions, but they should keep those burgers as small.  It was the perfect satisfying bite.

Looking at everything, the one question that kept nagging me was, how expensive is all this going to be?  Would this be a place where people can afford to go on a regular basis to hang out?  To be honest, it can be pricey.  The bays work on an hourly rate.  It’s cheaper in the morning at $25 an hour, and more expensive during prime time at $45.  That’s pretty steep.  Throw in the cost of food and drinks and your tab could run upwards of $100.  Of course, the more people in a bay will offset the hourly rate.  There are also monthly memberships that are claimed to be helpful with the cost.

I’ve seen the menu, and most of the food items are in the $9-14 dollar range.  Not terrible for the quality of food I tasted.  The beer is reasonably priced with even local brews in the $4-6 ballpark. The menu itself is 16 pages long with 7 of those devoted to beer, wine, sodas, and cocktails.  I wonder where they expect to make the most money?

Will the folks in Alpharetta get over their anger about the towering nets to give TopGolf a try?  Probably.  The space is huge, the games are fun and the food is out of this world.  But you do pay a price for all that fun.  Time will tell if prices will level out or will they keep people from coming back.

Disclosure: We received freebies from this business as part of a media event. You can read our disclosure policy on the about page.

Big Pie in the Sky – Mansell Road

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday. Today we feature a review from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

We love big stuff.  We want big trucks with big engines to pull big boats to big lakes to catch big fish (or small fish and tell big stories).  If a little something is good, then bigger is better.

The latest pizza joint in the north Fulton area goes above and beyond with the biggest pizzas around.  But is bigger better?  In this case, not particularly.

Big Pie in the Sky opened recently in the often vacant strip on Mansell Road next to the Porsche dealership.  It is the second Atlanta location (the first is in Kennesaw) for the pizza chain that rose to national prominence on Man Vs Food for their Carnivore Challenge.  It’s eleven pounds of meat laden pizza, two people and one hour to eat it all.  If you do it you’ll win $250 which you can put towards the gastric or cardiac surgery of your choice.

Big Pie sliceI had the nearly normal sized “small” 16 inch Carnivore pizza.  It is topped with bacon, ham, pepperoni, sausage and ground beef.  It wasn’t bad.  I hate to say this, but it was too much meat.  The sausage was on the verge of being burnt, and the diced ham was piled on too thick for my wife’s taste.  Sliced ham would have been better.  The crust is thin and crispy even with all the meat juices.

Big Pie has loads of other specialty pizzas to try like the West Coast Pesto with cream cheese and chicken and the Big Kahuna with ham and pineapple.  Or build your own.  The largest size you can get is a whopping 30 inch pie.  The box it comes in itself is impressive.  Serves  eight to ten.

Big Pie in the Sky really shines in one aspect, the lunch deal.  One slice from the 30 inch pizza with two toppings and a drink is $5.00.  That’s amazing.  We all got slices at work, and they really are bigger than your head. It fills you up without draining your wallet.  It will give you a hernia carrying the box to the car however. I had the meatball on my slice. It was a little bland.  It could have been kicked up a notch with some Italian seasoning or garlic or something.

The layout of the restaurant is a little strange. The ordering counter where the majority of the employees are is around the corner from the dining area.  There is a window where you can see into the kitchen which is pretty neat, but you have to be standing to see in and that can be a little awkward.  The service that I’ve experienced has been subpar as well.  Some more training or motivation would do some good.

Big Pie in the Sky Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

The pizza itself is not bad.  It’s certainly not up to great pizza standards that have been set in the area, but it’s not something that I would pass by.  With a little love, this place could be a second tier pizza joint.  Stop in and wield one of the giant slices and see for yourself if bigger truly is better.

Two newbie chain restaurants that impress – Great Harvest and Zoёs

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

I have a confession to make. I eat at chain restaurants.

Terrible huh? Yes it’s true. Figured it was best to get this out of the way now, lest a blog reader discover me and my family out at pizza buffet after a little league baseball game and feel disappointed. Sure we try to support the mom and pop joints. I’m always dishing out generous helpings of free publicity, especially if they are good. But at the end of the day I’m just a guy who eats out a lot – and I’ve got the waistline to prove it.

great harvest logoTwo recent additions to Alpharetta’s chain restaurant scene have impressed me. They seem to be impressing others as well, especially the cubicle ladies and tennis moms. They’re on these two joints like white on rice. That’s usually a good sign.

Leading off is Great Harvest Bread. Technically this is a franchise operation, not a chain. Nevertheless the Johns Creek franchisee has opened a second location in Alpharetta at Windward and Main Street.

My wife and I have been trying to eat less processed foods. Great Harvest fits the bill perfectly. Their breads, baked fresh in-house, are made with simple ingredients. Contrast that to the garbage in the grocery store these days. Your average loaf of bread is a chemistry project in how to extend shelf life.

So go try some samples. Great Harvest is plenty generous with them. Try a French baguette? Merci. How about some of this snickerdoodle loaf we’re working on? Don’t mind if I do! Chocolate biscotti? Munch munch.

Save some room for your meal because they have an actual menu here. I tried the spicy smoked turkey panini. It’s not a hard pressed panini yet is still warm with grill marks. I liked the roasted red peppers and how their sweetness contrasted with the spicy chipotle mayo. It looked small but was filling. The samples didn’t hurt to fill me up either.

Skip the potato chips as your side and opt for a cookie. The oatmeal raisin is huge – the size of a frisbee. They’ve somehow managed to make a chewy cookie that still has a crunch to it. Great Harvest simply nailed it on texture.

Breakfast isn’t a bad choice here either but is a little on the pricy side. A blueberry muffin will set you back three bucks. Nevertheless it’s dense and will easily fill you up for the morning.

Overall, Great Harvest is a winner. It’s a terrific alternative to something like Panera, a chain I’m not fond of at all.

Rounding out my duet of new chain restaurants is Zoёs Kitchen. These guys are taking over suburbia. Fresh off their recent IPO, they are expanding rapidly. A location at The Collection Forsyth is in the works.

The store on Haynes Bridge near the mall is crazy popular. I dare you to find a parking spot. I couldn’t at 12:15 yesterday and risked a visit from the tow truck by parking at the nearby hotel.

Zoes Beans and Chicken rollupLike Great Harvest, Zoёs strives for simple and fresh ingredients, yet with a Mediterranean feel.

Try the chicken roll-up. Despite having a rather boring name, this little rolled up tortilla packs a flavorful punch. The marinated and grilled chicken is perfect. Feta and caramelized onions are simple but delicious. It’s a lite and refreshing warm weather lunch that doesn’t let you down. Unfortunately the salsa on the side seems like an afterthought. Resist the urge to dip your roll-up in it.

I liked my side item better. Braised white beans with rosemary hits the spot. Only decorum prevented me from swabbing my finger into the empty cup for every last drop of this white bean goop.

So give these two new chain restaurants a try. And when you speak of Zoёs, don’t forget the umlauts.

Zoës Kitchen on Urbanspoon Great Harvest Bread Company on Urbanspoon

Da Vinci’s Donuts – Main Street

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday. Today we feature a review from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

davincis logoThere’s a new player in the doughnut game after your wallet and waistline. And this ones doing it old school.

Ohio natives Andrew and Melissa Rudd have left corporate life behind to follow a dream that began a long time ago in Melissa’s childhood kitchen making doughnuts with her mother and grandmother. Da Vinci’s Donuts opened recently on Main Street next to the defunct Alfrescos. What makes Da Vinci different than all the other shops in town?

They serve an old-fashioned, classic grab-it-and-dunk-it-in-your-coffee kind of doughnut. A cake doughnut. It’s a dense, yet light delicious two bite fist full of flavor. Yes they come from a commercial mix and yes they are less labor intensive than yeast doughnuts but who cares? They’re great! Take a box to your office and time how fast they disappear.

The box is different in itself. Designed to look and function like a pizza box, it keeps the doughnuts in their place. It’s strong enough to stack several dozen on top of each other without the fear of crushing the lower layers.

DaVinci boxThere are tons of flavors to choose from. Flavors range from the classic powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar to the more outlandish Samoa and my personal favorite, maple bacon. Don’t squinch your nose at the thought of a bacon topped doughnut. It is worth your while. The sweet cake combined with the savory bacon tied together with the maple icing? Oh yeah it’s good.

Don’t see anything you like? You can have them build a custom doughnut. Start with a base doughnut and add any type of icing toppings or drizzles that your heart desires. While much of the menu is set, there will be rotating seasonal flavors. New creations are in development like a pineapple upside down doughnut or chocolate mint.

Right out of the gate, Da Vinci’s is putting a large focus on the community involvement. They encourage creativity with a large chalkboard wall in the restaurant where patrons are free to express themselves however they would like within good taste. They also have several items from a local artist for sale in the restaurant. Look for many other local artists work to adorn the walls in the future.

Da Vinci’s opens early 6 AM and closes at 1 PM. On Fridays they reopen at 6 PM and are open until 9, and Saturday they’re open all day long to catch the later day crowds that most of the other unique doughnut shops miss. They make donuts fresh all day long. Look for them to be open on Thursday nights also to try to capture some of the crowds that come downtown for Food Truck Alley.

Da Vinci’s Donuts on Urbanspoon

Da Vinci’s Donuts has a warm and inviting feel to the space like you’re coming into someone’s kitchen. My only complaint is the doughnuts are too darn small. That’s something I’ll have to learn to live with.

Fry Me 2 The Moon – South Forsyth

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

Fry me 2 the moon logoWith apologies to Frank Sinatra…

Fry me 2 the moon
Is this a hidden seafood find?
Let me try another fish joint
Along Highway 9

In other words, it’s been tried
In other words, they’ve all closed

Try the fish of the day
It’s basa or rockfish fried golden brown
Variety is all I long for
It may keep me coming down

In other words, please be different
In other words, no more tilapia!

Fill my belly with shrimp
But what they have is all frozen
Wild caught is all I long for
Georgia coast should be chosen!

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In other words, fresh would be sublime
In other words, in other words, give them some time.

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