Breweries in Roswell, hooch in Forsyth, hard soda in Alpharetta

It’s been fun to watch the booming craft beer business in this area. From growler stores to breweries, this business is going gangbusters. Local municipalities are having a tough time keeping up. Alcohol ordinances are being updated all the time. There are yet a few more to report on this month.

Spirits USA logoRoswell is considering an ordinance to allow breweries. That city’s planning commission will hear the matter next week. Passage may come as soon as mid-November. No word yet on who might be interested in opening shop.

And Forsyth County continues to stay a step ahead in their alcohol laws. They are moving forward with plans to allow for distilleries. The proposed ordinance would allow for samples but not retail sale.

With deep roots in moonshine and bootlegging, Forsyth would be the perfect place for a craft moonshine distillery. I had secretly hoped someone would consider a business like this. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The Cumming Patch reports that Spirits of the USA is behind this effort. Spirits makes a handful of liquor brands, many of which are flavor-infused vodkas. The company has operations in Florida and South Carolina but the founders have ties to Forsyth.

Back in Alpharetta, the folks behind Blind Murphy are branching out. Watch out Boone’s Farm! They’ve started making hard sodas under the banner of Naughty Soda. Their theme seems to be that of the naughty pin-up girl. Customers can expect a line of fruity-flavored drinks spiked with 5% alcohol. I guess the idea is to dizzy up your date if she doesn’t want beer?

Cafe Caribe – South Forsyth

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

In suburban Tampa, where I grew up, there’s a family-run Cuban restaurant in just about every shopping center. It didn’t take long for my family, re-los from North Carolina, to get hooked on this cuisine. The food was always bursting with flavor, the prices low and the portions generous.

Caribe lechon asado 1

A $7 lunch portion of Lechon Asado.

Perhaps that’s why I like Cafe Caribe so much. This new restaurant opened about a month ago on Peachtree Parkway in south Forsyth. They’re a lot like the Cuban restaurants I remember from my childhood. The restaurant is simple, unpretentious and the food remains true to the traditions of Cuban cuisine found in south Florida.

Papas rellenas stand out on their appetizer menu. These mashed potato balls are filled with beef, breaded and fried. They are perfectly cooked to a golden brown color and offer a nice contrast in texture. A dipping sauce unfortunately was missing and would have complemented these well. You also can’t go wrong ordering their ham croquettes. Delicious.

Caribe’s picadillo stood out. It’s ground beef chunks braised with olives and raisins. The flavor is complex with some sweetness from the raisins.

If there’s one thing Cuban chefs can do it’s roast pork. Cafe Caribe’s take on Lechon Asado is spot on and will keep me coming back for more. They roast pork shoulder and serve it sliced, not pulled. Prior to serving the slices hit the griddle for a quick sear. On the plate it looks like a pork chop, but it’s so much better. The meat, delicately tender under the caramelized sear, easily yields to gentle pressure from a fork. Complemented with onions and a garlic mojo sauce, it is delectable. Pair it up with some robustly-flavored black beans with yellow rice and you’ve got a stick-to-your-ribs meal.

A few items can be a tad on the greasy side. Arroz con pollo, served with a large leg-thigh quarter, leaves a good bit of fat on the rice. My wife didn’t enjoy this entree. Ropa Vieja, braised flank steak served shredded, is also a tad greasy yet still flavorful.

Cuban sandwiches are made the traditional way and with their own roast pork. Also on the menu is media noche or midnight sandwich. This Cuban sandwich variety is popular in Miami and features a sweet bread. It’s certainly not something you’re likely to find elsewhere around here.

Lunch specials come with rice, black beans and maduros (plantains). Lachon Asado is available as a lunch special and the portion is enormous. Small appetites could make two meals out of it.  And priced at only $7, I felt like I was stealing this meal.

There’s enough left on Cafe Caribe’s menu to keep me exploring. The sandwich list is vast. I also see paella. Maybe I’ll give it a try if I can pull myself away from the roast pork.

Cafe Caribe on Urbanspoon

Cafe Caribe is a winner, a welcomed addition to Peachtree Parkway’s blossoming new restaurant scene. Their kitchen is cranking out some seriously good Cuban eats. Just show the front of the house some patience as they work out the new restaurant kinks.

Slow start to Alpharetta campaigns

The September 30 campaign finance disclosures have been filed by both of Alpharetta’s fall candidates. The results are a bit of a snoozer, especially for this armchair campaign follower.

Incumbent Donald Mitchell raised a little more money in recent months and currently sits on approximately $15,000 in his warchest. Earlier this year he seeded his campaign with $20,000 of his own money, half of which came in the form of a loan. He’s since repaid that loan to himself.

Contributions from downtown interest continue to trickle into Mitchell’s coffers. Thus far he’s received checks from the folks behind children’s boutique Alex n Sis, cigar shop Tinder Box and Larry Attig.

Mitchell also collected a small contribution from Penn Hodge, Alpharetta’s king of strip malls. Mitchell campaign signs are being deployed at properties managed by Hodge’s firm. It’s an interesting endorsement.

Hodge seems to have a new-found interest in downtown Alpharetta. He was appointed to a small committee tasked with bringing a college to the old Milton High School campus. His firm also has a new real estate project in the historic district. It makes good business sense for him to financially support Mitchell at this time.

So here at Roots we’ll be keeping an eye on the cozy relationships being forged downtown. It’ll make for good blog fodder someday.

Challenger Doug DeRito has yet to raise outside funds as of September 30th. He’s kicked in $3,000 of his own money but that’s it. Don’t count him out though. DeRito’s done this a time or two.

Neither candidate has paid a consultant at this time. Expect these relationships to be revealed in the last campaign filing due just before the election.

The Corner Burger Shop – Midway Park

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.

Corner Burger ShopOk, ok.  Yes, it’s another burger joint in the already saturated Alpharetta/South Forsyth burger scene.  And yes, it’s a little far out there for normal Alpharettians to journey.  But take it from me, this little locally owned place is worth a chance.  Good food, friendly service and a welcoming atmosphere have lead me back there many times.

The Corner Burger Shop occupies the former Construct-a-Burger location at Midway Park.

Owners Larry and Cindy Pendleton have a long history in the restaurant biz.  Larry has nearly 40 years working for others including Big Daddy himself at Dreamland BBQ. Larry spent the last 20 years or so as a general manager of the Roswell location and director of operations.  His wife Cindy also worked at Dreamland as catering manager.  Larry had always wanted to open his own restaurant, and now he has.

Larry developed the menu himself that includes burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, wings and salads.  The burgers are made from a blend of ground steak and brisket which lends to a unique texture and flavor. It’s also the same type of mixture used by an legendary Atlanta burger spot The Vortex. Unfortunately it could have used a little more seasoning for me.

The burgers come in several varieties from the basic single, double, triple and (eek) quadruple patty monster called the Home Run.  There are also a few specialty burgers like the popular BBQ burger.  My favorite is the Special burger which comes smothered in cheese sauce and homemade burger sauce.  It’s very flavorful and worthy of at least four napkins.  The burger sauce tastes like bean-less meat chili similar to what you’d find on chili dogs.  It’s an old family recipe with a super secret ingredient.  Don’t ask me, but man, it’s good.

The hot dogs are Hebrew National.  The only items that are not made in house are the fries and chicken tenders, both frozen.  I personally enjoyed the fries.  Sure, they aren’t fresh cut, but they are seasoned perfectly and are consistently crispy.  My son gets the chicken tenders every time and I never hear any complaints from him.  They are pretty good; yes I ate some of his.  I’m just being a thorough reviewer!

There’s also a hidden gem on the menu – the sausage.  It’s covered in the meat and cheese sauce, but unlike a normal chili dog, the snap and the juice of the sausage is heavenly.  Another popular item are the onion rings.  These sweet Vidalia onions with the right amount of breading and a hint of cayenne were a huge hit with my wife.

The prices have increased recently on most items.  The burgers and such aren’t too pricey, but to add a drink and fries to make a combo is a slightly steep $3.50 up-charge.

The Corner Burger Shop on Urbanspoon

The decor will strike a familiar tone if you remember Construct-a-Burger.  The location is positioned to take full advantage of the hordes of kids playing sports at the park.  Future plans for the Corner Burger Shop include a catering service with home made food and possible expansion to new locations.  The Corner Burger Shop puts an emphasis on family and community, sponsoring the West Forsyth varsity football team.  They currently only have a Facebook page.  A website is in development.  Look for it to be live in a few weeks.

Is the Corner Burger Shop the best burger out there?  No.  Is it a solid burger place that’s worth a look?  I’ll see you there.

MARTA public meeting is tonight!

MARTA connect 400 logoOfficials from MARTA will hold a rare public input meeting TONIGHT at Alpharetta’s City Hall. The topic of the day – expansion of the heavy rail line from North Springs to Windward and the billions it will cost.

We talked last month about the sorry excuse for a study MARTA’s conducted thus far. Two weeks ago Alpharetta’s City Council seemed to agree, giving a tongue lashing to MARTA officials who spoke before a meeting. At issue was the lack of participation from Alpharetta residents. Unfortunately this may be one of the only remaining chances local residents have speak out.

The meeting will be in the Council chambers from 6:30 until 8:30. If you’re unable to attend you can watch the proceedings online at the city’s video portal. Citizens can also email opinions directly to MARTA using the email address connect400@itsmarta.com.

Regardless of your opinion of heavy rail expansion, please make your opinion known through one of these means. And if you’re at the meeting tonight, look for your favorite local blogger and introduce yourself!

5 Seasons Brew Pub – Still afloat in a sea of beer

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.

5NorthlogoSince I have been writing for this blog, I have become the de-facto beer guy.  I’ve chatted with nearly everyone in the north Fulton/Forsyth area.   I would be amiss to leave out the old guy on the block, 5 Seasons.  How has Alpharetta’s first brew pub weathered the storm of growler stores, breweries, and other brew pubs?  Have they been affected?  The short answer is yes.  And no.

5 Seasons was started by chef Dave Larkworthy back in 2001 as an avenue to offer fresh, local food paired with fresh, local beer.  At that time they were the only player in the game.  Dave’s friend Crawford Moran joined the show in 2004 as the brew master.  Crawford was exposed to beer early on, and he quickly developed a passion for brewing.  After a classic back packing through Europe trip, Crawford came back to his native Georgia with a mission; to brew the beer he fell in love with across the pond.

At that point in Atlanta, there wasn’t much of a choice beyond the mega beers, so Crawford took matters into his own hands and make what he wanted.  He started Dogwood Brewing Company in 1995 and closed it in 2004.  Crawford has a passion for brewing, and he is always excited to get hands on with some new styles, different hops and creative barleys.

The Alpharetta location opened about ten years ago on Old Milton Parkway, really all by itself.  The brewery sits right as you enter behind a large wall with windows.  The problem is, once you’re in the dining room, it’s easy to forget that there is a brewery there.  It’s just hard to see it.  It’s not so much 5 Seasons’ fault.  Per the law, a brew pub has to keep the actual brewery behind a barrier from the public.  For those wondering, Hop Alley skirts this a bit by having their bar declared a “barrier”.

The biggest change that has affected 5 Seasons is the 6% ABV law, where people can now brew and sell beers above 6% ABV.  That allowed Crawford to really open up the types of beer that he could make.

The thing that really sets 5 Seasons apart is the amount of change you’ll find in both the food and beer menu.  The lunch and dinner menu changes daily, and the beer menu changes nearly as often.  Locally sourced food from nearly a dozen farmers supplies the restaurant with the freshest meals available.

The million or so growler stores that have opened over the last couple of years have exposed a whole new population to craft beer, which is good for 5 Seasons.  Educating the public on new beers is a recurring theme in the Alpharetta beer scene.  The more people want beer, the more beer everyone will sell.  Sure, the growing number of options and outlets for beer is cutting into 5 Seasons’ business, but that’s offset by the quality food that’s available there.

One the biggest changes that would affect 5 Seasons hasn’t happened yet, and may never happen.  Crawford is helping work toward changing Georgia law to allow breweries and brew pubs to sell beer to go in growlers.  If that comes to fruition, then Crawford feels it would be a huge shot in the arm for business.  Also, look for more beer education, one-off styles and whatever else Crawford can get his hands on.

5 Seasons Brewing Company North on Urbanspoon

The guys at 5 Seasons are kind of out on their own without a lot of help or relationships with the other local Alpharetta beer folks.  They’ve been around the longest, but their location might have them left out of the discussion.  Don’t fret for 5 Seasons.  The ever changing menu and the passion for brewing will carry them far into the future.  You never know what you’re going to get, but you know it’s going to be good.

Developer free-for-all in Forsyth

While residential zoning requests have abated recently in Alpharetta and Milton, south Forsyth County has exploded. The list of rezoning requests on the county’s website spills across three pages.

Shiloh Rd Site PlanMost alarming of all is the number of proposed neighborhoods with very high densities. A typical request starts with houses on 6,000 square foot lots or smaller. And developers are often requesting variances to allow homes to be built as close as 11 feet from each other. Most of the requests don’t fit the county’s land use plan.

Leading the charge is Ryland Homes who’s bought or has contracts on dozens of tracts in the county.

A few are adjacent to industrial uses that would be unpleasant to homeowners. Ryland has a request on Shiloh Road that’s surrounded by industrial and office parks, including a data center. Enormous diesel generators would be in back yards of homeowners. But the worst offender of all was a project approved on Daves Creek Drive. This 247-home development will be surrounded on three sides by a granite quarry.

Several factors are contributing to the developer orgy in Forsyth. Last year the county watered down their residential classifications to allow for dramatically smaller lot sizes. Lower impact fees also encourage developers to choose Forsyth. And homeowners were politically weakened by the elimination of at-large election of commissioners a few years ago. It’s reduced accountability.

The result is this avalanche of rezonings from developers emboldened to push densities to the limit. Forsyth will continue to struggle with traffic on neglected two-lane country roads and a school system already over capacity.

Grass root opposition groups are sprouting up everywhere. If you’re a Forsyth County resident (like I am) then I encourage you to get plugged into one of these groups. A good place to start is Forsyth HOA and Homeowners. Fix Forsyth Traffic is another good website focusing on the Post/Mullinax corridor. If you know of other groups, please leave me a comment.

Apartments, apartments, apartments

They’re back! The proposed Deerfield Parkway apartment complex in Milton has resurfaced. If you’ll remember back about a year ago the city narrowly rejected a request from Crescent Resources to build a new complex on Deerfield Parkway. The developer sued Milton arguing that the city was violating the Georgia Fair Housing Act by rejecting affordable housing.


View Crescent Resources apartments in a larger map

Since that time Milton created a form-based zoning code in the Deerfield area. The judge hearing the lawsuit remanded the case back to Milton so that the developer could reapply for the zoning under the new rules.

This case will be interesting to watch. The argument was made in court that the developer wanted to build lower-end apartments. Will Crescent make this pitch to Milton, or will they come with a high-end product? We talked about this double standard last year. It’s all starting to play out now.

And back in Alpharetta… Tonight that city’s Council will consider creating something akin to a neighborhood watch program for apartment complexes. Traditional programs like this don’t work in apartments so law enforcement has to get a little creative. It’s a good program though. But remember, apartment opponents are unreasonable when they say apartments invite crime, right?

And while not technically apartments (yet), there’s another interesting nugget on Council’s agenda tonight. Council will begin discussing developer qualifications for the City Center project. This is for the four sections that will be privately developed.

Up until this point, the city has never mentioned the word “residential” with regard to their City Center project. They’ve tip toed around it but the word has not appeared in a single document or discussion – until now. I predicted the city would wait until after the election for this topic. With nearly everyone running unopposed, it’s now safe to have this conversation out loud in city hall. Bring on the high density residential!

And if condos over retail are still unfinanceable, then you can expect a developer to come with a plan for apartments in downtown. Remember, it’s all for the sake of having a “vibrant” downtown.

Alpharetta Restaurant News – September 2013

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

It’s been a busy month following restaurant openings… in south Forsyth. Alpharetta has been a little slow for some reason.

Myzenes logoThe biggest news in south Forsyth has gotta be Myzenes Indian Coastal Cuisine. They will open in the Stonebridge Promenade shopping center on GA-141 a little north of McGinnis Ferry. I don’t know much more about the concept, but Indian seafood sounds interesting.

I’ve learned a little more about Collet French Pastry. They will open in October on Old Milton Parkway in the Sabri Guven shopping center. Francois Collett will indeed be here working in the back of the shop. They’ll be open seven days a week featuring French pastries such as macarons and croissants and will have a coffee bar. A small lunch menu will feature quiche, crepes and pate en croute.

A few weeks ago I met Jim Prince, the new owner of Firefly on Windward. He will stick with the Firefly name and concept with a planned opening later this month. The menu will keep some of the old Firefly items but otherwise be completely new. Prince was behind the former Fratelli di Napoli on North Point Parkway. We wish him all the luck in the world. He’ll need every bit of it.

Mama’s Pizza has opened on North Point Parkway, relocating from Old Milton Parkway. Also now open near the mall is Pollo Tropical and Chipotle. Pollo Tropical is getting horrendously bad reviews online. My only visit wasn’t positive either. There are far better alternatives in the area. For example…

Cafe Caribe opened September 3rd in the same shopping center as Myzenes in south Forsyth. This humble little Cuban joint has potential. Their lunch menu features “media noche” Cuban sandwiches. My fellow Florida natives will know what this means.

And back in south Forsyth… 7 Tequilas Cantina and Corner Burger Shop are now open on Post Road in the Midway community. Casa Del Sol Mexican Grill opened last week on Hwy 9 and Bethelview where Bad Bob’s BBQ used to be.

Chepe’s Mexican Grill has closed their south Forsyth location on Mathis Airport Road near Old Atlanta. Their Bethelview location remains open as does the Johns Creek store.

And also abruptly closing this month was Chill Restaurant & Lounge on Haynes Bridge. Restaurant broker Shumacher Group reports that the owner relocated out of state. You can buy the restaurant for $225,000.

Restaurants Coming Soon

Salt Factory – Delay, delay, delay.
Rosati’s Pizza – No word on when they will open but probably soon. They’re in the old Buckhead Pizza location across from The Collection Forsyth.
Philly Factory – Franchise cheesesteak joint opening probably next week on Old Milton Parkway.
Tower Burger – The slowest buildout ever. Still got a long way to go on this South Main Street burger joint.
Great Harvest Bread – Sammich chain coming to Windward next to Mambo’s Cafe.
Main Street Kitchen – Coming to the old 52 Bistro space on North Main Street.
Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe – Alabama-based chain coming soon to Windward Parkway.
Jose’s Mexican Grill – The sign is up and the menu online for this new joint on North Point and Webb Bridge.
Hurricane Grill – Franchise wing joint out of Florida. They’ll open next week in Johns Creek on Medlock Bridge Road.
Dunkin Donuts – Building two new Forsyth locations; McFarland at Hwy 9 and Peachtree Parkway near Dutch Monkey Doughnuts.
First Watch – They will be in a new strip mall on North Point and Old Milton behind the huge oak tree. Land being cleared now. 2014 opening.
Corner Bakery Cafe/Zoe’s – Almost open on Haynes Bridge.

Alpharetta Retail News – September 2013

das Gallery logoAlpharetta will soon be home to a new fine art gallery. das Gallery will open this fall at 2225 Old Milton Parkway in the Sabri Guven shopping center. They will feature contemporary original art in the form of paintings, sculptures and mixed media.

Antique consignment shop The Green Bean Exchange is now open on South Main Street. Alpharetta is the third location for this Cumming-based business.

Bowling

We learned a little more detail about the proposed North Point bowling alley this past month. They informed the city that the concept would include laser tag, billiards and group/party rooms. Also they expect to have two restaurants – a fine dining spot called The Windy City Restaurant and a sports bar called Beyond Chances.

But they’re running out of chances. The yet-unnamed bowling alley is a real similar concept to Mansell Road’s Main Event, which will likely open sooner. Alpharetta’s Planning staff felt the same way, saying in their opinion that “careful consideration should be given by the applicant regarding future success given the similarity of the two event facilities and their proximity.” Such a strong rebuke of a business idea is rare from the city’s staff but completely warranted. This North Point bowling alley may never get off the ground. #gutterball

Main Event hasn’t starting their buildout but I expect that to happen very soon. And Stars and Strikes is still showing a November 2013 opening date for their new location just south of Roswell on Highway 9.

Gas and Beer

Convenience store chain QuikTrip has begun construction on their new location at Old Milton and GA-400. I’m told that their older location down the street will likely close when this new store opens.

Construction will begin very soon on Racetrac‘s new location next to The Collection in south Forsyth. It’ll measure in at 6,000 square feet and will feature a walk-in beer cooler and frozen yogurt. Expect most new QTs and Racetracs to have similar features from here on out.

Growler store Draft Beer Market finally opened this week in Johns Creek. They’re at 11730 Jones Bridge Road where Uncle Louie G’s used to be and will feature the area’s largest selection with 60 taps.

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