Main Event Entertainment strikes in Alpharetta

main event logoTexas-based Main Event Entertainment will open a bowling alley and entertainment complex off Mansell Road in Alpharetta. The firm has secured the former Home Depot Expo Design Center facility at 10700 Davis Drive. Measuring in at over 87,000 square feet, the building is one of the largest vacant spaces in Alpharetta.

Main Event bills itself as the premier “eat, bowl, play” destination. Each location includes bowling, laser tag and arcade games as well as dining and a full-service bar. Select locations offer indoor mini-golf, rock climbing and ropes courses. Inside it’s a dizzying array of lights, sounds and fun. It’s a concept similar to that offered by Stars and Strikes in Cumming but more upscale.

Headquartered in Plano, Texas, Main Event is owned Australian-based conglomerate Ardent Leisure. Alpharetta would be their second location outside of the Lone Star State where they operate a dozen locations. A Phoenix, Arizona store is also in the works as the company works to double their presence in three years.

Their arrival comes at a great time for the city. Alpharetta’s southern-most corridor is facing the possibility of large vacancies as movie theaters relocate. Main Event’s location on Davis Drive will create an trifecta of adjacent entertainment options. Next door is ice skating venue The Cooler. And nearby on Westside Parkway will be high-tech driving range Top Golf, also from Texas.

lebowski bowling alley

Two bowling alleys in Alpharetta? Shut up, Donny.

The news also comes at the same time a bowling alley and entertainment complex is being considered near North Point Mall. A rezoning will be necessary for this facility who’s operator has yet to be named. Main Event will need no such zoning change for their location. They’ve gone straight to the city’s Design and Review Board to approve their facade changes. If you’re putting money on which bowling alley is likely to be knocking down pins in the future, a wager on Main Event is a safe one. North Point’s bowling alley may be a non-event.

Bistro at ADAiRE – South Forsyth

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

Just a turn off McFarland Parkway lives a quiet little lunch joint that flies below everyone’s radar. Unless you happen to work in this office park you’d probably never know this little gem was buried here, waiting to be discovered. Let’s change that.

ADAiRE is a professional chef and catering service run by husband and wife duo Matthew and Lynda Phillips. Matthew is a Le Cordon Bleu-educated chef with a résumé that includes gigs at Rays on the River and The Ritz Carlton.

Their Shiloh Road office park location houses the catering kitchen. In the front of the store is a beautiful demonstration kitchen and four cozy tables. The Phillips have transformed this demonstration area into their lunchtime business, Bistro at ADAiRE. They’re only open 11 to 2 during the week.

It’s tough to review a place like this. It would be easy to write about the jerk chicken I had this week. The jerk seasoning was generously applied yet its heat tempered with a terrific chipotle honey sauce. But their menu changes each week so unless you happen to go there today, you’re outta luck.

So what can you expect here? They’ll feature two entrees and two hot side dishes each week. Entrees are often things like braised boneless shortribs or chicken. One week I had coq au vin with a side of ratatouille. Amazing. Did I just eat French food near McFarland Parkway? Someone pinch me.

The entrees are simple but well executed. Roasted chicken may not sound exciting, but when paired with a white wine, lemon and artichoke pan sauce it’s outstanding. It’s the kind of simple yet delicious cooking that a trained chef can do in their sleep. But somehow food like this never seems to find its way into ordinary restaurants.

Expect to pay a tiny bit more than a meat and veggie joint. An entree with one hot side item will set you back a ten spot. Iced tea or lemonade is included. Add the second veggie for two bucks more.

The menu also includes sandwiches, soups, salads and often a quiche. A ham and cheddar sandwich might look boring on the menu – that is until Lynda wields a blowtorch to brown the cheese just before serving. A smoked beef sandwich makes menu often. It comes with pickled onions, horseradish cream and a Guinness jelly. My goodness.

Soups range from the ordinary, tomato basil or gumbo, to unusual. How about a Spanish-style posole? It’s on the menu this week.

Share your email address with them and you’ll get the menu delivered at the start of each week. They also post it on their Facebook page. If something looks interesting then add the Bistro to your week’s lunch rotation. But you’re not going to go wrong just showing up blind.

And you thought McFarland Parkway was a culinary wasteland. Tisk tisk. You might get lost trying to find The Bistro at ADAiRE but it’s worth it. And let’s keep this little secret lunch spot just between us, okay?

The Bistro at ADAiRE is located at 6535 Shiloh Road suite 700. From GA-400 go south on McFarland Pkwy. Turn left on Shiloh Road then take the second right into the office park. Suite 700 is near the back of the office park on the right.

Farmers markets surprise and disappoint

Today we feature a guest post from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

My favorite time of the week is Saturday morning.  Friday and Saturday nights were my thing when I was younger.  As the years roll by I find myself gravitating towards events that occur on Saturday mornings; flea markets, garage sales, car shows and most recently farmers markets. Local farmers markets have sprung up all over.  They are open usually April to October but it varies depending on the season.

Over the last month, I have traveled all over north Fulton and Forsyth county scouting out all the major farmers markets I could find.  I had visions of old farmers with bushels overflowing with fresh, local produce.  What I found was both interesting and surprising.

While the majority of farmers markets historically take place on Saturday mornings, there are a few exceptions.  The Brookwood Farmers Market and the Vickery Creek Farmers Markets, both in south Forsyth, are on Friday afternoons.  Brookwood was disappointing to me.  It seemed that it would be bigger from the information on the web site.  Maybe the constant threat of rain has kept many vendors away.  Another problem I had was the location and the time.  The Brookwood market is held at Caney Creek Park near 141.  The hours of operation are 4-9 PM on a Friday, hardly a time I want to be driving in that congested area.

Vickery Creek is the newest player in the area.  The market is held early Friday afternoon in a blocked off section of the parking lot.  It was here that I noticed something.  Out of the dozen or so booths and tents represented, only two sold actual produce.  The rest were peddling products, gifts, cheese, salsa or whatever.  It took all of five minutes to walk from one end to the other and head back empty handed to my truck.

This trend of not having produce at a farmers market extends to many of the other ones I visited including the Alpharetta and Roswell’s Riverside markets.  The majority of the booths have items or services to sell, not tomatoes.  Jerky, herbs, breads, jewelry and blade sharpening are just a few of the alternatives to veggies that I have seen.

The only ones I’ve been to that are nearly exclusively produce are a few miles north in Cumming.  The Cumming Farmers Market is held early Saturday morning in the parking lot across from the Cumming Fairgrounds. It is what I imagined it would be, old dudes in old trucks with calloused hands selling items that came out of their own fields.  Ask them if it’s organic, and you might get a funny look.

City Produce is another. They are in a medium sized stand closer to downtown Cumming on the corner of Atlanta Hwy and East Maple Street.  You’ll find tons of great looking food, all local to the Southeast.  The peaches were from South Carolina, but mostly from Georgia.  It’s all under cover and well presented.  There’s also jellies and things to buy, but those are near the register and most likely impulse items.

Another trend that emerged was that the farmers markets tended to take on the personality of the area that they were located in.  The Cumming markets were more country, the Alpharetta farmers market was more upscale with a lot of signs with websites and email address. The Roswell market had a larger selection of organic produce and was a more Earth-friendly.  Both the Alpharetta and Roswell markets have live music to entertain you while you shop.

The Alpharetta Farmers Market is the biggest and also the most nomadic.  Previously held on Old Roswell street where the Food Truck Alley is now, it seems they had found a permanent home in the City Hall parking lot.  But the new city center project has ousted the farmers market and now it is located on Old Canton St.  The half-dozen produce stands represented by many local Forsyth and Cherokee county growers have good selections and decent prices.  It’s a good idea to bring your own bags as many places do not supply them.

Several of the markets have web sites and Facebook pages that have tons of information.  If you want nothing but produce without all the extras, take the short trip to Cumming.  If you’re more into the social scene with some produce mixed in, stay in Alpharetta or Roswell.  I usually end up in Alpharetta, munching on a crepe from Crepe Cottage or a cinnamon roll from one of the few bread vendors.  Oh yeah, I guess I’ll pick up a tomato or two.

Kids eat free? The devil is in the details

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

When did the kids meal become a profit center for restaurants? Some restaurants are starting to push the price into the five and six dollar range. Tack that onto already rising prices and pretty soon your family night out is inching towards fifty or sixty dollars.

That’s why I appreciate kids eat free deals. I also appreciate a few local mom bloggers who maintain comprehensive lists of the deals. In Alpharetta check out Blogger Christy Noll has deals organized into a handy google calendar. Over in Forsyth check out

But it’s not that simple. These deals have rules. So complicated are some rules that even a food blogger has trouble following them. I’m going to make an example of CANS Taqueria in Crabapple. My inability to stay within their narrow rules and their inflexibility left a sour taste in my mouth.

We started with an appetizer at CANS, something that was probably a high-margin item for them. Next I ordered the fish tacos for $13 and my wife a quesadilla, also for $13. My kids ordered off the kids menu.

We were in a hurry to make another appointment so I didn’t look at the check until after my credit card was swiped. Turns out we didn’t get the kids eat free special. Our fish tacos and quesadilla were not considered “entrees” from their menu. Mind you that at $13 they were more expensive than many CANS entrees. But to qualify you had to recognize that entrees were from only one column of their menu. Sneaky! Our waiter didn’t alert us of this at ordering time, although we didn’t ask (more on this later). He also didn’t fix it when I protested. Neither did the manager on duty that night. The owner offered to make things right days later via email but I probably won’t be back.

I share my story to remind readers to pay attention to the mice-type. These deals are only offered on certain days of the week and usually not on weekends. Typically you have to have one paid adult meal per kid. Sometimes you have to order high-margin items like soft drinks. And as in the case with CANS, only certain parts of the menu may apply. And if a restaurant is trying to be deliberately deceptive then they may not alert you to missteps during your order.

So ask about kids eat free deals as soon as your arrive at a restaurant. Make your server confirm that your order meets all the rules before he submits it. And keep up with the mom bloggers I mentioned above for the best deals!

Caffeine and Octane

Today we feature a guest post from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

Imagine this scenario.  Two guys are sitting in a Cobb county coffee shop.  A third guy comes in and says, “who owns those two Porches out there?”.  A car discussion ensues and the car show Caffeine and Octane was born.

Originally called Cars and Coffee, the idea was for people to get together on Saturday mornings with their cars and admire and appreciate other people’s rides.  The name and concept came from a similar show in southern California.  The show has been held in several different parking lots and was switched to Sunday mornings over the last six years.  The number of participants has grown from the original three to over 700.  The show has grown and evolved organically without any advertising; all completely by word of mouth.

The show is the first Sunday of each month from 7:30 – 11:00 AM in the office parking lot at the corner of Deerfield and Windward Parkway.  It’s where the bear was seen not too long ago.  No bears here, just horsepower.

Cars that range from exotics, muscle cars, classic rides, hot rods, tuners, trucks and motorcycles blanket not only that parking lot but the adjacent ones too.  There’s no entry fee to show your car.  Just get there early, find a spot and hang out.  There’s also no admission fee for the public either.  Everyone is invited to come out and see what’s out there. Several sponsor tents dot the landscape.  They help to offset costs such as insurance and traffic control.

Make sure to get there early or you might miss something.  At June’s show there was a million dollar Bugatti Veyron that I didn’t get to see because it was gone before I got there.  I did get to see many cars that made me sad that I don’t make enough money to have one.  The vehicles that come to show are from all over the Southeast, from as far away as Myrtle Beach and Birmingham.  Completely word of mouth.

Last year the show was taken over by Bruce Jones of Autotrader Classics.  Bruce manages the show and is working on the web site.  You can also find the show on Twitter and Facebook.  Autotrader’s tried to not change much about the show.  They did put on a show in May down at the World Congress Center called Octane 2013.  That show focused more on show cars for sale.  It was well attended so look for another installment next year.  That show requires tickets for entry.

There’s a police presence to keep everyone’s right foot in line but the car culture does a good job policing itself.  Everyone gets along no matter what they drive, from a 1967 GTO to a 2004 BMW M3 to a 1957 Chevy Bel Air to a 2013 Camaro.  Don’t look for burnouts or high volume activities.  It’s not that kind of show.  Grab your coffee and come out, rain or shine, and come see some pretty amazing pieces of machinery.

12600 Deerfield Parkway
Alpharetta, Ga 30004

Rolling out the unwelcome mat in downtown Alpharetta?

Tonight Alpharetta’s Council will consider a small item that could create a bit of controversy. The proposal, forwarded from city staff, would place limits on some businesses in the historic district of downtown. The measure is likely to pit different downtown factions against one another. Pass the popcorn, this one might be interesting to watch.

Are some businesses not welcome in downtown Alpharetta?

The change would restrict a laundry list of uses in downtown including offices, schools, health clubs, grocery stores, service stations and more. The limits apply to businesses on the ground floor of buildings located within 25 feet of a sidewalk. Basically this means buildings along the west side of Main Street and both sides of Milton Avenue.

A few existing businesses already fall into this bucket and would be grandfathered in. However if they wanted to move to another part of downtown or expand then the limits would apply.

Expect support to come from the usual suspects in downtown, especially those business owners not affected by the change. They will claim that the limits will increase walk-ability and work towards creating a vibrant downtown.

Opposition is likely to come from property owners and their commercial real estate brokers. The change ties their hands and limits marketability of property. Also expect opposition from Rivers Academy, a private school on Main Street that qualifies for limits under these rules. Alpharetta hasn’t exactly rolled out the welcome mat for this school’s downtown presence. For a city that prides itself on quality schools, that’s disappointing.

Alpharetta Restaurant News – July 2013

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

After a snoozer of a spring and early summer, the restaurant scene is finally heating up. There’s so much to talk about I’ve split this post in two. For retail news, check out my post from last night.

There are four new restaurants coming to Roswell’s Sweet Apple Village shopping center on Ertis Road. They are Marco’s Pizza, Ertis Kitchen and Bar, Sushi Mori and The Peach & The Porkchop. Also making news in Roswell is the new Krispy Kreme doughnut shop being built on Highway 9 and Mansell Road. Looks like it will replace Roswell’s older location.

Heading towards Alpharetta you’ll find recently opened TD Asian Grill and Sushi. They’re in the former Lucky China location on Highway 9 near the hospital.

A country cooking buffet restaurant called AJ’s Home Cooking will open very soon in the Alpharetta Commons shopping center on Haynes Bridge Road. The location will be a challenge for these guys. They will be behind Alpha Soda in a spot invisible from the road.

And there’s a ton to report in Forsyth County. Chicago-style pizza chain Rosati’s Pizza may open a restaurant in Cumming. They’ve signed a franchisee here but a location has not been announced. If it opens this will be the first Georgia location for the growing chain.

Branchwater is now open in the Vickey Village development. Back in April I wrote about how I think these guys could be a game changer for this struggling area. A little up the road will be The Corner Burger Shop. They’re building in the former Construct-a-Burger location. And don’t forget 7 Tequilas Cantina which is building in Smokejack’s old spot around the corner.

You’ll find two new restaurants on Peachtree Parkway in south Forsyth. Cafe Caribe will be a Cuban/Caribbean restaurant opening near Rio Balsas. This shopping center has doomed  several restaurants. Is it cursed? I think years of road construction was the culprit. This stretch of Peachtree Parkway is about to break out.

Quietly opening recently was TPS  Pizza. Didn’t you get the memo? They’re at 1790 Peachtree Parkway in a space that’s seen a few other pizza joints.

In Cumming proper you’ll find Laguna Mexican Grill. They recently opened on the square in downtown Cumming. And Pollo Tropical has begun construction on Marketplace Blvd. Look for them in an out parcel of Wal-Mart.

The small Mediterranean restaurant MAC Meals appears to have closed. And we’re still watching Xian China Bistro. The restaurant remains closed. Rumor was that they are remodeling but there are no signs of that happening.

Restaurants Coming Soon

Salt Factory – They’ll probably open in August. Prepare for a Salt vs Hop Alley faceoff in downtown Alpharetta.
Mama’s Pizza – Reopening soon in new digs on North Point Parkway.
Great Harvest Bread – Sammich chain coming to Windward next to Mambo’s Cafe.
Main Street Kitchen – They were supposed to be interested in 52 North Main. What’s happened to these guys?
Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe – Alabama-based chain coming soon to Windward Parkway.
Casa Del Sol Mexican Bar and Grill – Mexican joint in Forsyth near 141 and highway 9.
7 Tequilas Cantina – Mexican restaurant replacing Smokejack in Forsyth’s Midway community.
Jose’s Mexican Grill – Opening soon next to Zaxby’s on North Point and Webb Bridge.
Hurricane Grill – Wing joint coming to Johns Creek, Medlock Bridge and State Bridge.
First Watch –
Breakfast concept building at Northpoint and Old Milton.
Chipotle, Corner Bakery Cafe, Pollo Tropical, Zoe’s –
Starting to look like real restaurants now.

Thanks to Mike Christensen for his help with this article. It’s a lot to keep track of.

Alpharetta Retail News – July 2013

The pace of new restaurant and retail openings is starting to pick up after a slow spring. It’s enough that I need to split this monthly column into two separate posts. Stay tuned on Friday for a very long list of new restaurants. In the meantime, here’s a few new retail and entertainment options to look forward to.

Bowling and family entertainment center Stars and Strikes will open a new location on Highway 9 just into Sandy Springs. Look for them south of the river near Dunwoody Place. Expect a November 2013 opening.

And as reported first on this blog, Alpharetta will hear plans next month for a bowling alley near North Point Mall. I should remind readers that this is by no means a done deal. The city’s Planning Commission will hear their case before going to City Council.

AMC’s new theater at the mall is coming along. Drive by the back of the mall if you’re in the area. And I keep hearing rumors that a restaurant may joint the theater at some point. And rounding out the entertainment options is Top Golf. The new facility is clearing land along West Side Parkway. No opening date has been announced but I would imagine it’ll be into next year.

Retail Charity – Two local charities have plans for new retail stores, and I’m not talking thrift stores here. The first is south Forsyth-based No Longer Bound. This charity treats men suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. They plan to open a hand-crafted furniture store called The Boutique by No Longer Bound. Look for them to open very soon at 1790 Peachtree Parkway.

The Drake House is a Roswell-based charity that provides transitional housing to homeless women and their families. The charity operates a women’s boutique called The Drake Closet that sells new and used ladies clothes and accessories. They plan to open a second location in downtown Alpharetta on Old Roswell Street behind Smokejack.

Muse Salon and Spa has plans to leave Alpharetta for fancy new digs in Johns Creek. They’re in the process of converting the former Dolce Vita restaurant at 11705 Medlock Bridge Road. And a little up the road into south Forsyth you’ll soon find a new location of Spa Sydell. They’re taking over the former Sandra Gane space.

And keep an eye on things in Forsyth County. The Collection (fka The Avenue) will see a few new faces. Women’s boutique Altar’d State will soon open here. Plans for a small hotel are still in the works. And also look for a new Racetrac convenience store to begin construction across the street.

Forsyth’s third Wal-Mart should begin construction soon near Target on Peachtree Parkway. Unfortunately Forsyth’s proposed location of Costco Wholesale appears to be dead according to news reports. I’ve heard they are looking at other locations. I’ve also learned that the former Up The Creek restaurant building in Cumming will be demolished to make way for a small four unit shopping center.

Growler wars - They continue unabated. Blind Murphy is running with their recent victory at City Hall. They’ve started selling flights of beer to be consumed at their store. But competitors are pouring into the market. Draft Beer Market is very close to opening on Jones Bridge Road in Johns Creek. They will have a staggering 60 taps of beer. And Roswell’s Ale Yeah is moving their location up the street to be a little closer to the action. Meanwhile in Milton at least two gas stations are now filling growlers, further turning this business into a commodity.

And finally, a battle might be looming in downtown Alpharetta. The city is considering limits on what types of businesses can open on the ground floor of buildings in the historic district. This one will be fun to watch.

Alpharetta’s alcohol changes and who they benefit

Tonight Alpharetta’s Council approved several significant changes to its alcohol ordinances. Several of the changes came at the request and/or benefit of a handful of businesses in the city. Here’s a rundown of the changes.

Sorry Grandma, but I'm gonna have to see your ID

Carding Grandma - Previously Alpharetta’s code required that EVERYONE produce identification, regardless of how old they were, before being served a beverage. This resulted in uncomfortable situations where old ladies were asked to show ID for a glass of Chardonnay at dinner. Even talk show host Neal Boortz ridiculed Alpharetta for this law. The city has completely removed this requirement, reverting back to the state law governing sale to those under 21.

“Adult Playpens” - Rules regarding outside consumption at restaurants have been relaxed a bit. Previously restaurants had to construct fences around areas where folks could drink. These so-called “adult playpens” may no longer be required.

Wine Bars - This change came at the request of Avalon, specifically their future tenant Cru Wine Bar. Its seems Cru would have had a tough time conforming to the 50% food ratio required by restaurants selling alcohol. Wine bars will have a lower threshold of 40% of sales being food.

Drinking outside at Avalon - The city now allows for outside consumption of alcohol at certain large mixed-use developments. These rules don’t apply to all mixed-use developments, only those that are zoned for 200 houses, 300 hotel rooms, 500,000 square feet of offices and 350,000 square feet of retail. It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to see that this is for Avalon.

Drinking at Whole Foods? - There is a provision that might allow for consumption of alcohol at certain large supermarkets. The rules state that eligible supermarkets can’t sell tobacco or lottery tickets. That rules out Publix, Kroger and Walmart but Whole Foods would qualify.

Bigger samples at growler stores - Growler stores can now offer or sell four ounce samples, limited to 16 ounces total. The samples can be of growler beer or as part of an education class. Blind Murphy pushed for this change and is the only growler store in town currently offering such classes.

Growler stores will also be allowed to sell 16 ounce plastic cups of beer from their stores at city-sponsored downtown events. But only growler stores located in the downtown district are eligible. That means currently this change benefits only, you guessed it, Blind Murphy.

The city also passed changes to rules governing outside events with alcohol and those who might carter such events.

Photo credit: Steve Jerman (creative commons)

Building campaign warchests in north Fulton

Mike Bodker’s been busy. No, it’s not the vague ethics charge taking up his time. The Johns Creek mayor has been raising some serious campaign cash for his re-election campaign this fall. Mr. Bodker’s already held fundraising events in the city and even hosted one at the Commerce Club in downtown Atlanta. He’s raised well over $50,000 as of June 30th.

Mr. Bodker’s one of only three candidates in all of north Fulton that’s even begun bringing in contributions. It’s an early attempt to build a warchest. Perhaps it’s a sign of vulnerability or just the realization that he’ll face a competitor. But in Bodker’s case, it circles around to that ethics charge. According to public filings his campaign has spent $2,600 with the Alpharetta lawfirm Briskin, Cross & Sanford. It’s unusual for a local candidate to spend this much with an attorney.

Sandy Springs mayoral candidate Rusty Paul has raised $63,000 since just April. He’s the hand-picked successor to Eva Galambos and has deep political and lobbying connections.

Roswell mayor Jere Wood and Joe Lockwood from Milton both face re-election this year. Neither has begun raising funds as of June 30.

To put Bodker and Paul’s campaign warchests into perspective, let’s compare them to Alpharetta’s bruising three-way mayor’s race in 2011. The three candidates spent a total of $80,000. As of June 2011, only David Belle Isle had begun raising money. Bodker and Paul are each on a pace to blow away those campaign numbers.

The young cities of Johns Creek and Sandy Springs have never witnessed strong campaign battles for mayor. That’ll likely change this year. And coverage of these campaigns will eclipse every other campaign in north Fulton this year.

Only one city council incumbent in north Fulton has raised money as of June 30 – Donald Mitchell. He’s kicked in $20,000 of his own money into his re-election campaign. A handful of contributions have also trickled in, mostly from downtown business owners. The $23,000 in cash he has on hand is more than double what he spent on his entire campaign in 2011.

Clearly Mitchell feels vulnerable this year after his antics on a reality television show this spring. Without that embarrassment he was probably a shoe-in for re-election. He’s very friendly guy and is terrific at retail campaigning.

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