Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint – Windward

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

Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint opened in September and has since gathered quite a following. Everyone I’ve spoken to about Maddio’s has mixed reviews.  I am no different.

Uncle Maddio’s is a chain with six metro-Atlanta locations, and according to the website, 75 more stores in development.  It’s a fast casual, design your own pizza concept.  You choose your type of dough (white, wheat or gluten free), your type of cheese and then you get to go crazy with toppings.  The person then assembles your pie per your instruction and lays it on a conveyor belt oven that’s reminiscent of the Quiznos toaster.  As the pizza slowly travels through the oven to cook you continue down the line and pay. You are given an identification number to place on your table.  The pizza is brought out to your table hot and ready to eat.

Along with pizzas, Uncle Maddio’s has a variety of salads and paninis.  If the pressure of all those ingredients gets to you, they also have many specialty pizzas to choose from.

My first experience was for take out.  I ordered the Big Max specialty pizza which has loads of meat and a basil tomato sauce.  My wife and I were disappointed in the taste and quality.  The pizza was bland, cold and uninspired.  I thought that perhaps the travel time between the restaurant and my home really took it out of the pizza.

The seating is an unusual mix of really high booths and crammed in tables.  It is rather tight.  Several employees were trying to bus tables and deliver food.  There’s not much room to walk.  It didn’t help that the place was packed. There are several outdoor tables that will help with the crowds come summertime.

The employees are friendly enough. There is a station with plates, silverware, napkins and condiments.  They also have one of those fancy Freestyle Coke machines with millions of combinations of soda. There were several televisions to watch and pretty loud music piped in.  It was almost distorted and was a tad distracting.

I dined in on my second visit, choosing my own toppings from the massive selection. The pizza arrived and I chowed down.  My theory about the time after cooking was correct.  The pizza was delicious and flavorful.  I ate nearly the entire thing.

There are not many options on the kid’s menu.  Parents, be prepared. There is a small pizza meal and that’s it. The prices are not too bad, even thought you can’t find them on the website.  It was around $20 for a medium pizza and a drink.

Overall, I’ve has ups and downs with Uncle Maddio’s.  It’s worth a shot.  It’s neat picking out your toppings ala Subway and there are several gluten free and organic options. Eat it there for the best taste.  Ciao Maddio!

Uncle Maddio's Pizza Joint on Urbanspoon

Lee’s Take - I’m not going to disagree with Mike on this one. You’ve got to have diminished expectations going into this joint based on their common ancestry with Moe’s. Nevertheless there area few decent items to be found here. Stick to the specialty pizzas. The southwest baja, a spicy chicken pizza, is a winner. My wife likes their Greek pizza. For pies with a-la cart toppings, you’re better off elsewhere.

Their kitschy theme grates on me. Employees say “Ciao Maddio” and “hot pie” under compulsion from management. It doesn’t come off well, very contrived. The make up for it with a decent Facebook page with some specials to be found there. And watch those small kids pizzas, lest you share your own pie with Junior!

Alpharetta Restaurant & Retail News – December 2012

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

The Roswell invasion of Alpharetta has begun! Last weekend the buzz on Twitter was all about Salt Factory Pub. The popular Canton Street eatery has leased the former KFC/Tifosi location at 102 South Main Street. Expect an opening in February. Also expect a bocce ball court on the patio.

And at about the same time we learned of Nine Street Kitchen. They have inked a deal to lease the space at 52 North Main Street according to a source close to the property owner. Mayor David Belle Isle also confirmed this deal.

So that’s two Canton Street restaurants planning second locations in downtown Alpharetta. This is easily the most significant restaurant news of the year. Some might argue this is a glowing endorsement of Alpharetta’s plans for downtown. Alpharetta has done a lot to lure guys like this. The plans seem to be working.

Campania Pizzeria - News downtown shouldn’t overshadow Campania. I’ve learned a bit more about this Neapolitan-style pizza joint coming to 800 North Main. They are indeed trying to bring an authentic product to Alpharetta. Antico in Atlanta was mentioned in my conversation with the manager. They don’t expect to have the same vibe as this trendy Midtown joint, but they do hope to recreate their pies. The wood-fired pizza oven imported from Italy certainly won’t hurt. These first-time restauranteurs want to open in February. That’s probably a little ambitious.

First Watch Café – Sometimes we miss a new restaurant. This one slipped by back in October when the Atlanta Business Chronicle first scooped it. The J Christophers in Johns Creek has been sold and will change into this concept from Florida. How will they stack up to other high-end breakfast joints like Egg Harbor or Another Broken Egg?

The restaurant broker Shumacher Group reports that they have sold Izumi Asian Bistro on North Main Street. Not sure if the concept stays the same or changes to something completely different. Stay tuned.

And while we’re talking about restaurant brokers… you can buy the Dickey’s franchise in Milton for $150,000. Or how about some local froyo joints for sale?

Restaurants Coming Soon

Tap on Main – False start, five yard penalty, repeat first down. Now they are back to being closed. Welcome back to the coming soon list.
OVR Coffee Cafe – A vegan bakery and coffee shop in south Forsyth’s Vickery Village. Look for them in the old Mommy Francis space.
Mambo’s Cafe – Their sign is shining brightly above their new digs at Windward and Main.
Tower Burgers - They are looking at the old Sonic building on South Main Street.
Chipotle, Corner Bakery Cafe, Pollo Tropical – A trifecta of new restaurants to be built on Haynes Bridge near the mall entrance.
BurgerFI – Fast-casual burger concept coming to Windward next to FedEx.
Sushi Mania – Former Brookhaven sushi joint coming to the Camden Village shopping center in Johns Creek.
Mayuri - Building in the old Woody’s/Pizza Hut near Northpoint Mall.
Osaka Steak & Sushi – Small hibachi joint coming to Johns Creek/south Forsyth near Michael’s.

On Amana Academy, irony and lessons learned

They gave the new guy some good-natured ribbing. It was at an Alpharetta City Council meeting from a few weeks ago. Richard McLeod, the city’s recently hired director of Community Development, was on the receiving end. After just a few weeks on the job he was being “evicted” from his office space.

Evicted isn’t the right word. Community Development shares a building on South Main Street with the Amana Academy, a charter school. The school recently purchased the entire building and wants to expand into the adjacent space. Assuming the role of landlord, they asked the city to vacate their office space.

But the irony didn’t escape me as Alpharetta poked the new guy. It was about this time last year when Alpharetta rejected Amana’s request to open just off Windward Parkway. Funny how the tables have turned. The city is the one being inconvenienced. Certainly that wasn’t the intention of Amana, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Amana’s purchase of 285 South Main is significant and a great thing for this part of the city. The building is growing older and has been in and out of foreclosure. The first phase of Amana’s buildout will be to take the left wing of the building (where Community Development is now) and convert to classroom space. It’s not clear when they will alter the other wing of the building (and if Satay House will have to move).

Along with the construction comes borrowing. Amana plans a $10 million bond issuance to fund acquisition of the building and construction. And while Alpharetta isn’t on the hook for these bonds, they will still have to approve them in a public hearing.

The process is similar to how the Fulton Science Academy’s bond issuance went down. This is Alpharetta’s chance to take the lessons learned with FSA and apply them here. In that case, Alpharetta’s Development Authority assumed FSA’s charter renewal was in the bag. The bonds were approved and construction started on their new campus off Westside Parkway.

But we know how this story ends. FSA’s charter was not renewed. The bonds went into default, construction stalled and a Prospect Park-esque mudpit is all that’s left.

While I’m not aware of any governance problems with Amana Academy, Alpharetta should proceed with caution. It would behoove the city to take the lessons learned from FSA and apply them here. Will Amana’s next charter renewal go smoothly? Or does the school system have it out for every charter school in north Fulton?

Hopefully Amana’s story ends with a stable owner of 285 South Main, a thriving charter school and a solid relationship with the school system.

Taking over for Tom Price

Do you read Peach Pundit? You ought to. It’s the premiere blog for all things Republican in Georgia. I read it at least weekly and more often during a campaign season.

I guess it’s been slow recently because the bloggers at PP have written about a particular topic not once, not twice but three times in as many weeks. It seems that Saxby Chambliss is vulnerable for a primary challenge in 2014. His moderate views and compromising attitude don’t sit well with conservatives or Tea Party members.

Among the list of possible challengers are two north Fulton politicos. The first is Karen Handel. She has two state-wide campaigns under her belt, including nearly landing the GOP nomination for Governor in 2010.

The other is Congressman Tom Price from Roswell. And while we usually don’t cover state-wide politics on this blog, this campaign is noteworthy because Price’s Sixth Congressional District would be up for grabs. Who might be the possible contenders?

Perhaps we’d see contenders from 2010′s state senate race? John Albers won that highly-contested race. Or how about Alpharetta’s mayor David Belle Isle? Many consider him to be politically ambitious.

Or don’t forget Chamber leader Brandon Beach. The guy seems to run for anything these days. But his election day batting average is approaching the Mendoza line. Then again Beach might get his shot at the State Senate again if Chip Rogers resigns.

Might other north Fulton mayors be interested in getting their ticket punched to Washington? Mike Bodker? Eva Galambos?

Jan Jones from Milton might be a nice choice. She’s been focused on Milton County creation in her role as Speaker Pro-Tem. Perhaps that is an unfinished job she’d like to see through completion.

And I suppose city councilmen might consider a run. Betty Price serves on Roswell’s City Council and just happens to be the congressman’s wife. Perhaps she’d consider running for her husband’s seat.

Positions down the ballot will open up if any of these folks throw their hats into the ring. A good shuffling of the political deck is a healthy thing from time to time.

Best new restaurant of 2012 – Breadtime

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

I have a confession to make. In my day job I’m a software quality assurance engineer. That’s a fancy way of saying that I test software; and that’s what makes my column two weeks ago particularly embarrassing.

The WordPress plugin I used for polling didn’t work so well. Oh and I didn’t test it out. The result was a frustrating experience for my readers when selecting their favorite new restaurant of the year. Please accept my apologies.

But I’m very pleased with the results we do have. The winner by a narrow margin is the German bakery and cafe Breadtime. I certainly concur with that opinion.

It took this husband and wife joint a while to hit its stride. They opened to a limited menu and small staff. Early patrons were often confused by the offering and working of the restaurant. If you ever needed a reason not to harshly judge a new restaurant, this was it. To add to the confusion, they closed for an entire month for vacation. How very European of them.

But Breadtime has hit their stride. I’ve never had a bad meal here. Their homemade pasta is awesome, especially served in lip-smacking browned butter. Their schnitzel is authentic and cooked golden brown and delicious. And their chicken salad sandwich might be the best in Alpharetta.

I agree that Grand Champion BBQ might have earned some votes on reputation alone. I’ve been twice since they opened in Crabapple and think they might still have some kinks to work out. Let’s give them another month or so before conferring titles.

While I don’t think they deserve to be on any best-of lists, here’s a hat tip to Uncle Maddio’s. I set some very low expectations of this joint given their common ancestry to marginal burrito chain Moe’s. But they easily exceeded these diminished expectations. North Fulton has some outstanding New York-style pizzerias that elevate par. Maddio’s certainly isn’t there compared to these guys, but they make a worthy pie for a fast-casual joint.

Sharp Residential – a zoning to watch

The market for new single family residential homes is starting to show signs of life. Stalled developments are being restarted and a trickle of new zoning requests can be found in many suburban cities.

View Sharp Zoning in a larger map

Tonight Alpharetta will consider one such request from Sharp Residential in the northwest portion of the city in the vicinity of Providence and Mayfield Roads. The proposed development would be on 79 acres in three parcels that span two zoning applications. Some of the sellers are families with roots in Alpharetta that run for many generations.This in and of itself isn’t huge news. But the Sharp zoning is worth following for several reasons. Pass the popcorn, this could be interesting.

Alpharetta’s 2030 Comprehensive Land Use Plan saw final approval a year ago this week. The plan seeks to preserve residential “estate” properties in the northwest “character area”. The way this character area was defined in the plan, with extremely low density, is remarkable considering how much additional density the 2030 plan added to the rest of Alpharetta.

This area is new to Alpharetta, annexed not many years ago. It has a very Milton-esque feel to it in both the land and the concerns of the residents. Newer residential neighborhoods in the last ten years have featured larger homes on acre lots, much like in Milton just down the street. The land use plan sought to preserve this feel.

The Sharp zoning proves to be a significant test of the 2030 plan and its protection of character areas. The developer seeks to build smaller homes on 15,000 square foot lots, a density that exceeds the 2030 plan guidelines for this part of the city.

Engaged citizens – These are not the usual suspects fighting density in Alpharetta. The neighborhoods in this area are very well organized and united in their opposition to the Sharp zoning. They reached out to the developer and packed the chamber during the Planning Commission’s hearing on the matter. The meeting went past midnight.

And planning commissioners heard their voices loud and clear. They passed a very reasonable compromise with larger R-22 lots and bigger homes.

How will Council react? Pay attention to individual members during this discussion. Remember that Mayor David Belle Isle and Councilman Jim Gilvin campaigned last year on lower density. Will they hold firm on the CLUP’s guideline of lower density in this portion of the city?

Also remember that Councilmen Owens, Kennedy and Mitchell are up for re-election next year. Their votes and language during this process will be interesting to watch. Alienating citizens in the northwest portion of the city may not be judicious for these gentlemen come November 2013.

Will Alpharetta’s council side with the developer or a very united and organized community? Will NW Alpharetta, one of the last bastions of low residential density, retain that designation in the land use plan? And will these new, concerned citizens join the conversation about high residential density throughout Alpharetta? Stay tuned!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

It’s hard to talk about restaurants on the day after Thanksgiving. The fridge is stuffed with leftovers. It’s doubtful my family will darken a restaurant’s door at all this weekend.

Instead I’ll make a pot of leftover turkey carcass gumbo. If this were a cooking blog I’d post a recipe. It basically involves making a stock out of turkey bones then using it as the base of the gumbo. It’s delicious. If your picked-over turkey carcass isn’t in the trash can by now and you want the recipe, inbox me.

I’m truly grateful for my blog readers who take the time to read my writing and participate in conversation. Some outstanding friendships have resulted from this blog and I’m very grateful. Happy Thanksgiving.

Photo credit: Kat Cole (creative commons)

Will Alpharetta criminalize homelessness?

Tonight Alpharetta’s City Council will consider an ordinance to prohibit unauthorized “camping” in public and private spaces. If enacted the ordinance would essentially criminalize the act of being homeless in Alpharetta. Police would have the authority, after one warning, to arrest these unfortunate people for simply sleeping or preparing a meal.

It didn’t used to be this way for the homeless of Alpharetta. As many as a dozen sites exist around the city where homeless have lived. Most are out of sight in the woods or along flood plains.

Alpharetta always showed compassion for these hidden homeless. A great example can be found in an article by Revue and News reporter Jonathan Copsey. He describes a clan of homeless living in temporary structures in the woods off Mansell Road. The article talks about how police kept in close contact with this homeless community and how local churches responded.

But now things are different. What’s changed? First, Alpharetta’s homeless are no longer hidden. A new group has taken up residence in downtown Alpharetta. Their belongings and sleeping bags are visible at the abandoned gas station on Main Street next to Smokejack.

Homelessness on display is something we’re not accustomed to Alpharetta. It makes some feel uncomfortable or not safe. Additionally, this particular group of homeless is directly across the street from Alpharetta’s proposed City Center project.

Alpharetta’s Council is laser-focused on downtown right now. They’ve demonstrated they are not willing to let things stand in the way of their $29 million investment – be they specimen trees, liquor laws or now the homeless.

It’s also been reported that some of Alpharetta’s homeless have become aggressive when in the past they were mostly peaceful. However the wording of this proposed ordinance doesn’t address such behavior. It levels the sights on homeless who decided to just lay their heads here, regardless of their temperament.

Alpharetta shouldn’t take the extreme step of criminalizing homelessness. And to consider this on Thanksgiving week? Many choose to extend hospitality to the less fortunate on this week, not the other way around.

But no matter how you cut it, this is a most difficult issue to address. My views may be in the minority but I feel strongly about them. I welcome your comments, as always, so long as they remain civil and respectful.

Photo credit: Jonathan Copsey, Appen News

Alpharetta Community Thanksgiving Service

Each year during the week of Thanksgiving several Alpharetta church congregations partner to offer a community Thanksgiving worship service. My family and I attended the service last year at St James Methodist. We found this ecumenical service to be meaningful, relevant and the host congregation very hospitable. I encourage you to attend this year at St. Aidan’s and bring your family. Here are the details:

What: Alpharetta Community Thanksgiving Service

Where: St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church, 13560 Cogburn Road

When: Tuesday November 20th, 7:00pm

Clergy from several congregations will share in worship leadership with Dr. Don Martin of Alpharetta First Methodist delivering the sermon. Dr. Martin is a great speaker with a humorous and down-home approach to his sermons. I look forward to hearing his Thanksgiving message to the community.

A special offering will be collected to benefit North Fulton Community Charities. A time of fellowship and refreshments will follow the service.

Poll – Best new Alpharetta-area restaurant of 2012

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

We spend a lot of time here on Fridays talking about new restaurants. We scope out the restaurant scene and spy on new joints as they are conceived. Hopefully I build some anticipation, spur my readers into trying new joints and support great local restauranteurs.

We can just about close out the books on new restaurants in 2012. Nothing on my coming soon list is likely to open in 2012, with the exception of maybe Mambo’s Cafe new location on Windward.

So what that in mind, what do you think was the best or most anticipated new Alpharetta-area restaurant to open in 2012? I want to hear from you! Assembled below, in no particular order, is a list of every new restaurant we talked about this year. Remember that my coverage area is Alpharetta, Milton, Johns Creek and extreme south Forsyth.

So pick your favorite and let me know what you think of the overall list. Was this a good class of new restaurants? Did anyone knock your socks off? And if you have a favorite new joint south of the border in Roswell, leave me a comment!


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