Is losing an election cycle a bad thing?

Presidential campaign sign litter - it doesn't happen here

Do you keep getting interrupted during dinner with endless robocalls from candidates? Isn’t is a shame that roadsides are littered with campaign signs? And why must every commercial on radio and television be for a political candidate? Are you annoyed by the endless campaigning during this most recent election cycle?

No, you’re not. The fact is the November election cycle during Presidential election years are almost non-events in the northern burbs of Atlanta. There are a number of reasons for this. First, nearly all of the state constitutional races happen on off-Presidential years. City elections in most north Fulton towns happen on odd-numbered years. Sure we’ve got a few ballot questions to answer, including a contentious issue on charter schools. But that’s about it.

And we have the Presidential election of course. But Georgia is a solidly red state. On top of that, this area votes for the Republican nominee by a wide margin. In 2004 my home county of Forsyth sided with John McCain over Barack Obama by a decisive 4 to 1 margin. Certainly no presidential campaign would waste money or effort here.

We have bitterly-fought primaries of course. Winners of these primaries may face a token Democrat put up as a sacrificial lamb for the slaughter. Maybe a write-in candidate will emerge but that’s about it. November ballots are just thin.

We’ve lost an election cycle, but is that such a bad thing? There are thousands of citizens in battleground states like Ohio who are weary of the long campaign season. They’d change places with us in a heartbeat.

Or do we segregate ourselves by political identity here? And if so, are we depriving ourselves of choices at the ballot box? What do you think?

Photo credit: Talk Radio News Service (creative commons)

Liu Fu – Johns Creek

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.

There’s a new player in the Chinese food scene in Johns Creek, in the form of Liu Fu. What makes Liu Fu stand out from the crowd? The folks running the restaurant have over 30 years experience behind them.

Liu Fu used to be called China Inn and was located on Peachtree Industrial in Chamblee. It was my mother’s favorite Chinese restaurant for at least 10 of those 30 years. We went there frequently and were never disappointed. The food was great, the service was fast, and the prices were wonderful.

After a dispute with the owner of their strip-mall in Chamblee, China Inn was closed. They re-opened as Liu Fu earlier this year in Johns Creek. I was very excited to have them so much closer to me, and went in with huge expectations. Most of them were met, but several were not.

Liu Fu is a free standing building on Hwy 141 south of McGinnis Ferry Rd. It’s easily accessible from both sides of the highway, which is nice considering 141′s divided nature. However it’s also easily missed as it sits down a bit from the roadway along with places like Panera Bread.

The place inside is huge! Tons of seating consisting of tables and booths. Dark woods, creative chandeliers, and a fish tank greet customers. With some intimate seating areas, this place would be a great date night destination. There is a window looking into the kitchen as there was in the old location, but this window is not a easily seen.

One problem I had is there are two large flat screen TV’s hung up on both sides of the restaurant. Seemed like an after thought and unnecessarly distracted from the atmosphere. There is a bar inside, but serves only beer and wine. My family has eaten there at least half a dozen times. We’ve never seen it really busy or crowded. I wonder if the lunch time crowd is heftier given all of the offices in that immediate area. There are a ton of other choices for lunch in Johns Creek, and the competition is fierce, but I feel that there are two vital areas where Liu Fu stands out.

The first is the service. The servers are prompt, polite, and man are they fast. Some opinions I have read have complained that the service is too fast, and that makes it feel rushed. I’ve been to a lot of Chinese restaurants, and the service is always fast, so I wouldn’t worry about it. One nice touch I have to mention. My two year old was not having the best night the last time we were there. He was melting down something fierce. My wife took him outside to calm down, and while she was outside, our waiter brought over some fortune cookies and a lollipop for him. That was above and beyond and was appreciated.

The second is the food. The menu is lengthy with five or six pages of options. The first half of the menu is in English and the second half is in Chinese. The reason being, at China Inn and here, I’ve seen a lot of Asian people eating there, which is a good sign for the authenticity of the food.

One word of caution, the food is a little pricey – $6-8 for an appetizer and  $10-17 for some entrees. We had two appetizers and two entrees and it was about $35. My wife and I have tried items from all over the menu from pepper steak and sesame beef, to sweet and sour pork and General Tso’s chicken. Everything has been outstanding and rarely is there anything left to take home. The pot stickers can be pan fried or steamed. I recommend steamed. The spring rolls are crispy and tasty. The pepper steak is my wife’s favorite although it didn’t have water chestnuts.

The crispy spicy chicken is outstanding. It’s little bits of chicken fried and mixed with peppers and onions. Boy is it spicy, and salty. I could take a bowl and eat it with my hands. Highly recommended.

If I had to pick one major complaint about Liu Fu, it would be this. There is no won ton soup on the menu. Let me correct that. There is no plain won ton soup. Liu Fu’s version is seafood won ton soup. It comes in a gigantic bowl full of all kinds of sea creatures. It’s certainly for more than one person. My wife and mother both had it, and did not like it. Won ton soup is my go-to soup, and I was very disappointed that it’s not there.

Liu Fu on Urbanspoon

Overall, my dining experience at Liu Fu has been very positive. There are tons of Chinese restaurants to choose from in this area. Liu Fu is worth a trip to Johns Creek. You can taste the 30 years of experience in every bite of food.

How Alpharetta landed Gwinnett Tech

On Monday Gwinnett Technical College announced plans to purchase a 25 acre parcel in Alpharetta for a north Fulton satellite campus. This is a terrific win for Alpharetta and the technology scene in this area.

Unfortunately the local media’s coverage of the event has been somewhat lacking. Many stories have been near-verbatim reprints of a press release with perhaps a few comments from Mayor David Belle Isle from Monday’s Council meeting. Here’s how Alpharetta managed to hook this big fish.

Interest in a Gwinnett Tech campus in north Fulton dates back to 2009 and 2010. The school observed a growing number of students with north Fulton addresses enrolling at their Lawrenceville campus. School planners believed enrollment at a north Fulton campus could eventually approach 10,000 students.

By 2011 several entities began lining up to submit bids for the campus. At this point Alpharetta’s primary location was the Milton Center, site of the former Milton High School. It was also around this time that Sandy Springs pushed for a bid. But very much unlike Alpharetta, local opposition to the campus was immense. A divided Sandy Springs council approved their bid by a 4-3 vote. By the time spring rolled around, Sandy Springs and Alpharetta were among eight proposals for the campus.

But the project was nearly killed by the pen of Governor Nathan Deal. At the end of the 2011 General Assembly session he line-item vetoed funding for the north Fulton campus. The future of a campus here seemed bleak.

2012′s session in Atlanta showed more promise. The Georgia House passed funding for the campus but the Senate didn’t include it in their budget. It was saved in conference committee and managed to survive the Governor’s veto pen.

Gwinnett Tech wasted no time this year. The bidding process began almost immediately with proposals heading to Lawrenceville by early summer 2012.

Alpharetta’s proposal may have looked a bit different than the competition. The city favored no particular parcel in their offer but rather lifted up several that were available in the market. Included on the list again was the Milton Center and also a bit of land on Webb Bridge Road. But unlike in 2011, North American Properties now had a presence in Alpharetta. Their 25-acre parcel south of the Avalon project was included among Alpharetta’s pick list.

The package gave Gwinnett Tech leaders a choice of locations within the city limits of Alpharetta. So rather than favoring one particular location, the city could focus on other appealing aspects… like moolah! Alpharetta’s offer included an incentive of $4 million in cash.

On Monday Gwinnett Tech selected Alpharetta and NAP’s parcel. We won’t know of all the factors that lead to the decision, but here are a few that likely contributed:

Alpharetta’s financial position – Let’s face it, Alpharetta is a wealthy city with a strong tax base. And with a triple-A credit rating, it should be no trouble  for the city’s Development Authority to sell bonds for this incentive. And while all bidders were asked to sweeten the deal with cash or land incentives, Alpharetta was best suited to this.

North Fulton’s newer cities simply lack the means to keep up in this regard. On top of that, Johns Creek and Milton are hamstrung by their charters which may limit their ability to float bonds.

Milton Center was undesirable – Even though the size of the parcel was far bigger than the NAP land, the Milton Center was never really in contention. According to sources close to the deal, Fulton County Schools may have imposed unreasonable conditions on the transaction. The school was also a greater distance from GA-400.

Salesmanship of Mark Toro – Don’t underestimate El Toro in this deal. His direct salesmanship played a part in Alpharetta’s win and the selection of the his parcel. Certainly this is more than a real estate transaction to Mr Toro. How will Gwinnett Tech’s campus complement the Avalon development across the street? It will be something to watch.

At the end of the day, Gwinnett Tech’s selection of Alpharetta is a great thing. It will create enormous opportunities for tech workers to sharpen skills and ambitious high schoolers to earn college credit. It will also be yet another tool to recruit and retain Alpharetta’s top-caliber technology companies.

Alpharetta Restaurant Trivia

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

It’s a slow news day here on Foodie Friday. Thought it might be fun to try a game of Alpharetta restaurant trivia. These will likely be easy questions for my readers. If this is a hit then maybe we’ll do it more often.

Please leave a comment with your answer. Or if you’d like to pose your own question, feel free to do so! Except where noted, we’ll be sticking to the city limits of Alpharetta with these questions.

Q1 – Which restaurant is considered to be the oldest in Alpharetta.

Q2 – I love this photograph. In which restaurant does it hang? Who is in this picture and why it is cool?

Q3 – Alpharetta has an unfortunate reputation for being mostly chain restaurants. However many of the big Wall Street-owned chain restaurant conglomerates don’t have a big presence here. Brinker International is the exception, having two Chili’s locations and a Macaroni Grill in Alpharetta. But among the other players – Darden, DineEquity and OSI Restaurant Partners – there simply are not many restaurants in the city limits of Alpharetta. In fact there are only two. Can you name them?

Q4 – This restaurant has roots in Alpharetta (ha) going back 13 years. It will eventually be forced to close or relocate due to Alpharetta’s city center project. Who are they and why will they have to move?

Q5 – What significant event happened in Alpharetta on October 3, 1993? Hint, it isn’t a restaurant opening but it continues to shape the restaurant scene here.

Q6 -This restaurant concept was hatched in Alpharetta and is growing through franchising. It is poised to become our town’s greatest restaurant success story. Who is it and what other north Fulton restaurants are owned by this family?

Local bloggers worth reading

Hello, is this the Sandy Springs Police Department? I’d like to report something stolen.

That might have been how the AJC reported the theft of one of their best local bloggers. Lieutenant Steve Rose is the public information officer for the Sandy Spring PD. For those from Alpharetta, he’s the George Gordon of Sandy Springs.

For years Lt Rose wrote a blog for the AJC called View From The Cop. It was a funny and well-written blog that often detailed the antics of stupid criminals and silly drunks observed from Lt Rose’s career in law enforcement.

Rose’s AJC blog has been silent for a year and a half but now he’s reappeared on the Sandy Springs edition of The Patch. I’m excited to see him writing again and am surprised that the online paper managed to steal him away from the mighty AJC. His first few columns were about his service as extra security at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. I’d imagine it’ll take a few articles for him to really hit his writing stride again, but I look forward to reading his work.

The Patch is slowly adding onto it’s blogger rolls. Many of their original bloggers have not kept up with submitting stories. In some editions (like the Alpharetta/Milton edition), the lineup of bloggers was lackluster. That’s all changing now. Here are a few that are worth your online reading time.

Julie Hogg – She’s a prolific gardener and has a vast knowledge of Alpharetta history. But it was her series on the trees of downtown Alpharetta that vaulted Ms Hogg to much local attention. Her little blog on the Patch changed the shape of Alpharetta’s future downtown development, literally moving buildings. Read her work and if you see her around town, buy her a beer.

Elizabeth Hooper – I respect Ms Hooper’s opinion on all things charter school. She understands the nuances behind complicated school issues such as the recent Fulton Science Academy debacle. More recently she’s written about the state charter school ballot question that we’ll vote on in November. If you’re undecided about this question, read her work.

Travis Allen – He wrote his first blog post about a month ago on how Alpharetta’s south Main Street has changed (or not changed). Travis lives in Milton and chairs the new city’s Historic Preservation Committee. He’s lived here all his life and brings a deep understanding of local issues to his writing. I look forward to many more of his articles.

Alpharettamoms.org – I’ve talked before about Christy Noll and her blog. It continues to be one of the best hyper-local mom blogs in these parts. It’s professionally put together and contains a ton of local information for moms and families. I hope she doesn’t mind this dad lurking from time to time. I learn a lot.

Alpharetta Restaurant & Retail News – September 2012

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

Campania – North Main Street

A future restaurant by this name has applied for a liquor license to operate at 800 North Main Street in Alpharetta. This is the vacant/foreclosed strip mall next to Autozone with a bunch of trees in front of it. It’ll be nice to see some signs of life here.

The name implies Neapolitan cuisine which would be a welcomed addition to Alpharetta. Beyond that I don’t know much else about the concept.

BurgerFI – Windward

And you thought the burger craze was waning. According to The Atlanta Business Chronicle this Palm Beach, Florida-based chain is expanding to Atlanta. They are planning a mind-boggling four locations in Alpharetta. The first will be on Windward Parkway next to FedEx.

We’re seeing a trend where fast-casual burger chains will hit the burbs before making the jump ITP. Back in June the Tampa-based chain Burger 21 announced a franchisee in the Milton area but a location is still unsecured. BurgerFI has caught them flatfooted.

Smashburger has followed a similar strategy of expanding to the burbs first. Their Windward store is nearly across the street from this new BurgerFI location. Throw a Five Guys and Scratch Fresh into the mix and now west Windward has four burger joints. Unsustainable.

Blu Bay Seafood – South Forsyth

These guys bought out the lease from BW Tavern and quietly opened a few weeks ago. Aldo Nahed at the Forsyth Herald wrote a pretty good first look article. Expect cheap seafood in generous quantities.

Alpharetta CVB – Gift Card Giveaway

The Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau has a great contest running until the end of October. They are giving away a package of gift cards valued at $1,000 spread among ten restaurants. There are some decent joints on this list, several of which I’d consider expense account restaurants. I’m happy to see the CVB promoting the city’s independent restaurant scene. It’s a worthy contest to enter.

Now Open

The Windward location of Uncle Maddio’s opened about two weeks ago in the former K-Cafe location. Uncle Maddio’s is to pizza what Moe’s is to burritos. Mirko Pasta opened on September 10th in Johns Creek at Medlock Bridge and State Bridge. Walmart Neighborhood Market opened Wednesday on Haynes Bridge near Old Milton. They aim to steal business from nearby Publix. And finally, Four40 Kitchen + Bar is now open at the Avenue Forsyth.

Other Restaurant News

BB’s Bagels is planning a competitive eating contest on October 18th at their McFarland location. The growing popularity of Dutch Monkey Doughnuts’ summertime contest was certainly a factor in creating a contest of their own. And speaking of Dutch Monkey, congrats to Arpana and Martin for winning the AMEX Big Break for Small Business contest. It was well-deserved recognition.

Ray’s Killer Creek on Mansell recently closed for a weekend for renovations. The upgrades are likely to be ongoing.

The City of Alpharetta will host an event in November called Vintage Corks and Gourmet Trucks. Expect a mix of wineries and trendy food trucks in downtown Alpharetta. The city should release more details in the coming weeks. And finally, I expect North American Properties to release a new list of Avalon tenants around the first week of October.

Restaurants Coming Soon

Toscana Trattoria – From the ladies behind Never Enough Thyme. They may open as soon as next week on GA-141 just north of McGinnis Ferry if the permits are approved. And speaking of permits…
Grand Champion BBQ – Their permit process is taking forever.  The anticipation is killing me.
Noche Johns Creek – October 3rd is the scheduled opening date for this tapas joint in Johns Creek.
Another Broken Egg – Breakfast chain opening in Cuzi’s former space on Old Milton Parkway.
Haiku Sushi Steakhouse – They are from Roswell – Location two on North Point? – Lee sucks at haiku.
OVR Coffee Cafe – A vegan bakery and coffee shop in south Forsyth’s Vickery Village. Look for them in November in the old Mommy Francis space.
Mambo’s Cafe – They have begun construction in their new Windward digs near Lowes.
Tower Burgers - Building in the old Sonic location on South Main Street in Alpharetta.
Chipotle, Corner Bakery Cafe, Pollo Tropical – A trifecta of new restaurants to be built on Haynes Bridge near the mall entrance.

Retail Coming Soon

Crazy 8 – A discount children’s clothing store from the creators of Gymboree. Look for them near Target on North Point.
Walmart -A third Forsyth County location is being planned on GA-141 and Mathis Airport Parkway near Target.
Regal Theaters - Moving from North Point Parkway to the new Avalon project.
AMC Theaters – Coming to Parisian’s old space at North Point Mall in late 2013.

Lobster Rolls in Alpharetta

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

What’s the latest food trend to hit Alpharetta? It might be the lobster roll. These trendy little sandwiches are becoming more and more popular and are flying out of restaurant kitchens. Let’s take a look at what’s behind their popularity and sample a few from Alpharetta-area restaurants.

The lobster roll has been a staple in New England for years. Thanks to a decline in lobster prices the sandwich is more readily available. But it still isn’t cheap as far as sandwiches go.

A traditional lobster roll contains lobster claw meat, served cold, and tossed in a tiny bit of mayonnaise. Onions, celery and maybe shallots are added for some texture and it’s seasoned with tarragon, salt and pepper.

Finally the mixture is placed inside of a buttered hotdog bun, usually the split-top variety. It is a very unglamorous vessel for the king of crustaceans to travel in. Most of the rolls sampled for this article kept to the basic tradition but added little twists.

Kathleen’s Catch – Johns Creek

Fish-monger Kathleen Hulsey started selling lobster rolls out of her seafood market a few weeks ago. The sandwich quickly became one of the shop’s best sellers. But be forewarned – Kathleen’s Catch isn’t a restaurant. She operates a small fish market so there is no where to sit and enjoy the sandwich.

Kathleen’s lobster roll recipe comes from the founder of Inland Seafood, the source of most of her delicious seafood. Of the three lobster rolls sampled for this article, her’s stays closest to tradition. She deviates from it a bit with the addition of grated Parmesan cheese and a touch of truffle oil.

And since this is a takeout arrangement, your lobster roll will come wrapped in foil and placed inside a brown paper sack. Again, it is like ballpark treatment for a critter used to the trappings of haute cuisine.

Kathleen’s use of the split-top bun pays homage to the tradition of the sandwich. Unfortunately it weighs in a little on the small side compared to the competition. Those will heavy appetites will need something else to go with it.

Kathleen’s Catch is located at 9810 Medlock Bridge Road in Johns Creek.

Bite – Alpharetta

The first thing you notice about Bite’s lobster roll is the placement of three pickled onions on top. They don’t bring a ton of flavor to the sandwich, but it gives the dish a curly pink hairdo. The flirtatious appearance must be working as these are pouring out of Bite’s kitchen. Nearly every table ordered at least one. Ours had three.

Bite uses massive lobster claws in their roll – almost the size of small lobster tails. They are perfectly cooked and not the least bit chewy although one roll at our table contained a bit of shell.

Two flavors jumped out in Bite’s lobster roll. First is tarragon. They use far more of it than the competition. Second is the herbs in the roll. They break from tradition and use a crusty roll baked with thyme and other herbs. It’s pillow-soft inside but with a little crunch on the outside.

The lobster mixture lacked texture in the form of celery, shallots or onion but perhaps the bread made up for it. All in all, it is probably the best lobster roll in town. But at $15 for the sandwich and side, it certainly isn’t an everyday item. The rest of Bite’s menu is better and usually cheaper.

Bite is located at 11500 Webb Bridge Rd, Suite A9 in Alpharetta.

Norman’s Landing – South Forsyth

Norman’s lobster roll hasn’t quite made it onto the everyday menu. You’ll have to hit them on Wednesday’s and order it off the daily specials board.

Norman’s breaks from tradition quite a bit with their roll. The lobster meat comes out naked, with no mayo or other additions. Drawn butter comes on the side and is tasty in small quantities. Too much will make the bun soggy. And that bun is the side-cut variety, not the more traditional top-cut like the competition.

The lobster meat was plentiful here but at times was a little on the chewy side. But Norman misses the opportunity to boost the flavor profile of his roll by leaving his lobster undressed.

Norman’s Landing is located at 365 Peachtree Parkway in South Forsyth.
Norman's Landing on Urbanspoon

Northwinds Parkway extension

Today I’ll provide a glimpse into the process and players involved in the creation of a new transportation project in Alpharetta. I’ll try to not interject my personal opinion into the story and just present facts as I see them. It seems that whenever I draw conclusions in matters before the city, particularly those from the business community, I’m labeled as incorrect or worse – a conspiracy theorist. My readers are smart folks. I’ll leave the dot connecting to you.


View Northwinds Parkway Extension in a larger map

Tonight Alpharetta’s City Council will consider a new road project – the extension of Northwinds Parkway. Northwinds currently runs parallel to GA400 to the west. It starts at Haynes Bridge, running north through office buildings and past the Devry campus. It ends at Kimball Bridge. The extension would add about a half mile and carry the road to Old Milton Parkway.

This road extension is not of high priority to the city of Alpharetta. It is not found in planning documents such as the Comprehensive Land Use Plan. Its extension was not included in any LCI studies nor was it ever a project to be considered for T-SPLOST funding.

The road was mentioned in 2007 during a rezoning of the Parkway 400 project on Old Milton. The developer asked to significantly increase the office density of the area, building three eight-story buildings. The city asked him to build the Northwinds extension and he refused, saying “we do not NEED this new road.” The traffic studies didn’t reflect a need for it either, even with the high density. The zoning was withdrawn.

North American Properties frontman Mark Toro mentioned the Northwinds extension during an Avalon presentation this year. The road would end at the main entrance to Avalon, carrying drivers right to the main drag into the development.

It’s worth mentioning that Avalon’s traffic study showed fewer car trips than the much more intense Prospect Park development. But Avalon’s traffic study did not require nor even considered the creation of the Northwinds Parkway extension.

It’s also worth mentioning that NAP owns 25 acres of raw land to the south of Old Milton Parkway. They have not publicly announced their intentions with this land. The proposed extension of Northwinds would add a four-lane road to the west boundary of this property.

The North Fulton Community Improvement District hired a consultant to study the Northwinds extension. Tonight it is the Georgia DOT that’s making the grant to help build the road. The city did not apply for nor did they request the grant money which amounts to a half million dollars of Georgia taxpayer funds.

Brandon Beach is the Executive Director of the NFCID. He is also a Georgia DOT board member. North American Properties contributed $2,000 to Beach’s most recent political campaign for State Senate.

So how will Council react tonight? Conventional wisdom says they will certainly take a new road, not looking a gift horse in the mouth. Then again, it isn’t apparent where this money comes from or what other projects may go unfunded as a result.

On the other hand, Mayor David Belle Isle made news years ago when he, then a mere Council member, opposed on principle receiving federal stimulus money for projects in Alpharetta. Some accused him of political grandstanding ahead of his own State Senate campaign. Stimulus money funded several projects in Alpharetta including energy improvement grants and two projects on Kimball Bridge Road. A good case could be made that these projects were far more important than the extension of Northwinds Parkway.

So there you have it. DOT money is directed to unwanted and unneeded road projects at the benefit of cronies. And we wonder why there is no trust in transportation leaders. Oops, did I interject my own opinions? My bad. I welcome yours.

BB’s and Essex Bagels – Kissin’ Cousins

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

It’s rare to see a suburban eatery get so much praise that it trumps even trendy ITP joints. You can count on one hand the number of such places in the Alpharetta area. BB’s Bagels certainly would be on the list. Two years ago they won the AJC’s award for best bagels in Atlanta, both from the critics and readers of the paper. The restaurant with an attitude expanded to a second location on State Bridge in late 2010 and is talking about a third location in Atlanta.

BB's everything bagel, enjoyed in my cubicle

What many forget in talking about BB’s is that they have a close cousin. Essex Bagels in Johns Creek is remarkably similar to the enormously popular BB’s – too much so to be coincidence. Their menu is nearly identical and their bagels are water-boiled and giant in size.

There’s a relationship between the two restaurants but it isn’t talked about much. When I asked BB’s about this on twitter recently, they responded only with “we help (Essex) with their bagel production.” While I’m sure BB’s would not want to harm Essex, they’d rather you visit one of their expanding list of locations.

Nevertheless I think Essex offers a very good alternative to BB’s, especially for customers who have been turned off to the restaurant for one reason or another. Here’s a list of differences and similarities.

Menu - Very close to the same. The combinations and options for basic egg platters are nearly identical. Essex even carries corned beef hash, a popular and delicious option at BB’s. Some of the prices at Essex seem cheaper though.

Bagels - Both are water-boiled and oversized. BB’s are probably a tad better in that they are a little more chewy. If I had to guess, I think BB’s is wholesaling bagel dough to Essex.

Cleanliness - Essex wins here. My wife has always been put off by the dirty appearance at BB’s, particularly at the McFarland location. This store has a history of sub-par inspection grades. Then again, maybe it is part of the greasy spoon vibe that they are going for. Whatever it is, if you’re concerned about cleanliness, Essex should be your choice.

Service - I get their schtick – surly staff from the Bronx. It’s best to have a thick skin when dealing with these guys. Some of them still give me crap over my article in the Revue & News where I said I didn’t find their menu very compelling. I just tell them to fuhgeddaboudit!

But many are put off by the service and occasional rude behavior of the staff. One reviewer on Yelp said “I was literally yelled at while attempting to place my order.” I’ve seen similar comments on twitter. If the service and vibe of the staff is a turn-off, go to Essex. It’s a much slower pace over there.

So that’s my take. One joint is named for a borough and one for a north Jersey county. Both make killer bagels. If you want that greasy spoon vibe with a grimy personality to match, stick with BB’s. If any of this turns you off, Essex is your best bet. You can’t go wrong with a toasted everything bagel with butter from either joint.

Essex Bagels & Deli on Urbanspoon

Windward NFCC Food Drive and LexisNexis 5k

There are two events along Windward in the coming weeks that are worthy of mentioning here on Roots. Please consider participating if you are able.

3rd Annual Windward Food Drive

The Windward neighborhood will host their annual food drive to benefit North Fulton Community Charities. Their food bank is always in need of donations, especially as the school year starts. Items currently in high demand are peanut butter, tuna fish, canned meat, breakfast cereal, canned fruit and diapers sizes 3, 4 and 5. You need not be a resident of Windward to participate. For more information, email Jim Gilvin at jimgilvin@bellsouth.net

What: Windward Food Drive
When: Saturday September 8th, 9:00am – noon
Where: Windward Boat Launch

Windward Challenge 5K Charity Run/Walk

LexisNexis will again host a charity run/walk event at their headquarters just off Windward on Alderman Drive. Participants of all ages are welcome to participate in the family-friendly event, which will include a timed and untimed 5K race as well as post-race activities for children. Proceeds will benefit KaBOOM!, a national non-profit dedicated to saving play for America’s children.

What: LexisNexis Windward Challenge 5K Run/Walk
When: Wednesday, September 19, 2012; 6:30pm
Where: LexisNexis, 1000 Alderman Drive, Alpharetta, GA 30005
Register: Online at http://lexisnexis.com/risk/windwardchallenge/index.html

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