WOW Food Truck

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

I love grits. I love barbecue. If there were ever two things a southerner should like, this is it. But barbecue with grits? No. It’s not a marriage that’s meant to be. Sorry, that’s just how I was raised.

But big kudos are due to the WOW Food Truck. These guys take risks trying to crossbreed culinary traditions. It’s what makes food trucks so appealing to me.

WOW makes arepas or small little corn griddle cakes which are popular in Venezuelan cuisine. There are unleavened little grit cakes about the size of small biscuits. Sliced open they hold a number of savory fillings, most of which come from southern cuisine. Served food truck style, they are like slider sandwiches made with grit cakes.

The most popular is the smoked pork arepa. By itself, WOW’s smoked pork is delicious. It’s got a solid core of hickory smoke in every bite. I’d love to have an entire plate of it. There’s no barbecue sauce but rather some “kicky sauce.” This is a creamy sauce of pureed cilantro and jalapeno. It complements the barbecue well. There’s enough smoke and flavor in the ‘cue to stand up to a what otherwise would be an overpowering topping.

But the arepa isn’t the best vessel for delivering barbecue bites to your mouth. I’m accustomed to thick slices of fluffy Texas toast or yeasty rolls. Arepas are more dense. It has the effect of squishing the insides out when you bite.

So I ditched the arepa and tried “The WOW Factor”. This is a like a barbecue bowl. They start with a base of cheese grits then add the same smoked pork. Next comes an over-generous helping of barbecue sauce and a small drizzle of chipotle cream. The sauce was way too much, completely drowning my delicious smoked pork in its tangy mess. I lobbed entire spoonfuls into a nearby garbage can until I could recognize the pork and begin to see the grits underneath.

Barbecue and grits just didn’t work for me. Their ‘cue is finely pulled into short strands. But the texture of the grits isn’t congruent. It has an unusual mouth feel. But perhaps it’s me. I’m still warming up to the idea of eating shrimp in my grits – for dinner.

But again, kudos are due to WOW for taking chances with two very different cuisines. I know of no one else in town doing arepas. Even the now-closed Venezuelan-influenced Boga Taqueria didn’t have them on their menu. But arepas are worth a try if you’ve never had them. And their barbecue could stand on its own any day.

If you’ve tried WOW, let me know what you think. They are among the most popular and critically acclaimed food trucks in metro Atlanta. I must be in a minority because these guys didn’t wow me.

Wow! on Urbanspoon

Wow makes regular visits to Alpharetta. They were at the Christmas tree lighting in December, the British car event and occasionally make mid-week jaunts up to our office parks. Follow them on twitter @wowfoodtruck for a schedule.

The Michael Cross DUI

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week then you know this news. Alpharetta councilman Michael Cross was arrested over the weekend for DUI. You can read about it here, here and here. There’s no need to go over the facts of the case. They’ve been more than covered.

This blog has been silent on the issue until now. There are a few facets that are still worth talking about. There are also some interesting comparisons and contrasts to be made.

The Paul Oakes Wacky World Incident - There were allegations that Mr. Oakes received preferential treatment from the police during this incident a year and a half ago. Oakes served on the board of the Alpharetta Public Safety Foundation.

Like Oakes, Michael Cross also serves this charity that supports local police and firefighters. But you would have a tough time arguing that Cross received any preferential treatment Saturday night given the seriousness of the charges brought against him.

I expect Cross, a lawyer by trade, to vigorously defend himself. There’s no breathalyzer evidence against him. Without that physical data, he’s likely going to challenge the report and testimony of the arresting officer. This is awkward considering his years of support of Alpharetta’s Public Safety department.

But kudos are owed to the Alpharetta Police for how they’ve handled the case up to this point. Very professional.

DUI Debbie - Cross isn’t the first member of Alpharetta’s Council to be arrested for DUI. Debbie Gibson faced similar charges. During her re-election campaign in 2007 she was the target of a vicious online campaign. The DUIDebbie.com website was mean spirited and downright cruel.

Will Michael Cross get the “DUI Debbie treatment”? If you had asked me Monday I would have said no. But several comments online this week have suggested that this is coming. It’s disappointing.

Should a Councilman resign after DUI charges like this? We can have that discussion. But there is no reason to drag this process into the gutter. My personal opinion is that he can serve while facing the charges. But my opinion might change depending on how he handles himself during this time. Were he to be convicted he should resign immediately.

One personal note… I’ve met Michael Cross a few times. From this time together I’ve found him to be a personable and likeable fella, not unlike most in Alpharetta. I believe him to be a good family man. Before Saturday’s events I had no reason to ever think he would put his family or the public in danger.

That’s all for now. I welcome your respectful and civil discussion on this topic.

Jekyll Brewing – Alpharetta

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

There has been a beer renaissance in Georgia over the last couple of years.  Thanks to the relaxing of alcohol laws and policies there has been a boom in growler stores, home brewing and smaller craft breweries in Georgia.  There have been several craft breweries that have opened recently including Monday Night, Red Hare, Jailhouse, Red Brick and of course Sweetwater.  2013 will mark the opening of Alpharetta’s first brewery, Jekyll Brewing.

Jekyll Brewing is run by founder Mike Lundmark and co-owner/brew master Josh Rachel.  Mike, a former pilot, came to Atlanta 10 years ago.  He’s had the idea of opening a brewery for several years.  The changes with Georgia alcohol policies made this the time right to move ahead with his plans.

Josh grew up in Alpharetta and attended Chattahoochee High School.  He got his passion for beer and brewing from his father who is a home brewer and brewing judge.  Josh returned to Alpharetta after graduating from West Georgia College with a degree in marketing.  With the economy in the toilet, Josh took what was supposed to be a temporary job at Brew Depot, a home brew supply store.  He met Mike who would shop there for his home brew supplies.  They struck up a friendship through their mutual love of beer, which lead Mike to ask Josh to become Jekyll Brewing’s brew master.  Josh has been competitively brewing since 2009, winning several contests with his IPA and German style beers.

A sense of community made Alpharetta the perfect location for Jekyll.  Mike and Josh are eager to have the opportunity to improve the community by giving back much like other Atlanta breweries such as Sweetwater.  The idea is that beer’s changing from the stigma of just drunks to community involved small companies. Mike and Josh feel that being integral to the local area is just as important as the beer they will make.

And speaking of the beer, the goal is to start brewing late in the spring.  Licensing permits have been submitted and they are waiting on the approval to move ahead with the installation of the equipment and to start the first batch.  The plan is to start with two styles of beer and then expand to several other types down the road.

The build out is well underway at their location on Marconi Drive off of Windward Parkway near the entrance to the Big Creek Greenway. The brewery will occupy 5,000 square feet with the option of expansion into an additional 50,000 square feet as the need arises.

Jekyll will supply beer through a distributor first to local Alpharetta stores and restaurants, then to Atlanta and eventually the state.  The idea is to start as small as possible and grow organically through family, friends and the community.

Mike and Josh have a Kickstarter page in order to raise funds from the community. These funds will pay some of the bills and overhead costs that have been incurred.  The idea behind Kickstarter is crowd source funding.  In Jekyll’s case, someone can donate any amount. In return, Jekyll is offering prizes or “kickbacks”.  The type of prize depends on how much is donated.  They range from t-shirts to brewery tours to private parties at the brewery.  Visit their page for more info.

If they do not reach their goal by this Saturday they don’t get any of the money raised so far.  Mike and Josh have been out in the community spreading the word to help with the fundraising.  They have signs posted in various restaurants such as Taco Mac and in growler stores like Blind Murphy.  Blind Murphy donated $1 from every 64 oz growler sold last weekend to Jekyll’s cause.

There will be tours and tastings once they are up and running this summer very much like what Sweetwater and Red Brick offer.  They aren’t allowed to sell beer onsite, just tastings.  Down the road there might be events and gatherings held at the brewery.  It’s still very early in the whole process so plans might change.

Beer and brewing are a passion of Mike and Josh.  Both are very excited to bring that passion to Alpharetta with Jekyll Brewing.  If you want to help them out, visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/41362897/jekyll-brewing-alpharetta-ga-hop-dang-diggity to donate before this Saturday. You can find them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @jekyllbrewing.

McGinnis Ferry exit on GA-400

Lawmakers at the Georgia House of Representatives made headlines last week by digging up this old idea. The thought of an exit on GA-400 at McGinnis Ferry Road isn’t a new idea. It’s been kicked around by folks like the North Fulton CID and Forsyth County for several years now. Forsyth paid for a justification project to be performed on the exit a few years back. Now it seems that the Georgia DOT has approved the report, taking the project a small step forward.

The justification for this project is clear. This is an economic development project. The fact that the North Fulton CID has hands in it should make that abundantly clear. The exit will do little to alleviate traffic problems. It might actually do more harm than good. No, this project is designed to benefit the owners of large undeveloped land at McGinnis Ferry, Union Hill and the stalled Taubman Mall project.

We’ve talked a lot about how east-west commuting sucks in the northern burbs. McGinnis Ferry is an artery moving people from Gwinnett to north Fulton. Yet somehow it remains a two-lane thoroughfare for most of its distance. Try taking McGinnis Ferry eastbound at rush hour. It’ll jam up in several places. Thankfully the road is four lanes once you hit GA-141.

Adding a ramp from GA-400 may have the detrimental effect of putting more cars on a small country road. Try widening McGinnis Ferry to four lanes all the way to Milton, then let’s talk about adding an exit.

And then there’s the stalled Taubman Mall at Union Hill Road. Haven’t we spent enough tax dollars creating infrastructure improvements for this? Forsyth County built a road and added a lot of sewer capacity to attract this promised upscale mall.  Yet a mall in south Forsyth is still a pipe dream. The only thing we have to show for it is more apartments. Gee, thanks.

Transportation planners should focus on projects that alleviate real traffic problems. This project isn’t one of them. I thought these guys wanted to regain public trust following T-SPLOST’s defeat? Moving this project forward won’t do it.

Great British Car Fayre

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.

I love cars.  I’m also a fan of British cars particularly Aston Martin.  From these facts, you might correctly deduce that I like James Bond.  So you can imagine how excited I was to read that all of these loves will come together on the streets of downtown Alpharetta this Saturday for the Great British Car Fayre.

All the of best cars from across the pond will be on display including the Lotus Esprit driven by Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me.  Now I’m not positive it’s the one that turns unto a submarine, but if it is, I’ll be taking it down the Chattahoochee. There will family fun, the cars, a Beatles Tribute band and food.

The food is what really caught my attention.  There will be some local food from Smokejack along with several very intriguing food trucks selling their wares.  Among the ones confirmed are Sweet Auburn BBQ, the Mobile Marlay, W.O.W! Food Truck, Mighty Meatballs, Yum Yum Cupcakes, and the Pretzelmaker.

It will be interesting to see how the crowd divides between the local Smokejack and the outsider Sweet Auburn BBQ.

The Mobile Marlay keeps with the theme by serving fish and chips.  But the one truck that most interests me is the W.O.W truck with various bowls full of brisket, pork, potatoes, grits and “kicky sauce”.

The weather’s not predicted to be very good for Saturday, but that’s nothing new for the Brits.  You can find me out there stuffing my face from the food trucks and drooling over all the beautiful machines.  Worst James Bond ever.

The Great British Car Fayre
Downtown Alpharetta, Milton Ave and Main St
Saturday, February 23 from 10:00 AM to 2:30 PM
Beatles tribute band on stage from 2:30 to 4:30 PM
Sponsored by the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau

Photo credit: Alpharetta CVB

What to do with Rucker Road?

What would you do about Rucker Road?

It’s a question the city of Alpharetta is kicking around. A few weeks back Council talked the issue over in a work session. They’ve since created three public forums for input. The first was last week. The second is tomorrow night at the Crabapple Government Center. A third meeting is February 26th at City Hall.

An intersection improvement idea along Rucker Road

I like that the city comes in with no preconceived ideas at these meetings. There are no powerpoints, no fancy storyboards and apparently no secret agenda being pushed. It’s a sincere effort to measure the input of the residents. That’s refreshing for a change.

And the general consensus after the first meeting seems to be that Rucker Road should not be widened.

There are a handful of small to medium sized neighborhoods along Rucker as well as some churches. The residents don’t feel safe on the road. Forget walking along it. And turning left out of a subdivision during rush hour is fraught with danger.

Also remember that this part of Alpharetta will see more and more new neighborhoods. Developers want to build homes on small 15,000 square foot lots all over the northwest portion of the city. The applications are stacking up at City Hall.

So I don’t blame the local residents for trying to keep this road from getting any bigger.

But on the flip side, east/west traffic flow is a problem. It’s true of the entire northern stretch of metro Atlanta. It’s a huge problem in north Fulton. There is no easy way to commute from Milton and Cherokee to the technology centers in Alpharetta. Widening Rucker Road would help with this.

It would also help get cars to and from the Crabapple area. This gastronome would love to dine in Crabapple more often but it’s the devil to get there at times. Then again, planners in Crabapple don’t seem to want me and my car in their mixed-use oasis.

So what’s the solution for little Rucker Road? I see good arguments on both sides. If I had to guess I’d say that new turn lanes and better walking paths are in Rucker’s future. But Alpharetta and Milton cannot ignore the east/west traffic flow problem forever.

If you’re a resident of this part of the city I’d encourage you to participate in the process and attend a meeting. I’d also encourage you to stay plugged in to the rezoning cases in northwest Alpharetta. They’re not gonna go away.

Food trucks welcomed, subsidizing — no

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

I wrote this article for the Revue & News and was in the paper this week. Alpharetta’s Council will again take up this issue Monday. What do you think of the city spending money to bring food trucks to town? I believe the event could be self-supporting in a short time. Keep in mind that local restaurants who want to participate in Taste of Alpharetta has to pay a fee (and no food trucks are allowed). But under the previous food truck proposal, the trucks would pay nothing at all to come on Thursdays. Doesn’t seem congruent.

Two weeks ago I had lunch at a food truck. I feasted on a burger made with grass-fed short rib beef and cooked on a big green egg smoker. It had a sweet onion chutney that contrasted an ancho chili dressing. I paired it up with some truffle oil french fries and a cold drink. Are you getting hungry?

This truck was right here in Alpharetta. They docked next to an office park along North Point and peddled their grub to hungry cubicle dwellers like yours truly. And you know the best part of it? No one subsidized this truck’s visit.

That word, subsidized, seems to be a sticking point.

Alpharetta wants to create a Thursday night food truck event in downtown. It would be modeled after a similar event in the city of Smyrna, something that’s proven to be a wildly successfully for that city. No one seems to doubt that the same would be true in Alpharetta. Suburban gastronomes are hungry for food trucks!

But should Alpharetta spend tax dollars to subsidize out-of-town food and alcohol venders? It’s a valid concern. The first proposal would spend $78,000 to make it happen.

On one hand you have Council members who are laser-focused on reviving Alpharetta’s pitiful downtown scene. A food truck event would certainly help. Contrast that with a Council that’s been extremely pro-business for decades. Now we’re at an impasse.

The solution is to allow more local businesses into the mix. Let wine shops or growler stores take turns serving alcohol at these events. Two local wine vendors poured at last November’s Vintage Corks and Gourmet Trucks event. Let’s follow that model. Or how about letting restaurants operate a few tents among the food trucks? And there’s no reason this event couldn’t become financially self-supporting once it gets going.

Smyrna’s City Council was deeply divided when they first approved their food truck event last year. At the end of season they unanimously agreed to extend the popular event into 2013. Alpharetta will find the same to be true if they can work out these last few kinks.

Hopefully you’ll find me downtown on Thursday nights this summer. I’ll be easy to spot. Look for the guy stuffing his face with Korean-fusion tacos.

Photo credit: Jonathan Copsey, Appen News

Alpharetta Restaurant & Retail News – February 2013

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

If you follow the restaurant scene in Alpharetta then please join our conversation on twitter. My friends and I usually kick these new restaurant concepts around quite a bit before they hit this monthly column. I encourage you to follow my blog’s twitter account @rootsalpharetta and join the conversation!

Chill out

How long has Rainwater’s old space been vacant? Five years maybe? The monstrous 20,000 square foot restaurant and banquet hall proved to be too large for most restaurants these days. But that’s changed. Set to open there is Chill Restaurant & Lounge. I know nothing else about the concept except that their logo will look like this!

Another Dickeys BBQ Pit franchise is coming to Alpharetta. Look for them where Tacone used to be in the double decker shopping center on east Windward. They’ll be right at home next to Moe’s. And just a few doors down you’ll find Taste of India. This little Indian buffet changes ownership every few years. Thankfully this time they have a name that is pronounceable to non-Desis.

Mambo’s Cafe finally reopens today for lunch. They were delayed a week due to problems with their phone service. Look for their new digs at 4915 Windward between Lowe’s and Ippolito’s.

Avalon

With the recent groundbreaking came an announcement of a few more tenants. Most interesting is a concept called Savor Boulanger from Chris Sedgwick (creator of Pure Taqueria and Bistro VG). Rumor is that this will be an oyster restaurant. Also announced is Kona Grill. Avalon would mark their first location in Georgia.

But don’t count your chickens before they hatch. One of the first restaurants to be announced at Avalon has withdrawn. Yard House is out. They were recently acquired by Darden (parent to Red Lobster and Olive Garden). It seems that Darden doesn’t want to be in Alpharetta. No hurt feelings here.

The remaining list of restaurants at Avalon includes Crú Food & Wine Bar, Yeah! Burger, Marlow’s Tavern, a to-be-determined concept from Ford Fry and Ted’s Montana Grill. Hopefully we’ll see these guys on opening day.

Closed

Four40 Kitchen + Bar at the Avenue Forsyth has closed. They were open for less than six months.

Bassano’s Pizzeria in Johns Creek closed a few weeks ago. Their parent store in Loganville told me that the restaurant has been sold and will reopen under the same name.

Retail News

Grocery chain ALDI will open a Johns Creek location on the corner of State Bridge and Jones Bridge. They will be on the end of the shopping center where Ace Hardware is now. Ace will move just down the street to the shopping center where Hachi-Hachi used to be.

And speaking of hardware… Howard Brothers, a family-owned hardware store, has opened a store in south Forsyth on Gateway Drive near Slopes BBQ. And for a hardware store, they’ve got a pretty good social media presence!

ZZZ’s by Ashley is coming to Johns Creek, according to The Shumacher Group. A mattress store isn’t anything to get excited about. But this new concept from Ashley Furniture is supposed to completely change the shopping experience for beds. No word on exactly where they will be. Rest assured, we’ll find out.

Restaurants Coming Soon

Chipotle, Corner Bakery Cafe, Pollo Tropical – Three new restaurants coming to Haynes Bridge. I’m taking them off my watch list until they show signs of moving forward.
BurgerFI – These guys are moving forward. Look for this burger joint on Windward next to FedEx.
Mayuri - I’m told they will open on February 14th. Sounds like a typical Indian buffet for lunch. Look for them where Pizza Hut and Woody’s BBQ used to be near the mall.
Campania Pizzeria – Coming to 800 North Main Street.
Salt Factory – No word on an opening date. They will be in Tifosi’s old spot on South Main.
Nine Street Kitchen - Mayor Belle Isle told me they were coming to 52 North Main. I’ve yet see evidence though.
Teriyaki House – Coming soon to 3710 Old Milton Parkway.

Did a Fulton Science Academy benefactor purchase their land?

Has a Fulton Science Academy benefactor swooped in to save the embattled school’s construction project? Perhaps.

FSA’s stalled construction project off Westside Parkway was sold in a foreclosure auction this past Tuesday. WSBtv reported this week via twitter that a firm by the name of TruGlobe Inc purchased the land on the courthouse steps for $3.2 million.

TruGlobe is based here in Alpharetta, according to records at the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. Principals with the company appear to be of Turkish descent and have ties to the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce.

Or it could all be an amazing coincidence. This blogger bets that the FSA will pursue a new state charter and attempt to revive their plans for new campus.


View FSA Construction Project in a larger map

Wanted for murder: Shane Woods

The murder/suicide in Johns Creek is horrible and tragic. Unfortunately it is having the effect of pushing this story back a few pages in the newspapers. Let’s catch this scumbag.

Alpharetta police are seeking Shane Demetrice Woods, age 22, to face charges of murder. He may also be known as Yung Slim ABG. Police are offering a $1,000 award for information that leads to his capture and arrest.

Shane Woods is wanted for the murder of Zachary Rose. Rose was shot and killed in the Stoneridge subdivision on January 28.

Woods should be considered armed and dangerous. If you see him, dial 911.

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