Potential sites for a convention center in Alpharetta

Alpharetta has received two proposals from private developers that may pave the way to bringing a convention and conference center to town. The city seeks a public/private partnership that would pair a city-owned and operated convention center with a privately built hotel.

The details of the proposals are not yet available but the names of those who participated in the process is. Those submitting an indication of interest are…

Avalon – North American Properties

Avalon’s site plan includes a full-service hotel with development in a future phase. It probably wouldn’t be hard to modify the site plan of the eastern half of the development to include the convention space the city requests. Access to a parking deck is already in place and close proximity to GA-400 is a plus. NAP’s hotel partner Stormont Hospitality Group participated in the bidding process.

Northwinds Land LLC

The second proposal came from this firm along with Duke Reality and Pope & Land. It isn’t clear exactly which parcel they are interested in developing. Chances are good that it’s the 20 acre undeveloped parcel at the northeast corner of Haynes Bridge and GA-400.

It’s interesting to note who chose not to participate in the bidding. Worthington Hyde Partners and Penn Hodge attended meetings but did not submit a bid. They each have ties to the massive Windward Mill project. Its zoning includes a hotel.

The architecture firm Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart attended a Q&A meeting for the project. It’s not clear who they were retained by. Coincidentally this same firm is working on Alpharetta’s downtown plan.

Also missing is Cousins Westside. A 20 acre parcel adjacent to Encore Park was originally set aside in their master plan for a similar convention or performing arts center. However this idea appears to no longer be viable. An attempt was made earlier this year to amend the master plan to allow residential use in this pod. The attempt failed. The city’s request for proposals suggests that the project should be close to and visible from GA-400. Encore Park is neither.

It’s interesting to contrast this convention center project to that of the amphitheater. Encore Park came to fruition without a heavy commitment from the city. Alpharetta and Fulton County each chipped in $1 million towards the project. The rest of the construction costs and ongoing operations belong to the Atlanta Symphony and the Woodruff Arts Center.

Under the current proposal, Alpharetta would sell bonds to build convention center and would also operate the facility. The private developer would donate land and build/own the adjoining hotel.

The scale of this potential public/private partnership is pretty large by Alpharetta standards. Past partnerships considered by the city have not fared well. Alpharetta’s first downtown development plan had similar trappings and thankfully failed to launch. Then there’s the partnership with Coro Reality to development in downtown. It been successful only in creating vacant buildings.

So the proof will be in the pudding with this deal. The public won’t know specifics of the two proposals until Alpharetta’s council considers them in an open meeting. The two biggest questions remain… Will a convention center be viable in Alpharetta? Is there political will to make such a public/private partnership a reality?

Alpharetta’s Food Truck Alley

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

I’ll admit it, I’m pretty late to the whole food truck thing.  Really, this whole area is just becoming fertile ground for these mobile restaurants.  The city of Alpharetta has embraced food trucks and have gathered numerous ones of them for the weekly Food Truck Alley in downtown Alpharetta. The event is held every Thursday from 5-9 PM on Old Roswell St behind Smokejack.  There’s a rotating schedule of food trucks along with live music.  The idea is to get folks into downtown for some community fellowship. It’s worked.

There were several problems I noted the first week, but I wanted to see how the event changed and evolved over a few weeks to hopefully get better.  The lines at the various trucks were agonizingly long.  It took me nearly 45 minutes to actually get to the truck to place my order.  As I stood in line, I wondered how long it would take the average person standing in line to decide that it wasn’t worth it and head to a restaurant.  In the successive weeks, the crowds have died a little, but lines are still hefty.  The city has also added more trucks, nine trucks was the last count up from six the first week.

Another issue I discovered the first week was the lack of bathrooms.  I looked all over the place.  Not a Porto potty to be had.  The next week, I saw several signs labeled “restrooms” pointing the way to the Porto potties.  Two to be exact, way across a parking lot.  Maybe they were there the first week, but certainly no one could have found them.  The week after, there was one more added a little closer to the event.  There wasn’t enough seating either.  A half-dozen tables were set up, which wasn’t nearly enough for the hoards of hungry folks.  People would take over a table and set up camp the whole time.  Most people were either sitting on curbs trying to handle their fare, or were taking a hike to the park across the street for the benches.  There have been more tables added over the last few weeks but not enough to handle the crowds.

The variety of food to chose from is excellent.  Trucks ranging from burgers to sandwiches to meatballs to Vietnamese to tacos to cupcakes give everyone something to like.  I visited several trucks including Happy Belly, Mighty Meatball Mobile, W.O.W., Ibiza bites, Pressed for Time (paninis), and Yum Yum Cupcakes.  Entree prices range from $7-10 with fries $2-4 extra.  Oh yeah, drinks are $2-4 also.  So you’re looking at nearly $20 a person at the end of the day.  Try several trucks and it really adds up.

Smokejack also had a table set up selling food and drinks.  Up the hill from the event, La Casa had a gigantic sign advertising beer and wine for sale.  $4-6 for a beer or glass of wine. There was a family at a table with a growler of beer.  That’s an idea I can support!

I’m not really swept up in the whole food truck thing.  The food is good, not great, and really pricey.  What I like most about Food Truck Alley is the sense of community.  Families, kids, pets; they’re all there.  It’s practically Norman Rockwell.  The space is really nice, with one large tree and several smaller ones.  Shops like Sis & Moons are open for visitors.  There are several buckets of sidewalk chalk out for the kids, and me (I couldn’t help it).

The live music is one of the best aspects of Food Truck Alley.  And the best part is, the bands are composed of 12-16 year olds.  They’re really good!  They jam hits from Led Zeppelin, the Who, Bush and Aerosmith. I was impressed.

Downtown Alpharetta is a really great place to be.  I overhead someone say on the way to the Porto-potty, “I didn’t even know this was back here”.  I think that’s the idea behind the Food Truck Alley – feed people and get them to come downtown and hang out.  Hopefully, the city will address a few of the nagging problems to make this a great event for years to come.

Alpharetta incumbents in 2013

We’re in the calm before the storm. It’s that period of time before municipal elections when everything is happening behind the scenes. Potential candidates are gathering support but doing so privately, holding their cards close. But come August it’s game on for local politics.

This blogger predicts challengers for all three of Alpharetta’s incumbent councilmen facing re-election this year. I’ve heard a few names mentioned but don’t imagine any will announce their candidacy until filing begins. In the meantime, here’s how I see the incumbents going into the Fall.

Mike Kennedy and Chris Owens

These two are thick as thieves. They sit next to each other and vote with each other almost every single time. And after four years of serving they can probably complete each other’s sentences. Yet they have two very contrasting personalities.

Kennedy can be sarcastic at times, almost to the point of being abrasive. He’s gotten better about it recently. But particularly in years past he was known to trade barbs with residents online.

Owens is the salesman of the bunch. How he choose engineering as a profession is beyond me. The guy could sell ice to an Eskimo. It’s a skill that’s come in handy in recent years. He’s often dispatched to speak with homeowner groups and others who are unhappy with something. It might be a zoning in their backyard or concerns over a changing downtown plan. He’s smooth and puts people at ease.

Expect both Kennedy and Owens to lean on positive development trends during their campaigns. They will tout projects like Avalon and Center Center. However they will be very careful not to mention residential components in the City Center project. Even the city will not speak of it until after November.

But the two may have offended small groups of constituencies this past year. Homeowners in Academy Park were not happy about the shrinking park and city hall location in the Center Center plan. And neighbors around the Sharp zoning in the northwest part of the city left that process with an unpleasant taste in their mouths. Will they take out their dissatisfaction at the polls?

Donald Mitchell

I would have put money on a Mitchell re-election had you asked me before March. He’s a super friendly guy and probably the best retailer campaigner Alpharetta’s seen in quite some time.

But then the reality show came along. To say his appearance on Big Rich Atlanta made him vulnerable is an understatement. There’s blood in the water and opponents can smell it. If his antics on the show become a campaign issue (and you can bet they will), then he’s likely to blame bloggers for the attention and not himself.

Yet Mitchell’s vulnerability may be his best chance for re-election. How so? It could draw multiple challengers. Alpharetta’s asinine plurality voting rules would come into play, possibly propelling him to victory. Those concerned about his behavior may split their vote among his opponents. If he can garner 40-45% of the vote then he’s in like Flynn.

Michael Cross

No, he’s not up for reelection this year. Cross is counting his lucky stars that he chose to run for Jim Paine’s old seat in 2011 and not the seat Mitchell got. He’ll need the extra two years to deal with his DUI charge before facing the voters again.

How do you see incumbents going into the 2013 city elections? Leave a comment!

Alpharetta Restaurant & Retail News – May 2013

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

There’s not a lot of new restaurants to report. We continue to chip away at our “coming soon” list. The first to open from that list is BurgerFI. I was initially critical of this chain for opening in a challenging location on west Windward. Three competitors operate within a mile. But FI had a strong first week. Their burgers are easily the best on Windward. Smash and Five Guys are on the ropes.

Also opening in late April was Rio Balsas Taqueria on Peachtree Parkway in south Forsyth. This is a second location for the restaurant started in north Forsyth.

Also in Forsyth, Indian restaurant Zafraan is changing names. The eatery on 141 will now be called OM Hyderabadi Indian Restaurant. I’m told that “om” is the Hindi word you say during yoga. This is strictly a name change, the ownership and menu of the restaurant will remain the same.

And to wrap things up in Forsyth County… a Mexican restaurant called 7 Tequilas Cantina will open on Post Road in the Midway Community. This will be the third location of this growing chain out of the Woodstock area. Look for them in Smokejack’s old space.

North Point Mall announced two new additions to their food court. Charleys Philly Steaks and Moe’s Southwest Grill will open this summer. With The Collection at Forsyth (nee The Avenue) and Avalon both striving for top-caliber restaurants, it’s strange that North Point continues to lease to the same type of eateries.

The only new restaurant to report in Alpharetta (outside the mall) is Jose’s Mexican Grill. They will take over the space formerly occupied by TRE Vietnamese. Look for them at Northpoint Parkway and Webb Bridge Road.

Relief may be on the way for shoppers at Windward’s Costco Wholesale. The city of Cumming approved plans for a new location at exit 15. Cannibalizing their stores is probably a smart move for Costco. The Windward store packs people in like sardines.

Restaurants Coming Soon

Fish House Seafood Kitchen – Seafood buffet coming to Boga’s old space in Milton.
Branchwater – Concept from Todd Hogan coming to Vickery Village in Forsyth.
Salt Factory – Coming to Tifosi’s old space on South Main Street.
Main Street Kitchen – From the folks behind Roswell’s Nine Street Kitchen. They will be at 52 North Main.
Chill Restaurant and Lounge – Coming to the massive Rainwater space on Haynes Bridge.
Hop Alley Brew Pub – Brew pub coming to downtown Alpharetta.
Crafty Draught – This growler store’s second location is coming to Old Milton Pkwy.
Draft Beer Market – Another growler store to open on Jones Bridge in Johns Creek.
Kitchen of Atlanta – Coming to Johns Creek Walk.
Casa Del Sol Mexican Bar and Grill – Mexican joint in Forsyth near 141 and highway 9.
First Watch – Breakfast concept building at Northpoint and Old Milton.
Chipotle, Corner Bakery Cafe, Pollo Tropical, Zoe’s – Making quick progress building on Haynes Bridge near the mall.

Cherry Street Brewing Cooperative

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

The wave of craft beer continues to wash over Alpharetta and surrounding areas.

Nick Tanner founded Cherry Street last year along with Dan Reingold and Jonny Bradley in Vickery Village in south Forsyth.  Nick was born and raised in Alpharetta and attended college at Colorado State.  It was out in Fort Collins, the Napa Valley of brewing, where Nick received a well rounded education in all things brewing.  He became a close family friend of the son the family who runs New Belgium Brewing.  The son had come back from beer schooling in Germany when Nick moved in with the family and was immersed in the brewing industry.

Nick started brewing beers after a friend of his brewed a blueberry porter in a Home Depot bucket.  It was a “if he can do it in that, I can do it too” kind of thing.  In 2007 Nick helped form a brewing cooperative in a garage on Cherry Street in downtown Fort Collins.  The goal of the club was to gather with other home brewers and brew together, sharing equipment and saving money by purchasing ingredients in bulk for the club.  If someone wanted some beer for an event or party, they were invited to come in and brew it themselves, rather than just buying it.  It lent a deeper appreciation for where the beer came from.

In 2009 Nick’s father Rick Tanner called and needed Nick to come back to Alpharetta to help run two new restaurants.  Nick and his father had the idea of opening a brew pub for a few years after one closed in Fort Collins.  The plan was to buy it but those plans never came to fruition.

Nick submitted the paperwork for Cherry Street in January 2012 and was finally approved to brew December 12, 2012.  Cherry Street has been growing ever since.  Beers are distributed exclusively through Tanner’s. Currently there are ten beers on draft.  There are plans to expand to twelve full time beers by summer.

Cherry Street brews in small batches of 100 gallons at a time.  Small batches mean more variety and less waste if a style doesn’t sell well.  Expect styles of beers like Irish Red and cream ales that can’t be found readily in the area.  Also look for Cherry Streets beers in growler stores, most notably Crafty Draught.

They are also currently adding equipment to keep up with demand.  Nick is hoping in the future to expand into the next door space and open a beer bar.  The goal is to become a public house of sorts, a community gathering place.

Community is very important to the guys at Cherry Street. Cherry Street hosts a beer bash on the last Tuesday of each month.  It coincides with a new beer debut and it ties in with a local charity. So far they’ve raised money for cancer charity Paint Georgia Pink, the West Forsyth lacrosse team and charity that provides clean drinking water in Haiti.

Not everyone can brew with these guys, but they will have contests in the future for home brewers to win a chance to have their beers on tap at Tanners.  Cherry Street also use a type of crowd-funding to assuage some of the costs of the brewery.   Called the Mug Club, fans can join for prices ranging from $100 to an eye watering $850. Currently there are 48 members.

Cherry Street has a strong social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  They offer brewery tours every Saturday at 2:00 PM and more events are planned for the future.

Brewing is not only a job for these guys, it’s a passion and obsession.  They won first place people’s choice in the cask category at the Classic City Beer Fest in Athens.  Come on by Tanner’s at Vickery Village and have a glass of a locally brewed, hand crafted beer.  And if the guys are in the brewery, knock on the door and say hi.  Cherry Street Brewing Cooperative wants to be your brewer.

Cherry Street Brewing Co-op and Rick Tanner’s Grille and Bar are located at 5810 Bond Street in Forsyth County’s Vickery Village.

Campania Pizzeria – Alpharetta

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

Several years ago a pizzeria opened in a cramped space near Georgia Tech. Tiny little Antico was quickly lauded by food bloggers and critics alike. The buzz was intense, vaulting their Neapolitan-style pizzas to the top of every best-of list in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, back in suburbia, we ate our New York-style pies, blissfully unaware of the changing hipster ITP pizza scene. To many in Alpharetta, “Neapolitan-style” meant getting chocolate and strawberry ice cream in one carton.

But last week’s opening of Campania Pizzeria may prove to be a paradigm shift for suburban pizza. Owners Stewart Muller and Jennifer Simmons, who also own this stripmall, have brought Alpharetta its very first true Neapolitan-style pizzeria.

Campania’s pizza toes the line on this tradition. The ingredients are few, remarkably simple and carefully sourced from Italy. From the delicately-soft double zero flour to San Marzano tomatoes to buffalo mozzarella, everything is by-the-book authentic.

The star at Campania is their oven. Imported from Italy it sits proudly on display in the dining room, emboldened with the restaurant’s name spelled in black tile. It’s fueled with a mix of oak and cherry logs. Temperatures inside reach a scorching 1000 degrees. Pizzas sit on a slab of volcanic rock cut from Mount Vesuvius.

It takes only about 90 seconds for the pizza to cook. Next the pie is slowly lifted inside the oven. Flames from the burning oak roll across the top of the oven, kissing the top of the pizza and charring the crust. A mere two seconds later the pizza is rescued from the inferno, cut and delivered to your table for immediate consumption.

Tartufo with Margherita DOC

Which pizza should you order? The Margherita DOC is traditional, with tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil and olive oil. The San Marzanos are a little sweet, the crust pillow-soft yet charred and the cheese slightly smokey. I prefer the Margherita without the buffalo mozzarella which can soften the bottom of the pizza due to higher water content. Purists may scoff, but it’ll also save you a few bucks.

Campania’s marinara pizza is amazingly simple yet surprisingly powerful with flavor. Without cheese the flavor of the tomato really shines. The pizza is topped with pungent sliced garlic and oregano.

By far the best pizza on Campania’s menu is the Tartufo. This white pizza has mozzarella and fontina cheeses, mushrooms, pancetta, sliced garlic and is topped with truffle oil and rosemary. There’s so much going on with this pizza – from pungent flavors, the aroma of the truffle oil, texture of the bread to the delightfully-salty pancetta. Amazing.

Pizzaiolo Stefano Rea is the talent at the oven. He spends as much time in the dining room glad-handing patrons as he does in the kitchen. Rea’s passion for his craft is genuine and he’ll chew your ear off talking Neapolitan pizzas. He’s past gigs include Sandy Spring’s Cibo e Beve and a brief stint at Erwood’s in Crabapple.

What’s Rea got up his sleeve next? How about black pizza dough infused with squid ink? It’s basically a black pizza topped with seafood galore. It’s, if anything, perhaps the most bizarre and intriguing menu item in Alpharetta.

Only two questions remain about Campania. First – is it as good as Atlanta’s Antico? Local foodies have been quietly beating a path to Campania’s door to get that question answered. Their pizzas are a tad smaller than Antico’s but very close to their taste and quality. The ambiance at Campania is far more comfortable and the staff much more friendly.

Campania Pizzeria Napoletana on Urbanspoon

And second – will suburbanites embrace an authentic Neapolitan pizza? Remember, it isn’t burned, it’s charred. You can’t buy it by the slice. This isn’t Mellow Mushroom and it isn’t exactly kid-friendly. Once we get past these notions I believe Campania can be a game changer. Hopefully we’re seeing the start of a budding new restaurant scene along Alpharetta’s Main Street!

Photo Credit: Mike Murphy

Taste of Alpharetta 2013 – A Preview

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

It’ll be an intimate little gathering. Imagine me, you, a few of our favorite restaurants and tens of thousands of our closest friends. In a nutshell that’s Taste of Alpharetta. And for the second year the event will be crammed into a few blocks of downtown Alpharetta. Get there early before it gets to be elbow-to-elbow.

To me Taste of Alpharetta is a chance to kick the tires of several new restaurants. For a few bucks I can sample their menu without the commitment of an entire meal.

Unfortunately there are not as many newly opened restaurants at this year’s event. Here are a few that I suggest trying.

Fresh Lettuce – This sandwich and salad joint recently opened in the far reaches of Johns Creek on Holcomb Bridge Road. They’ve managed to generate some serious buzz in a short time. Fresh’s sandwich menu lends itself well to an event like this. I’ll make a bee-line to their booth hoping for a hot panini.

Noche Johns Creek – Also lending itself well to such an event is a tapas menu. Johns Creek has the fourth location of this popular Atlanta restaurant. Expect Spanish cuisine. I’m not sure what they plan to make but a cool ceviche would be delightful on a warm Spring evening.

Breakfast/Brunch – Fancified breakfast/brunch restaurants are trending in the ‘burbs and two are coming to Taste of Alpharetta. Another Broken Egg from Old Milton Parkway might be worth a ticket or two. Johns Creek’s Egg Harbor Cafe will also be there.

Tassa Caribbean – Want something completely different? Try the Trinidadian cuisine from Tassa. They quietly opened a buffet restaurant on Old Milton Parkway. If they make it, try the roti. It’s unleavened bread with savory fillings.

There are a handful of perennial favorites at Taste of Alpharetta. Milton’s Cuisine is always popular and shouldn’t be missed. Bite is urber-trendy and cranking out some adventurous grub. And don’t be afraid to try Madras Chettinaad. There’s never a line at this delicious Indian restaurant’s booth. That’s a shame.

And there are dozens more restaurants to sample. The complete list can be found at the city’s website. Also check out the event’s new social media presence. They are on twitter @TasteAlpharetta and on Facebook.

What: Taste of Alpharetta
Where: Downtown Alpharetta
When: Thursday May 9th, 5-10pm
Cost: Free to get in, food samples range from $1-3

Alpharetta Restaurant & Retail News – April 2013

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

It’s been a busy month of restaurant tracking. Some highly-anticipated restaurants are nearly open, trends continue and an oldie closes. Let’s get right into it.

The name of Boga’s replacement will be Fish House Seafood Kitchen. This will be their second location, the original being in Gwinnett County between the Mall of Georgia and Dacula. The Alpharetta/Milton location will be more upscale than the original and will feature Cajun-style seafood. The owners share a past with Pappadeaux’s founders so perhaps comparisons can begin there. They will have a daily seafood buffet for $12.95 and a Sunday brunch.

Branchwater will be the name of a new restaurant in Vickery by Todd Hogan. You can read more details about Branchwater in this post I wrote last week. This is the most significant restaurant news to hit Forsyth County in a very long time.

The craft beer business continues unabated in this area. Draft Beer Market will open on Jones Bridge Road near Rosa Mia. They will be less than a mile and a half from Crafty Draught’s second location on Old Milton.

Forsyth County is close to allowing samples at growler stores, but there’s a catch – samples must be in a different room. The attempt here is to level the playing field between Alpharetta’s stores and Forsyth. So why burden them with extra construction? I don’t get it.

The Avenue Forsyth has been sold. The new owners are re-branding, calling the outdoor shopping center “The Collection at Forsyth“. The brand will be officially unveiled tomorrow. Aldo Nahed has a great article on this. My favorite quote is… “Our goal is to become a five star collection of dining, shopping and services.” Sounds remarkably similar to what the Avalon developers say. I hope The Collection can improve on their restaurant offerings. While they are all crowded, nothing really stands out as unique to me.

Breakfast chain First Watch announced they will build a new restaurant from the ground up at Old Milton and North Point Parkways. This puts them a short distance from competitor Another Broken Egg. Also in the construction business is Mediterranean sandwich joint Zoe’s Kitchen. These guys slipped under the radar a bit. They will share Corner Bakery’s new building near the mall.

Now OpenGino’s NY Pizza is now open in Johns Creek Walk. They replaced Essex Bagels. The highly-anticipated Campania Pizzeria will open Monday at 800 North Main Street in Alpharetta. Expect a Neapolitan-style pizzeria. And Dickey’s BBQ has opened on Windward Parkway.

Closed – North Point’s Extreme Pita is a goner. There are plenty of alternatives elsewhere. Robin Hood Tavern in Vickery Village closed to make way for Branchwater. A little up the street was Smokejack’s Midway location. It’s now closed. While Smokejack’s franchising attempts are not going well, I hear rumors that competitor ‘Cue may be close to announcing a third location.

And finally, long-time Alpharetta restaurant Dockery’s Cafe has closed. Out with the old and in with the new. This building is being demolished to make way for the city center project. Dockery’s will not reopen.

Restaurants Coming Soon

Chipotle, Corner Bakery Cafe, Pollo Tropical, Zoe’s – The trees are clear-cut and things are moving along.
BurgerFI – I’m told they will open in May on Windward near FedEx.
Salt Factory – Still building out in Tifosi’s old space on South Main Street.
Main Street Kitchen – From the folks behind Roswell’s Nine Street Kitchen. They will be at 52 North Main.
Chill Restaurant and Lounge – The folks behind Rainwater’s replacement are being very tight lipped about their concept. I’ve reached out to them through a third party and they refuse to talk about plans. Boo!
Hop Alley Brew Pub – Brew pub coming to downtown Alpharetta.
Kitchen of Atlanta – Coming to Johns Creek Walk.
Rio Balsas Taqueria - Nearly open Mexican joint on 141 in south Forsyth/Johns Creek.
Casa Del Sol Mexican Bar and Grill – Another Mexican joint in Forsyth near 141 and highway 9.

Thanks to Mike Christensen for his help with this article. An extra pair of eyes on the street always helps!

Alpharetta restaurant trends – First Watch giveaway

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

I have three $20 gift cards to First Watch to give away today. You have to participate in the discussion to be eligible to win. Details at the end of this article.

Recently I had lunch with someone in the restaurant leasing business. She asked me what restaurant trends were dying off in Alpharetta and which ones still has gas left in the tank. Thought it would be cool to turn this question over to my blog readers.

What trends are you excited about in the Alpharetta-area restaurant scene? I’ll throw out a few to kick off the discussion.

Breakfast – The market for upscale breakfast/brunch is booming! First Watch opened in Johns Creek a few months ago. Later this year they will open a new restaurant on Old Milton Parkway. It’ll be pretty close to competitor Another Broken Egg. Also in Johns Creek is Egg Harbor Cafe. Are these upscale breakfast joints bringing something new to your first meal of the day? They seem to stay pretty crowded.

Main Street Alpharetta – There’s a lot in the pipeline for Main Street and I’m pretty excited about it. Salt Factory and Main Street Cafe are moving up from Roswell’s Canton Street. Hop Alley Brew Pub is being built out. And up the street will be Campania Pizzeria.

Burgers – Still cloggin’ up our arteries. Burger FI is coming to Windward. Burger 21 is a maybe. And Tower Burger is still in the works for south Main Street. Will any of these guys bring us a burger we don’t already have? And is Windward saturated with burger joints? I think so. Who will be the first to close? Smashburger with their well-documented service problems? Five Guys? Scratch?

Craft Beer – Growler stores are hot. I know of two more opening in the east Alpharetta/Johns Creek area. On top of this we’ll have a handful of brew pubs and one brewery. How will growler stores distinguish themselves from each other? Price? Location? Variety? Bible studies?

Frozen Yogurt – Is it dead yet? A few have died off but many survive. Do people still eat this stuff? Is there a market for a new, full-service ice cream parlor?

Doughnuts – This business is going gangbusters in south Forsyth. Why not in Alpharetta? Why doesn’t someone open a hand-crafted doughnut shop on Windward or North Point?

So pick a trend and leave a comment! Are these here to stay or are we over-saturated? What else does this area need?

Here’s the fine print on the First Watch giveaway… First, I’m getting nothing in return for this offer. I have three gift cards valued at $20 each to give out. I’ll pick three comments using a random number generator to be the winners. Winners will be picked Sunday afternoon. Please leave a real e-mail address with your comment. It’s not displayed on my blog, only to me and I’ll keep it private. These are physical gift cards so I’ll have to snail mail them to winners or otherwise work out a way to meet up.

Branchwater from Todd Hogan to open at Forsyth’s Vickery Village

Acclaimed local chef Todd Hogan is planning to open a new restaurant in Forsyth County’s Vickery Village.

The concept, called Branchwater, will be at 5820 South Vickery Circle. This location was most recently the home of Dunwoody Restaurant Group’s Robin Hood Tavern. Expect an opening in late May.

Hogan drew inspiration for the name from the small streams used by whiskey distillers in the American south. As such don’t be surprised to see an extensive bourbon offering at Branchwater’s bar. The kitchen will serve steak and seafood and will only keep dinner hours.

Hogan, a Cherokee County resident, chose Vickery in part to be closer to home. He also wanted to give back to his local community by offering residents a fine dining experience without having to drive into town.

Hogan’s resume is deep. He’s a graduate of Johnson & Wales in Charleston and has cooked at the James Beard house in New York City. He owned the Indigo restaurant in Roswell and consulted on concepts including Slate Table and Tap and Farm Burger in Dunwoody. His most recent restaurant gig was executive chef at Vinings Inn.

The Vickery development’s residential, retail and restaurant business all struggled through the recession. The addition of Branchwater and craft beer brewers Cherry Street Co-Op may be the shot in the arm this area needs.


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