Massage parlors in Alpharetta and south Forsyth

There’s prostitution on McFarland Parkway.

No, there are not women of the night walking up and down this busy road. But there are massage parlors in south Forysth that are fronts to prostitution. This is a pretty serious accusation to make so I’m not going to name businesses. My readers are smart people – y’all figure it out.

I googled the name of one of these places. Almost all the links are to either prostitution review websites or online classifieds. These ads contain pictures of scantily clad women, most of whom are Asian. The review websites go into lurid detail. They’ll explain sexual acts “services” offered and the price someone might pay.

I write about this to offer some kudos to Alpharetta. Last night the city considered a stronger ordinance designed to keep these businesses away. The ordinance was so detailed it took the city attorney 37 minutes to read it into the record.

These illicit massage parlors invite criminal activities to the area. They can be linked to organized crime and human trafficking. They also contribute to diminished property values and overall blight of the community.

McFarland Parkway is still a safe place, for now. To keep it that way Forsyth County shoulder consider getting tough on massage parlors. Alpharetta’s stronger ordinance is terrific. But the consequences of it might be to push more of these parlors just across the county line.

Alfresco – Main Street

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 sign advertised “Pizza, Pasta and Vino”. It was up for a long time before the doors actually opened. I stared at it every time I drove by, wondering how Alfresco was going to separate themselves from the dozens of pizza and pasta places dotting the landscape.

I’ve eaten at Alfresco several times since. Each time I’ve come away with mixed feelings.  Let’s start with what’s very right with Alfresco – the location.  They have excellent visibility right on Main Street.  Easy in and out of the more than adequate parking lot thanks to a new exit onto Old Milton.

Once I entered the restaurant my mixed feelings began.  Every time I’ve visited Alfresco there wasn’t anyone to greet us.  There was a short awkward exchange with one of the employees where we were told to just sit anywhere.  There is plenty of room in the large space to find a table, although on a Saturday night there were not a lot of tables to be had.  The seating’s not very private, but even while crowded, the space is not too noisy to carry on a conversation without shouting.  The decor is warm, with numerous photos crowding the yellow walls.  Kind of Buca di Beppo light.

Looking over the menu, all the usual Italian suspects were represented from pizzas to sandwiches to chicken parmingana.  We ordered the fried mozzarella carossa from the appetizer section and were told immediately that it wasn’t mozzarella sticks but actual bread stuffed with cheese and fried.  I was excited to try something new.  Two large cake sized fried pieces of bread arrived in a lake of marinana sauce.  It was very good, if not a little on the bland side.  The sauce helped to add flavor.  Possibly a different cheese would have helped too.  Mozzarella isn’t super flavorful.  That’s the one complaint I had about everything I’ve eaten here.  It all needs to be kicked up a notch.

The meatball sandwich I devoured was on ciabatti bread, which was a great twist. But the meatballs were just larger versions of ones I’ve had in a can of Chef Boyardee.  My wife had the steak sandwich and the classic Italian combo, both of which left her very satisfied.  All sandwiches came with homemade potato chips.  The chips are just thicker than normal chips, and without grease.  They were delicious.

On the next visit, I dove headlong into the NY style pizza.  Alfresco has a lunch special of two slices and a drink for $5.95, which is a great deal considering the slices were bigger than my head.  They were also drowning in grease.  It must have been all the missing grease absent from the chips.  I soaked a napkin drying it all up.  The pizza itself pretty good.  I’d get it again.

The prices are very reasonable while the service was hit and miss.  On a busy night I noted several people getting either the wrong order or not getting parts of their order at all.  I’ve been there when it wasn’t nearly as busy and the service was much better.

There’s one aspect of Alfresco that is beyond reproach.  The bathrooms.  They were tucked away in the rear of the space, and they were hotel quality.  I wish I could have eaten my pizza in there.  I loved them that much.

In addition to the dining room, there is a very nice outdoor dining space with shade and a water feature.  I can imagine sitting out there on a late summer evening relaxing and watching the city go by.

Alfresco on Urbanspoon

Alfresco has a mild social media presence on Facebook and runs a special through LivingSocial.  There are several online printable coupons that would come in quite handy.  Overall, the jury’s still out on Alfresco.  The food is decent, the prices are reasonable and the location is excellent.  Does it do enough to stand out from established pizza spots or Italian restaurants like La Casa?  Time will tell.

Alfresco is located at 131 South Main Street at the intersection of Old Milton Parkway.

Julie Hogg on politics, gardens and the “right to sell it”

The following is a guest post from Julie Hogg. You can read Julie’s work at the Alpharetta-Milton Patch.

When it comes to local politics, I’ve been known to carry on a bit.  Sometimes I just get riled up.  I can’t not speak about issues meaningful to me.

One thing that is meaningful to me is Alpharetta and saying that holds some irony because I didn’t choose to live here – circumstances just converged to bring me here.  I wasn’t happy here for the longest time, but then I had the opportunity to actually DO some things for this city; you know, get involved.  And I got involved with the thing I care the most about:  getting people into the garden, whether that be the Alpharetta Community Garden or the Alpharetta Arboretums at Webb Bridge, Wills Park, Cogburn Road Park, all of which I’m honored to say I had a part in creating.  I believe with my whole heart that if folks would get out of the house and connect with that great mysterious, wondrous, beautiful place – nature – that we would breath, hear, see, eat, sleep, and think better.  And most importantly to me, I think if we would calm down and release ourselves from electronics and the pressures of life to just ‘be’ in the garden or in the woods at a park, we might  find clarity in our souls.

And so, when local Councilpersons flippantly talk of changing the tree ordinance or chopping down 66 trees for City Center or building houses right next to a flood plain (in 2013!)  or squeezing in more subdivisions, which, regardless of the zoning, IS in and of itself, creating more density, I get upset because they’re messing with my garden – our garden.

Of concern to me at present is the potential sell-off and development of 13 acres of land on Rucker Road that contains flood zone and flooding potential.  I blogged about this last Monday on the Alpharetta-Milton Patch.  Since the 13 acres of land on Rucker are adjacent to my neighborhood, I attended a neighborhood meeting about it. Present at this meeting were residents, an attorney, a city councilman, a city staff person, and representatives for the builder/developer.  But that is all I can say as I was requested not to write about the specifics of said meeting in a blog (well, specifically, a blog on the Alpharetta-Milton Patch, but I’m being extra sensitive here).  Was this meeting THAT super secret and scintillating?  You’ll never know, my friends.  But what you can know is that I was asked not to write about it.   Interesting, huh?

There is a statement that sellers and their representatives often say in these situations.  “It’s my land.  I have the right to sell it!” Well, let’s clarify this idea a bit.  Thanks to our Constitution we have the right to own and dispose of private property.  But.  We do not have a guaranteed right to a sale.  Sales are not about rights.  They are about market forces.  And market forces are reined in by common sense, local ordinances, and the well being of the people at large – which is what makes eminent domain possible, but that’s another story.  Our Alpharetta City Council is proving that they believe that all medium to large parcels with a ‘for sale’ sign should be sold to developers no matter what the impact on nature or the larger community, both now and in the future.  I call that government intervening in market forces.  I also call it irresponsible. There are some other words that come to mind but that I can’t prove.  You can draw your own conclusions.

Envision Main Street

Alpharetta will host two design meetings with the public to discuss its Main Street. The focus is on the road from Old Milton to Windward Parkways and other transportation issues. Both sessions will be held at the Devore House, 34 Church Street, from 5 until 9 pm. The first session is tomorrow, March 13. The second is Tuesday March 26.

The sessions are designed to be a drop-in type of function so you need not plan to be there the entire time.

A consultant is likely to show a collection of drawings and photographs to measure likes and dislikes. I would encourage participants to think outside of these pictures as much as possible. Occasionally facilitators of programs like this employ the Delphi Technique in an attempt build consensus around a predetermined outcome.  If your idea isn’t being shown, say so!

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about Main Street. We’ve talked about the turn lanes at Old Milton, traffic flow, medians and the intersections at Mayfield and Vaughn. If you’ve voiced concern on any of these then I encourage you to show up at a design session. You can also visit a website set up for the project at .

Alpharetta Restaurant & Retail News – March 2013

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

Beer. Or more specifically I should say craft beer. This business is going gangbusters right now. We’ve gone well beyond growler stores.

Alpharetta will soon have a second brew pub. Opening next to Smokejack at 25 South Main Street will be Hop Alley Brew Pub. Their build out started this week. Also making big news in February was Jekyll Brewing. They exceeded their crowd sourced funding initiative, raising over $30,000 from the community. Their brewery is being built on Marconi Drive near McKesson.

Perhaps the predictions of growler store demise were premature. Forsyth’s first growler store, Crafty Draught, is planning a second location in Alpharetta. They’ll be on Old Milton Parkway near Pepperoni’s Pizza. East Alpharetta should be a good location for a growler store. (Hat tip to Caleb Spivak for scooping this story)

Johns Creek Walk – There are a few changes coming to this small little mixed-use neighborhood. Closing is Essex Bagels. I’m told some of their employees landed at BB’s. Replacing Essex will be Gino’s New York Pizza. This part of north Fulton is saturated with NY-style pizzerias. They’ll have a strong headwind.

And also coming to Johns Creek Walk is Kitchen of Atlanta. Their website suggests gourmet burgers, sandwiches, wings, pasta and salads.

South Forsyth – Two new Mexican joints have plans to open in south Forsyth. First is Rio Balsas Taqueria. They will open at 3455 Peachtree Parkway where Killer Wiches and Lowcountry BBQ once lived. This will be a second location for Rio Balsas, their first being a little north of Cumming.

Casa Del Sol Mexican Bar and Grill will open at 2340 Atlanta Hwy near Bethelview Road. This is where Bad Bob’s BBQ used to be.

A wine and cheese boutique and tasting room called Talk of the Table is coming to the Avenue Forsyth. Aldo Nahed has a great story on them over at the Forsyth Herald.

And I don’t often cover restaurants in Cumming, but here goes… A restaurant called Silk Road Asian Kitchen may have plans to open at 872 Buford Road. This is the former Buckhead Brewery building. It’s a beautiful space but has proven to be bad luck for many including some very experienced restauranteurs.

And finally, Boga Taqueria in Milton has closed. I don’t have any details to add to this story. I’ve reached out to Boga’s former owner but have not heard back.

Restaurants Coming Soon

Chipotle, Corner Bakery Cafe, Pollo Tropical – Just when I thought this was stalled. They have cleared the land near the mall and are moving forward. I expect Pollo Tropical to open first. This will be the first free-standing restaurant to be built in Alpharetta in a very long time. Can you remember the last? I cannot.
BurgerFI – They are making visible progress at their new location on Windward next to FedEx.
Campania Pizzeria – I expect them to be open by this time next month. The pizza oven is installed and they are testing and seasoning it. They’ll be at 800 North Main Street.
Salt Factory – Still building out in Tifosi’s old space on South Main Street.
Main Street Kitchen - This will be the name of the restaurant opened by the folks from Nine Street Kitchen in Roswell. Look for them at 52 North Main Street where 52 Bistro used to be.
Teriyaki House – Coming soon to 3710 Old Milton Parkway.
Chill Restaurant and Lounge – Coming to Haynes Bridge in the massive Rainwater building.
Dickey’s BBQ Pit – East Windward near Mellow Mushroom.

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 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 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

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