What to Name Prospect Park

I continue to be impressed with the social media efforts from the folks at North American Properties, the new owners of Prospect Park. I encourage you to follow these guys on twitter @NAPatl and on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/NAPAtlanta. You might also want to follow Mark Toro, their Atlanta leader.

These guys seem very sincere in their desire to reach out the community with regard to their Prospect Park plans. Right now they are seeking input on the name for the development. You can participate in the discussion online.

Beating a Dead Horse

Before I get into PP’s name, allow me to reiterate my earlier thoughts. Many in Alpharetta don’t want to think about Prospect Park until Westside Parkway is opened. I’ve heard this comment echoed again and again in several online forums. I’d be out there with a shovel and a bag of concrete if that’s what it took. Get ‘R dun, fellas.

I realize that road projects are a little more complicated than a shovel and concrete. Yet so much in Alpharetta hinges on Westside Parkway. It goes way beyond what’s gonna happen on this little 87 acre piece of heaven. How about using social media to document the plan of attack for the road, keeping the community in the loop as to the progress?

“Prospect Park” is an Albatross

The name “Prospect Park” has become a punchline. It’s Alpharetta’s metaphor for failed, overreaching and overaggressive growth. I’m certain everyone in this community would agree that any name other than “Prospect Park” would be acceptable.

Beyond that, I don’t have a preference on the name. A common trend in the suburbs is to name developments after what used to be there before it met the bulldozer. With that in mind, the best I could come up with is Mudpit Meadows. Somehow I think the folks at NAP might not agree. If you’ve got a more creative idea, these guys want to hear from you!

Photo Credit: Stargazer3777

Taste of Johns Creek 2011

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

As a food blogger in the Alpharetta area, I always get jazzed up for Taste of Alpharetta. It’s an awesome opportunity to sample a lot food, albeit mostly pork sliders!

I’ll usually try to hit some of the surrounding restaurant events but for some reason I’ve always missed Taste of Johns Creek. I suppose their small size has caused the event to slip under my radar. With their 4th annual event approaching, it’s time to consider attending. Is this year’s event worth a visit and a twenty spot? I believe it is. Here’s why…

The Event and Cost

Chattahooche High School hosts this event with proceeds benefiting school functions. I suppose the charitable aspect is appealing. Tickets are $20 at the door or $15 in advance for unlimited samples. I typically spend $30 just on myself at Taste of Alpharetta, so the cost is a value to me. On the flip side, children four and over are required to pay. It seems a little unreasonable to charge kids full price, something that could make family attendance cost prohibitive.

The Restaurants

Like any taste of event in the burbs, you’ll have to navigate around the chain restaurants like Chili’s, Outback and Buffalo Wild Wings. And if you want to split hairs… many joints are not in Johns Creek at all. The 57th Fighter Group Restaurant is from way inside the perimeter.

On my to-try list would be:

Italian – While I don’t see favorites like Rosa Mia, a few decent joints remain. Johns Creek is experiencing an Italian restaurant renaissance. Don’t pass up the opportunity to sample Dal Cuore, Luciano’s and Sugo.

Pizza – My personal favorite pizza, Verra-Zanno in Johns Creek, is NOT on the list. However, Rosa’s Pizza gets a lot of praise and is worth a try. Jersey Boyz isn’t half bad.

Sinbad’s Feast – This Persian buffet got a somewhat decent review from the AJC’s John Kessler. I wouldn’t miss them at this event.

Tasca Latin Bistro – I wasn’t super impressed when I reviewed them here on my blog. But at Taste of Alpharetta this year I really enjoyed their panna cotta.

Cuzi’s – Here’s another I don’t care for in real life. I mention here because they have taken home awards from Taste of Alpharetta in years past.

Kozmo’s Gastropub – These poor guys are struggling due to the Douglas Road closure. They’ve missed the mark at their Taste of Alpharetta booth. It is hard to capture the cool vibe of their restaurant in a tent outside. I’d still give them a taste.

What’s Missing? Asian – Given the sizable Asian population in Johns Creek, I’m disappointed in the offerings this year. Critics are starting to take note of joints like Sichuan House. Restaurants like Simon’s and Mandarian House miss the mark.

All in all, I think Taste of Johns Creek is worth a shot for visitors going solo. Here’s the event details:

What: Taste of Johns Creek

Website: www.tasteofjc.com

When: Sunday September 25th, 2011  from 4-7 PM

Where: Chattahooche High School

Cost: $15 in advance, $20 at the door

 

A Tale of Two Bloggers Who Ran for Council

Back in my college days I wrote for a alternative campus newspaper. It was a fun and creative way to express my political activism at the time. However I learned a valuable lesson back then… my writing may have consequences. They may be amazingly positive consequences or dangerously harmful ones. I remember these lessons each and every time I click the publish button on my blog today.

Yesterday I read something that put blogging consequences up against the spotlight of running for public office. Allow me to tell the story of two local bloggers who also became candidates for local office. It’s an interesting contrast of how words can have negative and potentially positive consequences.

Tim Enloe

Tim started the Access Milton website and hyper-local blog in 2004. It’s a cool site that provides a great service to Milton. I don’t always agree with Tim but I’m a regular reader.

Some years later he entered the race for Milton City Council. It didn’t take long for an alternate website to pop up, called EnloeArchives.com. This site alleged that Enloe removed some embarrassing content from his blog. The site reprinted his alleged words in a negative light.

In all fairness, it is tough to validate how truthful this site was or in what context the words were written. Nevertheless, the content was out there even after it was supposedly taken offline.

Remember, the internet is forever. There are tools like the Internet Wayback Machine that archive websites. I had to use this service to research this article as even EnloeArchives.com is no longer active. The archives are in the archives, so to speak.

Jimmy Gilvin

Story number two is a little more recent. My regular readers probably know of Jimmy Gilvin and his blog  GA Jim. Last week Jimmy filed to run for Alpharetta City Council. He’s registered an internet domain for his campaign, JimGilvinforCityCouncil.com, but it just redirects to his blog. So basically he’s going to use his WordPress blog as his campaign website. In a post yesterday he said…

A normal politician would never start a blog like GA Jim in the first place and if it did exist they would be sure to delete it before running for office. It contains heartfelt opinions, stances and positions that will undoubtably be attacked by my political opponents. The typical politician would erase GA Jim with the click of a button and eliminate hundreds of posts containing their thoughts over the last two years. With the blog erased they could take any position that would help them get elected without fear of contradiction. That’s what any normal politician would do.

Maybe Jimmy doesn’t know of the Wayback Machine! It doesn’t matter because he’s removing nothing. You could say he’s leveraging his blog as a tool for his campaign. It gives him a distinct advantage over other political newcomers. Voters can read years of his archives to get a sense of his positions. Other political newcomers like Hans Appen or Lance Large in Milton will have to expend a lot of energy communicating their views and motivations to voters.

Enloe and Gilvin. Two distinct examples of the consequences of a blog on the writer’s campaign. Enloe was not successful in his campaign. Were his alleged comments and their removal a factor in his loss?

Will Jimmy’s blog and his openness play well with voters? Or will they even take the time to read it? We’ll find out in November. I’d imagine the campaign of Cheryl Oakes is reading every word of it right about now!

Hammond’s New Ramp – A Cost Perspective

Yesterday the Georgia DOT opened two new ramps onto GA-400 at Hammond Drive. The opening marks the completion of a $17 million project begun in 2008.

Early in my career I spent a few years working at the Concourse office park, right next to the king and queen buildings. It was a miserable experience. Half my commute was spent on the surface streets of Sandy Springs before even getting onto GA-400. Oh how I would have loved this on-ramp back then.

Allow me to use this occasion to put the money into perspective. When you start throwing millions of dollars around, the scale tends to get distorted.

$17 million is going to go a long way towards helping traffic in Sandy Springs. It’ll also save a ton of time for many folks commuting there from north Fulton and Forsyth.

On the flip side, the proposed T-SPLOST would fund a MARTA extension to Holcomb Bridge at a staggering cost of $839 million. This is without factoring in cost over-runs, which are almost certain for a transit project like this.

How many projects on the scale of a Hammond Road project could be funded for that kind of cash? Nearly fifty if my math is correct. Would you like Rucker Road widened? How about Windward, Kimball Bridge, McGinnis Ferry or Highway 9? Pick about fifty of them to trade for a few miles of MARTA track.

Remember that the Dunwoody/Sandy Springs area already has four MARTA stations, yet their surface streets are hopelessly clogged morning, noon and night. For the small price of $17 million, thousands of cars will be removed from roads like Peachtree Dunwoody, Barfield and Abernathy.

There’s plenty of low hanging fruit left to be harvested. Let’s get to picking!

Photo Credit: Markhoward (creative commons)

 

Alpharetta Restaurant News – September 2011

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

I’ve got a lot of changes to report this month. Let’s get right to it!

The Midway Restaurant Scene

The Midway Community of south Forsyth has never really been known for their food scene. For years it’s been home to Casa Nuova, but nothing else has really stood out. That’s about to change! First there was Good Grub Subs, a small sandwich shop. Next came Scootz Gourmet Grill, which I reviewed two weeks ago. Two new joints are in the works, including…

BW Tavern

The folks behind the dive bar Mulligan’s are changing directions. Yesterday I met Alex King, a partner in this new concept. They will close the old restaurant very soon and start an aggressive buildout, slated to take only about a week. In the words of King, the new BW Tavern will “create comforting and interesting dishes while impressing every guest as if they were guest in our home.”

The kitchen will be under the direction of chef Corbett Walsh. His past assignments have included gigs at Stoney River and high-end burger joint The Counter on Mansell Road.

Look for a soft opening sometime in mid to late September with a grand opening in October. I’ll give them a more detailed review at that time.

Woody’s Meat and Sausage Co

The sausage king of Alpharetta? Step aside Abe Froman.

They’ve been building out a strip mall space real close to Scootz for a few months now. Looks like they’ll be grinding their own sausage in-house. They are on Facebook if you want to keep up with their progress. Put me down for a few pounds of andouille, Woody.

Fire Fly Restaurant – Windward

Oh brave souls! These guys are building out 3070 Windward Plaza Suite P! This is the cursed restaurant space I’ve written about. It’s becoming legendary! I don’t know anything about them at this time. More info hopefully soon!

Burrito Gorilla – Closed

I’m taking Jon Agri off my Christmas card list! This guy has created two absolutely outstanding restaurants only to shut them down! First it was Flippin Out, my favorite burger joint in north Fulton. Next came the Gorilla, arguably the best new restaurant of 2011. He shut it down last week. It seems his Dal Cuore Italian restaurant is being received much better by Johns Creek foodies. The Burrito Gorilla space will be used to support this Italian concept.

Azul Agave – Old Milton

They have finally opened! I was there for lunch this week and was amazed at how beautiful this space truly is. On twitter I compared their menu to Tara Humata, which most folks seemed to take as praise. I didn’t necessarily mean it as such. They are certainly a notch above your typical, Speedy Gonzalez-style Mexican restaurant. However I wouldn’t yet put them in the same league as CANS or Pure Taqueria. The lunch prices are also pretty steep. Their grand opening is Friday September 9th.

Shlok Nightclub – State Bridge Road

Alright, not exactly a restaurant here. But it is noteworthy that Alpharetta now has a nightclub. I’m guessing that the owners and/or clientele of this establishment are Indian. An early review on Yelp suggested a diverse group of folks. It’ll be interesting to see if Shlok can make it. They are located a little off the road, behind the new BB’s Bagels.

Coming Soon

I’ll keep a running list of future restaurants here, updating their status when appropriate.

Smashburger Windward – They have announced an opening date of September 28th. Look for them near Einstein Bagels.

La Casa Italian Grill – Looks like they are stuck in permit purgatory. I expect them to open in the former Cafe Efendi space in downtown Alpharetta sometime in September or October.

Dulce Chocolat – Still no word on this chocolate shop on Old Milton. Their website promises a September opening.

Twisted Taco Express – Coming soon to Windward, next to Wild Flour.

 

Number of the Month – LCIs in Johns Creek

Around the first of the month I publish the number of the month, a random bit of local trivia.

Zero

The number of Livable Centers Initiative studies in Johns Creek.

Alpharetta has two. Roswell has two. Even south Forsyth has an LCI study. Johns Creek has none. It’s a curious fact considering that mayor Mike Bodker sits on the board of the Atlanta Regional Commission and is so involved in regional planning. The ARC encourages LCI studies and doles out Federal grant money to projects they deem worthy.

Why doesn’t Mike Bodker eat his own cooking?

The Drake House and Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin’

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

I used to be a Drake House doubter. I recall sitting in a pew at Alpharetta Presbyterian Church listening to our minister talk about the need for transitional homeless housing in north Fulton. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought. Surely this kind of program is needed in Atlanta or elsewhere. There’s no way our affluent suburb would have a housing problem for homeless women and their families. Right?

The weeks went by and I listened to our preacher get more and more excited about the program. Soon a few big donors came to bat. Next came some leaders who facilitated the purchase of an old apartment building in Roswell. I continued to doubt.

Before long our church was sponsoring an apartment and participating in its renovation. We were also kicking in mission funds to the charity, something we continue to do today. But I really didn’t begin to believe in the mission of the Drake House until I started to hear success stories. Unfortunately it took all that work to convince this stubborn doubter of the need for such a project.

Today, amidst a prolonged economic downtown, the Drake House plays a critically vital role in this community. Since their founding in 2006 they’ve helped over 200 single mothers and their families get back on their feet. I encourage you to spend a few minutes on their website and make yourself more familiar with this remarkable local charity.

So why am I talking about the Drake House in my Foodie Friday column? Because they sponsor one of the coolest (ha ha), most unique foodie festivals around. Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin is the Drake House’s premier fund raising event, bringing in tens of thousands of dollars. It is also your best chance to sample genuine homemade ice cream. With today’s absurd proliferation of frozen yogurt joints, I appreciate a bowl of honest-to-goodness ice cream. And I challenge you to find ice cream better than the stuff they’ll dish out at this event on Sunday.

At only five bucks for all you can eat, this event is an exception value. The fact that it benefits this awesome local charity is like having whipped cream and a cherry on top! There’s a ton of other activities for kids and families as well.

If you’re there for the ice cream, take this advice… get there early! The event starts at 2:00. There never seems to be enough crankers to meet demand. If there’s anything left by 3:00, the chances are good that the August sun will have turned it into goo. I’d suggest getting there a little before 2:00 with spoon at the ready.

Here are the details:

What: 7th Annual Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin’. A fundraiser to benefit The Drake House.

Where: The Roswell Square

When: Sunday August 28 from 2:00 to 4:00

Cost: $5 per person, $15 per family

My Involvement in the Alpharetta 2011 Elections

I had no intentions of writing about Alpharetta politics when I began blogging. Yet it didn’t take long before people started asking me what I thought of this and that. I felt I should keep up with what was going on in city hall, lest I sound like a complete imbecile. And like many who were new to Alpharetta politics, I was shocked to learn of the dramatic changes that were afoot in this city.

From there it didn’t take long before I was throwing in my two cents on issues. Yet that put me in an uncomfortable position. See, I don’t live within the political boundaries of Alpharetta. I live just inside Forsyth County – close enough to still have an Alpharetta zip code yet too far away to vote. And yes, the irony of my blog’s name doesn’t escape me.

I voted... except in Alpharetta

I talked about my residency back in March when I first started writing in earnest about Alpharetta politics. I also made a pledge at that time not to endorse candidates. I stand by that pledge; I’m not gonna tell you who to vote for!

I feel like I need to come back to this issue as the 2011 city elections loom. The issue of my residency is something I should remind my readers of on a periodic basis. At the same time, I’ve wrestled with what my role should be in these elections. Should I remain completely silent? Perhaps.

However, I believe I can carve out a niche in the coverage of this election that hopefully is valuable to my readers. By taking no sides and making no endorsements, I plan to focus less on campaign drama and more on elevating issues. This has been my goal all along anyways… simply to create open and honest dialogue on the issues that will shape this area. And being somewhat of an outsider, I don’t bring baggage with me such as neighborhood tensions or past affiliations.

What issues do I think Alpharetta voters need to pay attention to? I’m glad you asked!

Urbanization - No shocker here, we’ve discussed this ad nauseum. Don’t expect candidates to label themselves in this regard one way or the other. I don’t see campaign literature that says “I’m for creating new parks, reducing crime and urbanizing the GA-400 corridor.”

Disclosure - Candidates are required to list any fiduciary relationships in their ethics filings. What they don’t have to openly disclose is who they do business with. Often candidates have clients who may one day have business before the body they seek to serve. And while most politicians excuse themselves from such votes, the electorate should be aware of these affiliations well ahead of time.

Out of Touch? – It’s easy to show that politicians in Washington are out of touch with common folk. Can the same thing happen in a suburban town? I believe it can.

Regional Influences – Are suburban cities losing governing and planning autonomy to regional or state authorities (or beyond)? At what point should you stop thinking regionally and instead do what’s best for Alpharetta? Where’s the line?

There are many more issues such as downtown and the T-SPLOST. I look forward discussing it all this year. And even though I don’t get a vote, I still care a great deal about what happens in Alpharetta. I work in the city, worship at a downtown Alpharetta church and my son attends school in town. But… my head rests each night on a pillow in south Forsyth. I would understand if you find my involvement out of line. Feel free to leave me a comment or e-mail ( lee@rootsinalpharetta.com ) and let me know what you think. In the meantime, I look forward to creating a dialogue on the issues my readers find important.

Photo credit: finn (creative commons)

GoWaiter – Alpharetta and Roswell

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

GoWaiter is a chain of restaurant delivery services. Stephen Altenbach has opened a franchise in north Fulton. They went live this week with a handful of restaurants participating. My wife and I tried the service on opening day and were impressed.

The restaurant options are a little thin at this point in time. Their success will hinge upon increasing restaurant participation. On the flip side, I’ve witnessed several local restaurants express interest in GoWaiter on twitter.

My wife and I settled on Mambo Jambo as our restaurant choice. Ordering was simple on their webpage, like any online shopping experience for the most part. We picked a few Cuban entrees and added an empanada appetizer. The empanadas were an experiment to see how well they would travel. I was reasonably sure ropa vieja and black beans would survive the trip. Plus, Mambo Jambo makes a killer empanada! I scheduled our delivery for 8:00 and my order was a go.

As my time approached I started getting emails on my order’s progress. It was nice to know that the order didn’t disappear into an internet tube or something. I was told when the restaurant began cooking, when my driver arrived at the restaurant and when he was enroute. The email alerts are customizable, something I would imagine regular customers would want to turn off after a few orders.

My order arrived a little ahead of schedule. The driver introduced himself and shook my hand. What? The stoner-boy pizza delivery guy never shakes my hand! It was a very professional exchange that really was more like a waiter and less like a delivery.

Next he opened a huge insulated suitcase which contained my order. To say my order was still hot is an understatement. I’m pretty sure I burned the roof of my mouth with my first bite of black beans. The empanadas were still in reasonable condition, although they had steamed a little in the box.

All in all, it was a positive experience with no opening day glitches. A fee of $5 is very reasonable for a service like this, especially if they can boost their list of participating restaurants. I love the thought of getting grub delivered to my house from as far away as Crabapple or Holcomb Bridge. Saving the hassle of traffic is worth the five spot.

Also, watch these guys in the social media space as they seem pretty savvy with it. I’d suggest following on twitter @GoWaiter_Alpha

Disclosure: I received a promotional discount from GoWaiter on opening day. My disclosure policy can be found on my about page.

Scootz Gourmet Grill – South Forsyth

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

Sit at a table at Scootz and close your eyes. Imagine being surrounded by dozens of crazed and carbohydrate-fueled children. They’re giggling and laughing at Spongebob on television and playing video games.

I had this little flashback when first visiting Scootz. Yes, this place used to be a Cici’s Pizza. If you look around you might see something that reminds you of the franchise pizza joint. The pizza oven is still visible from parts of the dining room. The video games remain but their days are numbered, soon to be replaced by a private room.

A makeover has transformed this space into a much more comfortable eatery. The Scootz bar beckons visitors to the rear of the restaurant with a few flat screen TVs. Tables are separated by young little ivy plants, ambitious to climb a little trellis set up for each of them.

Like a lot of new, independent restaurants, the menu at Scootz is a hodge-podge of different ideas. It’s heavy on burgers yet includes a Maryland-style crabcake ($22.99 for the entree) made with lump crab meat. You’ll find fish and chicken sandwiches next to a handful of Italian entrees.

Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Parmesan French Fries

The menu didn’t make much sense until I met owner Scooter Aselton. “We’re trying to fill a niche between white tablecloth and everyday,” explained Aselton.

Burgers are a feature here and also a top seller. Their Scootz Burger ($7.99) is your basic, classic hamburger. They start with organic Angus meat, giving it a decent sear. It retained a decent amount of juice but not enough to make soggy the toasted bun. Burgers come to the table impaled through the top of the bun with a large knife.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say Scootz is “reinventing the burger,” a tagline they are using. However, they do an above-average job putting together a classic, well-made burger. It’s easily worth the visit.

The fish and chicken sandwiches at Scootz don’t get enough attention on the menu. The grilled chicken sandwich ($9.99) is made from organic free-range birds and is moist and tender. Topped with marinated and sauteed mushrooms, this sandwich is a winner.

The mahi mahi sandwich ($10.95) comes brushed with garlic butter. What steals the show is a lime aioli that comes on the side. There’s something about the combination of lime and fish that creates an explosion of flavor. I’d rank this fish sandwich among the best I’ve had in the Alpharetta area.

Chicken Piccata

On the Italian side of the menu, try the chicken piccata ($14.99). It features the same tender chicken from the sandwich. The lemon butter sauce is a little on the creamy side but still tasty. If you’re a Scootz regular looking for something different on the menu, I’d give their Italian food a try.

The talent in the Scootz kitchen comes from Chef Eric Banks. This Le Cordon Bleu graduate has a passion for baking. That explains the numerous pies on the menu. They even feature New Orleans style beignets, something not usually seen in our suburb.

Chef Banks is often in the front of the restaurant greeting patrons. His demeanor is friendly and genuine, asking for and usually receiving constructive feedback on every dish.

All in all, Scootz Gourmet Grill has impressed me on several visits. “I’ve catered to kids,” says Aselton of his restaurant’s transformation. “Now I’m ready to feed their parents.”

Scootz Gourmet Grill is located at 5905 Atlanta Highway in south Forsyth.

Photo Credit: Robyn Guy Photography

Scootz Gourmet Grill on Urbanspoon

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