Chicken and Waffles

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

Chicken and waffles is, let’s say, a unique menu item. It’s not for everyone. The appeal is the combination of the hot savory fried chicken and the sweeter waffle. Combined with syrup and honey mustard, it’s an odd pairing. Let’s compare and contrast a few of Alpharetta’s offerings.

Bantam Biddy Chicken WaffleBantam and Biddy’s chicken and waffles consists of a few freshly prepared chicken strips on top of a cheddar waffle. Served alongside is pure cane syrup and vanilla bean apple sauce. As waffles go, the cheddar waffle wasn’t all that sweet. The syrup made up for it by being sticky sweet. The chicken was tender and breaded just right. Dousing the whole thing with the syrup is the way to go. The waffle wasn’t too dense and actually complimented the chicken. It’s pricey though at $14.

Here’s where all the hate comes in. IHOP? On a foodie blog? How dare I. Hey, they’ve got chicken and waffles and I would be remiss if I skipped them. Know what? For frozen chicken strips and a waffle made from most likely a mix, it was pretty darn tasty. The waffle was sweet and the chicken tenders were a good balance with the very light waffle. The meal comes with honey mustard and of course your choice of maple syrup. If someone gave these chicken and waffles, I would not turn them down.

On the other hand, Top Golf’s chicken and waffles were a complete disaster. It’s very surprising considering how good their food is normally. It’s presented as chicken and waffle sliders instead of the normal chicken on top of the waffle configuration. Two cost $9 with no sides. They do come with maple syrup and some kind of jalapeno gravy stuff. The waffles are made in-house and were extremely dense and heavy. Take two of those as the bun combined with a rather thin piece of chicken and it’s just too much waffle. You’re chewing through tons of bread to get to a tiny morsel of chicken. Adding the syrup just makes your hands sticky. I ended up ditching the waffles altogether and dipping the chicken into the gravy which was very good. Overall it’s disappointing.

Out of the three chicken and waffles that I tried I would give the trophy to Bantam and Biddy. IHOP is a close second, and Top Golf sliced it into the woods. Take a chance, try something different and order the chicken and waffles. Tell me what you think.

Fish sandwiches in Alpharetta

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

This week marks the beginning of the season of Lent. While I personally don’t observe this Christian tradition, many do and I respect that. Often those who participate abstain from eating meat on Fridays and of course Friday is the day we write about food here on Roots. So what happens if an observant, and hungry, Catholic stumbles upon our little blog on a Friday and reads about a juicy steak or delicious smoked barbecue? I don’t want to be responsible for breaking their Lenten penance!

rosa mia seared sole panini

Seared sole panani at Rosa Mia

Strangely enough fish doesn’t count as a meat for this Friday meal. So three years ago at this time we reviewed fish tacos. This week we’ll do fish sandwiches, one of my favorite lunches. There’s only one ground rule today – no farm-raised fish. Sorry tilapia, you’re a fish out of water in this article. Here are three choices that won’t leave that observant Catholic floundering.

Wade over to Rosa Mia in Johns Creek for their seared sole panini. Their menu touts it as a number one seller and I can see why. It’s a generous helping of pan-seared fish on pressed focaccia bread. Roasted red peppers also make an appearance as does a little, almost unnoticeable smear of pesto mayo. But the flavor of this flaky fish really shines through. The downside is its construction. Hard bread doesn’t work against a delicate fish filet. About half way through the sandwich it starts to disintegrate. It can also be a tad bit greasy. But don’t let this stop you from ordering Rosa Mia’s seared sole panini as it easily makes the medal podium today.

The fish sandwich isn’t on the regular menu at Wildflour on Windward Parkway, but they have it almost every day as a lunch special. And it’s hard to cast a net over this fish as the species changes everyday. One thing is for sure, chef Michael Fields uses only the best wild-caught fish in season. Recently it has been flounder, mahi-mahi, cobia and trout. Sometimes crustaceans scurry into their sammiches including scallops, shrimp and their popular crab cakes.

Whatever swimming critter they cook, fish sandwiches at Wildflour are always a winner. Occasionally they grill the fish which imparts a wonderful smokey flavor. Topped off with jalapeno lime sauce, this sandwich is terrific. And unlike most of Wildflour’s dainty lunchtime clientele, this sandwich is large and manly.

While certainly not large and substantial, South Main Kitchen‘s fish sandwich is far more refined. Downtown Alpharetta’s newest restaurant recently hooked this mahi-mahi sandwich onto their lunch menu and it’s decent.

I liked South Main’s chili lime sauce at the base of the bun. It’s a lot like Wildflour’s but with a little less heat. I only wish there was a tad bit more of it.

What I wanted less of was the pickled cabbage slaw on top. I liked its tartness and crunch for texture, but there was so much of it that it overpowered the delicate little fish underneath. And little should be emphasized. The piece of fish offered was pretty small, especially for the $14 price tag. It would have felt more at home on a slider bun.

Strangely enough the only thing generous here was their french fries. The plate was buried with their golden brown goodness. I was seriously impressed with these spuds, but that’s for another article. We’re fishing here.

There may be plenty of other fish in the sea, but these three shouldn’t disappoint. If you know of other sandwiches that are fishing for a complement, I’d love to hear about them. Leave me a comment.

A busy night in Alpharetta’s city hall

Tonight’s a busy one at Alpharetta’s City Council meeting and a handful of agenda items are right up our alley here on Roots. Unless you’re snowed under, it might be fun to head downtown and take it all in.

The fun starts early at 6:00 when the city hosts an open house to talk about city center development. It looks like MidCity Real Estate Partners is the favored developer. The big reveal will be how much residential will go vertical in downtown and if it will be apartments.

Alpharetta new logoLater on the City Council is expected to approve a new logo. I’m proud to say that my blog is the first to shamelessly reprint the logo without permission. Here’s what they are considering. I kinda like it.

Council will likely vote to oppose the transportation bill currently before the General Assembly in Atlanta. The bill would be very bad for cities, especially those in north Fulton who would hand over some transportation spending to the state and Fulton County. It’s always interesting to see the city cross their interests with their representatives. State Senator Brandon Beach was a big part of this initiative. Beach used to sit on Alpharetta’s Council.

Next Council will pass a resolution supporting the Beer Jobs Bill. If the bill becomes law then expect guys like Jekyll Brewing to get creative with their offerings. This council has shown they are very willing to tweak their alcohol ordinances for just about anyone peddling booze in town, from growlers to open containers on the streets of Avalon. Case in point, wine bottle sales at restaurants…

Tonight Council will consider a change to allow some restaurants to offer bottles of wine for sale by the package. The idea is that you can buy a bottle at a restaurant like you would at a store for consumption at home. We’ve heard that Cabernet on Windward is behind this request.

And finally, a workshop is on the agenda for the proposed convention center at Avalon. It’ll be interesting to see what the council is willing to discuss in public. Up until now, nearly every discussion has been held behind closed doors in executive session. This blogger thinks the council isn’t being transparent with this process. Considering the city may incur additional debt to finance the project and could be on the hook for its operation, the public should be more in the know. Hopefully this workshop is the beginning of a shift towards more transparency.

Alpharetta Restaurant News – February 2015

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

Figo Pasta closed signArrivederci Figo Pasta. The fast-casual Italian eatery on North Point closed their doors for good about two weeks ago, leaving this goodbye in the window. On social media the company blamed the poor location for their demise but word is that the chain is suffering. Or perhaps it’s the general concept. Mirko Pasta, a very similar competitor, recently closed in Johns Creek. We knew this one was coming as the business had been listed for sale with a restaurant broker. We suspected Figo might go as well, but we didn’t expect them both to go at almost the same time.

Replacing Mirko in Johns Creek is an Indian restaurant called Mirchi Virchi. They opened on Monday. Also in Johns Creek look for Brooklyn Cantina to open on Jones Bridge Road in the former 12 Slices location.

Someone has leased the former pretzel store space on Highway 9 in Milton near Target. We’re told the name will be Chad Thai Urban Asian Kitchen but at this point don’t know much more about the concept. There are several other Thai restaurants in the west Windward area so we’ll see how they fare. And we’re also hearing a fast food restaurant may build across the street in front of Aldi, but the scoop belongs to Eli Zandman so I’ll let him report on it.

And speaking of scoops, the folks over at Scoop OTP got one on me. They reported this week that Roswell’s Ceviche Taqueria & Margarita Bar will open a new location in downtown Alpharetta. Look for them at 42 Milton Avenue near the 2B Whole bakery. Of course Salt Factory paved the way with expansion from Roswell a few years ago. Roswell’s Nine Street Kitchen considered coming to downtown Alpharetta but pulled the plug on their plans. What other Roswell eateries could be next?

Several previously-reported restaurants have opened since last month. Tom+Chee opened two weeks ago on North Point near Chicken Salad Chick.  Vito’s Pizza-Rant has opened on Old Milton Parkway. They are the third pizza concept to open here since Mama’s left about a year and a half ago. Laguna Mexican Grill has opened in south Forsyth where BW Tavern once lived. And Smallcakes, a franchise cupcake joint, has now opened at 4055 Old Milton Parkway.

Our coming soon list has been updated. A number of these projects are stalling or otherwise progressing slowly.

Restaurants Coming Soon

The Farmhouse – Still waiting on this coffee and crepe shop in Johns Creek.
Jay’s Mexican Grill and Taqueria – McFarland Parkway in south Forsyth. Perhaps their buildout has stalled.
Cook-Out – Their buildout has started on Haynes Bridge.
Cafe at Pharr – Their opening appears to be far out. Slow progress on Windward.
Ricco’s Italian & Tapas -  A promising new concept to open on Highway 9 in Milton from a former Zola alum.

Jeff Fuqua seeks to build mixed use next to Avalon

Avalon’s success is starting to attract additional development to Old Milton Parkway. Two new zoning applicants hope to bring new retail and mixed use projects to property adjacent to the mammoth development. And documents obtained from the city suggest that notable Atlanta real estate developer Jeff Fuqua is behind one of them.

Thompson St DevFuqua has assembled parcels totaling 21 acres just west of Avalon. Bounded by Old Milton Parkway, Westside Parkway and Thompson Street, the project would be a mix of retail, restaurants, townhomes, detached homes and a small office component.

It’s far too early to speculate on what businesses might open here but the developer hinted at an organic grocer, sit-down and fast casual restaurants, coffee shop with drive thru, bank, wine store and medical offices. The site plan calls for all retail to face Old Milton and Westside Parkways with parking behind. Office space will be above retail on the side closest to Avalon.

74 townhomes are sandwiched in the middle and measure in at 2200 to 3800 square feet each. Behind the townhomes will be 24 detached homes facing out to Thompson Street. The homes will be on tiny lots yet will be as large as 3800 square feet. John Wieland Homes appears to be the residential builder.

A small pocket park is included with the development but will be across Thompson Street to the north and almost noncontiguous from the project. They also plan to build a wide sidewalk along Thompson Street with the hopes of conforming to the city’s idea of a greenway connecting downtown to Avalon.

It’ll be interesting to see how those on Thompson Street react to the proposed development. Many of the owners are small-time real estate speculators content to rent out their old, dilapidated homes waiting for their day to cash in. That day seems to have arrived. But this portion of town is a thorn between two roses (downtown and Avalon) and many in the city want it made over.

Others on Thompson Street have a history of being a raucous bunch when it comes to changes. Nevertheless, the residential component of this plan is rather dense compared to the surroundings. There’s certainly a beef to be made here.

But they might have a hard time negotiating with Jeff Fuqua. He’s got a reputation of being controversial and difficult to work with, be it with neighbors or city leaders. Creative Loafing devoted a cover story to him a few years ago that’s worth a read. Many folks inside-the-perimeter criticize his projects for being too suburban, too big-boxy and lacking density. It’s doubtful he’ll meet this criticism in Alpharetta, especially with this project.

But Fuqua’s arrival in Alpharetta is significant. The man has over eight million square feet of retail development to tout on his resume yet he’s only worked one project in our neck of the woods. Deerfield Place on Highway 9 in Milton was his work, home to Target and Kohl’s. And he’s certainly no stranger to this area. He and his wife own or used to own Collecting Gaits, a prestigious horse farm in Milton.

A separate zoning applicant before the city this month seeks to build new retail across Old Milton Parkway from Avalon. A total of 26,000 square feet of retail would be split between three buildings next to Racetrac. Demolished would be a small home and the old shopping center that once housed Shirley Furniture.

It’s also hard to speculate on tenants in this development. A drive-thru restaurant may occupy part of the eastern-most building. Perhaps Starbucks might find a cozy new home here or in the Fuqua project. They seem to like this type of drive-thru configuration on a stripmall endcap and will do something similar on Windward in an updated Penn Hodge project. Given that Starbucks doesn’t have a presence at Avalon itself, this might be a logical choice.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House – Haynes Bridge

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

It’s great to finally see two of the largest empty spaces in Alpharetta become occupied. The most recent is the former Rainwater location on Haynes Bridge Road. My wife and I got married here in November of 2007. It closed soon after. The fact that it was a huge space, high priced food and an awkward location combined for Rainwater’s demise. It’s a shame.

Ruths Chris logo smallAlpharetta needed a high-end fine dining establishment, a place where new business owners can take clients, eat expensive meat and toast with high dollar wines and spirits. A real Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity kind of place, unabashed 1% all the way. It’s kind of funny to say that since Rainwater was the cheapest place in the whole area to host a wedding, by far.

Anyway, years passed and I longed for something, anything to open in that space if for no other reason than to get back inside where I got married. Chill Restaurant and Lounge opened and we had hope. Then it closed in a month.

Recently word came that national steakhouse chain Ruth’s Chris was moving its Sandy Spring location to that space. My wife and I took out a loan and went last weekend to finally revisit the place we exchanged vows.

Ruth’s Chris undertook an extensive remodel to bring the place back from the Chill decor that was dominated by turquoise. It looks nice now, a lot like Rainwater used to be. The beautiful wrought iron doors are gone, as are the ultra-cool teardrop lights over the bar. The layout hasn’t changed either. The space consists of a large central room that houses the hostess stand, staircase, wine lockers and five separate dining rooms. Several rooms have fireplaces and all have high-end decor and seating. Each room seems like its own restaurant. Ruth’s Chris doesn’t seem that big when you’re housed in a dining room.

One the rooms is very unique and would be perfect for rehearsal dinners. It has one long table and the walls are lined with brick with very pricy wines on display. It also holds the entrance to the wine cellar housing hundreds of bottles of wine.

Upstairs hasn’t changed a lot at this point either. We were told that events have and will be held upstairs.  We were also told that the Governor Deal and Mayor Belle Isle were there recently to give speeches. I am very glad to see that future couples will be able to be married there.

The food or course was outstanding and insanely expensive. The menus are presented in both normal fashion and on an iPad. I wish it was either/or not both. The table got crowded.

The service was impeccable. The waiter had one of those little crumb scrapers to clean the table cloth. I love that. The steaks came out sizzling of course, but most importantly, perfectly cooked. The 1800 degree broiler does a good job. But for an average price of $40 a steak, I could get several from Woody’s Meat and Sausage Company, cook them at home and be just as happy. Sides are extra of course. Two people with drinks (local beers from Jekyll and Monday Night are available), steaks and sides can run upwards to $200. Ouch.

Ruth’s Chris has and always will cater to the 1% and those with expense accounts. The place is nice and will definitely impress clients and friends. We went at 6:00 PM on a Saturday and it was packed. Time will tell if the name recognition of Ruth’s Chris will keep this steakhouse in the game.

All Milton students found to be above the mean

A recent classroom study finds that all students at Milton High School are significantly above the mean. The project was conducted as part of a semester-long classroom assignment in the school’s Advanced Placement Statistics class.

Milton High School“Fulton County Schools was gracious to provide us test result data from all standardized tests taken at Milton going back several years,” said teacher Kent Dorfman. “Of course any personally identifiable information was removed prior to the data arriving in our lab.”

The students analyzed test scores using material learned in class and leveraged specialized computer software.  Each and every student was compared to the Milton student population as a whole. The results were astounding. Every Milton High School student was found to be above the mean. A high standard deviation was also observed.

“We went into the study pretty much knowing everyone was super smart at Milton,” remarked AP Stats student Katie Wong. “Like, the results just proved what we already knew.”

After graduating this spring Wong plans to study applied mathematics at the University of South Carolina. She included the assignment in her application essay and believes it played a big part in her acceptance to the college.

Dorfman hopes to make the study a yearly project in his AP Statistics class. He says the project helps to drive home course curriculum with real-world numbers the students live and understand.

“It reinforces our preconceived notions, a concept that’s very important in the science of statistics,” he explained. “Even if these students don’t become mathematicians, these are valuable skills that will serve them well in their professional lives.”

Photo Credit: Steven V

A downtown wish list

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

After grabbing lunch and a beer at Hop Alley recently, I took a stroll across the street to the new Alpharetta City Center. It was my first time to get an up close and personal look at what downtown will look like. It was great. I loved the large grassy area, the tree lined streets, the grand city hall, the abundance of sidewalks, and the massive in ground fountain.

downtown overlayI visited a similar development in Virginia last year. They also had a large fountain where kids could get in and get wet. It was a huge it! I don’t expect anything less down here when the temps hit 90.

As I stood in the middle of it all, my attention was drawn to the real estate on either side of the main lawn/gathering place. While we are still a ways off from spending our money here, I can’t help but envision what I would like to see there.

Retail? Meh, don’t care. Some boutique or art store or whatever. I’m talking about what downtown would NEED. Like a good sandwich shop/deli. Like a New York-style corned beef on rye handmade meatballs thousand types of sandwiches kind of place.

If the beer laws change (if) I’d love to see Jekyll Brewing have a presence downtown. I know they’ve talked about it.

I would love to see a cool little ice cream shop with old fashioned deserts and sodas. Like Scoops but better.

Most of the places could have patio dining with live music and gas lamps. Can you imagine how great it could be? I can.

The city has a chance to do something really great downtown, a chance to set Alpharetta apart from every other town in the northern arc. I hope that they think about the citizens and not about who will give them the most money or who is partnered with who. I know some of the city council members read this blog. Comment and tell them what you want to see downtown and how you envision Alpharetta’s future.

Cheap eats in Alpharetta

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

Meet James, a co-worker of mine who eats out for lunch everyday. Sounds familiar. We ought to have a lot in common yet seldom do our restaurant paths cross. But James, along with his cadre of old timers who eat together everyday, are rather set in their ways. They’re also very frugal.

One day I challenged James to break out of his routine of Subway and Speedy with beans. He returned my challenge with one of his own. Find restaurants that are close to our Windward office, offer something delicious and will cost $8 or less including drink and tip.

So James, without further adieu, here’s your list.

Pizza by the slice – Alpharetta is completely covered up in New York-style pizza. Your cheapest way to enjoy is ordering by the slice at lunch. Most joints will do two slices with toppings and a drink for around seven bucks. Top picks in this category include Verra-Zanno Pizzeria in Johns Creek along with their sister restaurant Joe’s New York Pizzeria on Mansell Road. Mama’s Pizza on North Point and Brooklyn Joe’s off Windward are also fine choices and a little closer to most cubicle dwellers.

El Trompo signAuthentic Mexican – Give Speedy Gonzalez the adios. He’s certainly cheap but you can do far better for the same pesos. Mr. Taco and our beloved El Trompo Mexican Taqueria are where you need to be. Mix and match some a la carte tacos and wash it down with a Mexican coke.  It easily fits within our $8 budget.

Mediterranean – Two words: gyro wraps. They are delicious, very filling and well within our budget in most instances. I like Grecian Gyro in Johns Creek Walk, Cafe Efendi on Main Street and Seven Seas Cafe Devore Road. And if you’re willing to approach the $10 mark, nothing beats the chicken shawarma wrap at Jerusalem Bakery on Old Milton.

Chinese – It’s certainly cheap at lunch, but it takes a lot to impress me in this category. Head down to Johns Creek for the good stuff. Liu Fu will serve the Chinese food your accustomed to for $8 at lunch. Or better yet, establish yourself as a Chinese food epicure and order the Szechwan-style hot boiled fish. It breaks our budget at $10 but is well worth it. You’ll need extra napkins to dab the sweat off your brow.

For quality Thai food at very reasonable prices hit Satay House on Alpharetta’s South Main Street. Some lunch options are priced as low as $6.25. How do they do it?

X-tudoAnd finally, for my off-the-wall budget lunch pick, head over to Old Milton’s  Coisas de Brasil and order the X-tudo. For a measly six bucks your sammich comes with hamburger, a fried egg, mozzarella cheese, ham, lettuce, tomato, corn and peas. It’s the most bizarre lunch item in Alpharetta, but it’s cheap!

Not every good restaurant in Alpharetta has to be fine dining. Guys like my friend James are never going to shell out $18 for a plate of tacos at The El Felix. You don’t have to either. Hopefully this list gives the budget-conscious gastronome a decent place to begin. If you’ve got ideas for delicious cheap eats, I’d love to hear them!

Alpharetta Restaurant News – January 2015

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

Ricco's coming soon signThe restaurant server community is abuzz about one of their own hanging out his shingle. Ricco’s Italian & Tapas will open on Highway 9 in Milton in the original Zola Bistro space. The restaurant’s namesake is a popular former server at Zola. Following that restaurant’s sale and relocation down the street, Ricco worked at Campania before quitting recently to work on this gig.

We like Ricco’s chances in this space. Word is that he already has a loyal clientele from his Zola days ready to follow him. They will certainly be familiar with the location and should provide Ricco’s the necessary tailwind to make it in this space.

Simply Pizza on Old Milton has been sold after a short time in business. The latest concept de jour will be called Vito’s Pizza-Rant and will be run by partners who relocated from Florida. The menu will be familiar with pizza and pasta but they’ll also offer gluten-free and vegan options as well. As for the name… the hyphen suggests this is a play on the word “restaurant” but perhaps a rant about pizza could arranged.

Milton’s Kabab & Wraps closed for a short time. They’ve made a small renovation, rebranded the place as Pepper’s Indian Cuisine and have already reopened for business.

Antico Pizza Napoletana finally opened this week at Avalon and the Italian concept Colletta has announced a February 6th opening. This should complete the initial restaurant lineup at the development.

We’re hearing word that a small shopping center and restaurant may be in the works across Old Milton from Avalon. Additional retail in this area should complement Avalon which, while very unique and popular, is currently a retail island unto itself.

200px-Starbucks_Corporation_Logo_2011.svgAnd in other shopping center news… plans are also in the works for a remodel of the former Tilted Kilt restaurant building on Windward Parkway. The plan calls for a conversion of the space into a three-tenant shopping center with better road visibility from Windward. Update: We’ve been able to confirm that Starbucks will move from their location in the adjacent shopping center into this former Tilted Kilt space. Their new digs will feature a drive-thru and patio.

My blogger friend Eli Zandman reported that stir-fry joint Real Chow Baby abruptly closed their Howell Mill Road location in Atlanta in late December. The sign on the door indicated that they are moving to Alpharetta however we’ve seen nothing to suggest that hard plans are in the works. We’ll keep them in our rumor bin until something something more substantial materializes.

Eli also sniffed out the to-be location of Burger 21 in Johns Creek. Last month in this column we suggested that they were closer to announcing something. Turns out they will be in a new shopping center called Johns Creek Promenade on Peachtree Parkway just a little above Johns Creek Walk. Construction on this large shopping center is just starting so the burgers won’t be flipping for some time.

Opening since last month is JD’s Sports Pub & Pizza in south Forsyth. And Nothing Bundt Cakes has opened their latest location at The Collection at Forsyth.

Restaurants Coming Soon

The Farmhouse – Still waiting on this coffee and crepe shop in Johns Creek.
Jay’s Mexican Grill and Taqueria – Little place on McFarland.
Tom and Chee – Grilled cheese and soup joint that should open in February on North Point.
Smallcakes - Another cake joint at 4055 Old Milton Parkway.
Cook-Out – Still no signs of life on Haynes Bridge. This location may take a while to open.
Cafe at Pharr – Another slow buildout for this sandwich chain coming to Windward.
Laguna Mexican Grill – Speedy Gonzalez coming to south Forsyth.

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