Hemma Concrete and the Owens

Back in July we wrote about Alpharetta Councilman DC Aiken and his business relationship with homebuilder Sharp Residential. We hinted at the time of another similar business relationship. This time it’s with a spouse.

OwensThe wife of Councilman Chris Owens is in the concrete business. Approximately a year ago Mrs. Owens was hired by Marietta-based Hemma Concrete to be a senior estimator. Her responsibilities include being awarded commercial concrete projects.

For many years Hemma’s business consisted of mainly small residential projects such as driveway improvements, fancy sidewalks and other decorative hardscapes. In recent years the company has branched out to include large commercial and municipal projects.

On their website the firm touts three large projects in Alpharetta with very high profile and high visibility construction projects. We’ve been able to confirm a fourth of similar profile. The projects are…

Avalon – Hemma was awarded a $2 million contract by North American Properties and their general contractor Hoar Construction. Their work includes building site walls, hardscapes, the water fountain and all the decorative sidewalks you’ll walk on in the 86 acre project.

TopGolf – Hemma teed off the construction by pouring the foundation, walls and composite concrete slabs for the metal building frame.

Haynes Bridge Road realignment – Hemma was selected by contractor CW Matthews to work on the new road, traffic circle and sidewalks.

City Center – Not mentioned in Hemma’s portfolio online, we’ve been able to confirm that the company is performing work downtown. They were selected to perform hardscape and other concrete work on the project by City Center’s construction manager, Choat Construction.

Mrs. Owens’ employment with Hemma started after these projects were awarded. She’s not a principal or equity holder with the company but rather a employee.

Councilman Owens said the relationships would not cause him to recuse from future votes relating to North American Properties or City Center. He would only recuse in the scenario where the city contracted directly with Hemma for work.

So why write about this relationship at all? The expanding economy in Alpharetta will create opportunities for the lawyers, engineers and real estate professionals sitting on Council. It’s important to understand and be aware of the business and professional relationships your elected officials have. It’s of particular interest when the relationships involve firms with past or potential future matters before Council. Both are the case here.

Humble Pie Pizza Company – Windward

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday. Today we feature an article from Mike Christensen.

Yet another pizza joint has opened in Alpharetta.  Pretty soon, Big Creek will flood tomato sauce and the Avalon will be smothered in cheese and pepperoni.

humble pie logoHumble Pie has occupied the former Johnny’s location in the strip on the corner of Main Street and Windward Parkway.  It’s a good location but finding parking is a chore.  Try the lot out back and hike in.

Inside is a light refreshing change from the former digs.  Colorful booths are along the walls and plenty of tables are scattered around.  A dozen TVs are tuned to the latest sports and lots of hippy-dippy artwork will make most people think they are in the Mellow Mushroom.  It’s ok, I like the Mellow Mushroom.  I’ve been going there for the last 30 years.  The Humble Pie employees are super nice, polite, fast and professional.  I will say this though, when the place is full and busy it’s insanely loud.  I had to yell at the server to place my order.  Relief can be had on the outdoor patio.

Let’s talk food.  The pizza is the star of course but don’t skip the hoagies and salad.  The hoagies are huge and made to order.  My wife had the steak with cheese.  The bread was well done and the steak was tender.  All hoagies come with your choice of bagged chips.  Meh.

We’ve tried three different pizzas, the BLT, the buffalo chicken and the meatball with ricotta.  The BLT was the worst of the three – bacon with sliced tomatoes and lettuce.  The old Pepperoni’s had a BLT pizza that was bacon, chopped tomatoes and lettuce added at the end.  Humble Pie’s BLT has the lettuce mixed in.  It was wilted by the time we got it home to eat.  Not tasty.  I’ve never been a fan of sliced tomatoes on pizza.  You’ve got the sauce already.  It’s tomato-on-tomato crime.

The buffalo chicken pizza was pretty darn good.  Chunks of chicken ride on top of a ranch sauce with red onions and bacon.  The description says there was sliced celery on it but I didn’t see any.  No big loss.  The crust held up well under the onslaught of sauce, cheese and chicken.  And yes, it was crazy spicy.

The meatball with ricotta was my favorite by far.  Huge sliced meatballs dot the landscape with dollops of ricotta cheese.  It’s like a lasagne without the pasta.  Tons of flavor in the meatballs.  I could have used either a little less ricotta or maybe have it spread around more.  Biting into a mountain of creamy cheese can be a little much.

The pizzas are good, the hoagies are passable, but there is one thing on the menu that I cannot pass up whenever we go.  Pretzel twists.  These footlong twisted loafs of bread are covered in either garlic and Parmesan, cinnamon and sugar, or kosher salt with mustard.  They’re soft, fresh and delicious.  Pull them apart and share with others or be like me and keep it for yourself.

In the grand scheme of pizza, Humble Pie is above average.  If it’s on your way, it’s a great little pizza joint.  Not sure I would make a special trip for it.  Its not their fault.  There are so many pizza choices here that it’s nearly impossible to stand out.  Humble Pie has a smallish social media presence.  Only recently did they put the menu on the website.  Only time will tell if Humble Pie Pizza Company will stay afloat in the river of pizza sauce that will surely engulf us all.

Dubious restaurant awards of 2014

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

It’s about this time of year when the Revue & News releases their “best of” awards. The winners are chosen by readers and, unfortunately I fear, subject to shill campaigns at times.

It would be easy to mimic. We could go on and on about the best sushi, burgers or whatever in town. We could fight holy wars on who has the best pizza or barbecue. But it would be too easy to write that article, the equivalent of a food blogger’s layup.

So we’ll do something completely different. Without further ado I present what I hope may become a yearly article, our dubious restaurant awards of 2014.

The estrogen overload award – Never Enough Thyme
This place easily sport a four-to-one female-to-male ratio on any given day. Their menu of healthy yet delicious sandwiches attracts a mix of skinny cubicle dwelling ladies along with old biddies from the Windward book club. But it’s worth checking your man card at the door for a visit here. Their Texas-style chili is the best in town.

Most overrated new restaurant of 2014 – Chicken Salad Chick
The ladies that frequent places like Never Enough Thyme usually have pretty good taste. But they’ve missed the mark here. That same crowd is mobbing this new restaurant, pushing lines out the door for lunch. Don’t get me wrong, the chicken salad here is alright. I’d rank it a tiny notch above what you can get at any decent deli in town. But they’re certainly not worth waiting in line for. Sure their different flavors are cool, but it feels more like mix in ingredients. The rest of the menu is unimaginative. So what’s with the lines, ladies?

What I’d miss the most if I left Alpharetta – Shawarma from Jerusalem Bakery
God forbid if I had to more away from this cool place, shawarma is what I’d miss the most. The explosion of flavors and textures in Jerusalem’s chicken shawarma wrap is crave-worthy. If you only take one bit of restaurant advice from this blog, this should be it. Go have a shawarma today for lunch!

Best place for misbehaving kids – Wild Wing
Don’t let your kids misbehave in a restaurant. But if you’re concerned about a toddler meltdown and don’t want to bother your fellow patrons as you get little bubba outta there, try a loud sports bar. The sometimes raucous Wild Wing is my pick here.

The special sauce award – Jalapeno lime from Wildflour
They put it on fish, pork and chicken. They could pour it over the sole of a shoe and I’d eat it. This sauce is creamy, a tad spicy, a little tangy and all overall delicious. I take the corner of my bread and dab up every last drop as I finish a Wildflour sandwich.

If we did a deathwatch – Firefly
My friend Eli Zandman occasionally runs a restaurant deathwatch column on his blog Tomorrow’s News Today. It’s very controversial, too much so for us to emulate here. That’s not to say it would be hard though because we’d have places like Firefly on the list. The long list of failures looms dark over this Windward location. The present owners did themselves a disservice keeping the same name and concept as the previous failed restaurant. And their menu and offerings are just not hitting it out of the park, something that will be necessary of any restaurant that hopes to be successful here. Hopefully something will make it here, but Firefly version 2.0 probably isn’t it.

Alpharetta Restaurant News – September 2014

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

eggs up grill logoRise and shine, it’s time for another breakfast joint. We’re seeing a theme of beach-side breakfast restaurants that franchise and land in the suburbs. First it was Another Broken Egg then First Watch. Each of them can trace roots to the beach. The latest is Eggs Up Grill. The chain out of Pawleys Island, South Carolina will open at 270 Rucker Road in the Publix shopping center. Are any of these guys raising the breakfast bar?

Mexican joints come and go. Keeping up with them can be fraught with frustration, like trying to follow the froyo craze from a few years ago. But here goes.

The former Chepe’s spaces in south Forsyth are quickly filling up. A restaurant called Mezcalero Mexican Grill will open in the old Bethleview Road location. And we reported on Pueblos Mexican Cuisine last month. It seems they are now open in the old Chepe’s on Mathis Airport Road.

It appears that a small Mexican place, perhaps a taqueria, will open in the former Incredible Sandwich Factory space on McFarland Parkway. While I’ve not confirmed, the name may be Jay’s Mexican Grill. And finally, several readers have told me about the closure of Cinco on McGinnis Ferry. That leaves the chain with tres locations.

Rounding out our trip through south Forsyth – watch for JD’s Sports Pub & Pizza. That’ll be the name of the replacement at TPS Pizza on Peachtree Parkway. It’s a tiny little spot that you have to seek out.

Back in Alpharetta and worth mentioning is Smokin’ Mo’s. This barbecue food truck is spending a lot of time in Alpharetta these days, particularly at the Midas shop on Main Street and Mayfield Road. Do they have the Midas touch with the Q?

Restaurants Coming Soon

Tower Burger – <insert joke about longest buildout ever>
Costa Vida - Southwest grill very close to opening near The Collection Forsyth.
The Farmhouse – Coffee and crepe shop opening in Johns Creek.
Dancing Mouth Indian Restaurant - Small little Indian concept coming to Jordan Court near Costco.
Boneheads – Grilled fish and peri peri restaurant coming to Windward near Sri Krishna Vilas.
Anabelle’s Table – Promising new restaurant on Peachtree Parkway in south Forsyth.
Mavrick’s CantinaComing soon to Johns Creek Walk.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse - About to sell the sizzle on Haynes Bridge.
Made Kitchen and Cocktails – Targeted opening in November for this concept from the Sedgwicks.
2b Whole European Gluten-Free Bakery - New bakery to open on Milton Avenue in downtown Alpharetta.
Tom and Chee – Grilled cheese and tomato soup joint set to open near Chicken Salad Chick on North Point.

Spice Afro Caribbean Cuisine – Milton

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

Spice snuck up on us. Their buildout in Milton next to Montana’s flew under my radar until they appeared on the Taste of Alpharetta lineup in the spring. And I suppose spice, with a little “s”, also snuck up on me. More on that in a little bit.

Spice AfroBut Spice is here and opened around the first of July. Their buildout was simple and likely inexpensive. The walls and decor of this place are plain and rather boring, giving it almost a shack or hole-in-the-wall feel. Maybe Guy Fieri should pay them a visit.

The layout of the foyer is a bit odd leaving first timers alone and confused about where to go upon entering. But don’t turn for the door just yet.

Spice is a serious contender with their jerk chicken. Order a lunch portion and you’ll receive a generous helping of grilled leg and thigh pieces. First to hit your taste buds is a solid core of smoke flavor. It’s fantastic and much better than I can do on my own grill. Then that spice sneaks up. The jerk seasoning delivers a knockout punch, packing a wallop of flavor and serious heat. I wouldn’t dare let my drink go empty here.

Their jerk pork is the same – solidly smokey with that spicy rub. It’s so smokey I’d almost put it up there with some of the better barbecue joints in town (‘Cue is right across the street by the way). While it lacks the tenderness of slow cooked barbecue, it’s plenty delicious.

Lunch portions come with two sides. Rice and cabbage are popular. The rice disappointed a little, needing a little salt, but the cabbage was fantastic. A fried plantain tops it all off. Together with the meat, it’s a huge portion that you’re not likely to finish.

ackee and saltfishSpice’s pasta dishes are not bad and pair up surprisingly well with jerk chicken. Bits of spicy jerk seasoning and cream sauce make a terrific combination. Again, watch the portions… and your waistline.

Exploring the menu a little further lead me to ackee and saltfish, the national dish of Jamaica. If you’ve vacationed on the island then you’ve likely tried this. But for guys like me it’s completely foreign. And it’s certainly not available anywhere else in the Alpharetta area.

Ackee is a fruit that when boiled resembles scrambled eggs. The texture seemed about the same too. But this stuff soaks up fish flavor when sauteed with salt cod. It’s a very fishy taste even though there are not that many pieces of fish in it. I’m glad I ordered it, if for anything to say I’ve tried the stuff, but I likely won’t order again. There’s better choices on the menu. But if you’re nostalgic for this yellowy fish goo, they’ve got it.

Service at Spice can be very friendly at times to downright forgetful on other days. They’ve still got a few kinks to work out in this department. But again, don’t let that keep you away. These guys have the best jerk chicken in the area, easily surpassing Caribbean Fiesta and Tassa on Old Milton. Hopefully they won’t fly under the radar anymore!

Spice Afro Caribbean Cuisine is located at 13695 Highway 9 in Milton. Look for them across the street from ‘Cue near Montana’s.

Restaurant news interim report

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

My restaurant news article usually runs the first or second Friday of the month but there’s a few little stories can’t wait for September. Let’s run an interim article this week to catch the latest.

oh boy logoOh Boy Rotisserie & Tacos in Johns Creek appears to have closed. While I’ve not been by to confirm, several readers have emailed and tweeted about it. Opening in June, Oh Boy offered a unique twist on a product that’s rather ubiquitous. Perhaps that’s what did them in.

And the rumors unfortunately are true. Ice cream purveyor Scoops will close their Crabapple location in late September. The store was one of the last full-service ice cream parlors around. I was particularly fond of their banana pudding ice cream. Delicious. Their concept also included gourmet and retro candy similar to what you’d might see at Fuzziwigs. There’s no word yet on what will become of the other Scoops franchise locations. However every other location is well east of metro Atlanta, a little outside our coverage area.

Chicken Salad Chick opened last week in the Stonewalk at Northpoint Commons Shopping Center across from Best Buy. Expect women to outnumber men 3 to 1 when you visit. My first impression was that it was decent chicken salad but not good enough to make a special trip.

The downtown Alpharetta restaurant renaissance continues with the opening of South Main Kitchen. Their first official day was this past Monday. Former F&H alum Louis Soon is part of the team which will make competition with nearby Salt Factory interesting to watch.

Next to open in downtown will be Made Kitchen and Cocktails from the Sedgwicks but they’re likely a few months away. And we’re hearing rumors of another possible restaurant conversion along Main Street in downtown. It should be noted that the explosion of Canton Street-like restaurants is happening organically. We like that. It didn’t take a gaudy mixed-use apartment highrise to bring these guys to town.

And finally on the retail side… the Cumming location of Costco Wholesale opens today. Why am I mentioning something that’s way up on exit 15? Because I really hope this new location cannibalizes from the Alpharetta location!

First Watch – Alpharetta

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

first watch logoI rarely go out for breakfast.  I’m either too busy in the morning, or sleeping too late on the weekend.  Probably the best reason why I don’t eat out for breakfast is that I make terrible choices.  I’m drawn to the bacon, the sausage, syrupy pancakes and French toast.  Pretty much anything that makes me go “Ooo” on the menu at a breakfast joint is sure to alert my cardiologist.

I was intrigued to hear about First Watch, a national chain started in 1983 for breakfast and lunch that advertises fresh, premium, finest ingredients made from scratch with no use of heat lamps or deep fryers.  Looked like to me that this was one place that I could eat a meal that is yummy as well as healthy.  I’ve been to the Johns Creek location and had the bacon and onion hash, a mix of bacon, potatoes, onions, and cheese.  Ok, not too healthy, but man it was good.  The portions weren’t huge and yet I was more than satisfied.

But this isn’t Roots in Johns Creek, so what am I talking about?

Well, Alpharetta can now claim it’s own location of First Watch.  Located on the corner of Old Milton Parkway and North Point Parkway, the Alpharetta First Watch still has that new strip mall smell.

It’s a little difficult to get in and out of the parking lot due to the divided nature of North Point Parkway, but once you’ve been there once, you will have no problems navigating it.  The space is open, light and inviting with tons of windows and extremely comfortable seating.  Bright colors blast out of the decor to wake even the sleepiest of heads.  Every employee I’ve encountered has been very pleasant, sometimes to a fault.  I have felt a little rushed a couple of times with both ordering and “here’s the check”.  Not a lot of time to relax and enjoy the food.

First Watch french toastAnd what food it is.  I’ve eaten both breakfast and lunch and have been completely satisfied each time.  First Watch offers nutritional info on the web site, so if you are watching calories, check that before you go.  Some items that seem healthy are pretty high in calories and fat.  Who would have thought a pancake could be so bad for you?

For lunch, I opted for the grilled turkey sandwich with a side of Italian wedding soup.  The sandwich came on toasted sourdough bread with tomato, bacon and cheese.  There was a little too much ranch dressing for me, but overall, the sandwich had the right amount of turkey and bacon to be juicy to counter the toasted bread.  Everything was in balance.

I was pleasantly surprised with the Italian wedding soup.  It didn’t have a lot of veggies but plenty of herbs with little meatballs.  Delightful.

My breakfast choices were a little more narrowed.  A little searching on the menu brought me to a unique discovery, raisin bread French toast.  With nearly a third the calories and fat of regular French toast, the order was placed.  It was some of the best French toast I’ve had.  Sometimes with French toast the bread can be too creamy and falls apart.  The raisin bread had more substance while still being able to be cut with a fork.  The sweetness was offset by the raisins and that, in addition to the slightly chewy bread, really woke up my taste buds.

My one complaint was the syrup.  It came out in a glass bottle with a little metal pouring top that resembled the spout on liquor bottles in bars.  All that is just fine. But First Watch must keep these things in the oven to make the syrup warm because this bottle was nearly unholdable, it was so hot.  Even after ten minutes I couldn’t hold it to pour it.  I had to use a napkin.  Hot syrup is great, but maybe a complimentary oven mitt would be nice.

I have really enjoyed my experiences with First Watch.  The food is satisfying and delicious, the prices reasonable, staff (overly) friendly and the environment welcoming.  All of the other breakfast places in Alpharetta should pay attention to what First Watch is bringing to the party.

Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin’ – Sunday, August 24

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

Crankin-logo1-300x225I write about the Drake House each year and their ice cream festival. We don’t often promote events here on Roots but this is one that’s unique and supports a cause worthy of getting behind.

The Drake House is a Roswell-based charity that provides transitional housing to homeless women and their families. I wrote about them in more detail in this space two years ago. If you’re not familiar with their work and mission then I encourage you to take a few minutes and read their website at thedrakehouse.org.

Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin’ is the Drake House’s premier fundraising event. Volunteers from the business and faith communities make some amazing homemade ice cream and offer samples. For only $6 you’ll get as much as you care to eat. They’ve also got a handful of other contests for the kids.

The event starts at 2:00 but I always suggest folks get there early. The samples go fast. It also melts quickly in the hot August sun.

Here are the details:

What: 10th Annual Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin’. A fundraiser to benefit The Drake House.
Where: The Roswell Square
When: Sunday August 24 from 2:00 to 4:00
Cost: $6 per person, $20 per family

Advice to a future Alpharetta relo

Alpharetta signMy blog’s name was inspired by a New York Times article, and later a book, about  corporate relos who migrated to Alpharetta by the thousands. So I really enjoy getting emails like the one below as they bring Roots back to its roots, my original theme. And with Joe’s permission, I’ve posted his email below.

Joe writes…

Hi Lee.

My family will be moving from Colorado to the Atlanta area in a few months due to a corporate relo. My job will be in Buckhead right next to the Lindbergh Center MARTA station.

My question is where should we buy a house?

Our budget is $500K and we are used to living in the affluent burbs. Is the commute from Alpharetta to Buckhead too far/difficult to consider? I’ve done a lot of research on the Atlanta metro but still feel lost/confused regarding where to live. We have a four year old son who will be starting Kindergarten next year.
Any advice you give will be greatly appreciated.
What advice do you have for Joe and other future relos to Alpharetta? Leave us a comment.

Alpharetta Restaurant News – August 2014

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

It’s been a quiet month of restaurant news. There’s nothing earth shattering here but let’s report on what we know.

Village Burger logoVillage Burger has opened in Johns Creek on Old Alabama near The Fresh Market. This is the second location for these burger flippers out of Dunwoody Village.

The Revue & News reported this week that local chef Boyd Rose has moved to Roswell’s Ertis Kitchen and Bar. Rose’s resume includes gigs at the former Rainwater, Milton’s and Sip Wine and Tapas.

In south Forsyth look for Pueblos Mexican Cuisine to open in the former Chepe’s location on Mathis Airport Road. Not far away is Senor Quintin Mex-Grill which is now open on Peachtree Parkway just north of Johns Creek. And just a little piece up the road was TPS Pizza. They closed a few weeks ago. I regret not reviewing this eclectic joint.

Back in Alpharetta, First Watch opened Monday. The breakfast/brunch restaurant anchors the small new Twin Oaks shopping center on the corner of Old Milton and North Point. The story here isn’t a new restaurant but rather that someone built a new stripmall, something that hasn’t happened in a very, very long time in this area.

Also now open in Alpharetta is Humble Pie Pizza Company. They took over the Johnny’s location near Taco Mac at Main Street and Windward.

tower burger signRestaurants Coming Soon

South Main Kitchen – Likely the next restaurant to open on this list. Downtown Alpharetta.
Chicken Salad Chick – Also very close to opening on North Point near Guitar Center.
Tower Burger – Officially two years in the making.
Costa Vida - Southwest grill very close to opening near The Collection Forsyth.
The Farmhouse – Coffee and crepe shop opening in Johns Creek.
Dancing Mouth Indian Restaurant - Small little Indian concept coming to Jordan Court near Costco.
Boneheads – Opening on Windward near Sri Krishna Vilas.
Anabelle’s Table – Promising new restaurant on Peachtree Parkway in south Forsyth.
Mavrick’s CantinaComing soon to Johns Creek Walk.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse - Interior demolition has started. Expect an opening near the first of the year.
Made Kitchen and Cocktails – New concept from the Sedgwicks coming to Roswell Street in downtown Alpharetta.
2b Whole European Gluten-Free Bakery - New bakery to open on Milton Avenue in downtown Alpharetta.
Tom and Chee – Near the chicken salad joint on North Point, but a good bit behind them in buildout.

Avalon Restaurant Lineup

Antico / Caffe Gio
Bantam + Biddy
Bantu
Bocado Burgers
Cru Food and Wine Bar
Goldberg’s Bagel Company
Kona Grill
Marlow’s Tavern
Oak Steakhouse
Ted’s Montana Grill

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