Guide to Dining in Alpharetta

Pure Taqueria. Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB

Pure Taqueria. Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB

Shocking to my fellow friends – mostly the ones who are living up the singles scene in the city or maintaining their hipster vibe sans minivan, the suburbs are happening, too, when it comes to the foodie scene. Nearby, Alpharetta, easily accessible, just north of Atlanta and in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains, along Georgia 400, the state’s “Hospitality Highway,” is undeniably suburban, but with 175 dining options, this locale makes for one mean menu.

Pared down, here are five picks for a palate pleasing meal, whether the suburbs scare you – or a Suburban is the only way to lug your crew around.

  1. For local flavor, South Main Kitchen, located in the heart of Alpharetta’s Historic Downtown District, offers a fresh and unique kitchen-inspired dining experience that is distinctly ingredient driven. The restaurant, housed in a historic building built in 1902, features an open kitchen, inviting dining room, communal seating and rooftop bar and, under the direction of executive chef Christy Stone, focuses on the social aspect of dining and the true artistry of food with farm-to-table flair and a frequently changing menu. An extensive beer menu complements taste bud ticklers like edamame with mint fleur de sel and unique twists on classic southern ingredients like boiled peanut hummus with blackberry jam, fig compote, brie and goat cheese. It’s even rumored the Brussels sprouts here are above all else.
  2. Smokejack BBQ. Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB.

    Smokejack BBQ. Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB.

    Another locally-owned and operated Alpharetta restaurant to add to the tasting menu: Smokejack Southern Grill and BBQ, serving smoked, hand-pulled pork, moist tender ribs, signature beef burnt ends…is your mouth watering yet?

  3. Whipping up winning eateries, the Sedgwick Restaurant Group has several players on the Alpharetta scene including the escape-from-the-normal Vinny’s on Windward where menu highlights include risotto, gnocchi and tiramisu, transporting guests straight to Italy.
  4. Another Sedgwick spawn, Pure taqueria, offers authentic Mexican cuisine – think corn, seafood and slaw – as well as killer margaritas. Chris Sedgwick, long time Alpharetta resident and successful Atlanta restaurateur, was looking for a new way to express his style and his love of food when he opened the original PURE taqueria at the site of an abandoned 1920’s era Pure Fuel Oil station. The small stone building on the corner (now used for storage) was part of the original gas station, but the main restaurant was built from scratch, with Chris designing, decorating and doing much of the construction himself. Since 2005, PURE taqueria has grown into a local institution, and a successful franchise company with five locations in the ATL.
  5. New to the culinary scene, Oak Steakhouse at Avalon is reserved for occasions as special as the food. From grilled swordfish to cornmeal crusted grouper to melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon, along with sides like bone marrow bread pudding and truffle frites, coupled with exceptional service and a sophisticated ambiance, this is the place where memories are made.

Can’t get enough? Add these foodie events to your calendar and fill up on good times:

Concerts at Matilda's. Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB

Concerts at Matilda’s. Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB

Taste of Alpharetta – May 7; Join the Southeast’s premier dining festival attracting over 50,000 festival-goers each year. Satisfy taste buds with specialties from more than 60 restaurants. Expect cooking demonstrations, chef competitions, three entertainment stages, art exhibits and a Kids Korner. A Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event for 2015.

Alpharetta Summer Brew Moon Fest – June 6; Gather your friends and celebrate summer with beer, wine and delicious food from some of Alpharetta’s best restaurants.

Craft Beer Festival & 5k Road Race – June 20; Run the 5K and then stick around for the party. Over 100 beer vendors from around the U.S. will set up in Downtown Alpharetta for an awesome street party filled with live music and awesome food.

Farmers Market – Seasonal, April through October; Shop local at the Alpharetta Farmers Market featuring food vendors including produce, grass-fed meats, cheese baked goods and more.

Food Truck Alley – Seasonal, April through October; Feast on the street every Thursday evening at Alpharetta Food Truck Alley. This weekly gathering will have a variety of 6-8 rotating food trucks and music each week. Stroll the streets, eat delicious food, listen to some great music and kick off the weekend a little early.

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.

7 Ways to Experience James Brown’s Georgia

James Brown Statue2A hotbed for arts and culture, the colonial city of Augusta, Georgia, has been welcoming guests since 1736 and continues to do so with artistic and historic points of interest and easy accessibility along Interstate 20, just 150 miles southeast of Atlanta. With the release of ‘Get On Up,’ the new major motion picture about the life of world famous soul singer James Brown, now is the perfect time to visit his hometown and delve into the unique cultural climate Augusta has to offer.

Brown was born in South Carolina near the beginning of the Great Depression, but spent most of his youth in Augusta after his parents left him in the care of his Aunt Honey. Although Brown grew up in poverty – performing an array of menial and even back-breaking tasks as a child and young teen picking cotton, shining shoes, dancing for spare change, and washing cars – these struggles did not keep the young, talented performer from reaching stardom. At thirteen, Brown and two friends formed the Cremona Trio and sang for those passing by, and thus began his long musical career setting him up to be known as “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.”

Walk in James Brown’s footsteps when you visit these Augusta points of interest:

  1. grant_exhibitfront_57611Begin your journey of Brown’s Augusta with the Augusta Museum of History, founded in 1937 and home to the largest historical collection in the Central Savannah River Area, detailing Georgia’s second-oldest and second-largest city’s nearly 300 years of history. The museum houses the first and most comprehensive major exhibition dedicated to The Godfather of Soul. See some of his classic dance moves as you watch his concerts on DVD. Listen to some of his all time hits, and learn about his life, legacy and contribution to music. Highlights of the exhibit include ever-changing costumes and other personal artifacts owned and worn by Brown, family photos, original vinyl albums, and other unique memorabilia.
  2. Before leaving the Museum, step into the Augusta Visitor Center, located inside the lobby of the Augusta Museum of History, and pick up a self-guided walking tour to determine additional points of interest located throughout the city of Augusta.
  3. As you stroll downtown, make sure to stop and have your photo taken with Augusta’s life-sized James Brown Statue using the mounted camera. Your photo will be sent directly to your phone or email! The statue is located between 8th Street and James Brown Boulevard (9th). What a great free souvenir!
  4. imperialBefore leaving Augusta on world tours, Mr. Brown and his band, the Soul Generals, would rehearse at the Imperial Theatre. It is also where he held his toy giveaways to needy children at Christmas. A tradition that still continues today. The Imperial is one of Augusta’s most beautiful theatres and still continues to host music performances along with plays, ballets, comedies and more.
  5. While in town, check the schedule of events at Augusta’s James Brown Arena, where more than 8,000 mourners gathered for a memorial service after Brown’s passing in 2006, including such notable characters as M.C. Hammer, Michael Jackson, and the Reverend Al Sharpton.
  6. Looking for a place to “Get on the Good Foot”? Stop in for a drink and dancing at the Soul Bar. This bar is dedicated to the rhythm and soul of music and its biggest talents. A plethora of James Brown mementos and memorabilia adorn these walls.
  7. All this walking, exploring and dancing may make you tired, so why not eat at one of Mr. Brown’s favorite places? T-Bonz Restaurant, located minutes from the Augusta National Golf Club, offers a James Brown Corner. Ask the owner to whip you up one of the entertainer’s favorite dishes. Mr. Brown loved a good steak and T Bonz’s has one of the best in Augusta.  Or maybe you’re in the mood for seafood? Deshawn’s Seafood, located right over the Savannah River in North Augusta is run by Mr. Brown’s son-in-law and former bodyguard. Sometimes if guests ask the family may share a personal story of two.

Augusta is proud to have played such an important role in the life of a world-renowned musical artist and is thankful Mr. Brown called Augusta his home. There are many spots in Augusta that were special to Mr. Brown, as you visit these spots in Augusta you can walk where he walked and stand where he once stood. Come on Over to August and get a little closer to Augusta’s son.

‘Get On Up: The James Brown Story’ starring Chadwick Boseman, was released to theaters August 1 and is rated PG-13. Check your local theaters for show times, and the movie’s official website for more information.

 

 

12 Budget-Friendly Attractions in Helen, Georgia

Chattahoochee River flowing behind Nora Mill-lr

Chattahoochee River flowing behind Nora Mill [Photo Credit: Alpine Helen-White County CVB]

No matter the age, everyone is a kid at heart when it comes to Helen, White County and the Sautee and Nacoochee areas in North Georgia, about 90 minutes north of Atlanta. And fun here is affordable for any budget.

  1. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Helen’s downtown.
  2. Seek out the perfect souvenirs and gifts in the hustle and bustle of Helen’s shopping street while German music adds oom pah pah from outdoor speakers.
  3. Pastries at Hofers German Bakery in downtown Helen

    Pastries at Hofers German Bakery in downtown Helen [Photo Credit: Alpine Helen-White County CVB]

    Pick up sweet treats at the authentic German bakery or candy shop.
  4. Tour the world’s largest Alpine model railroad museum at Charlemagne’s Kingdom.
  5. Watch glass blowing at The Glassblowing Shop.
  6. Paint your own “green theme” child-safe toy at Elfmade Toys.
  7. Follow a round of adventure golf with a scoop or two of ice cream at an old-fashioned parlor.
  8. Continue family time during your mountain getaway in the foothills of the Appalachians by teaching kids about the great outdoors at Unicoi State Park with seasonal programs.
  9. Smithgall Woods State Park  [Photo Credit: 365 Atlanta Family]

    Smithgall Woods State Park
    [Photo Credit: 365 Atlanta Family]

    At Smithgall Woods Conservation Area, where there are more than 5,500 acres of land, learning is fun for the whole family with special events like Kids Day at the Park and Junior Ranger Camp.
  10. Another can’t-miss bonding opportunity? Children and their “big person” can fish in a stocked lake during Youth Fishing Days at Buck Shoals.
  11. Make your way to BabyLand General Hospital and be there when a baby arrives at this Southern-style mansion in Cleveland that sits majestically on a 100-acre spread in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains. Be sure to check the calendar for a full list of their spectacular seasonal events.
  12. Following a day of kid-friendly fun, share a meal and memories at multi-generation-pleasing Mully’s Nacoochee Grill, Nacoochee Village Tavern & Pizzeria, Old Bavarian Inn Restaurant or Unicoi Restaurant.

When you are ready to hit the hay, Helen has hotels with swimming pools and lodge rooms at Unicoi State Park.

Learn more about Helen, Georgia here.

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.

13 Budget-Friendly Things to do in Augusta, Georgia

Riverwalk

Georgia’s second oldest and second largest city, Augusta, has been welcoming guests with Southern hospitality for decades and continues to with its charm and easily accessible location along Interstate 20, 150 miles southeast of Atlanta. Steeped in history, culture, art, music and more, this is the place for nonstop fun that doesn’t break the bank.

Did you say “free?!”

1. Plan to visit Augusta during a free First Friday event, a family-friendly celebration in downtown Augusta held on the First Friday of each month from 5 until 9 p.m. Watch as local artists create masterpieces on the sidewalk, browse art galleries and watch live musical performances.

2. During the week Tuesday’s Music Live is America’s largest luncheon concert series. Held in the nave of Saint Paul’s Church, the concerts include musical styles ranging from classical to jazz. After the concert, eat a catered lunch in the River Room. The concert is free, but lunch is $10 and served at noon.

3. Take a hike! Well, maybe just a stroll. Walk along the Augusta Riverwalk, Augusta’s top attraction, featuring a children’s playground and various gardens. Two museums are located off the walkway along with the Jessye Norman Amphitheater and several restaurants. Great for families out for some fresh air along the Savannah River. This two-tiered park runs for three blocks.

4. Did you know? Sundays are free at the Morris Museum of Art. See the work of Southern artists and art of the South at the Morris Museum of Art. Look for Artrageous! Sunday activities for children are also free.

5. Have your picture taken anytime with the Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown. His life-size statue is located in downtown Augusta across from Augusta Common Park.

6. Do you dare? Tempt your fate at the Haunted Pillar, at the corner of 5th and Broad Streets. According to legend, an attempt to move or even touch it could result in death.

7. Visit the oldest independently formed black Christian church, Springfield Baptist Church, and then see the sculptures next door at the Springfield Village Park.

8. Sacred Heart Cultural Center, c. 1897, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features towering twin spires, graceful arches, 15 distinctive styles of brickwork, ninety-four stained glass windows, a barrel vaulted ceiling and intricately carved Italian marble altars. Free tours are available as well as a gift shop showcasing local artists, gifts and accessories.

Hungry for more? Try these almost free options:

Enjoy regular admission into any of the following Augusta museums and historic homes for less than $5: Augusta Museum of History, Boyhood Home of President Woodrow Wilson, Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History and the Morris Museum of Art.

Nacho Mamas BurritoGet your fill-up at Nacho Mama’s in downtown Augusta where they “roll’em fat.” Enjoy unusually large portion sizes for unusually low prices. Don’t believe us? How about grubbing out on The Godfather – loaded with pulled pork, guacamole, black beans, their house-made spicy mango habanera salsa, piled high with cheese, lettuce, salsa and sour cream. Served with Spanish rice and pinto beans all for $8. We recommend grabbing a to-go box in advance.

Free fall fun! 

Ferris WheelAugusta is the destination for fall fun…sample these options without touching your savings during the annual Westobou festival, October 1-5.

1. Wander and wonder at art exhibits by Savannah College of Art and Design Alumni.

2.Take a ride on the Westobou Wheel, a Ferris wheel, set up on the Parade Grounds of the Old Richmond Academy, offiering a bird’s-eye view of Westobou, October 1-5.

3.Catch a screening of “The Goonies,” 6 p.m., October 4, at the Historic Parade Grounds at the Old Academy of Richmond County. Check out all of Westobou’s offerings.

Where to Stay?
With a convenient location just off Interstate-20, Augusta is just a short drive from many southeastern cities. Budget-friendly hotels and packages are available with rates ranging from $40-$139 a night. For more information about Augusta, please contact the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800.726.0243 or find them online at VisitAugusta.com.

13 Great Places to Eat & Drink in Blue Ridge, Georgia

Blue-Ridge-GA-Cabin-Rentals_9900

Situated about 90 minutes north of Atlanta off Interstate-575, Blue Ridge, Georgia, satisfies the soul with a growing menu of options when it comes to dining. A closer look reveals a common ingredient shared by local business owners – a passion for the outdoorsy, earthy, upscale, fresh, historical town – a mixing bowl of opposing flavors that meld just right to create the place these establishments are proud to call home. It’s an ambiance set forth by nature and enhanced by the local people that lures proprietors here; some are retired execs from the ATL beginning a second career and others are establishing roots and raising a family in a simple yet sophisticated community. It’s that kind of opposition – yin and yang – that Blue Ridge embodies, converting visitors to locals again and again as the story goes. If you’re lucky enough to experience Blue Ridge, indulge in these top 13 picks to satisfy the taste buds and soothe the soul.

  1. Harvest on Main uses seasonal products whenever possible to support the local economy, farmer and artisan. Harvest was listed as one of 11 best restaurants outside Atlanta recently and was also featured in the August issue of “Blue Ridge
    Harvest on Main

    Harvest on Main

    Country.”

  2. At Farm to Table Camp for Kids, the dynamic duo from Harvest on Main builds on community efforts by teaching local children and visiting kids where their food comes from. The farm is open to the public, but there are no set hours; call (706) 946-3276 for more information.
  3. So successful, Harvest on Main expanded their offerings in 2013 with the addition of Harvest’s Blue Ridge Grocery offering a from-scratch bakery, deli and café, coffee bar and menu for take-away meals. Again the restaurateurs will soon expand their portfolio with a Mediterranean-style restaurant.
  4. Cucina Rustica, a local favorite that’s rustic, casual, yet elegant, puts the utmost importance on preserving the traditions of Northern Italian cuisine and delights guests with Osso Buco, shrimp scampi and stuffed veal loin, to name only a few of the must-try temptations. The popular Italian locale also features Cucina Pizzeria for those in search of the perfect pie.
  5. With thousands of vacation rental cabins in and around Blue Ridge, it’s no surprise Chef Douglas Olsen of Cabin Cuisine has found popularity in his services, creating meals in the comfort of a serene mountain setting.
  6. Relax, unwind and prepare for one of Blue Ridge’s newest restaurants, Black Sheep, serving Southern comfort food in a historic residence once visited by Margaret Mitchell, author of “Gone with the Wind.”
  7. Christy Lee’s Courtyard Grille welcomes guests with outdoor fire pits, live entertainment and a menu with temptations like bacon wrapped scallops and cedar plank salmon.
  8. Top off your feast with confectionaries from The Sweet Shoppe where owners Nikki Gribble and Susan Catron can boast of their win on the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.”
  9. For unbeatable hickory smoked meats, including fall-off-the-bone ribs, seek out Joe’s BBQ, featured on TripAdvisor’s list of Top BBQ Joints in the USA.
  10. Apples at Mercier Orchards

    Apples at Mercier Orchards

    New to Mercier Orchards, the popular U-Pick produce destination now features a tasting room offering hard ciders and wines, including locally-produced varieties. Sit for a spell on the deck while enjoying sips and live entertainment on the weekend. Stay for lunch – or, come early for a breakfast fit for a king, complete with local sausage, grits, apple fritters and more.

  11. Try the Blue Ridge Blood, at Blue Ridge Brewery, along with other handcrafted suds – the Hiawassee Golden Ale, Sandy Bottom and Toccoa Brown. Seasonal beers are featured on a regular basis. Pair sips with upscale eats like shrimp mac and cheese and catch live entertainment on the weekends without ever worrying about a cover charge.
  12. At Grumpy Old Men Brewing, Blue Ridge’s premier nanobrewery, co-owners Jim McKnight and Steve Weber – fraternity brothers at Georgia Tech in the 70s, embody their business name and tout the motto, “If we don’t like it, we don’t drink it. If we don’t drink it, we don’t sell it.” Signature brews include: Aska Pale Ale, Moon over Blue Ridge Wheat Ale, and the soon to be released Hell’s Holler Porter.
  13. Fannin Brewing Company

    Fannin Brewing Company

    Fannin Brewing Company’s motto sums up just about all you need to know: Fresh Air, Fresh Water, Fresh Beer. Started in association with the Blue Ridge Brewery, here you’ll find some of the same sought-after sips like Hiawassee Golden Ale and Toccoa Brown Ale. Fannin Brewing Company’s owner, Tom Fennell, spent a good bit of time in Germany where many of his trips involved a visit to a biergarten or two, sampling a host of German beer styles. He was bitten by the craft beer bug in 2012, when he partnered with Pat Walker at the Blue Ridge Brewery, and by December, the first beer was on tap at the Brewery where the brews,  crafted with fresh Blue Ridge water, have been top sellers ever since.

katieMom-on-the-go and Laurie Rowe Communications PR pro Katie Reeder graduated at the top of her class from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University with a degree in Communication Studies. Katie resides in Cumming, Georgia – between the beautiful mountains of North Georgia and the lights and action of nearby Atlanta.