By Joe Duffy
While Roswell’s City Council continues stuck in neutral when it comes to encouraging sufficient parking, Alpharetta has upshifted and passed their neighbor as the epicenter of uOTPian dining by juxtaposing plentiful parking to live/work/play walkable developments. Enter Alpharetta City Center, the latest mixed-use complex, adjacent to City Hall in the heart of downtown.
Unlike nearby Avalon, which had scheduled grand openings for each of their two phases, City Center is debuting piecemeal. Neck-and-neck with neighboring Restaurant Holmes, the co-leader among the newcomers is Citizen Soul. Indeed, the sister restaurant of Roswell’s Vin 25, Phillip Cooper’s newest eating house appears to be cash-cow, already playing to capacity crowds, even on a Monday night.
Many restaurateurs when opening a new shop, fancy menus different than their established siblings. But Coop and his chef Sean Clark consigned many of Vin’s staples such as house-made pimento cheese fritters, short rib stuffed piquillo peppers, and duck confit to their new business. Similarly, while each enterprise has a different cut of steak as well as a scallop dish, albeit with slightly different accompaniments, the menus are much alike.
Citizen Soul is described as a Pacific Northwest style tavern. As a northeast transplant of a certain age, “tavern food” connotes to me big sandwiches and big beer. #FakeNews. “Inspired by pubs and taverns in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington” Citizen is not that old soul we seasoned Yankee expats knew. The menu correctly describes the cuisine as “fine fare” and definitely in an upscale casual atmosphere.
My foodie underground has touted the short-rib stuffed pepper first course as much as any food item.
Short rib is a luscious cut of beef. Okay, well pretty much all parts of a cow are savory. Thus, the piquillo pepper is the perfect enhancement for this shining star appetizer. It is a variety of chili pepper that packs no heat and is slightly sweet. The subtle taste is perfect to add just enough flavoring while allowing the meat to be spotlighted in its own juice.
Intrinsic to my glutton haughtiness is the yearning to distinguish items as “best.” Assuredly, those stuffed peppers are a formidable entrant. Then again, the pimento cheese fritters are equally prodigious in the vegetarian bracket. They are crisp, with just enough crunch on the outside and mouth-watering gooeyness on the inside. What Clark has down to a science is allowing the main ingredients to sparkle, while amalgamating the corresponding parts. The sweetness of the house red pepper chili jam perfectly offsets the salt of the cheese.
Last month, I professed how my family is carrying out research (with many deserving combatants) for a favorite burger in the post-Oak Street Cafe era. Especially when the accompaniment fries are considered, Soul may have the foremost burger and fries entree.
Oh, the fries. The secret is in the oil—duck oil. Intown chef (and now Avalon power broker) Shaun Doty is perhaps the forerunner in making duck fries a thing in Atlanta. But Doty would be dazzled with the pommes frites here. And yet again, Clark’s choice of Port Salut cheese is no accident. It’s tasty yet mild enough to allow the Angus beef to shine. Ditto for the oregano aioli, which is flavorful, but in a tender way.
Lesser chefs often blunder by overpowering a dish with sauces, spices, or other components. Clark indubitably takes great caution in ensuring he empowers, not overpowers a dish.
Master Sommelier Cooper built the appropriately named Vin 25 into the area’s most revered wine powerhouse. His Alpharetta outpost showcases a mostly domestic wine register. Likewise, on the current beer draft list, I tallied 16 beers, 12 from Georgia. Thank goodness (literally), you will find none of those “for the many” slopsucker swills. All draughts appeal to discerning gustatory organs. Take your dilly dilly elsewhere, Bud. Citizen’s Soul’s adult beverages are to dazzle dally.
Our well-versed waitress Amber said the 60 South salmon is their most popular item. The fish originates from Tierra del Fuego Province, Argentina in isolated, pure waters, producing the highest sustainable salmon.
With the most excellent suppliers and a chef adept at ensuring each aspect component completes, not competes has Citizen Soul as a serious player in the never-ending dining dynamo that is Alpharetta and Roswell. Oh, I’m looking forward to the impressive dossier of restaurants coming in early 2019 to Alpharetta City Center. Still, I need to find my way inside Citizen Soul’s doorway on a regular basis. ❍
When he’s not eating, which is rare, the author is CEO of Sports Handicapping website Offshore Insiders. His bride’s gift site, Duffy Gifts is the place to go for gifts for all occasions from My Thirty One Gifts.