The Magic at MF

By Joe Duffy

If one wants to start a hullabaloo among suburbanites, the topic of high-density neighborhoods will get the sparks flying.
Many uOTPians favor the live, work, and play (LWP) multi-use complexes, while others bemoan the main reason they fled to the bedroom communities is to flee such overdevelopment.

Love them or hate them, North American Properties was well ahead of the curve with their trailblazing concept Avalon in Alpharetta. They’ve been a massive player in the Alpharetta/Roswell explosion as an epicenter of Greater Atlanta dining. Some may even provoke the city slickers and assert that it is the nexus of grubbery in the metro area.

One of their biggest coups was getting intown player Alex Kinjo to not only open a northern outpost of his enormously popular sushi and Japanese restaurant MF Bar in Phase 2, but also a Vietnamese concept right next door—District III. Despite reaching stardom with his mastery of Japanese cuisine, Kinjo is in fact Vietnamese. The menu at District III is inspired by the French Colonial influence in his hometown of Vang Tau in Vietnam.

Two of my kids love mussels. When dining out as a family, we fought over our share of countless mussels appetizers at highly-rated restaurants in numerous states. My daughter and I agree MF’s baked green mussels, with Japanese mayo, eel sauce, scallion, and masago, is as good of said dish as we have ever devoured. It rivals Foundation Social Eatery’s Spanish octopus for best seafood first course in the immediate environs.

When I finally get that $2 million inheritance from the rich Nigerian uncle I completely forgot about, I’m not going to necessarily travel the world, though the thought of eating around the globe is tempting. I certainly won’t being sporting any Armani threads. Nope, I just want to spend the rest of my life scoffing lobster rolls and toro.

No silly, toro is not named after Avalon’s mastermind Mark Toro, the Managing Partner and co-founder of North American Properties. At least I don’t think so. It’s simply the Japanese name for the fatty part of tuna in the belly portion. MF’s toro is absurdly fresh and succulent.

Unfortunately, this is why I fear walking into a top-shelf sushi provisioner. I have the appetite of three mortals combined, and the mouthwatering savory excellence of MF’s toro makes it impossible to control my champagne tastes. I could easily run up a bill over $100 a sitting… if I could afford to blow $100 on meal on regular basis. Yes, I mean on just the toro, pre-tax and tip, without breaking a sweat.

Plus, the not-so-well-kept secret about Avalon is that one does pay a premium for pretty much everything there. Sure, NAP successfully recruited Chick fil-A to open a store fronting the Old Milton border of Avalon. However, the Atlanta-based chain is the only thing resembling cheap eats in the high-end walkable community.

A bit easier on the wallet is District III, right next door at the eastern end of Avalon Boulevard, or as it’s colloquially referred to as simply, “the Boulevard.” I will be forever grateful that District III is a place my least adventurous eater child and I can still bond over great food. Somehow I convinced my chicken noodle soup loving son to sample D3’s chicken pho. We hit the jackpot. He is hooked.

For the uninitiated, pho is simply the Vietnamese version of soup, made with thin rice noodles and always fresh herbs. While my beloved offspring sticks to the chicken, I prefer the pho combo of rare beef, brisket, and meatball. Not since Saigon Café had just one location in Duluth have I had a version around town this good.

I’ve also been extremely contented with both their shrimp and grilled pork egg rolls. However, in several trips, I have yet to venture into their short entree menu. A glance at other tables in the tightly packed (and it generally is packed) restaurant would suggest that pho is far and away their most popular option. There is good reason for that.

Avalon is a major player in the area’s rise as a dining destination. Kinjo’s double-shot of ethnic options at the eastern end is a perfect place for hot-rod stomachs to start on the Boulevard tonight. ❍

When he’s not eating, which is rare, the author is CEO of Sports Handicapping website His bride’s gift site, is the place to go for gifts for all occasions from MyThirtyOne Gifts.