Alpha Soda is the oldest surviving restaurant still doing business in the northern suburb of Alpharetta, and is celebrating its ninetieth birthday this year. That’s pretty amazing, and it’s a good place to eat, but I somehow wonder whether the place’s glory days are many years behind it, back before they moved to their current location and changed their format somewhat.
When it opened, it was what we’d call today an olde-fashioned soda counter and sandwich shop, although in 1920, such things were hip and modern. It has moved at least five times over the years. I heard that the original location on Main Street was later the site of another long-lived restaurant, the Dixie Diner, which closed in 2002 after several decades, but I wouldn’t swear to it. After all, the first I heard of Alpha Soda was that it wasn’t worth visiting, and that proved not to be true at all.
Well, I should have known better than to take the word of a teenager. Ten years ago, I was tutoring high school kids prepping for the SAT and considering moving to their community in north Fulton County. I once asked one of my students where to get something to eat and he replied “Anywhere but Alpha Soda” and went on to describe everything that the wrong-headed fellow didn’t like about the place. He was mistaken on every front; years later, I gave it a try, enjoyed it thoroughly, and longed to give that kid a kick in the hindquarters for costing me several decent meals here.
When Alpha Soda moved to their present location in 1995, the latest owners elected to spruce it up a bit and transform it into a somewhat upscale family restaurant, with an inspired interior design that evokes the fashionable Art Deco style of the 1920s. The menu apparently more than tripled in size, with several additions from the Greek-American school of dining that serves many of the region’s large family diners well. A meal here is quite similar to what you can receive at the famous Marietta Diner, only I find Alpha Soda much quieter and laid-back.
This past week, it was our friend Matt’s turn to pick some socializin’ activity for us to enjoy, and he suggested we get a small group together here, as it’s a little closer to his place in Gainesville than the rest of us in Cobb County. Illness and work prevented a very large crowd, but Kimberly came by to eat before heading back into Atlanta to teach a class at Oglethorpe, and Marie came straight up 400 from work, and my daughter and I made the fun overland trek across Post Oak Tritt Road.
Everybody seemed to enjoy their meals, although I was left with a little menu envy yet again. I had the pecan-encrusted tilapia, which was okay. The beets and the cucumber and tomato salad that I had as side dishes were more tasty, and the great big order of homemade potato chips sprinkled with Old Bay seasoning were even better. Matt had a terrific-looking London broil and Marie enjoyed an ugly-but-delicious meatloaf sandwich served with a very good, thick marinara sauce. Heck, even Kimberly’s big chicken caesar salad was better than my tilapia. Now what’s fair about that?
Fortunately, my comparatively disappointing meal was more than made up for by the dessert. We don’t often have a dessert when we go out, but, in deference to Alpha Soda’s fountain origins, I felt it appropriate to have some ice cream. They don’t mess around with these treats.
This was one heck of a good banana split. Marie and Ivy and I, combined, couldn’t quite finish it, but we enjoyed every second of the trying. It makes me wonder what the original, olde-timey 1920s version of Alpha Soda was like, and whether it wasn’t a more consistently fun and delightful experience.
Other blog posts about Alpha Soda:
Atlanta Etc. (July 9 2010)
Food Near Snellville (Aug. 18 2010)