A Tasty Experience
Originally Published at Atlanta Journal-Constitution by Jon Waterhouse
Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park in Alpharetta readies for its grand opening on May 10. The live music venue, which holds a maximum of 12,000 guests, will host everything from orchestral music to rock rave-ups. Since food is a key ingredient to these event experiences, that's quite a few bellies to fill.
"Food is an extremely important aspect," says Doug Drewes of Ovations Food Services, which manages the venue's food operations. "No matter what facility it is, today's customer expects the total event experience. ... This includes the value, service and quality of the food that's there."
The following is a guide to dining before, during and after a visit to Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park. Whether it's a picnic in the parking lot, an entree inside the venue or an after-show cocktail, here's a set list for consideration.
Looking for a snazzy preshow experience?
- The area offers several splurges including Benihana (2365 Mansell Road, Alpharetta), the famed hibachi chain specializing in flashy style. Guests gather at communal tables as chefs cook steak, seafood, chicken, fried rice and more in front of their eyes. Combinations include steak and scallops or chicken and shrimp. Some wash it down with the popular rum -infused Benihana Punch.
- Things get fancier at Cabernet Steakhouse (5575 Windward Parkway, Alpharetta) with warm wood, vaulted ceilings, white tablecloths and chef Richard Holley's discerning menu. Check out both the Maryland- style crab cake and lobster bisque, which deliver solid flavor. Cabernet's prime grade beef selections come in various cuts including a 16 -ounce New York strip, a prime porterhouse and a 54 -ounce rock salt, herb-roasted ribeye fit for two.
- It's like dining at mama mia's at Buca di Beppo (2335 Mansell Road, Alpharetta). Yes, there are romantic cubbies here, but it can be a blast for larger groups, too. Diners dig into family-style Italian classics (lasagna, cannelloni, pizza and more) in fun settings, including the Pope Room, where a bust of the Catholic leader sits in the middle of a circular table. Families may enjoy sitting in the kitchen. Guests huddle in a booth and watch as the staff prepares the food for the dining room crowd.
No outside food or drink are allowed inside the amphitheatre. If you want to bring your own, tail gating is an option. Here are a few tailgating suggestions to pair with some of the venue's upcoming shows. Pick up the phone and order in advance for pick up.
- For the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra inaugural Concert (8 p.m., May 10):
This calls for a classy parking lot picnic. The Fancy Pantry (10595 Old Alabama Road Connector, Alpharetta) has its special Chastain Menu, which can be used for upscale tailgating at Verizon, too. Choose from a list of appetizers, desserts and entrees, including lemon basil chicken, a Greek salad and Mediterranean pasta. The restaurant closes at 3 p.m. on weekdays.
- For The Eagles (8 p.m., May 14,16,17 and 20):
The Eagles are still delivering the no-frills American rock that made them famous in the '70s. Why not some no-frills American grub? Jersey Mike's Subs (12872 Highway 9, Suite 110, Alpharetta) has that and a superclose location to boot. Group efforts include a giant, 1-foot-long party sub that feeds 12 to 15 people. The inventive, boxed sub trays slide open in drawerlike fashion and feed 10 to 12. A gallon of sweet tea can be grabbed to go, too. If the group is small, box lunches can be ordered individually.
- For Moe and Keller Williams (6:30 p.m., June 21):
These jam band pros will surely attract the patchouli crowd. And that typically includes some vegetarians in the bunch. Bagel Boys Café (11770 Haynes Bridge Road, Suite 102, Alpharetta) has some veggie -friendly options like the rasp berry vinaigrette salad with mixed greens, toasted walnuts, mandarin oranges and bits of gorgonzola cheese. Raspberry vinaigrette dressing adds a sweet and tangy zing. If some meat eaters are in tow, keep them happy with an old- school Reuben or the Bagel Boys Style Hot Dog. The latter finds a quarter -pound hot dog wrapped in bagel dough. The fresh bread casing proves amazing. Bagel Boys closes at 3 p.m. on weekdays, 2 p.m. on Saturdays and I p.m. on Sundays, so don't wait until the last minute to order.
Ovations Food Services handles all of the amphitheatre Is grub. The lower plazas have two main cooking stands, dubbed Center Stage Markets, which bustle with such equipment as grills and fryers, These offerings run the gamut from Angus burgers, chicken satay skewers and rib sandwiches to loaded grilled sausages, taco salads and quesadillas. According to Ovations, most items are basically made to order and come unwrapped in an open boat.
Other concession stands have such standard fare as hot dogs, popcorn, soft pretzels and nachos. Various stands serve drinks including sodas, water, beer, wine and cocktails. Bruster's Ice Cream has a frosty presence, and kiosks shilling freshly roasted cinnamon nuts can be found on grounds, too.
A total of four different assortments of picnic baskets can be ordered in advance.
The box seat section has a-menu all its own. And the plazas offer Chef Express locations featuring prepackaged salads, wraps, sandwiches and more, geared toward those guests stretching out on the lawn.
A solid show may deserve a toast later. Several surrounding restaurants and bars offer cocktails, including the following:
Both The Eagles and Steely Dan have Wednesday night shows. In addition to offering a half -price sushi menu, Atlantic Seafood Company (2345 Mansell Road, Alpharetta) pours $5 martinis on Wednesdays. Guests tip back drinks amid bright and bold wall murals, pockets of colorful light and a bubbling tropical fish tank. The restaurant has a massive wine list and an admirable beer roster, too. Last call at the bar is 10 p.m. during the week and 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
The Loafing Leprechaun (3070 Windward Plaza, Alpharetta) has its own Wednesday specials. All wine, by the bottle or glass, is half-price. And hump day spotlights the bar's beer of the month. Every time a customer orders the beer of the month, he or she scores a 22- ounce glass featuring the respective brew's logo. May's beer of the month is Dos Equis Amber. The staff says last call is at midnight, but they'll stick around if the- crowd is good. Loafing Leprechaun also offers paying customers free shuttle service to and from the amphitheatre.
The Locos Grill & Pub (11770 Haynes Bridge Road, Alpharetta) has late -night hours for nightcaps. It stays open until midnight Sundays -Wednesdays and until 2 a.m. Thursdays - Saturdays. Running low on cash after a Friday night concert? The bar serves 22- ounce Pabst Blue Ribbon and Coors Light beers for $3 each on Fridays. The late -night menu includes the popular chicken wings.