Playing Culinary Hopscotch: Join us as we enjoy a progressive dining tour in Downtown Alpharetta

Written By: Brittany Dean

When my husband refers to his adolescent days, his memories include riding his ATV through the woods behind his neighborhood, exploring in the creek, and feeding apples to the horses in the nearby fields. He remembers the community’s excitement when Kroger came to town—a one-stop shop with a meat department, fresh bakery, and even video rentals? This was unlike any grocery store the small town of 3,000 residents had ever seen! And if you wanted a nice dinner for date night, well, you’d have to drive 15 miles or more away from home to find just one great restaurant.

You might be surprised to learn that this once-rural city of which I speak is Alpharetta—today an up-and-coming metropolitan area with an endless array of dining options for its almost 67,000 residents now. Now, making a decision where to dine or what to do can be a tough choice given the many options. Reminiscing on my hubby’s childhood in this drastically different city prompted the planning of a kid-free date night in Downtown Alpharetta. After a quick overview of the offerings in the area, we became overwhelmed at the raving reviews. How could we possibly select just one of the many great restaurants for our special evening out? 

The answer to our dilemma: A progressive dinner in Downtown Alpharetta. Defined as a social occasion at which the different courses of a meal are eaten at different locations, a progressive dinner was the absolute best option. We planned to visit four separate bars and restaurants to enjoy a drink for Happy Hour, a meal for dinner, a sweet dessert, and nightcap to top it off. This provided the best way to experience several of the buzzing spots in my husband’s hometown. As we prepared to walk down memory lane, we were beyond pleased with the countless options that had an overwhelming theme: great service, enjoyable atmospheres, and a walkable small-town feel. 

Happy Hour: Roaring Social 

Eager and excited to start the evening, we took advantage of the valet parking offered at the Hamilton Hotel right in the heart of downtown Alpharetta, a central location to it all. We decided to check out Roaring Social, the city’s secret speakeasy, located in the basement of the Hamilton. Its entrance could easily be missed, as its storefront is designed to be covert. When greeted by the doorman, we were instructed to say the secret password into a vintage telephone that would provide access to the elevator. When the doors opened, we stepped back in time into the 1920’s with a live pianist, billiards, and bowling lanes using authentic wood lawn balls. Happy Hour drinks are served from 5 – 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and include $5 select draft beers, $8 select wines, and specialty cocktails like the Aviation (Old Dominick gin, luxardo maraschino, lemon, and creme de violette). Happy Hour small plates are offered as well, but we resisted the tempting appetizers, as I knew our night was just beginning. As we were exiting, the friendly sommelier invited us back to check out Live Band Karaoke on Wednesdays from 8 – 11 p.m. 

Roaring Social, 35 Milton Ave, 678-580-1970,

Dinner: Citizen Soul 

Choosing a restaurant for dinner proved the most challenging with so many options nearby, so we took the recommendation of a neighbor and wandered into Citizen Soul. Located in the reconstructed woodshop building of a blacksmith, Citizen Soul offers fine fare for the working man—and woman—with simple, fresh ingredients. After a quick walk down Main Street, we were greeted with a huge smile and welcomed like we were family by a staff that provides superb care. Remembering my neighbor’s rave reviews, I took only a quick glance at the menu before ordering the gluten-free fried chicken with organic rice grits, thin beans, and sorghum cider. I also opted to order a side of the charred Brussels sprouts with pork belly, pickled onion, smoked almonds, and pecorino at the recommendation of a diner nearby and wow—I still dream of those Brussels sprouts. As the server tempted us with a dessert menu, we gladly declined as we knew we were off to indulge another one of Alpharetta’s newest “top” experiences. 

Citizen Soul, 60 S Main St., 678-317-3232,

Dessert: UP on the Roof 

Strolling down Main Street on a crisp Georgia evening is delightful, thanks to large sidewalks and bright streetlamps, but its most magical when viewed from above. Voted as one of the top rooftop bars near Atlanta by Ramble Atlanta, UP on the Roof was an easy pick for our next stop: dessert.  High atop Liberty Hall, we enjoyed a 360-degree view of the city and surrounding area—you can see as far as Kennesaw Mountain! UP on the Roof offers both indoor and outdoor seating. With perfect weather, a clear night’s sky, and a nice breeze, fantasies of a tropical vacation led me to order You Had Me at Aloha, a slice of pineapple upside down cake with maraschino cherries and homemade vanilla ice cream. For an extra boost of energy to carry us to our next spot, we also ordered a Mocha My Day: coffee panna cotta, devil’s food cake and Chantilly cream, topped with crushed chocolate-covered espresso beans. It was a sweet ending to the dining portion of our evening, but there was still time for one more stop to top it off.

Up on the Roof, 33 S. Main St., 770-777-5855,

NightCap: Mercantile Social 

There’s no better place to end an evening in Alpharetta than Mercantile Social, a boutique bar that offers rotating themes throughout the year, so you can pop in during different seasons to  discover all-new bar décor, props, specialty drinks, and live entertainment. Past pop-up themes have included Hocus Pocus, the 1980’s, and Harry Potter—all unique and unlike the other. We wandered in to find an Indiana Jones themed bar, a celebration of the newest Indiana Jones movie released last summer. Mercantile Social took the theme to new heights with specialty drinks, décor including banana leaves, lanterns and snakes, and a picture-perfect backdrop reading “That’s why they call it the jungle, sweetheart.” We enjoyed the coziness of the bar while debating which Indiana Jones film was the best and sipping a Short Round, the perfectly crafted nightcap with Whistlepig Piggyback Rye, raspberry, lemon, tonic and cocoa. Starting this November, a Grinchmas theme will kick off the holiday season featuring Whoville libations such as Max’s Mule and The Grinch-er Bread Martini. Your heart will surely grow three sizes after experiencing such fun!

Mercantile Social, 20 N. Main St., 770-299-9554, Downtown Alpharetta manages to grow and thrive without losing its small-town feel and Southern charm. Our progressive dinner was successful due to the walkability and safety of the town. Hospitality was top-notch as staff and patrons were welcoming and helpful. Visitors will not have trouble finding a restaurant or bar in the area—if anything, the trouble will come when trying to narrow down which exceptional experience to enjoy. With more than 30 restaurants in the area, there is truly something for everyone. My husband’s memories of rural Alpharetta remain, but there are plenty of new memories to make in his hometown.


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