Alpha Soda is in the same mall area as Mambo’s Cafe, a little weatherworn and sitting in its own niche. There is a history associated with this 90 year old restaurant, one someone who publishes, fast, as I do, can’t really dig into. But the name is evocative enough: just what is an Alpha Soda? Did it exist? Was it served in a soda fountain only, or did they bottle it? Was it why the restaurant was invented, or was the soda just a side effort in a town awash with Coca Cola? Trying to figure out the history and heritage of the restaurant is deserving of an Atlanta magazine article or a long essay in the Sunday magazine of the AJC. Just, in the “get a bite and get an impression” world of amateur blogging, I’m not the one with the resources to do it.
Inside, the heavy wood, the frosted glass, used to create this space evokes images of old East coast eateries, places like Bookbinders in Philadelphia. It reminds me in one sense of shopping for used furniture in the East, in the old shops where men with gnarled hands strip old hardwoods and make better-than-new heavy antiques for 20something home buyers. It reminds me of the desk on which I write these essays, so heavy two men are needed to lift it. Yes, the furniture and the glasswork evoke that kind of image.
But it has to be understood that Alpha Soda has gone through four moves and a dozen owners and the evocation is deliberate. The past is lost. The image is what remains, of an eatery with a history Alpharettans may know, buried in their bones, but the rest of us take in as “cloned Greek diner.” But its hardly that. The history, though, lies buried in news print that only exists on microfiche, or God forbid, real paper in libraries. And it will stay there, until the AJC becomes an efficient patron of its own heritage and stops losing <bleep>ing articles on the Internet every time someone sneezes. Yes, I’ve said something similar once and I’ll say it again, the AJC’s online caretaking of their food opinions, the writing of their own journalists, is the very definition of irresponsible. And as a consequence, the reaction to Alpha Soda isn’t “WOW!”, it’s “what’s that, Mommy?”
To return to the restaurant: It’s nice inside, the redwoods, heavy and comforting. I’ve been at lunch and also around dinnertime, when a few words on the Internet led me to the gaming group that hangs out here on Thursday nights. At lunch I had their salmon entrée, a good chunk of salmon with sides, and at night I was asking for a salad and their bunless burger.
Service has been quick and efficient each time. The night time manager came by the gamers, made sure they were comfortable, was really nice. Clientèle appear to be people familiar with the place; being 90 years old has its perks.
No, I don’t expect the “in crowd” from ITP to ever come running up highway 400 to this icon of an eatery in Alpharetta. It is, at this point, a better than average diner, with good entrées, a lot of room, nice interior, and a very rich history on the cusp of being lost forever, unless people take the time to preserve it. Given the AJC’s treatment of food journalism as a disposable, don’t expect it from our mainstream media.
Verdict: A cut above the average Atlanta diner. Worth a peek for the history alone. Highly recommended.
Alpha Soda Family Restaurant
11760 Haynes Bridge Road
Alpharetta, GA 30004