Two-hundred Minutes in…Sandy Springs


I’ve spent more time passing through Sandy Springs than staying put.

The sense of place registers for a moment, as I’ve whizzed by the iconic King and Queen buildings. I’ve known of its close proximity to the Perimeter, but its actual parameters and size were ambiguous. While we are being technical, “whizz” can be a euphemism, depending on the time of day and traffic. In 2011, a new exit to Hammond Drive was opened to accommodate the numbers of drivers diverging there, and the lane to join them can back up easily. Where are all of these people headed?

After some rambling and research, I realized what a shame my limited knowledge was.

Global Grazing

You can alternatively enter city limits after crossing over the Chattahoochee River on Roswell Road. Running parallel to Georgia 400, this path is Sandy Springs’ major artery where most cars are likely to be passing by, or depending on the time of day, stopped at a red light.

From the window of your car, the community at face value is suburban sprawl — an extended route of restaurants, shopping centers and, as of lately, new construction of high-rise apartment complexes. I was most familiar with the first category, which dots the stretch of road running south from Roswell. Among these are local favorites and famed kitchens, many places that have previously graced the pages of this magazine: Rumi’s Kitchen, Hammocks Trading Company, La Petite Maison, Under The Cork Tree — the list goes on.

Chef Jamie Adams of il Giallo Osteria & Bar used to know the area his restaurant calls home as North Buckhead. The youngest of five children born in Atlanta, Adams worked in several Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy before returning to his hometown. He joined The Buckhead Life Group with gigs at both Pricci and the late, great Veni Vidi Vici, but his full curriculum vitae is longer than we have space to list and is full of reasons for Northsiders to revel in his decision to open Il Giallo in 2015 at Cliftwood Drive’s crossroad.

To enter his dining room is to forget your surroundings altogether, however. You will be transported to an Italian fantasy, compliments of his takes on dishes such as: shrimp scampi with Georgia’s own, garlic, blood orange and creamy polenta; involtino with housemade Italian ricotta and mascarpon wrapped in grilled eggplant on top of pickled beets; fresh pastas made in front of you; and a sweet finale of “strawberry pizza”— puff pastry, strawberry jam, fontina, stracchino and mascarpone cheese, drizzled with balsamic. One translation of “Il Giallo” is “mystery,” and that sums up why it remained under my radar for so long, but there’s no question that I will be back.

Adams is far from the only entrepreneur tapping into the possibilities Sandy Springs’ dining scene holds. Rumor has it that steakhouse mogul Kevin Rathbun is working on a project that would position him as il Giallo’s new neighbor. Meanwhile, up the road, the popular West Coast, fast casual franchise Poké Bar opened its first Georgia location in another seemingly nondescript shopping center. But, if there was one lesson Sandy Springs had in store for me thus far, it was to look closer; that led me to CalyRoad Creamery.

I first encountered Robin Schick’s artisan talents on a charcuterie board at Roswell’s Foundation Social Eatery and had an idyllic image of the farm where their cheeses, like ash-covered Little Stone Mountain goat cheese and the Cambert-style WayPoint, were made. She used to produce on a farmstead in Carrolton, but has since moved operations to their storefront on Hilderbrand Drive. Fresh milk is brought in, and cheese is made from start to finish following the “French model,” as Schick described it. The relocation made it easier to deliver to her high-profile clientele, including in-town legends like Chef Linton Hopkins and Star Provisions as well as Cumming’s Talk of the Table and select Whole Foods. Renovations are underway that will allow CalyRoad Creamery to accommodate space for tastings, classes and a retail shop. Also in the works is the debut of her cultured, stretched mozzarella; look for it around town this month.

Ties to the Past

While culinary expeditions make for good cause to visit Sandy Springs, unique eats here are just the tip of the iceberg. International influence and an appreciation for a global view are not limited to food.

Take The Chai Gallery of Fine Art, for instance. Opened in early 2016, the gallery is the culmination of owner Mark Jaffe’s lifelong love of art and a hobby for collecting works from around the world, a passion he shares with his wife. On his walls, you may see works from names you recognize — classic masters like Marc Chagall, Rembrandt van Rijn, Pablo Picasso and Francisco Goya, as well as contemporary artists including Peter Max, Itzchak Tarkay and many others.

Yet, it’s Jaffe’s vision that makes this gallery stand out from the crowd. Among the lithographs, oils, etchings, watercolors and animation cells, there’s a focus on Jewish artists and works that explore Jewish themes — at every price point, from a $100 poster to a $50,000 oneof-a-kind museum piece. He welcomes those who want to purchase art as well as those who want to explore and learn about the rich variety of art created by or inspired by Jewish people throughout history. Based on family values, a portion of each sale will go to Jewish or United Way charities.

I started to notice this focus as a bigger theme throughout the Sandy Springs community. Last month, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival (AJFF) celebrated its 17th anniversary as an independent, nonprofit arts organization dedicated to showcasing cinema that broadly explores themes of identity, history and culture. Already Atlanta’s single largest film festival, AJFF made history in 2015 by becoming the largest Jewish film festival in the world, attracting more than 38,600 moviegoers. As the festival has grown, so has the number of participating venues, and the list includes Lefont Sandy Springs and nearby Regal Perimeter Pointe.

While AJFF only lasts a few weeks, film fans can get their fix throughout the year thanks to the Lefont Film Society. Founded in 2012, they strive to program a diverse slate of titles and foreign language films for their loyal audiences. Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. and Mondays at 7 p.m., join your fellow cinephiles for a screening, then stay after to share thoughts and make new movie-loving friends.

It’s also worth noting that located just above the Sandy Springs Welcome Center, visitors may find an unexpected exhibit: “Anne Frank in the World: 1929-1945.” With 600 photographs and more than 8,000 words telling the story of young Anne Frank, this powerful, permanent exhibit is free to the public and provides guests a chance to learn or remember the history lessons of the Holocaust and its continued relevance.

High Style Mixed With Southern Charm

While I had only been seeing Sandy Springs from the window of my car, viewers across the country may have been seeing the city on their television screens. Across Hammond Drive and less than a mile from the Welcome Center presides Bridals by Lori, where Southern hospitality meets high style.

The largest full-service bridal salon in the nation, the three-story space is also the star of “Say Yes to The Dress: Atlanta” which airs on TLC Friday nights at 9 p.m. In addition to couture dresses for brides, their style consultants outfit bridesmaids, flower girls, mothers of brides, as well as offer prom dresses, in-house tuxedo rentals or can suggest custom-made Italian suits.

Appointments are required for custom fittings, but no appointment is necessary to come shop and guests are always welcome to see prom, bridesmaid, special occasion or mother-of-the-bride dresses. Weekdays are great times to visit Bridals by Lori for an enhanced shopping experience since weekends are so hectic.

It seems the traffic I’ve witnessed is just the beginning of those drawn to Sandy Springs.

Vision for the Future

From the Hammond Drive bridge above Georgia 400 that connects the area to Perimeter Mall and the Dunwoody MARTA, I started to see the bigger picture.

Chef Adams at Il Giallo wasn’t incorrect when as a youngster, he referred to the area as North Buckhead. At the time, Sandy Springs didn’t quite exist yet. Officially incorporated in 2005, the city now ranks as Georgia’s sixth largest and the second largest city in metro Atlanta. Looking at it today, it’s hard to imagine a time when the area was still relatively rural, before the developments of interstates and highways in the 1960s that led to a housing boom.

The name comes from its origins much earlier, however, as a watering stop for Native-Americans who frequented its bubbling springs, and quickly became a community in the 1800s as settlers moved into the area.

Today, the original “sandy springs” can be found at Heritage Green, a 4-acre city park that is operated by Heritage Sandy Springs, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the history and culture of the community. Those that are interested in learning more about the history should spend a few minutes at the Heritage Sandy Springs Museum, located in the re-purposed Williams-Payne House — which has a story of its own to discover.

With the incorporation of the city comes a more dedicated local government. “Parks and Recreation” jokes aside, once completed, the 15-acre City Springs will be a sight to behold. Intended to act as the heartbeat of the city, this new civic and cultural center will contain city offices, a performing arts center, a studio theater, meeting spaces, retail and residential spaces, a city green and underground community parking. Slated for completion in summer 2018, progress on the construction can be seen from its boundary lines — Allen Road to the south and Johnson Ferry Road to the north — or online from its webcam.

A Workout Just for Women

It isn’t surprising that the number of topnotch restaurants equates to boutique fitness formats to burn off tasty calories.

Burn Boot Camp is a national concept where likeminded women can come together to build confidence and inspire one another through fitness. Ideal for those who want to work out in a group setting, Burn fosters a sense of a community where moms can escape for a bit. Did we mention free childcare is offered on site?

With more locations popping up across the country and close to home (Alpharetta and Roswell have been added to the roster), we asked Sandy Springs’ owners Stephanie Reilly and Missy Stroud what makes it special? “We wanted other women to experience the community we first found at Burn Boot Camp as clients. It was so encouraging and changed the way we looked at fitness that we wanted other women to feel as empowered as we did!” they replied via email. “[It] is more than just a good workout. Burn is an all-in-one system with your personal trainer at your disposal to guide you through the mental and physical roller coaster of getting fit in and out of camp.”

Each camp involves a 45-minute circuit style workout comprised of 72 different styles and 15 different formats. That means no workout is the same.

If the men are feeling left out, know that a camp just for you is now offered select evenings and one of the Saturday morning camps is co-ed, open to the public and no charge.

If you have a revamped future vision of your health for the rest of 2017, this may be the place you’ve been seeking.

Needless to say, the next time you find yourself in that inevitable, standstill traffic by the King and Queen, I know a good place where you can make an exit.