A flurry of handmade signs paper the front door and flock the walls and cash register. “Closing early today.” “Out of pork today.” “New hours.” “We take these credit cards now.”
Meet Wildflour restaurant in Alpharetta, where you never quite know what you’re going to get. Michael Fields, who owns this sandwich haunt, has amassed more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry. He began his career as a dishwasher at Fuddruckers when he was 16. Fields soon realized that he wanted to cook — just not burgers. He sought on-the-job training, shadowing both savory and pastry chefs.
At 19, Fields opened Sweet Creations Bakery in Alpharetta. Over the next 12 years, he traded in one shop for another, moving from bakery to sandwich shop to full-service restaurant before calling it quits.
After a five-year hiatus during which he led trout fishing expeditions and worked a brief stint at Spice, Fields tried his hand as restaurateur once more, opening Wildflour in Roswell in 2007. A poor location left this restaurant without visibility or traffic, causing Fields to uproot and relocate it to Alpharetta in a strip mall off Windward Parkway.
Wildflour now gets plenty of traffic, packing this lunch-only spot each weekday. As you brave the line in this noisy concrete-floored space, read those paper signs to see what’s sold out. On one visit, I ordered four times before finding something available.
A little eavesdropping on fellow customers’ conversations reveals the tomato basil soup and crabcake sandwich as two popular choices. My first pass at the tomato basil soup ($4.50) ends abruptly after a few bites of heart-stoppingly salty soup so undercooked that small pellets of grated Parmesan cheese ping my teeth with each bite. With caution, I attempt the soup once more on a return visit and find a velvety smooth and cream-laden soup with the perfect tomato tang.
To the contrary, the crabcake sandwich ($11), frequently available as a special, fails to live up to the hype. A dry and overcooked exterior encases crab smothered with filler — crab that Fields boasts costs $24 per pound. The large oval cake shaped to fit the bread makes for an awkward bite inside the homemade top-split rolls.
Whole-wheat rolls ($2) are a signature item at Wildflour. Fields bakes them daily from a starter he’s had since Wildflour’s Roswell days. The rolls, soft and fluffy, offer only a mild suggestion of yeast — a neutral backdrop for sandwiches. Yet, served alongside a salad, they beg for a pat or two of soft butter — butter that Fields begrudgingly gives a neighboring customer, telling her it’s too expensive to serve routinely.
The signature bread tends to grow soggy from sauces and garnishes added to sandwiches. This was the case with my favorite sandwich, the Prodeep ($6.50 small/$9.50 large). Here, the grilled chicken you’ll find on many of the sandwiches gets tossed in a thick coconut curry sauce and mixed with onions and mushrooms. Pull the ingredients out of the bread before it drinks up the moisture and enjoy the sweet and spicy sauce with the chicken and creamy avocado, which tempers the heat.
You’ll find the bread is a common thread between sandwiches, but the similarities don’t end there. Multiple permutations of the same ingredients make up the sandwich menu. For example, the Wildflour Melt ($6.50 small/$9.50 large), a vegetarian combination of earthy mushrooms and a tangy balsamic-and-sun-dried-tomato dressing, shows up on the Seinfeld sandwich ($6.50 small/$9.50 large) — the meaty cousin that offers the addition of grilled chicken, pork tenderloin, turkey meatloaf or Boar’s Head turkey.
Much like the sandwiches, pastries may or may not be available. Despite a website advertising an ever-changing selection, gluten-free offerings and a three-year winning streak for “Best Dessert” at Taste of Alpharetta, brownies and cookies ($2) sit alone next to an empty refrigerated case. Though solid versions of standards, neither of these desserts bears the mark of a professional.
As Wildflour marches past its four-year life span, Fields reveals plans to add beer and wine service, dinner hours and the potential for expansion. Perhaps with change will come inspiration. We’ll know soon enough. Just be sure to check the paper signs.
– Jenny Turknett, for the AJC Food and More blog
Wildflour, 5815 Windward Parkway, Alpharetta. 678-822-9453
Food: cafe serving mostly sandwiches, a few salads and a soup or two each day
Service: helpful but abrupt and not overly friendly
Best dishes: Prodeep sandwich, tomato basil soup (on a good day)
Vegetarian selections: assorted sandwiches and salads
Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, American Express
Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Fridays
Children: yes, but no kids’ menu
Parking: shared lot
Wheelchair access: yes
Noise level: high when full
Patio: a couple of tables out front