Story by Hannah Lenore Gray | Photography by Christina DeVictor
If you are at all familiar with Atlanta, you know the distinction between inside the perimeter (ITP) and outside the perimeter (OTP). For many years now all things cool and alluring existed exclusively inside the loop of Interstate 285, but in recent months many in-town restaurants and retailers have turned their focus to the great beyond: the suburbs.
Mixed-use, or live-work-play developments are shooting up in the North Fulton County area, just above the city proper. In the northern suburb of Alpharetta, for example, is Avalon — a retail, restaurant and living development. Having just opened in October of 2014, the complex is already home to several big names, including Whole Foods, Anthropologie and the über-popular Antico Pizza, one of the first inner-city favorites to move across the perimeter and into the environs.
Situated a short 10-minute drive south of Alpharetta is the city of Roswell where, like in Alpharetta, the notion of the live-work-play lifestyle dominates. The neighborhoods and houses surrounding the central location of Canton St. are highly sought-after real estate, and developers have already pounced on the chance to build single-family homes and apartments in close proximity to the action. Set to open later this year, the Roswell City Walk apartments are expected to fill up quickly as they are a stone’s throw away from all the excitement.
But what really sets Canton St. apart from other new mixed-use developments is its age — and I mean that in the best way possible. A place steeped in history, this community was established in the 1830s as a cotton mill town. Martha Bulloch, President Theodore Roosevelt’s mother, lived here. Her house still stands as one of the several historical homes open to the public. Canton Street possesses a feeling that cannot be manufactured or recreated. The undeniable charm radiating off the old buildings and their architecture elevates the district into a league of its own.
Tree-lined sidewalks and ample amounts of outdoor seating characterize the street as intimate and give it a hometown-feel. You’d be hard pressed to pay a visit to Canton St. and avoid seeing Max, the Siberian husky, who doubles as the most beloved and frequent patron. The restaurants all know him and anticipate his visits, inundating him with treats when he comes around.
To label Canton St. as charming and communal is not to say it is behind the times or slow-paced. Describing its vibe as anything but electric would be a disservice to proprietors and patrons alike. Furthermore, Canton St.’s welcoming atmosphere should not be translated into an invitation to underestimate its sophistication. From the culinary diversity of its restaurants to the manner in which people dress, Canton St. is a high-class environment not to be questioned. Local celebrities like Braves’ all-star first baseman Freddie Freeman and the Food Network’s and local radio/TV personality Steak Shapiro can be seen frequenting popular establishments Little Alley Steak, Roux and others.
The street undergoes a nightly transformation. Around dinnertime, every restaurant is bursting to the gills and the wait for a table is inescapable. Couples of all ages flock to their favorite spots and families are always a staple. All the restaurants are unmatched in both atmosphere and flavor. Whether you’re craving Thai, Mexican or Irish pub food, the little stretch of road has it all and then some. Once the dinner crowd starts to trickle home, the street takes on an entirely new personality — twenty-somethings rule Canton St. once the night ages. The nightlife scene exists separately from the dining scene and in-towners and locals alike arrive in throngs to enjoy drinks and entertainment late into the night.
Laying claim to one corner of the street sits Roswell Provisions, self-defined as “a slice of old school America with a European flair brought to you in a community market.” Baguettes fill various baskets and bite-sized macaroons are always in supply. A bakery, coffee shop and deli hybrid, the store’s influences are undeniably French.
Besides its numerous award-winning eateries, Canton St. is home to assorted shops and retailers. The staple Go With The Flow, a haven for anyone who enjoys paddle sports, has been around since 1983 and has taken up residence on Canton St. since 1991. New attractions like Southern Style, a clothing and home décor shop, draw in customers of all ages. The large historical homes lining the street largely serve as venues for weddings and other social events, tying together the rich history and culture of the city with its burgeoning revitalization.
Whereas many developments have to flash big names and luxurious amenities to attract the masses, Roswell’s Canton St. only had to expand and improve upon what has always been there. Holding its ground amidst a colossal deluge of new mixed-use developments vying for adjectives such as intriguing, charming and charismatic, Canton St. is ahead of the game. Unmanufactured and unique, its allure stems from something incapable of re-creation: an electric atmosphere grounded in historical charm.