Athens, Georgia is better known as the Classic City. However, the Classic City has a restaurant and food scene that is far from typical. Athens’ residents and visitors alike have a wide array of eclectic, one-of-a-kind eateries to please their palates. From Elvis doughnuts (topped with peanut butter, bacon, and bananas) at Ike and Jane’s, to an entrée from the award winning Five and Ten restaurant. There really is something for everyone in Athens – and no one will leave hungry!
Ike and Jane’s
1307 Prince Avenue, Athens // (706) 850-1580
Elvis doughnuts are not the only star in Ike and Jane’s bakery case as you cannot go wrong with any of the doughnut varieties – blueberry, chocolate pecan, vanilla coconut and doughnuts topped with your favorite childhood cereal, Lucky Charms. Not a fan of doughnuts? Try the cuffin menu special – a coffee with your choice of muffin. If you want to avoid a sugar rush, the hot breakfast sandwich with SOYsage and Tomato is a winner too. The kitschy, cute retro-inspired décor will help you travel back to simpler times as you enjoy a signature iced coffee drink with far too many doughnuts.
199 Prince Avenue, Athens // (706) 543-6592
The Grit is an Athens’ favorite among vegetarians and carnivores alike. Delicious homemade hummus is the perfect appetizer or start you meal with Split Pea Dal soup, an Indian curry flavored thick soup. The Grit Veggie Plate will stand up to your mom’s best cooking, as veggie options include sweet potato fries, two falafel and black bean chili. Another personal favorite is the Hot Noodle Bowl. This Asian-inspired dish is made with fresh vegetables, tofu and topped with a delicious sauce. After eating at The Grit, you will probably want to whip up your own Grit-inspired vegetarian dish, and you can with The Grit cookbook available in the restaurant (and here)! The cookbook includes 130 recipes and yes, the favorite “secret” recipes are also included along with fun facts and quotes from Grit lovers everywhere.
Best Parent’s Weekend Restaurant
Five and Ten
1653 S. Lumpkin Street, Athens // (706) 546-7300
Five and Ten is a little pricey for the college student’s budget. However, it is the perfect place to splurge when Mom and Dad are in town. Chef Hugh Acheson has been nominated for the James Beard “Best Chef Southeast” Award, and you may remember him from his appearances on Top Chef and Top Chef Masters. The Five and Ten menu consists of local produce and meat and often changes with the season and availability. Regular favorites include the handcut pasta ribbons, lowcountry Frogmore Stew (made with Georgia shrimp) and “Redneck Risotto” complete with country ham, collard greens and okra.
Big City Bread Cafe
393 North Finley Street, Studio A, Athens // (706) 353-0029
Fresh bread from Big City is hard to beat. The only thing that makes the bread better – enjoying it French toast style at Big City’s Sunday brunch. The menu features a variety of brunch favorites including biscuits, omelets and quiche. Big City’s brunch menu also features a not so traditional lineup of vegetable and tofu sauté, arugula and prosciutto salad, and a burger with quick-pickled vegetables. When the weather is pretty, enjoy brunch on Big City’s outdoor courtyard shaded by elm trees.
Last Resort Grill
174-184 West Clayton Street, Athens // (706) 549-0810
The Last Resort Grill is an Athens legend. It started as a music club in 1966. Today, Last Resort is a thriving culinary hot spot. While the dinner menu is equally as good as the lunch specialties, the lunch menu is the perfect solution for students looking for delicious, affordable fare. Lunch favorites include the Fennel Chicken Salad, Fried Green Tomato Sandwich, Black Bean Crepes and Zucchini Roll.
Best Movie Theatre
234 West Hancock Avenue, Athens // (706) 353-3343
Cine shows documentary, independent, and foreign films, but what makes Cine special from the typical movie theatre is the BarCafe. The BarCafe is a full bar that serves wine and beer along with teas, coffees and fruit juices. Wasabi peas, mixed nuts and locally made baked goods are on the food menu along with the traditional theatre fare of popcorn and candy.
Best Saturday Morning Excursion
Athens’ Farmers Market
705 Sunset Dr., Athens
The Athens Farmers Market is not only the place to get your fresh veggies (offering a wide variety of fresh, local produce from April- December), but it’s also the perfect place to meet local farmers and fellow foodies. Buying from local growers allows you to support the local economy and reduce your carbon footprint. Plenty of prepared foods from fresh pastas, homemade granolas, breads and fresh squeezed juices are available. Plus, artisan goods such as jewelry and homemade soaps are also for sale.
Best Palate-Pleasing Experience
Athens Food Tours
If you are spending an afternoon in Athens and you want to taste as many hotspots as possible, consider going on an Athens Food Tour. The walking tours explore a variety of restaurants in an Athens neighborhood and you get to burn calories while you sightsee – the perfect complement to eating delicious food at each stop. Each tour not only includes delicious food, but a mini history lesson of Athens, and at many of the restaurant stops, you will have the opportunity to meet and interact with restaurant owners and chefs. An Athens’ Food Tour is the perfect foodie experience.
Caroline Ariail is a senior at the University of Georgia where she studies journalism. She likes to take (long) study breaks at Ike and Jane’s with iced coffee.