The Comerian: A great little bakery out in Comer, GA (about 20 miles away). The baker is a retired physics professor. There’s a nice state park nearby, an excellent cafe, and a lovely farm store nearby. Generally open on Saturday mornings. Order online before you go.
Independent Baking Co.: A very good bakery in Five Points. They have been having some problems with their croissants lately (too large and, hence, a bit undercooked in the center), but the bread is consistent and other pastry is strong. Babka appears to be regularly available on Thursdays, challah is available on Fridays. You can get a coffee and pastry and hang out in the space behind the nearby shoe store.
Dawg Gone Good BBQ: Good BBQ near campus/downtown.
Fresh Air Barbecue: In Hull and on the way to (or from) Comer. Perfectly fine but nothing special.
Pulaski Heights BBQ: Solid BBQ near campus. Excellent side options (all the sides are vegetarian) and a nice sauce selection. Very good on catering.
Tamez BBQ: Excellent brisket. Although most of their sides are not great, I have enjoyed the cornbread and greens. Prices are high. They do good, although somewhat expensive, breakfast burritos in the morning.
White Tiger Gourmet: Adequate BBQ and burgers in Boulevard. (I like the grilled tofu sandwich.) But the outdoor and indoor spaces are both great, and the location in a residential neighborhood is a plus.
BBQ Notes: It’s not Texas. I do not recommend Scott’s BBQ–except the hash–or The Barbeque Shack.
Breakfast/Brunch (including biscuits)
Big City Bread Cafe: This place has grown on me. It’s a simple menu, but the food is tasty, portions are generous and the outdoor space is nice. They do a great job with catering.
Biscuit Basket: Gas station convenience store biscuit sandwiches. Tasty. Inexpensive.
Cafe Racer: Donuts. Biscuits. About 10 miles out of town. The single best food experience in Athens. Believe the hype.
farmcart: Biscuit sandwiches. Tasty, expensive and large portions. People like this place a lot, but I tend not to feel that well after I eat one of their very large biscuit sandwiches.
Heirloom Cafe and Fresh Market: I like this farm-to-table restaurant for brunch, although I must admit I haven’t been in a while. Update: I went for lunch recently (5/28/22). The food was tasty, but the kitchen was very slow and service was not especially good.
Tamez: Breakfast burritos. See above.
Breakfast notes: There are many other places that serve brunch in Athens. I am not entirely persuaded by Mama’s Boy, and I can’t deal with the weekend lines there. J Christopher’s is a cheerful (chain) place in Five Points.
Bubble Cafe: Boba and reasonable poke bowls right across from campus.
Clocked: Excellent burgers at a pleasant place with a good diner feel.
See also White Tiger entry under ‘BBQ’.
Kelly’s Jamaican Food: Good jerk chicken and pork. Large portions.
Dinner Party: Good drinks and expensive but tasty versions of some classic dishes. Temporarily closed for Summer 2022 and still closed as of 9/29/22.
New Red Bowl: Not amazing, but they have some good Szechuan dishes. Update: It had been a while since I’d eaten there, but I went late summer 2022 and Szechuan dishes were still reasonably good. (But not Buford Highway level.)
1000 Faces Coffee: The best coffee in Athens by far. The space isn’t great.
Buvez: Excellent (indoor and outdoor) space and location. They serve 1000 Faces coffee.
Comer Coffee: Lovely micro-roaster and cafe out in Comer.
Hendershots: Mixed feelings about this place. Good outdoor space in a nice location, but they haven’t quite solved the bar/cafe dialectic, and the indoor space is not comfortable.
Walkers Pub and Coffee: It really feels like a bar, and I don’t go there for coffee. So why is it in the coffee category? Well…it is used by students and faculty as a coffeeshop and place to work/meet during the day. And it is very close to campus.
Half-Shepherd Market and Cheese Shop: A great deli. Very good cheese and charcuterie. Update: Closed for a few months as of 5/28/22, but will–hopefully–reopen in a larger space this fall.
Athentic: I might like this brew pub more than Creature Comforts. It is resolutely family friendly, and they allow you to bring in food from outside. The beer is nice too. In Normaltown.
Creature Comforts Tasting Room: A superb brew pub close to campus.
Dinner Party: You can get a good drink sitting at the bar of this restaurant (or outside). In 5 Points. But it’s still temporarily closed as of 9/29/22.
The Expat: The owner co-authored a book on Southern cocktails.
The Globe: British-inspired “pub” downtown. Decent beer on tap and good space. Haven’t eaten anything other than snacks there. The snacks were tasty.
Hi-Lo Lounge: Haven’t drunk there except one time at a gig. But it seems like a good place. The food is solid. (See “Lunch” below.)
The Lark: Excellent wine in a lovely space. On Prince Street.
Manhattan Cafe: Great and grungy downtown dive bar.
Normaltown Brewing Co.: A tiny and lovely microbrewery/bar in an out-of-the-way location. The beer is good, especially the sours.
The Old Pal: A very good bar in Normaltown. Perhaps the best cocktails in town.
Seabear Oyster Bar: Nice drinks and a very good oyster selection. On Prince.
Sidecar: Lovely small bar with great drinks and snacks/small plates/burgers. Next to Home.Made on Baxter. There have been some service problems here, but the last time I went it they seemed to have worked things out.
The World Famous: A good downtown bar with solid bar food (vegetarian-friendly).
Mannaweenta: It’s been a bit variable but the last time I went it was excellent.
Cali N Titos: Cuban/Mexican/fusion. Inexpensive and delicious. Our go-to place for a quick meal in Athens.
Punta Cana Latin Grill: Solid Dominican.
Viva!: Fun Argentinian.
Latin American notes: I was quite disappointed by Mifflin House (a Peruvian place) the one time I went.
Hi-Lo Lounge. Good vegetarian and vegan-friendly bar food. See above under ‘Drink’.
Note: Obviously lots of other places on this list work for lunch. I go to Bubble Cafe, Mother Pho, and Maepole most frequently.
Tacos Los Plebes: A taqueria on the eastside. My favorite until I found Juaritos. But still great.
Taqueria Juaritos: Excellent gas station taco stand. The gorditas are great. Superb salsa bar. Went a few times recently (June-July ’22), and it was consistently excellent.
Mexican notes: Tlaloc El Mexicano is adequate but overrated. El Bajio is mediocre, and the TV was blaring the one time I was there. The tacos at Supermarket El Camino Real were underseasoned the time I went, but I noted that everyone else was eating tortas.
I haven’t had great pizza in this town (although see below), but I am open to suggestions. I do enjoy Athens Pizza and Little Italy Pizzeria: both supply solid no-frills American-style pizza. Automatic Pizza seems like it should be good, but I just don’t like it that much. Ted’s Most Best is in a good location and has great outdoor space, but the pizza is just not that good. Update: I have now (5/27/22) had a great (Neapolitan) pizza in Athens–the Meyer lemon pizza at ZZ and Simone’s. (I wasn’t into much else at the restaurant except the drinks. And the second time I went back there for pizza it was burnt–not just charred.)
Jinya: We’ve ordered from them a few times. I like the noodle texture, but the soup bases are mediocre at best.
The Expat: I love the feel of the place but my dining experience has been a bit mixed. The To Go menu during the pandemic was very good. And, as mentioned above, it’s a great place for a drink. I’ve only been once since they changed to an Italian menu–service was not especially good that night.
Five & Ten: New Southern. Excellent space. Cooking more variable than it should be.
Home.Made: Regional. Local. Good food. Didn’t used to love the space, but they have remodeled, turned part of the space into a separate bar (see above), and it is significantly improved.
The National: A nice, if unexciting, European-inflected restaurant downtown. It is generally considered one of Athens’ best and is the default restaurant for entertaining UGA visitors. Lunch is solid, but my recent dinners there have been disappointing. Sitting at the bar, however, is nice.
Puma Yu’s: The best addition to Athens dining since I’ve been here. They call it “A wine and cocktail forward bar serving up small plate Thai food.” Not everything hits, but the design and vibe are great, the drinks are excellent, and some of the dishes are really strong.
Vegetarian and Vegetarian/Vegan Friendly
The Grit: Great space, great vibe, tons of history. I’ve been mixed about it, but have eaten a very good vegetarian gyro there. The sweet potato fries are excellent. Update: closing soon.
Maepole: Quick, reasonably-priced and tasty. They advertise as “healthy, wholesome, southern, gluten free and vegan friendly.”
Slutty Vegan: This Atlanta-based vegan chain just opened in Athens. It is: (a) loud, (b) relentless in its sexual innuendo, (c) extremely tasty (best vegan burger I have had by far), (d) not cheap ($20 for burger, fries and soda).
Just Pho and more: Adequate but a bit expensive.
Mother Pho: Reasonable pho right across from campus. Good outdoor space.