Eat & Drink: Athens

Terry Manier
by Matt Hendrickson - June/July 2010

Music may still be booming in Athens, but the food and arts scenes are also humming

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Farm 255
Farm to table is practically a restaurant cliché at this point, but the folks at the Southern-accented Farm 255 walk it like they talk it. The majority of the food on the daily menu is raised or grown at their Full Moon Farms, just outside of town. Start off with the Bloody Mary made with heirloom tomatoes (when in season) before digging into reasonably priced entrees like a grass-fed steak or the Harvest Plate, an all-veggie entree of the produce picked that morning. 255 W. Washington St.;

Five & Ten
Since its opening in 2000, the Five & Ten, located southwest of downtown in the Five Points neighborhood, has become one of the South’s best restaurants. And self-taught chef Hugh Acheson’s American cuisine with French and Italian flourishes hasn’t lost a step. Case in point: His Frogmore Stew (with a leek and tomato broth that makes it akin to a Southern bouillabaisse) is one of the few dishes to remain on the menu since opening day. You’ll sop up every delectable drop. 1653 S. Lumpkin St.;

The Grit
Don’t let the vegetarian menu scare you away from this two-decades-old Athens institution—R.E.M.’s lead singer, Michael Stipe, is the restaurant’s landlord—because the zesty food will make a convert out of any carnivore. The falafel is light and greaseless, the homemade veggie burger sublime, and the Grit Staple—pinto beans, brown rice, and onions under a blanket of melted cheese—a simple but oh-so-satisfying blast of protein. 199 Prince Ave.;

Mama’s Boy
Out too late checking out the latest and greatest Athens bands? Soak up the night before with a breakfast at this welcoming joint, east of downtown. The pillowy biscuits are the size of a softball. If egg dishes such as the killer salmon Benedict aren’t your thing, try the Chocolate Cake for Breakfast: a Bundt-style cake topped with espresso drizzle and vanilla whipped cream. 197 Oak St.;

The National
Hugh Acheson also has a stake in the National, a light and airy spot located in the former plant of a tire manufacturer. The changing menu is decidedly more Mediterranean than the Five & Ten—lima bean soup with chorizo, trout stuffed with spinach and feta—and if you’re there for lunch, there’s a mind-blowing turkey burger special with green chilies and smoked cheddar that should be afforded a regular spot on the menu. 232 W. Hancock Ave.;

Weaver D’s
Athens resident and self-proclaimed Professor of Soul Food Dexter Weaver serves up down-home cooking that is, according to his mantra, “Automatic for the People” (yes, R.E.M. used the slogan for the title of the 1992 blockbuster album). You can’t go wrong with lunch or an early dinner of perfectly fried chicken and sides like the secret-recipe three-cheese mac & cheese and the squash casserole. 1016 E. Broad St.; 706-353-7797


The Caledonia Lounge
Located in a space that formerly housed one incarnation of the 40 Watt, the Caledonia has assumed the throne as the premier place in town for local music. Most of the bands tend toward the indie rock sound, but if it gets too loud, there’s a scruffy patio near the entry that can provide a respite from the noise. 256 W. Clayton St.;

40 Watt Club
The mother of all Athens’ live-music venues is still the preeminent place to see national and local acts. Owned by Barrie Buck (ex-wife of R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck), the large square room, which used to be a furniture store, is comfortable even when packed, with some couches and chairs to relax on. 285 W. Washington St.;

The Globe
Once named the Best Bar in America by Esquire magazine, the Globe may not live up to that lofty title, but it is one of Athens’ most comfortable places to grab a drink. With English pub crossed with Southern shack decor (comfy couches, bicycles hanging from the ceiling), the Globe attracts a mix of university people (both professors and students) as well as locals who order up rare brews like Tusker Lager from Kenya at the horseshoe-shaped bar. 199 N. Lumpkin St.

Jittery Joe’s
What Stumptown Coffee is to Portland, Jittery Joe’s is to Athens. It started as a tiny shop next to the 40 Watt in 1994 but has since expanded into locations around Georgia as well as one in Dallas and New York City. But Athens is home, and at the Broad Street headquarters you’ll find them roasting small batches of the world’s best beans into their intoxicating blends. Offerings vary, but you can’t go wrong with the zippy Whoop-Ass in a Can. 780 E. Broad St. and five other locations in Athens;

Manhattan Cafe
While it may look like a dive from the outside, the Manhattan is cozy and welcoming, a favorite place for locals to grab a drink before or after a show. The prices are cheap (mixed drinks go for $4), but you would be remiss in not ordering the house specialty: Maker’s Mark bourbon with spicy Blenheim Ginger Ale. 337 N. Hull St.; 706-369-9767

The Melting Point
Located in an old foundry where blacksmiths once made the UGA arch, the Melting Point attracts an older, more sophisticated crowd enticed by tremendous jazz, country, and bluegrass bookings like singer-songwriters Todd Snider and Loudon Wainwright III. 295 E. Dougherty St.;