The Best Restaurants in Athens, Georgia for UGA Bulldogs and Locals Alike
Frat parties and tailgates aren’t all you’ll find near UGA’s campus.
Athens is a charming college town located an hour east of Atlanta—but it’s not all keg parties, casual food, and “go dawgs!” chants around these parts. The area is home to a wide range of dining options ready to satisfy. For a small city, you’ll be surprised at the chef-driven eateries and top-notch bars in Athens—some of which even rival the restaurants and bars in Atlanta.
Whether you are visiting Athens to stroll around the state gardens and tour the historic buildings or visit the UGA campus, here’s our rundown of the 18 best restaurants in Athens to try while you’re in town.
Athens is a town of happy hours—but at the wine and aperitivo-focused bar Bar Bruno, every hour is filled with high spirits. Expect a wide selection of amaro, vermouth, grappa, wine, cocktails, espresso, as well as zero proof drinks at this European-style bar.
From the team behind The National, Maepole offers a menu of plant-focused dishes that marry international inspiration with local favorites to reflect The South today. The fast-casual concept allows you to create a fun plate with contrasting flavor combinations from kimchi and black eyed pea salad to killer mac ‘n cheese and chicken thighs seared with lime, ginger, and cumin.
Chef and owner Haregu Bahtu opened Mannaweenta with a vision to bring Ethiopian and Eritrean fare to Athens. Plates include Chicken Doro Wot, Fish Tibbs, Alter Alitcha (yellow split peas), and Okra Wot, and everything is served with spongey sheets of injera to scoop up the flavorful dishes.
After years of drawing crowds to pop-up events around Athens, Puma Yu’s opened late last year at the historic Southern Mill complex. The small space is a wine and cocktail bar first, and a small-plate Thai restaurant second, but the food menu is nothing to mess with. Expect seasonable dishes like Roasted Butternut Squash with Coconut Sauce and Braised Duck Noodles with fried garlic.
How to book: Via Tock
As the name suggests, Sidecar is a small extension of the Athens-favorite restaurant, home.made, set in an adorable dining room. The space once served as the restaurant’s bar area, and wine and seasonal cocktails (including zero-proof options), along small plates for snacking remain.
This upscale steakhouse is the newest restaurant in Athens from the team behind The Expat. It is the perfect place to grab a stiff drink, a hand crafted cocktail, or a glass of wine as Slater’s Steakhouse offers an impressive selection of North and South American wines, as well as make-your-own-martini service. For a larger meal, local and sustainably sourced steaks are served with bearnaise, peppercorn, and chimichurri sauces, plus a slate of classic steakhouse sides.
White Tiger Gourmet
With bright color walls adorned with local art, White Tiger Gourmet has a cozy and eclectic atmosphere that honors its menu of comfort food classics. The menu focuses on barbecue with specialties like Pecan Wood-Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwiches and BBQ Plates with all the fixings. To sweeten the deal, this casual spot doesn’t offer alcoholic beverages, but you can BYOB.
ZZ & Simone’s
Tucked under an apartment complex on South Lumpkin street, ZZ & Simone’s is a romantic and elegant Italian restaurant that will transport you to a modern trattoria in Italy. Grab a seat at the patio or at a table in the pink-hued modern dining room, where you’ll find fresh, seasonal dishes and plenty of options for vegetarians. Whether you order Neapolitan style pizzas, homemade pastas, or a few appetizers like Ora King Salmon Crudo and Carciofi alla Giudia, save some room for a scoop of gelato that’s churned in house.
The World Famous
At the historic Hot Corner in downtown Athens, The World Famous is a bar, restaurant, and entertainment venue that has been a longtime local favorite. Go to see the showstopper rotating lineup of local comedians and musicians, but stay for the world-famous Chicken and Waffle Club, a crispy piece of fried chicken sandwiched between two waffles doused in hot sauce. With reasonably priced cocktails, great food, and lively nightlife, expect to have the complete Athens experience at The World Famous.
This long-standing local favorite is where neighbors flock to hang out in a homey atmosphere. The menu honors comfort food by adding a creative twist to dishes like Hush Puppies with green tomato remoulade and Bread Pudding Tres Leches. Everything—including the beignets and buttermilk biscuits—is made in house from scratch, and it is quite possibly the only place you can order a cheese straw sandwich with pecans and pimento cheese.
Looking for a place to bring the family that proves you’ve grown up over four years at UGA? Look no further than The National. This iconic Athens restaurant is located inside the renovated Recap Plant building, and the Mediterranean- and Southern-influenced menu changes seasonally based on availability of fresh local ingredients. Plates of Manchego-Stuffed Medjool Dates and house made Hummus with Flatbread are perfect for sharing at lunch or dinner.
Five & Ten
Chef Hugh Acheson’s flagship restaurant Five & Ten has earned well-deserved acclaim nationwide, so be sure to make a reservation in advance of your next trip to Athens. The menu highlights Southern, French, and Italian cooking with dishes like Braised Lamb Shank, Cornmeal-Fried Catfish, and Chilled Pea Soup. Five & Ten offers some of the best fine dining in the Classic City, so you won’t want to miss it.
Athens is a top destination for beer lovers in the South, thanks in part to Creature Comforts. This college town’s craft brewery offers just about every style of brew imaginable, from hoppy double IPAs to fruity goses. Located in a former Chevy dealership and auto repair shop turned 13,000 square-foot brewery, the building offers plenty of indoor and outdoor space to kick back.
Owned by UGA graduates Ryan and Alan Pope, The Place is a refined Southern restaurant where you can enjoy lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch. While its name is somewhat un Google-able when you casually recommend it in conversation, The Place is a restaurant that everyone should stop by when visiting Athens. Its lunch and dinner menus boast incredible offerings like Grilled Pork Chops, Hanger Steak, and Shrimp Burgers, and you can expect breakfast staples like Stuffed French Toast, Fried Chicken Biscuits, and Gouda Grits on the brunch menu. Plus, even if you’re just in need of a solid cocktail, The Place has you covered there, too.
Kelly's Jamaican Foods
For a culinary experience that offers a stark contrast from the boozy, Tex-Mex, Southern-style food options around Athens, look no further than Kelly’s Jamaican Food. A mainstay in the Athens area for over 20 years, Kelly’s has all of the classic Jamaican dishes that you know and love, from Jerk Chicken and Grilled Salmon to Oxtail and Curry Goat. With side options like the Mac and Cheese, Spicy Cabbage, and Plantains, it’ll be hard not to order up all of them the next time you stop by the Lumpkin or Westside location.
El Barrio is known for its tacos and tequilas, and while you should definitely pair some Birria Tacos with a couple of the signature tequila cocktails on your first, there’s so much good stuff on El Barrio’s menu that you’ll want to keep coming back. We’re talking weekly specials like the Birria Tora, signature dishes like the Blue Corn Chicken Empanadas, and an impressive assortment of flavored margaritas. In addition to the food and drinks, what makes El Barrio even cooler is its 10% discount for students and faculty at the University of Georgia from 11:30 am to 2 pm Tuesday through Saturday, so make sure you call up your friend from UGA next time you’re in Athens.
This French-American bistro, which opened in Athens’ Five Points neighborhood in spring 2018, is loaded with European charm. It’s in a renovated 1930s home and draws inspiration from the days when literary greats such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein were swanning around overseas. Executive chef Savannah Sasser prides herself on mixing traditional French cooking techniques with locally sourced ingredients for an ever-changing menu. Bonus: The restaurant is helmed by Krista and Jerry Slater, which should be especially appealing to those who are still mourning the beloved Atlanta cocktail bar, H. Harper Station.
Seabear Oyster Bar
Need a great seafood happy hour? You've found it. Doors open at 4pm, so you'll want to show up on the dot to grab a good seat on the patio or at the bar to enjoy Seabear’s oyster and beer specials. Other seafood options include Clam Chowder, Crab and Shrimp Cakes, and Steamed Mussels (which are served with a baguette to help you sop up the delicious sauce). There are plenty of non-seafood choices as well (from the beer-braised Beeler’s bratwurst to the sticky buns) and the service is some of the best in town.