Food & Drink

The Definitive Athens Eating Guide

Published On 09/14/2015 Published On 09/14/2015

FACT: Athens is one of the best college towns in America (hell, there are at least 14 reasons why it’s THE best), but you know what the most amazing thing about The Classic City is? The mouthwatering food. So, whether you’re a townie, a Georgia fan, or simply passing through, these are the 13 best restaurants in Athens.

 

Best restaurant to host your business lunch: The National

232 W Hancock Ave
The menu changes regularly as they source their food locally, but you can expect Mediterranean-inspired sandwiches, salads, soups, and small plates to share among co-workers. You won’t leave hungry, but you won’t go back to work in a food coma either.

Last Resort Grill

Best restaurant to bring mom and dad: Last Resort Grill

174-184 W Clayton St
Set in the former space of an iconic music club, Last Resort is filled with local artwork, an amazing ambiance, and the highest quality southwestern-inspired food in all of Athens. Missing out on the fried green tomatoes or potato onion pancakes is not an option. Add the jalapeño honey mustard dressing to any salad for a hefty kick, and get to brunch by 10am on Sunday so you’re not stuck standing outside, because the Southern-style omelets are nothing like you’ve had before.
 

Courtesy of Kaitie Bryant

Best biscuit: Mama’s Boy

197 Oak St
If you haven’t tried a Mama’s Boy biscuit, what are you even doing? These fluffy, buttery, award-winning monsters are the ultimate hangover cure. Every weekend the line is out the door, but the poached eggs, cheesy grits, and potato hash are also worth waiting for.

Pulaski Heights BBQ

Best Southern food: Pulaski Heights BBQ

675 Pulaski St
Without a doubt, it has the best pulled pork and richest mac and cheese in town, but every real Southerner knows it’s all about the sauce. And that's why they'll load you up with all the spicy vinegar you can handle. And don’t forget, it's still BYOB.

Best place to go on game day: Rooftop of the Georgia Theatre

215 N Lumpkin St
Rowdy music venue by night, rooftop hangout by day. There’s no better place outside Sanford Stadium to watch SEC football than atop the Georgia Theatre. Straight out of The Branded Butcher kitchen, loaded burgers and chili cheese fries are prepared for wild -- and occasionally obnoxious -- Georgia fans who need some sustenance on those very long, hot days.

Porterhouse Grill

Best restaurant for a special occasion: The Porterhouse Grill

459 E Broad St
Need a spot that’ll support your entire extended family for graduation... or a fancy steakhouse for the rehearsal dinner you’re planning? Porterhouse’s two large upscale dining areas and full bar can help with that. It serves the juiciest filet mignon in all of Athens, and provides an extensive wine selection that'll sate even the most discerning critic.

Best late-night eats: The Grill

171 College Ave
When the doors close at Little Italy or Eat Hibachi around 3AM, you can count on The Grill to be open (it never closes). Stumble into the only vintage diner in Athens after a night Downtown and you'll be able to safely satisfy any craving: suggested items include the triple cheeseburger, the double grilled cheese sandwich, chicken fingers, fresh-cut fries with feta cheese dressing, and an old-fashioned milkshake. It's not known for its service, but where are you hurrying off to anyway?

Mary Caroline McCarthy/Five and Ten

Best place to go when someone else is paying: 5 & 10

1073 S Milledge Ave
Check out culinary legend Hugh Acheson’s flagship restaurant for the finest dining in the Classic City. This sophisticated menu is filled with well-seasoned stews, short ribs, and seafood dishes that are nothing short of mind-blowing. It’s a bit on the pricier side, so come with an empty stomach... and someone else’s wallet.

Ike & Jane

Best bakery: Ike & Jane Cafe and Bakery

1307 Prince Ave
A little place on Prince, Ike & Jane is like your grandma’s house away from home, and has all the gourmet, home-baked goods you’ve been missing since you went away for school. Here, you’ll find cereal-coated donuts, holiday-themed cupcakes, banana breads, brownies, and more, all baked from scratch, and all available by custom order.

Courtesy of Trappeze Pub

Best drinks: Trappeze Pub

269 N Hull St
This laid-back gastropub not only carries craft beers from the best breweries in Georgia, but from everywhere else you'd imagine. Whether you’re an out-of-towner from Virginia, California, or Pennsylvania, Trappeze will likely have your beer of choice on tap. Its Belgian fries were voted best in Athens, and its bar food is top notch. And while said award-winning Belgian fries come with blue cheese, raspberry ketchup, or garlic aioli, we recommend getting all three.

The Grit

Best vegetarian: The Grit

199 Prince Ave
This vegetarian-friendly Athens stalwart prides itself on variety. Choose from noodle bowls, veggie plates, falafel platters, tofu dishes... you name it. A laid-back environment with enormous portions, The Grit has become the go-to for vegetarians, vegans, celiacs, and omnivores alike. Oh, and don’t forget to grab a slice of the Grasshopper Cake to-go on your way out.

Flickr/Robert Occhialini

Best outdoor spot: Taqueria del Sol

334 Prince Ave
This fast-casual restaurant is ideal for groups, and practically has your tacos delivered to your seat outside before you even sit down. Share the cheese dip, guacamole, salsa trio, and pitcher of margaritas with your crew, and enjoy the warm Georgia breeze from under the outdoor awning.

Courtesy of The World Famous

Best chicken and waffles: The World Famous

351 N Hull St
Nestled in historic Downtown Athens, this eccentric entertainment venue is home to local comedians, musicians, and friends. However, we don’t really care about that, as it’s also home to The world famous chicken and waffle club. It boasts crispy fried chicken sandwiched between two waffles doused in hot sauce, and served over a bed of fries. Supplement it with one of the signature craft cocktails -- like the Maui Wowie -- for the complete Athens experience.

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Amanda Satsky is a writer and marketing associate who lives in New York, but recently graduated from the University of Georgia, and already misses The Grill’s triple cheeseburgers. Follow her on Instagram @asatsky.

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1. The National 232 W Hancock Ave, Athens, GA 30601

Starting with the blue and white facade, the Mediterranean influence at The National is palpable and palatable, infused into its array of scrumptious tapas, salads, and grilled meats, and its bright and airy interior. The team here sources its ingredients from local farmers, so the menu changes regularly, but you're in for dishes like stuffed medjool dates, grilled pork chops with a pearl couscous salad, and, for dessert, a blackberry basque cake with roasted almond gelato.

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2. Last Resort Grill 174 W Clayton St, Athens, GA 30601

Last Resort Grill lives inside a former iconic music club, still maintaining a lively and vibrant ambience with its loyal fans and local art hung on the walls, plus the best contemporary Southern cuisine in Athens. Some must-try dishes? The fried green tomatoes and potato onion pancakes. If you're coming for brunch, try your best to get here before 10am on Sunday to avoid throngs of customers lining up for Last Resort's incredible Southern-style omelets.

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3. Mama's Boy 197 Oak St, Athens, GA 30601

Located on the Greenway, Mama's Boy is Athens' go-to brunch spot, serving its comforting Southern plates out of a bright, modern diner space. You should expect the line to be out the door on the weekends, hungry and loyal patrons lined up for poached eggs, cheesy grits, and potato hash. The stars of this cheery spot, though, are the fluffy, buttery biscuits. These homemade treats can be found in the luscious biscuits & gravy or tacked onto other breakfast specials. Make sure you try one of these bad boys no matter what.

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4. Pulaski Heights BBQ 675 Pulaski St, Athens, GA 30601

Inside this industrial space is the best BBQ you'll find in Athens. The slow-smoked pulled pork is a must-try (all the meats here are smoked daily) and should be ordered with a side of Pulaski's incredibly rich, from-scratch mac & cheese. Extinguish all that smoke with a glass of the homemade lemonade, too. Feeling Southern enough yet? We haven't even mentioned the sauce yet -- load up whatever you order with all the spicy vinegar you can handle.

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5. Rooftop of the Georgia Theatre 215 N Lumpkin St, Athens, GA 30601

The Georgia Theatre's rooftop restaurant has split personalities: during the day it's a chill lunch spot, but by night it takes after the theatre below it, morphing into a rowdy music venue that hosts a slew of indie acts. If you're grabbing a bite here, get ready for eats from The Branded Butcher kitchen, such as loaded burgers and chili cheese fries, which are devoured at high speed when SEC football fans gather here on game day. No matter when you stop by, you'll be treated to stunning views of Athens.

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6. The Porterhouse Grill 459 E Broad St, Athens, GA 30601

With two large dining areas and a full bar -- not to mention the juiciest filet mignon in town -- this refined yet casual Athens steakhouse often hosts events ranging from rehearsal dinners to wedding receptions to graduation dinners. The menu features a variety of cuts including the namesake porterhouse, New York strip, bone-in ribeye, and hanger. There are a handful of seafood dishes for the pescatarians among you, too, plus an extensive, mostly Californian wine list that's guaranteed to have the perfect partner to your plate.

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7. The Grill 171 College Ave, Athens, GA 30601

You can literally always count on The Grill for comforting diner classics -- because this vintage spot is open 24/7. It's the only retro diner in Athens, decked out in neon lights and black-and-white tile, and offers golden-brown goodness in the form of a triple cheeseburger, a double grilled cheese sandwich, chicken fingers, fresh-cut fries with feta cheese dressing, and an old-fashioned milkshake. The service isn't always reliable, but that's all part of the charm, right?

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8. 5 & 10 1073 S Milledge Ave, Athens, GA 30605

Owned by culinary legend Hugh Acheson, this sophisticated restaurant is serving upscale Southern dishes out of a gorgeous country home, complete with a wraparound porch that's perfect for a breezy Sunday brunch. The menu is filled with well-seasoned stews, short ribs, and seafood dishes plated with elegance, plus brunch items like shrimp & grits and a fried chicken biscuit. Perhaps the best part of 5 & 10 is its weekly specials, which have included both ramen and burger nights.

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9. Ike & Jane 1307 Prince Ave, Athens, GA 30606

This homey, petite cafe serves a focused menu of sandwiches, salads, and breakfast food, but it's the pastries -- freshly baked brownies, oatmeal bars, cupcakes, and inventive donuts -- that have Athenians returning time and time over. Simple breakfast sandwiches like the time-honored bacon, egg, and cheese combination prove even more delicious when served on one of Ike & Jane's homemade biscuits; if you're looking to get your sugar fix, look no further than one of their cereal-coated, strawberry-frosted donuts. A solid espresso bar means the Prince Ave outpost is a popular locale for students, so don't be surprised to find leagues of Macbook-obsessed folk working away at one of the quaint bistro tables with a cup of joe.

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10. Trappeze Pub 269 N Hull St, Athens, GA 30601

Serving nondenominational fare like steak frites, tofu-fried rice, jalapeño-lime hummus, and Belgian fries (served with your choice of blue cheese, raspberry ketchup, or garlic aioli), this bustling corner eatery is an Athens staple. Food offerings aside, the Trappeze Pub is a popular haunt for beer enthusiasts in particular: the extensive draft list focuses local and regional breweries, as well as imported European drafts. While it's predominantly a dinner spot, don't write off brunch -- the Trappist waffles and Double Pig burger are not to be missed.

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11. The Grit 199 Prince Ave, Athens, GA 30601

Serving a globally-inspired menu of simply good, healthy eats, The Grit is an Athens destination, beloved by vegetarians and omnivores alike for its diverse food offerings. From hummus to nachos, tofu Reubens to Seitan gyros, this rustic-chic diner is a veritable mecca of gluten-free, vegan, and health-conscious fare. If you're on lunch hour, make sure to grab a slice of their "Grasshopper" cake (dark chocolate cake with mint-green cream cheese frosting, speckled with chocolate chips); but if you're in no rush, feel free to post up with a glass of wine or pint of regional craft beer and enjoy the meal.

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12. Taqueria Del Sol 334 Prince Ave, Athens, GA 30601-2447

A Georgia staple, this regional mini-chain is a popular haunt for those looking to get their fix of Mexican comfort food like tacos, chili rellenos, enchiladas, and soups. The sheer speed of the kitchen at Taqueria Del Sol makes it a great lunch option (no kidding: it's a mere minutes between the time you ordered at the counter and take your seat at the table), and it's also a frequent locale for large groups of friends who come to share pitchers of margaritas and apps like the salsa sampler and queso.

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13. The World Famous 351 N Hull St, Athens, GA 30601

Not only does this brick-walled dive boast a regular lineup of popular indie musicians on the local and national scale, it's also home to the legendary sandwich to end all bar food: the chicken and waffle club. Nestled between two thick waffles is a piece of fried chicken (one that strikes the perfect balance between moist and crispy), generously topped with incendiary house-made hot sauce. It's what makes The World Famous famous, at least in greater Atlanta, although the rest of the menu is solid too (biscuits and Bloody Mary's at brunch? Don't mind if we do). Signature cocktails are served in Mason jars for optimum Instagram-ability; all of them are boozy, fruit-forward, and delicious, but we suggest you opt for the standout "Maui Wowie," made with white rum, Midori, pineapple, and cream.

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