Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Grazing...

So, Merideth Ford, one of the food critics from the AJC has decided to do a write up of several of the eateries in Athens in preparation for AthFest. While I don't disagree with her selections entirely, I do take some amount of umbrance with the fact that she just hit the most 'well-known' places, other than a blurb about Achim's.

Some of my personal favorites in town that she skipped entirely -

Siri Thai - In the Bottleworks on Prince. Brilliant Thai food, cheap. Go now.

Bischero - Also in the Bottleworks. Best Italian food for 70 miles or so. Authentic Northern Italian. Fantastic Paninis and Pizzas.

Speakeasy - Tapas bar where Gyland's used to be. Great place for a group to eat. Killer cocktails.

5 Star Day - Yeah, it's white-kids-soul-food, but it's good.

Anything else she, or I, missed? I'll say that while Hugh Acheson is a fine chef, $20-30 entrees aren't really the way to my heart...at least not in this town. And while I don't dislike the food at Last Resort, I'm really not a fan of either the service, or the management.

32 comments:

GP said...

It's not haute cuisine, but Cafe Cuba in Normaltown is great. Cuban and South American food at a good price. Also, you can get a fried egg put on almost anything on the menu.

Patrick Armstrong said...

Mmmm. Five Star....Achims....How I do miss Athens....

Y'all also have Hilltop Grille, which is a much needed shout out from me for being quite intimate with the Island City folk.

Though Barberritos has recently planted two locations in the Sur: one on Island City and one in The Wick.

Dante said...

My favrotie downtown eatery remains Little Italy. I work too far away from downtown now to eat lunch there 2 or 3 times per week like I used to, but they did put one in downtown Commerce recently and I've been making the wife eat there with me at least weekly.

Barberitos is good but kind of pricey and it does nothing for my weekly Mexican food craving. My wife gets mad that I'll eat lunch at Barberitos and then still want Mexican later in the week so I don't go there all that often anymore.

For the money, it's hard to beat Angelo's lunch special. I spend a little under $6 for lasagna, salad, bread, and a drink. And it's pretty darn good food.

I used to enjoy Gurthries (not exclusive to Athens but certainly an Athens institution back in its day); however, I'm not willing to make the drive to Danielsville just to eat there now.

Basil Press used to be good but then something happened. They certainly don't justify the price anymore.

Then there's the Wild Wing. Their wings are pretty good but their big selling point to me is the lunch buffet. All of the 6 types of wings, tater tots, and dressing you can eat.

Oh and who can forget Taco Stand? If you want bad food that's not cheap but not expensive, then the Taco Stand is for you.

Then there's the China Express buffet. By buffet they mean Picadiily as opposed to CiCi's. That's a letdown the first time you go there but rest assured that's not the only letdown you have in store. You'll get another one when you eat the food.

And just to say something inflammatory (even though I am being honest here), every time I sip a nice cup of Starbucks coffee downtown I remind myself how happy I am that Yudi's is gone.

Meredith said...

Ok, this may be a personal thing, but get the descriptions on Cecilia's cakes right! The coconut has a 7-minute, not a meringue . . . BIG difference.

Last Resort and Hilltop are my favorites as far as Sunday brunch. I personally recommend the stuffed french toast and crab cake benedict, respectively.

She also failed to mention the Bluebird Cafe. Mmmmm . . . biscuits
and apple butter . . . .

patsbrother said...

First, administrative stuff: if you ever get confused re: how to spell "umbrage", just think back to The Order of the Phoenix.

And what the heck is "the Sur"?

Now, to food.

Thank you gp. I have no idea who you are but I concur heartily that Cafe Cuba is great. Cuban sandwiches and fried plantain chips? Bring it on. The people at Cafe Cuba also happen to be perhaps the nicest in town.

Honorable mention goes to Cali n' Titos. Thankfully, I can now walk to a Cubano. Sadly, I was unable to divine whether they have fried plantian chips or not (or, if they do, whether they are the kind I like). They also raised their prices after only three days of business. Oh well. That's what you do when you are popular.

Things my people come into town for:

Thailan: the Grit's Golden Bowl, Weaver D's, and Five Star

Jane: the Five Star Benedict (brunch)

Tiffany, Rosemary, etc.: Inoko Express
(actually, they have people who come here bring it back to Atlanta for them; I find c/old Inoko's undesireable, but to each his own)

Now, in defense of Athens's service industry.

Just this past Saturday, at dinner time (just after 7 p.m.), five friends and I walked up to the Last Resort without a reservation, were seated immediately (let's say within a minute and a half), and were waited on propmtly.

Granted, I have not been to drastically many Atlanta eateries, but at none of them have I noticed any difference in the quality of the service. Ditto for St. Simons (with the marked exception of the River Grill at the Cloister). What the hell is that woman talking about? The indiginity of having to order at the counter at Weaver D's and Five Star? Go suck an egg. And if by 'dingy' you mean 'dirty', please come again: it may be a dive with low-lighting, but the walls are still gleaming tile, the kitchen is exposed and clean, and we at least know the wait staff must keep their piercings sanitary to avoid infection. If, however, the woman meant the bathroom specifically, on that I will concede.

The food of Athens is what led me to misery living in St Simons back in 2004. When I leave in 2008, please somebody cheer me up: I will likely be entering a long depression.

patsbrother said...

Addendum: That part about the dive refers to the Grill.

And how could I forget Bluebird? German pancakes? Salty tofu? (Generally I get conflicted when I am there because I want both despite their being uncomplimentary taste-wise.)

Also: I take great satisfaction at the Golden Dragon buffet. But I do miss Hunan's.

Also: Clocked's Great Meteor Burger. Is there better? (Hint: no.)

In Memorium: Aunt Bea's. May she be resurrected by the new owners.

Good riddance: Gandolfo's. Though my friend Kane loved it, you were always an overpriced let down.

And finally: the I Spit on Your Grave Award goes to Ru San's. I only go if that's the only way I'll see my brother.

Meredith said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Meredith said...

I have fond memories of Ru San's, mostly due to my friends Debbie & Tony and their never-ending order.

Anyway, I still love the generous portions of kalamata olives over at Transmet. If you can get a table out front, it's a great spot for an early evening drink.

Dante said...

I actually miss Gandolfo's. Their prices were at least reasonable and where else can you get a roast beef sandwich with cream cheese and greek peppers on it? Jimmy John's cleaned their clock though by undercutting the price significantly and providing sandwiches that aren't considered odd by most folks.

And while I'm thinking about it, that sandwich shop owned by Pollack on Baxter is both overpriced and of poor quality. I had a significant coupon when I went there and it was still expensive.

petallic said...

I'll throw in another vote for Cafe Cuba. Their cubano is outstanding, and the service is friendly enough to make you wish you weren't a crude American.

I'd like to also give a shout out for Jot 'Em Down, a barbecue place on Whitehall. At least I think it's Whitehall at that point, might still be Gaines School. Anywho, if you make a right at the Kroger on the Eastside, it's about a mile down in an old gas station (and by old, I mean WWII-ish, though could be older). I'm no barbecue expert, so I can't speak to that, but my friends who enjoy barbecue swear by it; I go for their Brunswick Stew, which is outstanding. I often stop there, grab some stew, and head home to make my own cornbread. Divine. But cash only, so have your green in hand.

S.A.W.B. said...

Petallic - two things -

One, Jot-em-down is a turn of the century-era store that has been renovated to some degree. Two, they now accept Visa and MC.

PB - only you could turn a conversation about food into a reason to slander my spelling. That said, you REALLY need to get out more. Go hit one of the Buckhead Life Group restaurants, and then compare the level of service you get there to something here that's not named Five and Ten.

I can't believe I forgot Cafe Cuba, but then, last I'd heard, they were on the brink of closing.

The Grill is dingy. The tables and chairs are old, there are some obvious signs of wear, and the overall vibe of the place is that of a grub-hut. That, however, does not equal dirty. That prize goes to Chang's, next door.

The Basil Press has had unholy turnover in their entire staff. I'll be happy to give you the whole story in another venue.

I love Clocked, but I hate the service, or absolute lack thereof. I also hate the waitstaff's complete and utter unwillingness to SPLIT A DAMNED CHECK.

If the Grit burned to the ground tomorrow, I probably wouldn't go by to pee on the ashes.

oh, and, PB, if I ever hear the words "I like", "Utage", and "Better" come out of your mouth when talking about sushi in this town, be prepared for a severe case of foot-in-assedness.

petallic said...

Thank you for the corrections, SAWB. Duly noted. WWII seemed too late, but my knowledge of early 20th century gas station architecture is limited, I must say.

Dante said...

"One, Jot-em-down is a turn of the century-era store that has been renovated to some degree."

They already had to renovate a 5 year old building? No wonder it looks so old. :)

S.A.W.B. said...

How quickly I forget that we've already turned a century in my lifetime.

Turn of the 20th Century Era Building as a correction...

Laddi said...

Personal faves:
Gyro Wrap - yeah, it's a dingy dive but their Tzatziki sauce is darn excellent. Relatively inexpensive too.

Bischero - especially for brunch. Can't go wrong. We've picked up a few good ideas from their items to use at home. Often simple, but darn tasty.

Agua Linda - Best and most authentic pork chops ever. EVER. Like abuela used to make them. Serious. And my grandma can COOK. The burritos are good, too.

Little Italy is the best bargain in town if you want better-than-fast-food pizza or a pretty good, BIG sub for cheap.

I'm not a big fan of Southern eatin's so take it on that measure that Peaches on Broad is good. I'd go again and let me repeat I'm not at all a big fan of southern cuisine.

Trasmet if for nothing else, the potato soup.

I have to say the Grit's brunch is overrated. Otherwise, the Grit is good, though I never go out of my way to go. But their Loaded Nachos are the example for all who love 2000-calorie nacho-salad type food. So good.

Not near downtown but still good:
Chef Ming's (Kroger/HomeDepot shopping center) (lunch) - hidden gem with tasty egg drop soup. Never been disappointed, and surprisingly it always has tables open (and no, their scorecard is not of a "Jamaica Mi Crazy" 60/80 score)

Speaking of: two places to which I say "Hope the door didn't hit ya" are Jamaica Mi Crazy (don't care how good the food is, consistent 60-70 scores means bad things) and Gandolfo's (overpriced for "just okay" subs)

And though I'm not sure they're still around Jigsy's is terrible. Jigsy's problem is/was they try to hock cheap food as quality. When you're first thought is "why does this pizza taste like a quesadilla... ..with american cheese", that's not good. Especially when you're trying to say you use the good old "special blend of cheeses" and not mozzarella. We had a free slice coupon and still came out with a steep ticket and not so great food. Definitely not worth the price or time.


patsbrother: You probably know plantain chips (sometimes called platanutres) come unsweet (platanos tostones) or sweet (platanos maduros or maduritos). If you ask for platanos maduros, you're getting the sticky sweet chips; whereas platanos tostones are the plain or salty varieties. Caliente Cab served the tostones variety, whereas I prefer a bit more salt on mine and definitely not the platanos maduros. For you culinary types, the big difference is the ripeness of your plantain. For the plain, unsweet type, you must cook while the plantain is green (GREEN!!!), and for the sweeter variety, get the plantain to black (when it's at its sweetest inside) or near black. That's the only difference. If you're interested, these Cuban guys know what they're talking about.

petallic said...

Thanks, laddi, for the plantain lesson. It's my fault PB didn't get to try the tostones. I was so sure it was the maduros we wanted; alas, I was wrong, so I wound up eating the maduros mostly by myself. Since he lives within walking distance now, I'm sure he'll let us know if the tostones at Cali 'n Titos measure up to the ones at Cafe Cuba, which they call "mariquitas."

Dante said...

I think we've covered about every local (and some non-local) eatery in the Athens area worth mentioning. Here are some of the chain restaurants I'm happy with in Athens:

Logan's - We eat there A LOT. I've dubbed it "The Flaming Hunk of Flesh." (This name was given to compliment the other great meatery Fuddruckers which was dubbed "The Flaming Pile of Flesh." Sadly, we don't have a Pile in the Athens area.) Anywhere where I can get steak and mashed potatoes is great IMHO. Then again, anywhere where I can get mashed potatoes is great IMHO. And I can get out of there for $10 per person if I'm trying.

Olive Garden - I don't really care what real Italian is supposed to taste like. I like the food at Olive Garden and that's good enough for me. My only gripe is that they don't have veal anymore. I will say though that I'd never have set foot in the Olive Garden in Athens if Provino's were still in business here.

Stevie B's - What if Cici's had decent pizza? That's what Stevie B's is all about. $4 and some change for a nice decent pizza buffet and water. Just watch out for their crazy pizzas like mac and cheese or taco pizza.

Schlotski's - Our Schlotski's is second only to the one in Rowsell, GA. Now keep in mind that I'm thinking circa-1992 Roswell so that one has probably gone in the crapper by now, leaving the one in Athens at #1. Not in speed. Just in food quality.

The McDonald's and Wendys by Lowe's and Wal-Mart - There are a million McDonalds and Wendys in town and most are terrible. These are at least decent.

patsbrother said...

SAWB: the Buckhead Life Group sounds like an insurance firm: what is it really?

Also, I might have inserted something about differences of opinions and other mundane crap, but then I realized it was tripe like that that made the league posts so interminably boring.

And so, though I like Utage (if not its price), you will not hear the words you are so loathe to hear come from me. But only because statements such as "I like ice cream more than a swift kick in the nuts", "I like spending time with friends more than spending it with roadkill", and "I like Utage better than Ru San's" are wholly unnecessary and go without saying.

S.A.W.B. said...

Ask, and ye shall recieve:

Buckhead Life Group

I'm particularly particular towards Bluepointe...

hillary said...

I think we've covered about every local (and some non-local) eatery in the Athens area worth mentioning.

Not in the slightest. For one thing, y'all haven't mentioned any of the real Mexican restaurants in town, like Taqueria Mi Tierra. Or the two Salvadorean places.

What about JB (sausage JB, not ribs JB)?

I miss Jamaica Mi Crazy a lot.

Also, Cali N Tito's has both sweet and savory plantains.

Dante said...

Hillary, I think you missed the "worth mentioning" part.

Patrick Armstrong said...

Wow, I guess this is what happens when you live in a town that serves more than fried shrimp.

I don't know if anyone has mentioned Zimm's yet. That is a serious favorite of mine.

But I'm also old school. I lament the loss of Yudy's - the dirtiest little cafe with the best sammiches. Not much beat the Bailey's Irish Cream dessert they served at the old Burntstone Brewhouse, and the rest of the menu was quite tasty for some time - though Copper Creek tried to be a close copy, they never recaptured the glorious years. And T-Bonz steak rocked the casbah for two years before the ownership turned over.

Meredith said...

Zim's has always been a favorite with the ladies at my family's church.

I'm surprised that Porterhouse has yet to have had a nod, or did I miss that? Charlie Williams was fun back when we used to go to the old mill location.

Oh, and as I get a front row seat, the new Mellow Mushroom location looks to be moving along nicely. The crews were gutting the old Compadres space only last week. (assuming it's still MM moving in) Compadres was another favorite in its early days.

Laddi said...

My brother loved Yudi's. 5 small phillies for $5? Crazy.

Another place with okay bbq, but damn tasty banana pudding: The Barbeque Shack near eastside WalMart.

Fast food chains: Bono's has pretty good bbq.

who here can make a good bbq listing, though? In the 10 years I've been here, I've never ventured into the wilderness of Athens BBQ.

petallic said...

Oh T-Bonz, how do I miss thee? How can you go wrong with a steak salad? It's steak, and it's a salad. Beautiful.

I also miss Rocky's Pizza. Decent pizza, nice Athens atmosphere.

Taqueria Mi Tierra? Is that the one over by the new trendy bowling alley? It's decent, though they served a vegan friend of mine cheese after we said no cheese in two languages. It's a little too big and family-oriented for me; I sort of feel like I'm at the Sizzler.

I miss the old Compadres downtown. Other friends of mine hated it, but I thought it was amazing. We had our faculty Christmas dinner there once, and I thought I'd died and gone to buffet heaven.

As far as chains go, I also enjoy Johnny Carino's. I like the food better than standard Olive Garden fare, plus they have private booths for romantic dinners, though the noise level in that place does get a bit out of hand.

Ten long years ago, there was a great barbecue place between the Pepsi Plant and Bogart called Peanut's Barbecue. Peanut was a patient of my boss's (the only doctor in Bogart), and we would barter for medical care if the person didn't have insurance, so we had a lot of good barbecue from that place. Unfortunately, his health was failing so he sold; I have no idea if the place is any good since. It's been ten years, and just the memory of that place still makes me smile.

Meredith said...

Fresh Air BBQ out Hwy 72, and Rass 'n Ruby's - just past Athens Tech are good.

GP said...

Fresh air barbecue is OK, but it's hard to find really good BBQ in Athens. There is a BBQ place on hwy 98 close to Sandy Creek golf course in Commerce that's fantastic. I think it's called Big Oak BBQ and the brunswick stew is the best around.

hillary said...

Nope. You're talking about Taqueria La Parrilla, which has slipped in the authenticity department. Mi Tierra is next to the Waffle House on Oconee Street near downtown. Salsa bar, yo.

Good bbq in the Athens area: Jot 'Em Down (as mentioned), Rooster's (I like the wings best). Paul's, in Lexington, is the best until you hit Lawrenceville, but only open Saturdays for lunch. And the 4th of July. Unless it's on a Sunday.

Dante said...

"You're talking about Taqueria La Parrilla, which has slipped in the authenticity department. "

How exactly do you slip in the authenticity department? Just curious becasue one thing I've noticed with Mexican food is that everyone has their own idea of how it's supposed to be and "authentic" tends to depend very much on the eye of the beholder. Is there something about the food that makes one cook's dish "authentic" while the other one is not? Did somebody use a chili sauce while the entire nation of Mexico (as far as you know) uses a sour cream sauce)? Maybe it's the atmosphere. Is there a certain number of sombreros that have to be hung up on the wall for the restaurant to be authentic? Maybe they took one down so now they're not as authentic as they used to be? Maybe it's a racial thing. Did you catch a Chinaman trying to take someone's order instead of a proper Mexican? I'm just curious because I keep hearing that word "authentic" and most of the time I don't think it means what the person saying it thinks it means. Even folks who have been to a country and have enjoyed its food tend to confuse "authentic" with "authentic based on the region of the country I visited."

S.A.W.B. said...

ah, I see we've morphed into a 'Cue discussion.

My favorites:

Jot 'em Down - it helps that they're around the corner.

Holcomb's - the one in Greene county is ok, the one down in Hancock county is where it's at. Sawdust floor, white bread on the table. Best. Damn. Stew. EVAR.

Old McDonald's BBQ - Buford, GA. Fan-damn-tastic. Go. Tomorrow.

Paul's BBQ - Lexington, GA. It's legendary, that's why you don't hear of it. Only open Saturdays, and the 4th of July, except when the 4th hits a Sunday.

And now, two places where I have a personal connection -

Hometown Barbecue - Lawrenceville - Run by the parents of a friend of mine, this is some of the finest 'cue in the state. go early and often. AJC Review

Jimmy's Smokehouse Barbecue - Snellville - Jimmy Lee Stokes, the proprietor of this shack, is as close to being family as he can be, without being a blood relative. Jimmy's mother worked for my family for 50+ years. My family sat on the front pew with her family at her funeral.

Jimmy serves quite possibly the best ribs and pork I've ever had the pleasure to inhale in my short life. Brilliant, subtle smokiness throughout, fall off the bone tender, leaving nothing hanging on the bone for you to have to knaw at. However, I still reccommend you knaw the rib bones at least a little bit, as they do hold the bits of flavor that keep you coming back. His sauces are out of this world. Try the Tangy-Wang. It's unreal.

Open Fridays 3-9, Saturdays 11-9. Cash Only. 3021 Scenic Hwy (Ga 124)
Snellville, GA 30039. look for the trailer and smoker by the side of the road, get your 'cue, and sit on the hood of your car and eat as god intended.

petallic said...

SAWB, thanks for mentioning Holcomb's. I taught at Greene-Taliaferro High School and didn't want to mention it for fear I was just being biased 'cause I taught the Holcomb crew.

Holcomb's is decent, though not excellent.

Hillary, thanks for the clarification.

hillary said...

How exactly do you slip in the authenticity department?

Um, your salsa begins to taste like it comes out of a can? Your food starts to taste considerably blander after you move into a larger new location? You take the goat tacos off the menu?

Also, I concur on Hometown BBQ. They're my favorite. Ever.