You know, I don’t love writing listicles. I think they’re kind of lowest common denominator of what passes for journalism now. Which is why it’s kind of bittersweet knowing that I’m actually pretty good at writing listicles. I have a lot of practice writing short and punchy. And honestly, it’s fun to do. So I wrote this one for Eater Atlanta about where to eat in Athens, Ga.
WHITE TIGER GOURMET
This homey barbecue joint in the Boulevard district feels like going to a friend’s place for a cookout— right down to the side yard full of picnic tables and the frolicking dogs and children of fellow diners. The ‘que is a perfect mix of crispy-soft bun and pulled pork with its blackened end bits, and the veggie sides like grilled collards are no slouch, either.
PULASKI HEIGHTS BBQ
Pulaski Heights, run by former 5&10 chef/partner Chuck Ramsey, eschews Southern barbecue’s big-n-sloppy tradition in favor of more neatly presented creations. But don’t let that fool you— the fantastic ribs, redneck reuben (bacon, collards, pimento cheese, and ranch), and array of zippy sides require wet-naps aplenty, just as God intended.
JUST PHO…AND MORE
From the silly name to the admonitions from the ever-present owners to clean your plate and the occasional inexplicably long wait times, this place is an oddball gem. Notably fresh ingredients and rich, flavorful stocks make Just Pho worth repeated visits.
Mimi Maumus’s supper-club-cum-lunch-joint puts other local down-home cookin’ to shame. The menu is limited, but everything on it— from the pickled deviled eggs to the smack-your-momma good lacquered pork belly sandwich— is near perfect.
FIVE & TEN
Chef Jason Zygmont recently took the reins atHugh Acheson’s flagship restaurant, and his thoughtful ambition is readily apparent. Combining Acheson’s commitment to simple, local food with haute technique picked up at Noma and Per Se, Zygmont is producing plates unlike any other chef in town.
CINCO Y DIEZ
The newest addition to Hugh Acheson’s coterie of chefs is Whitney Otawka, formerly of Farm 255, now putting her rustic, comfort food spin on traditional Mexican dishes. The menu features a variety of ceviches, tacos (fried oyster, braised lamb neck), and a welcome emphasis on vegetables.
THE OLD PAL
Matt McFerron and Daniel Ray’s cozy, Crescent City-inspired neighborhood bar is a Normaltown favorite. Located outside downtown, it’s a dog-friendly haven catering to a laid-back professional/mature service industry crowd and specializing in craft cocktails.
One of Southern Living’s “Best Bars in the South,”Normal Bar was a trailblazer of the burgeoning Prince Avenue bar scene. Essentially the Cheers of Athens, it’s the sort of place you know you can always run into a friend for an after-work beer around the outdoor fire pit or on their sunny patio in summer.
An offshoot of the long-standing Luna Baking Co.,Ideal Bagel is the South’s answer to a Yankee deli. Try the pecan-smoked salmon or Georgia trout bagel for breakfast or one of their perfectly proportioned deli sandwiches for lunch. Wash it down with a cup of Counter Culture coffee and take some Luna bread for the road.
There’s plenty of good Mexican food to be had in Athens, and Los Amigos is a hidden jewel. Located in a grocery behind a chicken plant, it does require a smelly walk from the car to the front door. But the selection of simple, delicious tacos— the tender lengua is outstanding— is worth it.
CALI N TITO’S
A meal at Cali-n-Tito’s feels like a party. There’s always boisterous Spanish-language music being piped from speakers onto their roomy patio, where you can dine at a picnic table next to a cage full of parrots or — why not? — in a boat. There’s plenty to choose from on the menu, but why folks order anything other than the excellent Cuban sandwich is a mystery.
INDEPENDENT BAKING CO
If you yearn to breakfast truly continental style— with a croissant and a modestly portioned cappuccino— Independent is a godsend. To start your day there, surrounded by the bounty of their fresh, fragrant, delicious breads, is to set yourself up for success.
Rounding out the trio of Hugh Acheson’s Athens businesses is The National, helmed by Peter Dale. The menu has a Mediterranean bent, which is reflected both in the cooking style and the emphasis on small plates, offering a chance to try lots without going broke.
SIRI THAI CUISINE
Of the handful of Thai restaurants in Athens, Siri Thai is easily the favorite. The menu is what you’d typically expect— curries, various fried apps and flavorful soups— but the real standout is the crispy duck, available with a variety of different sauces and perfectly cooked every time.