What happens when you mix one of America’s best college towns, proximity to a plethora of local farms, and a city of delightful people?
Well, you get a fantastic restaurant scene of well-priced, healthy, local foods that are to die for. So, whether you’re a brunch and coffee connoisseur or can always be found at the local pub, we have quite a few brilliant selections for you. So, we hope you’re hungry because this southern town in northern Georgia knows how to cook. Strap in for our list of the eight best restaurants in Athens right now.
1. Mama’s Boy
Credit: Mama's Boy / Facebook
A stellar southern brunch destination is not complete without exceptional coffee, farm fresh eggs, and an out of this world biscuits and gravy dish. That’s exactly what Mama’s Boy delivers. This local spot is always busy, just one simple sign of how beloved it is by all who are nearby. Don’t worry about the crowds taking a toll on service here, either. The wait staff is exceptional, attentive, and will happily offer a suggestion if you’re having trouble deciding between one fantastic dish and another.
This being said, there are a few favorites that are time-honored traditions by many Athenians. The Salmon Cakes Benedict, in particular, is perhaps the most beloved. It comes with two house-made fresh Atlantic salmon cakes topped with poached eggs, capers, and a chive hollandaise. Scarf that down with the accompanying spring greens and biscuit and you’re good to go. If that’s not your style, you can always try out the pulled pork and potato hash or chocolate cake for breakfast (yes, you read that right). So, whatever it is you’re looking for, Mama’s Boy has to be at the top of our list of the best restaurants in Athens.
2. The Grit
Credit: The Grit / Facebook
This next best restaurant in Athens is good for the body and the soul. The Grit has been around for quite some time, although it may have taken everyone a little while to warm up to its rough appearing exterior. Don’t let the label ‘vegetarian fare’ keep you out, either. The Grit is renowned for the exceptional, generous, wholesome, and bold flavors they put into every single dish they serve. So, whether you’re a die-hard meat eater, a careful celiac, or a life-long vegetarian, The Grit is for you.
If this spot has drawn your eye on our list of the best restaurants in Athens, then let’s point out a few favorite dishes for you. The falafel is spectacular, but not to be overshadowed by their house-made Bahn Mi or Seitan Gyro sandwich. With a myriad of sandwiches, salads, veggie plates, and platters to choose from, you’ll easily find more than one thing you’ll want to order. But, make sure to top off your meal with something from their extensive collection of daily desserts. You won’t be disappointed.
3. Donna Chang’s
Credit: Donna Chang's / Facebook
Every city needs a Donna Chang’s. It’s the spot where you can bring a date, your family, or your friends, and truly relax and enjoy a meal. Through their unassuming atmosphere and family-style delivery, Donna Chang’s will quickly make their way into your heart. Using only fresh and local produce and meats, they have put together a menu of small, medium, and large dishes for you to choose from to share. The well-curated wine and beer list can easily be tasted and discussed with the incredibly knowledgeable staff as well, which we love. Lastly, their myriad of homemade ice creams and sorbets are simply delectable, so make sure to stop by, even if it is only for dessert. All in all, Donna Chang’s delivers the atmosphere, presentation, and freshness you need in any of the best restaurants in Athens.
4. LRG Provisions
Credit: LRG Provisions / Facebook
The best-hidden gems are filled with hand-crafted cocktails, servers who have exceptional attention to detail, and fresh food prepared with love and care. That’s exactly what LRG Provisions brings to our list of the best restaurants in Athens. On Tuesday evenings, you can jump in on LRG’s Meat and Three. The menu is different every week, but it always has your choice of a few spectacular carnivorous dishes with three side options. The best part? It’s only fourteen dollars for the meal. Any other day of the week, you’ll have access to the wide options on their menu. It varies from Steak Frites, Oysters, or Fried Eggplant to Fried Green Tomatoes or Shrimp and Grits.
On top of all of that, the extensive wine, beer, and liquor menus are spectacular. From the Hemmingway to wine by the carafe, there’s a wide selection here. We didn’t even begin to hit on Sunday Brunch but promise us, it’s just as good sounding as the rest. So, all in all, LRG Provisions should easily be on your list of best restaurants in Athens as the hip and fresh spot with a great drink selection.
Credit: Heirloom Cafe & Fresh Market / Facebook
The name of this next best restaurant in Athens simply resonates with the warmth, love, community, and story that Athens stands for. The Heirloom Cafe is dedicated to “Creating Community, Celebrating Local Farmers, and Telling a Story Through Food.” We couldn’t be happier about their mission, either, because it has brought about this spectacular gem. As you can guess from their motto, the menu will change often based on the availability at the farms with what is in season. But, for a taste of the glory you could experience, imagine the Georgia Peach Salad. It comes with peaches, spring greens, radish, jalapeño, crushed pecans, and a cotija buttermilk dressing, for less than ten dollars.
Greenery not as much your style? Their grass-fed burger will deliver with its Tillamook cheddar, Creature Comforts Athena mustard, garlic chili mayo, Vidalia relish, shredded iceberg, and Luna bun. Don’t forget to grab a dessert to top off the meal, either. Between the homemade ice cream sandwiches and delectable caramel cakes, you can’t go wrong. So, for an experience where you truly feel the care that the owners and chef pour into the food, head to Heirloom. It’s casual but downright scrumptious and innovative menu made it a must-have for our list of the best restaurants in Athens.
6. Viva Argentine!
Credit: Viva! Argentine / Facebook
Homemade, authentic, mouth-watering options for young and old can be found at this Argentine fusion restaurant in Athens. Created by Gaby and Jesse Lindsey in 2011, Viva Argentine! delivers daily hand rolled empanadas, Lomo con Papa Fritas, and Pastel del Papa, a mouthwatering Argentine Shepherd’s Pie. If those don’t each sound spectacular in their own right, well, maybe authentic Argentinian food isn’t your thing. Inspired by Gaby’s mother who is from Buenos Aires, each dish has been passed down through this family for generations. So, stop in to experience anything from chimi cheese fries to homemade Argentian sausage made from local pork. Whatever you’re hoping for from this South American spot, they will deliver. So, put Viva Argentine! on your list of the best restaurants in Athens this year, and most likely for many years to come.
Credit: Cali-N-Titos / Facebook
We’ll tell you up front, this next spot on our list of the best restaurants in Athens is cash only, so you’ve been warned. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s tell you why Cali-N-Titos is so revered by Athens locals. First off, you’re allowed to BYOB for a two dollar fee, which is pretty spectacular these days. If that isn’t enough to get you here, let’s walk through the Latin American menu. The quesadillas and fish tacos are well loved, but customers truly rave about the authentic sauces and empanadas here. From a variety of grilled chicken, burritos, beans, and rice, there is an expansive amount of options to easily mix and match. On top of that, the portions are large and prices are small.
So, from the broke college student to the family trying to feed all the little mouths, this is a great spot. But, don’t let that hold you back, as everyone is welcome at this unique little spot. So, while it’s not a Michelin-starred destination, this local eatery earned its spot for its uncompromised food and having the best bang for your buck.
8. The Pine
Credit: The Pine / Facebook
For the upscale dining choice on our list of the best restaurants in Athens, Georgia, check out The Pine. Centered around their wood-burning oven, the pine uses subtle flavors and classic southern cuisine to establish themselves well in the foodie scene here. Their menu and atmosphere celebrate local artists and farmers, using seasonal items and tasteful Athens decor. While the portions won’t be overwhelming here, that is made up for in the attention to detail and ingredients. The hand-rolled pasta is unparalleled in the city, while herb-seared salmon is simply a stunning dish. The flatbreads come cooked fresh from their wood-burning oven, so make sure someone at your table grabs one of those to taste.
For lunch, there is lighter fare, such as burgers and sandwiches, but you’ll still be pleased. Finally, Athenians love their brunch, and The Pine understands that. From the freshly baked biscuits and gravy to their signature cocktails, this is a fantastic spot to hang out with friends. So, if you’re looking for a little more refinement in your palate while perusing our list of the best restaurants in Athens, a trip to The Pine will be well worth it.
Overall, the best restaurants in Athens are rich with local, fresh, and incredibly well-priced dishes that will, without fail, bring a smile to your face.
If you haven’t visited this small city outside of Atlanta, you’re truly missing out. While they might be just a little fired up about their hometown team, it’s for good reason. Because of their University of Georgia’s fantastic prevalence here, this town has thrived into a delightful small city rich in antebellum architecture and, of course, delectable southern food. So, make a trip to Athens a part of your winter plans; it will be more than worth it.
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