A much loved vegetarian and vegan restaurant is shutting its doors after 36 years in Athens next month, when the Grit closes on October 7.
An announcement posted to Facebook Thursday afternoon indicates continuing struggles stemming from the pandemic were making it difficult to keep the restaurant afloat.
“Our first concern is for the employees,” longtime general manager Jay Totty tells the Athens Banner-Herald. “We love Athens and we love the community, so it’s sad that we won’t be able to continue to serve in that capacity.”
For many Athens residents, University of Georgia alumni, and local musicians, the Grit represents more in their lives than just a restaurant with good food, which is clear from the hundreds of comments left on the Facebook post since the closure announcement first appeared on Thursday.
Comments range from memories of eating with friends after class at UGA and celebratory meals to favorite dishes and people now coveting the restaurant’s cookbook “The Grit Cookbook: World-Wise, Down-Home Recipes”, written by former owners Jessica Greene and the late Ted Hafer, published in 2001.
For some, their introduction to tofu, hummus, and a broader range of vegetarian and vegan foods happened at the Grit, giving the restaurant crossover appeal in Athens. This includes serving sandwiches like the grilled tofu Reuben on rye and a falafel pita stuffed with hummus and vegetables tossed in tzatziki dressing. The Golden Bowl garnered several mentions in the comments. The dish features tofu cubes sauteed in soy sauce and nutritional yeast served over brown rice with the option to add cheese and vegetables.
“Y’all taught this rural GA girl how to like nutritional yeast,” one commenter says on the post.
Calls for creating a co-op ownership group or handing ownership of the restaurant over to its employee are among the suggestions to keep the doors open at the Grit.
R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, who was born in Decatur, Georgia, once owned the building in which the Grit resides. Stipe met the other members of the band, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Bill Berry, while attending UGA. According to the Athens Banner-Herald, the building is currently owned by Prince and Hill Properties, LLC.