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Where to Eat Right Now in Athens, GA

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Ready for a weekend trip? Contributor Rachel Bailey, an Athens-based writer and server, rounds up some of the best dining in the Classic City. If you've got another favorite, do leave it in the comments.
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Atlanta has long been a pioneering food city in the South, replete with great eats of all stripes, so it's easy to forget that there are gems outside of the perimeter. Just up 316, Athens has been having a food renaissance of its own, led by that unibrowed wit, Hugh Acheson. Whether you're looking for white tablecloths or a hole in the wall, we've got plenty of reasons to make the drive to the Classic City.
Rachel Bailey

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

White Tiger Gourmet

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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. [Photo]

Pulaski Heights BBQ

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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. [Photo]

Just Pho...and More

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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. [Photo]

Home.made

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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

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Chef Jason Zygmont recently took the reins at Hugh 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

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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

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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. [Photo]

Normal Bar

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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.

Ideal Bagel

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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.

Kelly's Jamaican Foods

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Kelly’s Jamaican jerk chicken and pork are not for the faint of heart, but if you can stand the heat, it’ll make you a devotee. The portions are enormous, everything is positively packed with flavor and the enamel-stripping sweet tea helps cool you down. [Photo: This Mama Cooks]

The Branded Butcher

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Chef Matthew Palmerlee has truly created a hog heaven in The Branded Butcher. There, locally sourced meats are transformed into an impressive selection of charcuterie, without shirking a commitment to veggies and lighter fare. And their half-price oyster happy hour is a steal.

Ike & Jane

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A great family spot where you’re wont to find dads munching biscuits alongside daughters out to breakfast in a favorite princess dress, just because, Ike & Jane specializes in donuts both classic and unexpected. Try the Elvis with peanut butter, banana, and bacon, or go for one of their simple sandwiches.

Manhattan Cafe/The World Famous

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Both downtown mainstays with devoted clienteles, Manhattan Cafe and The World Famous’s status as neighbors has merged them into one entity in the minds of many locals. Bouncing between Manhattan’s bizarro dive vibe and World Famous’s hip cocktails and killer late-night bar food, you get the best of both sides of Athens. [Photo]

Clocked

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Clocked, with its lighthearted devotion to decadent milkshakes and classic monster movies, is a favorite of college kids and townies alike. The diner specializes in burgers, which you can get adorned with grilled veggies or crowned with onion rings, and offer abundant baskets of sides like tater tots and sweet potato fries. [Photo]

Los Amigos

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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. [Photo]

Cali N Tito's

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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. [Photo]

Independent Baking Co

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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.

The National

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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

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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. [Photo]

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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. [Photo]

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. [Photo]

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. [Photo]

Home.made

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 at Hugh 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. [Photo]

Normal Bar

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.

Ideal Bagel

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.

Kelly's Jamaican Foods

Kelly’s Jamaican jerk chicken and pork are not for the faint of heart, but if you can stand the heat, it’ll make you a devotee. The portions are enormous, everything is positively packed with flavor and the enamel-stripping sweet tea helps cool you down. [Photo: This Mama Cooks]

The Branded Butcher

Chef Matthew Palmerlee has truly created a hog heaven in The Branded Butcher. There, locally sourced meats are transformed into an impressive selection of charcuterie, without shirking a commitment to veggies and lighter fare. And their half-price oyster happy hour is a steal.

Ike & Jane