The savory smells coming from Union Street

Walk a little ways down Union Street and you’ll start to catch a whiff of some of the deep-fried deliciousness coming from one of Athens’ finest diners. Conveniently open 24 hours a day, the Union Street Diner is the perfect place to grab a quick bite in the morning before class or at night on the way home from the bars.

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Looking in from outside Union Street Diner.

With a menu that reflects their hours of operation, you can get a wide variety of food—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—and a lot of it, for prices that won’t break the bank. I first discovered USD my freshman year on a list of places all Bobcats need to go to before they graduate. I’d seen the small diner on Court Street that has a classic, old-fashioned diner look to it. So upon first arriving at USD, I was a little disappointed by the atmosphere it provided; though my thoughts soon changed.

Nestled back in one of the corner booths of USD, I opened the menu and was in immediately immersed into food heaven. There is not one thing on the menu that I wouldn’t eat. Though, I usually stick to my regular meal when I eat there – deep-fried pickles and mac & cheese bites. Having gone so regularly with my friends, I’ve got to know a little more about the servers and how the business runs.

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The inside of Union Street Diner.

One of the things I love best about USD is that they partner with other local businesses. Selling sandwiches often comes with the business of a diner, and rather than buy bread from a large distributor, USD purchases locally from Jackie O’s. Thus, giving the customer a more unique taste of what Athens has to offer.

My little sister at OU Sibs Weekend.
My little sister at OU Sibs Weekend.

Whenever friends and family come to campus, I always suggest eating at USD. It’s become one of my younger sister’s favorite places to go when she comes for Sibs Weekend. And it will forever be my favorite place to eat in Athens. Even after graduation, I will continue to come back for a meal at Union Street Diner and reminisce about of all the fond memories I have made there.

Last bar on the left: Broney’s offers good deals and room to breath

You ever go out with your friends on a Friday or Saturday night and cram into a tiny bar? Trust me, I’ve been there.

If you just walk a little farther down Court Street, you can find a hidden gem that somehow gets overlooked as students frolic to the bars and pubs on weekends.

Broney’s sits at the very end of the one-way street, just to the left of the stoplight that overlooks the most popular brick road in Athens, Ohio.

Established in 2006 as an alumni bar, Broney’s is everything you can ask for in a hangout spot. A larger venue, offering patrons a spacious environment where they can walk without the worry of bumping into someone.

A 2011 critique called Broney’s, “a step above the average college dive bar.” When you do make the comparison for yourself, it’s clear to see the accuracy behind the review.

Unlike many of the bars on the Athens main strip, Broney’s offers a nice outdoor patio. On the inside, there are plenty of tables and booths that make for a comfortable visit.

Established in 2006, Broney's offers weekly deals that are affordable, even for college students. (Photo: Shelby Dermer)
Established in 2006, Broney’s offers weekly deals that are affordable, even for college students. (Photo: Shelby Dermer)

The critique went on to mention that Broney’s is one of the few bars in Athens that offers healthier options, too.

What Broney’s has done with their deals is cater to the younger college customers that don’t have as much money to spend on their dining experience.

During the week, Broney’s serves up multiple affordable food and drink specials.

See for yourself:

  • Monday: 50 cent wings, $5 domestic pitchers
  • Tuesday: $5 quesadillas, $3 well margaritas
  • Wednesday: $5 burgers, $1.50 domestic bottles
  • Thursday: $6 game changer, $2 Blue Moon and Fat Tire
  • Sunday: $1.50 domestics

So the next time you’re out letting loose, don’t bother waiting in a long line at Pawpurr’s or Pigskin. Walk a little farther (burn a few more calories to earn that extra beer) and check out Broney’s.

A place where you can actually stand (or sit) comfortable, enjoy a few drinks (try a champagne slush), and enjoy your new favorite bar in Athens.

 

 

 

 

Peden Stadium is old, crumbling and my favorite place on campus.

Peden Stadium is not the prettiest site on campus by any means.

Aesthetically, it’s underwhelming. Inside, it’s quite barren. And on the outside, it’s literally falling apart.

With all of it’s apparent faults, Peden is still my favorite place on campus. But, let me explain why.

There’s no better welcome to OU than seeing Peden Stadium from Route 50.

It is about a six-hour drive for me from my hometown of Baltimore to Athens. The road trip is long and boring. The drive through West Virginia takes up about three-quarters of my trip and it’s scenery isn’t very visually pleasing.

But, when I make that turn onto Richland Avenue and see ‘OHIO UNIVERSITY’ plastered on the side of Peden, it makes it all worth it.

With its brick facade foreshadowing the rest of Athens architecture, Peden is a sneak peak of how beautiful Athens and OU really is.

How could you not fall in love with the first building you saw at Ohio?

Saturday afternoons at the Peden are the best.

Ohio’s football will never be national champions. They are historically a below-average program and only as of late have become contenders in their conference.

2Unlike that fancy schmancy program in Columbus, we’ll not regularly on ESPN, we’re not regular national title contenders and we won’t pack 100,000 fans inside of our stadiums on Saturday afternoons.

But, spending a Saturday at Peden is one of the best uses of your time at Ohio.

Weather in Athens is usually incredible, so getting outside and watching some college football on a sunny afternoon is a great past time for all students at OU.

Peden is a tradition like none other.

If you come from a long line of Bobcats, it’s likely your great grandparents, your grandparents and your parents all visited Peden during their four (or five) years in Athens.

Built in 1929, Peden is one of the oldest college football stadiums in the nation.

Though it certainly has shown its age, Peden still has the charm that’s kept it operating for over 87 years. Sure, it may not be high-tech, but you have to feel a little bit of nostalgia knowing that generations of Bobcats have sat in your same exact seat.

I know I feel a piece of OU history when I sit in Peden, and I hope it stays that way for another 87 years.

The calming simplicity of feeling at home

There’s one room in my house that stands out above all the others. It’s by far the biggest, it’s the first room you enter when you come in the front door and it’s where 90% of my indoor entertainment occurs.
My living room is where I start and end my weekends. When I wake up on Saturday morning, I sit in my favorite chair that my parents somehow let me bring from home and watch “College Gameday.” When I get home from a long night of debauchery, it’s where my roommates and I fire up Netflix to cap off the night. Sometimes, it’s where I wake up the next morning.

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    When I come home with my feet aching from a long night of pick up basketball at Ping, my living room is where I sit to get off my feet for the first time in hours. It’s even where I eat my meals. When I have friends over, whether we’re watching TV, listening to music or just talking, we’re in the living room.
I know this seems obvious–doesn’t everyone hangout in their living room? The name speaks for itself. But I believe having a place where you feel a home-like comfort is essential to navigating through the constant stresses of life.
So maybe everyone does hangout in their living room, but there’s a good reason for it.

Not just a room for your bed anymore: why bedrooms are the best rooms

Have you had a long day of back-to-back classes? Do you have to pull an all-nighter for an exam tomorrow? You’re not only exhausted but simply cannot face changing out of your sweats or even taking a shower. Once your day or week is over, you simply need a place to go and relax and not worry about anything at all. This personal oasis is right under your nose, your bedroom.

I’m sure you’ve been through the phase of shutting yourself in your room for hours on end and if your mom is anything like mine she got tired of that real quick. But, maybe your “angsty” teenage self had the right idea because, bedrooms rock.

My bedroom/living room/study
My bedroom/living room/study

Now featuring your favorite colors, blankets, clothes, pets and you get to decide who’s in and who’s out. So cuddle up, buckle down and get comfortable.

Need more proof?

  • They are filled with your favorite things, like your bed
  • Wear anything you want to…or do not want to
  • You’re the boss, you decide who stays, and who goes
  • “Netflix and Chill”
  • Your favorite four-legged creatures
  • Two words: alone time

Speaking of alone time, a Huffington Post article shared that there’s more to alone time than not having to interact with strangers. Being by yourself can get your creative juices flowing, and clear your mind when you need to destress. If that’s not enough to convince you, alone time can even help you work harder. All of that can really help clear school work off your plate so you have even more time for the important things in life: TV and sleep.

Being in college can be tough so alone time is important, BUT, so is sleep. Sleep improves memory, so if you want an A on your next exam go ahead and hit the snooze. Do you find yourself falling asleep during your 8 a.m. class? Rest up, sleep can even help improve your attention.

Photo from Flickr, Phalinn Ooi
Photo from Flickr, Phalinn Ooi

Bonus points for not having to walk home, because you’re already there! Did I mention the soft, cozy, comfortable bed yet? Locked away in your personal castle, you are surrounded by anything you might need. Sweat pants, better grades and being close to a kitchen, life does not get any more restorative than your bedroom.

15 S. High Street
15 S. High Street

Donkey Coffee: a refreshing alternative to corporate cafés

For seasoned Athenians, Donkey Coffee probably isn’t a major revelation. For many of us, the locally owned café, tucked just off of Court St., is just as prominent as the ever ubiquitous Starbucks, perhaps even more so, and for good reason.

While the difference in coffee quality is negligible for most anyone who doesn’t consider themselves a connoisseur, the atmosphere most certainly is not.

Sure, the baristas are just as young and hipster-esque as the ones in your favorite national coffee franchise but with them, you get a sense of authenticity that is immediately apparent. At Donkey you never feel as though the people behind the counter were chosen to fulfill some sort of preordained corporate diversity mandate. As the kilt-laden latte-ist elegantly prepares your coffee with a four-inch fixed blade sheathed at his waist, you get the feeling that the coffee shop you’ve found yourself in is in fact the antithesis of corporate coffee. You get the impression that even while they have a featured flavored concoction every month, a pumpkin spiced latte is as welcome in here as the bubonic plague.

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The atmosphere of the sitting room is equally foreign to those of us who have grown accustomed to the predictable minimalism of big-name chains. Instead of carefully designed matching seats and stone-tiled fireplaces, there is a mismatched melange of tables and chairs seemingly scavenged from the attics of a hundred grandparents. There are old boardgames on every shelf, murals of 1960’s music legends on the walls, and a dim sort of lighting that makes one feel oddly philosophical. It’s the kind of place where you could feel welcome to sit for many hours studying for a big exam or else locked in spirited political debate without fear of having overstayed your welcome.

The fun doesn’t stop at coffee and good atmosphere, though. Donkey has that beautiful sense of “why not?” that one can only ever seem to find at a local joint. Twice a week, for instance, they host an open stage, one a slam poetry night in which willing wordsmiths gather to bare their beatnik souls and snap each other their praises; the other an open mic for amateur and expert musicians alike to spend some time practicing in front of a supportive audience. They also host a wide variety of concerts and performance art shows, a full list of which can be found on their site. I challenge you to find any of these things at your local Starbucks.

Donkey’s sense of its customers’ needs is never more clear, though than during exam week. During finals, Donkey is open 24 hours a day so that students can come and get their caffeine fix even into the wee hours of the night to fuel their marathon study sessions.

In short, Donkey is a fantastic coffee shop, but what sets it apart from all the rest is everything else that it is. So next time you’re thinking of stopping in at Front Room for your daily dose of java, consider walking a bit further down the road for an experience that’s a little bit different.

Beads and Things: The Treasure Trove of Athens, Ohio

The light that filters in through the windows refracts through the crystals hanging from the windowsills, casting a rainbow onto a few small baskets of gemstones. Tea brews in the back room, and the wooden planks of the floor welcome each step.

Baskets of different beads, gemstones and amulets fill the main floor of the tiny house off North Shafer Street dubbed Beads and Things. Phillip Berry and Jo Merkle started the small store, and together they have traveled the world to bring back pieces of culture to sell bead by bead. With each item is a label telling where it came from, ranging from the Czech Republic to Turkey to China.

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Mexican figures of dragons, unicorns and other creatures guard the shop from a top shelf with their bright colors. The items are free to touch and show off textures from polished rose quartz to soft suede scraps to the more ragged dinosaur tooth. The store is a haven for the senses.

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It’s easy to get distracted in the shop, not to mention convince yourself that you can spare a bit of cash for a small project. One wall holds thread and clasps, which aid any urge to create any combination of beads. Soon enough, one strand of thread could hold an amulet from Turkey between beads from Thailand.

All of the different cultures brought back with the different beads rest in this small shop in Athens, Ohio. A conversation with the owners can easily unravel the history the items that they hand picked during their travels. Each basket of beads (and other things) hold a story to be told, connected to people around the world.

At Donkey Coffee, you can add a dash of politics to your fair-trade coffee

“Would you like a side of politics with that?”

Athens, Ohio is abundant in businesses that mix their service to customers with political discourse. From Avalanche Pizza’s caricatures of presidential candidates to Little Fish’s “No Fracking Way” beer brewed with all Ohio ingredients, Southeast Ohioans are accustomed to seeing politics on the menu.

A politically-minded Athens business that stands out to me is Donkey Coffee, who stirs a little social justice into your otherwise average cup of fair-trade joe. Donkey continues to be a leading coffee joint in Athens not only for their comfy couches and cozy ambiance, but because of their devotion to community outreach and promotion of political discourse.

Their website bares a list of organizations who they support that “fundamentally positively influence people.” The list includes groups such as Amnesty International, Fair Trade USA, Pregnancy Resource Center and My Sisters Place.

donkeycoffee.com continues:

“We are committed to promoting social justice and the arts in our community and throughout the world through public awareness, serving, and financial giving. This is the heart of what Donkey is about.”

They took their loyalty to the enrichment of the community one step further this week by having customers rattle off their favorite part of the Constitution in trade for a drink on the house.

Yesterday, Donkey Coffee started the work week by observing an all-American event that took place on September 17, 1787. Baristas celebrated the signing of the Constitution by trading a customer’s favorite constitutional right for a free coffee drink.

This was a part of Donkey’s recent “Free Drink Monday” event.  After I recited Article 1 Section 3 of the Constitution (which provides some much-needed accountability to Congress), Michael, one of the baristas, told me the story of the couple that inspired the weekly freebie.

You can thank two Donkey frequenters Steve and Janet for your free power chai latte each Monday. Michael said the couple were such loyal customers that they accrued upwards of 4,000 points on their Donkey Coffee rewards card. Each drink equals one point (and after 10 points, you receive a free drink) so you can definitely say they were regulars.

Haley McKelvey enjoys a mocha latte during a exhausting study session on the second floor of Donkey Coffee.
Haley McKelvey enjoys a mocha latte during a exhausting study session on the second floor of Donkey Coffee.

They never spent their points and eventually moved out of town, so they donated the thousands of points to the customers of Donkey. So each week, Donkey asks their customers to recite a poem about Donkey Coffee, or dance for 10 seconds or like yesterday, share their favorite constitutional right of theirs, to use Steve and Janet’s donation.

Donkey continues to be my go-to spot to sip on an iced latte over statistics homework, not only for their plentitude of power outlets and couches, but because you might get into an interesting discussion over the patriarchy or systemic racism with your barista.

And has anyone else thought about the fact that the name of their coffee shop just so happens to be the symbol of a major political party? Maybe it’s just me.

Regardless of political preference, Athenians will continue to get their coffee fix from Donkey for years to come.

 

 

Ohio University’s Emeriti Park makes an impression on students and faculty

One of the most beautiful and serene places in Athens, lies in the heart of the Ohio University campus. Past Baker Center, between Walter Hall and Clippinger Laboratories, sits a crystal-like pond and fountain, vibrant memorial gardens, monuments and a gazebo where many students and faculty sit to enjoy the scenery. This magical place is famously known as Emeriti Park.

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The name “Emeriti Park” was derived from the many Emeriti faculty at Ohio University. To be given the Emeritus or Emerita status, the faculty or administrative member must be appointed by the president of the university. They also must have completed a period of meritorious, or praiseworthy, service during their retirement from Ohio University. Full library and email access, parking on campus and access to other campus events, are some of the special privileges awarded to those who are granted the Emeritus or Emerita status by the Ohio University Board of Trustees.

Emeriti Park is 4 acres in size. The park was designed by James Burkhard Associates and was dedicated to the Emeriti faculty in 2000.

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Emeriti Park has been a popular place for romantic dates, quaint study sessions, graduation and other special occasions photos, marriage proposals, and even weddings. The park is known for its simplicity and romantic atmosphere. Emeriti Park also adheres to the natural “green” theme of the Ohio University campus. This picturesque spot, nestled on the bed of the Hocking River, provides yet another place in Athens centered on maintaining and respecting the natural environment of South Eastern Ohio.

Emeriti Park is open 24/7 to the public. Whether one is studying with a friend, having a peaceful lunch, taking photos of the pristine landscape, or enjoying a jog on the trail, Emeriti Park encompasses a unique intimacy, that students, faculty and community members can enjoy.

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Mill Street Village makes this Athens outsider feel at home

I feel like an outsider in Athens, a small college town located in southeast Ohio. Athens, home to Ohio University, displays tremendous natural beauty. Locals are also friendly. Admittedly, living in a small town like Athens is something I was longing for a long time when I resided in Beijing, a city always shrouded in smog, and a city where its people are too busy to be friendly. However, no matter it is the college party culture or the distasteful food, I just don’t feel like I fit in here in Athens.

Still, I have my favorite place in Athens. It is Mill Street Village. An international community where neighbors are quiet and obliging, Mill Street Village is my rental home where I can focus on my studies and savor family moments with my child. You don’t read it wrong. As an affectionate mother, I bring my three-year-old child with me in my pursuit of an advanced degree in the United States, because I cannot bear living far away from him. I never feel like an alien when I am at our Mill Street apartment. With my child around, I feel at home.

Children playing on Mill Street Village grass.
Children play at Mill Street Village Monday, April 25, 2016. Left one in blue T-shirt is my child.

I hate to admit, but Mill Street Village is better than my home in Beijing if considering how many happy moments my child gains from living here. There is no need for me to worry about the smog that is hazardous to his health or abductors that may steal him away from me. I feel I am raising him in a pleasant old-fashioned way, just letting him run around and play unsupervised. Moreover, there are many children living at Mill Street Village. My child engages with his peers who come from many countries including United States, China, Iraq and India. This is a valuable experience he probably cannot acquire from elsewhere.

Residents gather for Mill Street Village annual picnic Saturday, Sept 10, 2016.
Residents gather for Mill Street Village annual picnic Saturday, Sept 10, 2016.

Living at Mill Street Village also provides me a chance to meet friendly and obliging neighbors. Among many wonderful experiences, I tried some exotic bitter tea when I was invited to an Arabic tea party; a neighbor of mine, who I never got an opportunity to know her name and country, brought me hand-made meat soup; when I felt really hopeless because the battery of my car died, an obliging neighbor helped me fix the problem. The longer I stay at Mill Street Village, the greater fondness I develop for the place. It is an enjoyable and harmonious community where I am no longer an outsider.