Ohio University is one of those schools where you know you can find a good drink or two — or however many you want. And you can’t have good, cheap beer or a liquor pitcher without some good, greasy, cheap food to go along with it. And no surprise, Athens is not lacking in late-night eats. But how can anybody choose just one? Especially after a few too many beers.
From massive Big Mamma’s Burritos to the classic Chicken N Waffle from Uptown Grill, you can go on an epic journey to find a piece of grub (or two or three … maybe four) that will tickle your fancy and absorb some of that alcohol.
It’s about 2 a.m. It’s a typical Friday night (Saturday morning, really) in Athens. The street lights reflect off of the bricks. There’s the “thump-thud” of bass coming from the apartments above, and the streets of lower Court Street are swarming with girls, guys, townies, and all manner of college-aged young people migrating in and out of the multiple bars that line the road. And as these bars ring “final call” bells, the flood of drunk coeds starts to trek to their next destination. Some go home, whether it be their own home or someone else’s. But a lot of these inebriated folks head toward their favorite late-night eateries, where they can chow down on the quick, cheap, and greasy delicacies that make drinking in Athens all worth it.
Rachel Daub is one of those coeds.
Daub, an Ohio University senior majoring in publication design, is no stranger to Uptown Athens. If you run into her after a night of beers and shots, she’ll most likely be on her way to Jimmy John’s or GoodFella’s, ready to get her fix of a slimy sandwich or a corner-piece pizza.
“It’s pretty much the known outcome of the night,” Daub says. “They are my go-tos. On rare occasions my friends might be able to persuade me into going somewhere else, but it’s usually either GoodFella’s, Jimmy Johns, or nothing.”
Her friend Emily Brockmann, a familiar comrade in Daub’s nights of drinks and chow, is also an avid GoodFella’s enthusiast.
“I feel like I’m always craving pizza no matter what time of the day it is so when I’m drunk I’m craving it even more. It’s greasy and saucy and cheesy, which is always 10 times better when you’re drunk and it’s so easy to eat too that I just love it so much.”
Preventing hangovers since 1995, GoodFella’s has two locations within walking distance, one on West Union Street and one near the end of Court Street. With pizza served hot and ready, and two slices plus a drink for $5, it’s no wonder the pizza joint is a late-night favorite. Hannah Cook, a GoodFella’s employee since 2010, says the laid-back atmosphere makes it a great place to work and an even better place to buy food.
“Even in the midst of crazy drunkenness and having to deal with people, it’s a very easy-going place,” she says.
Another late night top-dog, the mother of all burrito babies, is Big Mamma’s Burritos. Big Mamma’s serves burritos the size of a small child. Perfect for the nights where you don’t need a snack, but need a full-fledged meal. Spicy meat, gooey cheese, veggies and all kinds of tasty sauce blend together to form the perfect alcohol-absorbing system. This staple of Athens culture is a bucket-list must for any student who claims to attend Ohio University.
Melaina Lewis, a senior majoring in public relations, takes a timeout from her night of bar hopping to sit on the steps of the Athens Courthouse and enjoy a Big Mamma’s Chipotle Ranch burrito.
“It’s fantastic,” she says. “I’ve had so many of these since I’ve been at OU and I never get tired of them. And luckily they sell mini-sized burritos because I don’t know if I’d be able to consume a whole child-sized one by myself.”
With dozens of combinations, Big Mamma’s provides unlimited options for the ever-indecisive drunk. And as Lewis notes, the fact that they offer smaller burritos for only $6 makes it a great place for those who want a burrito, just maybe not a human-baby-sized one.
And despite being notorious for long lines and a chaotic atmosphere, Big Mamma’s continues to compete with GoodFella’s for the top spot in the heart of late night eaters.
“I waited for about 10 minutes for my burrito,” says Lewis. “But it was definitely worth it. There are always fun characters and things happening in Big Mamma’s and it all just adds to the experience.”
So what is it about GoodFella’s, Big Mamma’s and the rest of these late night eateries that are so appealing to Ohio University students and drinkers alike?
“I think that owners of these places just know that now is the opportune moment to make these kinds of food available,” says Lewis. “We’re young and in college, so obviously we’re going to be drinking excessively and then not caring about what we want to eat, so the combination of drunkenness and bad judgment makes it a total win for them. And us.”
Whether it’s grab-and-run places like GoodFella’s and Uptown Grill, or sit-down and chill places like Union Street Diner and Wendy’s, the combination of drunkenness and good food can make eating at these restaurants an experience to remember. And adding old friends and new friends into the mix can make it even better.
“These restaurants are usually places where you end up meeting people randomly, so that’s always a good outcome,” explains Daub. “And events like HallOUween or Santa Fest are the kind of nights that are awesome to see people dressed up in costumes that are standing in line for a slice of pizza or a sandwich. And then running into your friends and having that common goal of food after drinking is always a great moment.“
Of course, as one can expect when alcohol is involved, there are a few horror stories that happen at the late night eateries.
“I saw the best, funniest fight,” says Daub. “I was in Wendy’s one night and these two guys got in a fist-fight over a frosty. That’s probably the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”
And as an employee at one of the most popular joints in Athens, Cook has seen her fair share of crazy.
“People have thrown pizza across the place, and there’s been some barfing incidents, which is never fun. We had someone try and come in through the back door and steal a case of Gatorade. Things like that happen a lot.”
Just as Robin Hood is the sidekick to Batman, late night eats are the sidekick, wingman, and accessory to the bars that line the streets of Athens. They’re the celebration after the big game. A standing ovation after a great performance. Without these places, would nightlife in Athens be as fun? Maybe. But there is definitely a great amount of value added to a night out because of these fantastic food establishments. And graduation will always come too soon for OU seniors to bear.
“I think that since I’ve turned 21, the bars and GoodFella’s have been like my go-to combination,” say Daub. “That’ll definitely be something I miss when I move away, I won’t be able to satisfy my cravings for GoodFellas or anything that comes as good and as cheap as drinks and food on Court Street.”
Mallory Haack is a senior at Ohio University in the School of Visual Communication majoring in publication design & information graphics, with a minor in art. She recently completed an internship at the Gannett Design Studio in Nashville and is currently employed as a graphic designer for the Patton College of Education. She loves to travel and has been to London, Paris, Sydney, Mexico, etc.