Court Street is known as Ohio University’s main hub thanks to its nightlife, stores and restaurants. I decided to delve deeper into the area’s food scene to see what the typical go-to’s spots are and compare Court’s dining options to other streets in Athens.
Located at 27 S Court Street, Bagel Street Deli is home to all things bagel. There’s something for everyone on the menu, and they can even create your own personalized bagelwich. With its cozy brick walls, high top tables and loud music, it makes for a lively atmosphere to enjoy those comforting carbs.
Between the crowds of students, the look and feel of red Athens blocks, and the unique shops and local restaurants that line it, there is nothing quite like Court Street in Athens, Ohio. My own father, a 1984 alumnus of the communications school, always told me, “it is like a whole other world down there.” I never truly understood what he meant until I visited Athens for the first time when I was touring the Ohio University campus with my family back in 2012, but after I saw Court Street for myself, I knew exactly what he had meant.
Court street has a feeling that is special, there is something unique and indescribable about its character. It is my favorite place in Athens because it is the heart and soul of the city. This is where the culture and conversation of the town has been originating since 1804. The history and charisma of this place can be felt by walking up and down the brick lined sidewalks of Court Street. So many generations of students and staff have had unforgettable college experiences on that street, growing up and growing together as a community. Court Street feels as though it is part of Ohio University because of its architecture and closeness to the campus.
Court Street only stretches for about a half mile, but that is all it needs to be one of the most picturesque and charming I have ever seen. Somehow it gives you the feeling of being in a lively city without ever losing that small-town charm that Athens has. Running into friends or professors, attending nationally recognized events like the Halloween parade with 25-foot-tall puppets and live music, or going to the Ohio Brew Week, there is always something new and exciting happening on Court Street.
Local businesses like The Athena Cinema, Bagel Street Deli, Casa Nueva, or Tony’s Tavern make Court Street and Athens a one of a kind destination. These shops give the street a home-grown, connected community feeling that I have not experienced anywhere else.
Taking a stroll down Court Street never fails to remind me of just how lucky I am to be in a place like this and that it will not last forever. It is my favorite place in Athens because I know it will be where I come back to when I visit my fellow Bobcats in the future as an alumnus, just like my brother and my father before me. The street reminds me of the bonds that I have made here and the relationships that I will never forget with some of my best friends in the world.
Court Street and college green were the first two places in Athens that I saw, they left me in awe, giving me an affinity towards the town and the University. These places made me want to be part of the Bobcat legacy. They are still a large reason why I have such a strong affiliation to this place today. Court street has helped me to grow both socially and professionally as a human being. My favorite place in Athens has taught me life skills that I will take with me forever from this community.
Athens, OH: the most impoverished county in the state. Last month’s Ohio Poverty Report said 51 percent of residents– about 13,000 people– live below self-sufficiency and 16 percent rely on food stamps.
Those food stamps only add up to about $110 per week, though, hardly enough to feed a family. Community members and university students help fill those gaps.
“Sure it’s important to prep food and get it to people who need food, but the primary goal is create an experience of community. So it’s not people standing behind a counter serving food.”
That’s Evan Young, the campus minister at the town’s United Campus ministry. The organization is a center for spiritual growth, social justice, and, for over two decades, it’s also been the host of community meals. Yes, that’s their specific term– community meal.
“The idea is that we are not just a soup kitchen– the idea is that it’s a community meal. So all these people are coming together to build friendships and connect with each other over food.”
That’s how Kelli Wanamaker describes it. She’s a UCM Free Meal Intern, a position she’s held for 2 years. Evan says people like Kelli are the reason these meals exist.
“Thursday supper and Saturday lunch exist because students who are involved and engaged in the community looked around and saw a need. They said there are a lot of hungry people here and no free meal on Thursdays.. We have this space, what can we do?”
What they manage to pull off takes days of preparation. Jackie Duffy is a Social Work Intern at UCM.
“So usually on Tuesday we’ll come in …. and we’ll see what kind of ingredients there are, what donations we’ve gotten, what we have in the freezers and all that sort of thing. It’s about a 2day prep i would say. Come in on Thursday and make a shopping list. We get donations from tons of organizations, Athens community members, former interns, churches, etc.”
Evan says the community’s support is imperative, but it’s also increasingly impressive. The night I went to eat with them, I was expecting pots and pans and casseroles of homemade dishes. That happens most of the time, but when I walked in and saw pizza delivery boxes, I was… surprised.
“Avalanche donates the pizza. That’s great! We have a relationship with chipotle, they donate some of their leftover food. Pigskin, every now and then they’ll show up with a tray of pork loin.. It’s like Thursday night we made this for you. Awesome! That’s great!”
And who is enjoying this food? Ask Miranda McKinney, another Free Meal Intern, and she’ll tell you why that’s her favorite part of the job.
“They are for everybody. I think that’s what’s so great is it’s not just students, it’s not just community members, it’s not just old people… i can sit down and have a convo with people who are 60 or 16 or 6.”
I spoke to David Hardinger, an Athens man who had stopped by for a free meal.
“How long have you been coming to free meals? About 10 years…. Why do you like coming here? To socialize with my friends.”
David told me his favorite meal UCM cooks is chicken, but he asked me to make them serve Sheppard’s Pie one of these days. I told him they would need a lot of pies. There were about 30 people in the room that night, but the space was only half full.
“The level at which it’s utilized varies with the economy… a few years ago with the recession, we were seeing between 50-75 people a night. It’s less now, things are not quite as dire.”
Community members and university students serve free meals 6 days a week throughout the town– you can find a list of the locations on CourtStreetStories.com. No matter the organization serving food, though, one thing is for certain:
“You just come in and eat, whether you really need it or you don’t.”
For CourtStreetStories, I’m Bianca Hillier.
Free Meals in Athens, OH
First United Methodist Church
2 South College Street
Athens, OH 45701
Athens Church of Christ
785 West Union Street
Athens, OH 45701
Time: 5:30 pm
Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd
64 University Terrace
Athens, OH 45701
Friends and Neighbors Community Center
24576 Parkersburg Road
Coolville, OH 45723
United Campus Ministry (UCM)
18 North College Street
Athens, OH 45701
Time: 5:30 pm
location of meal changes seasonally; call ahead for directions
Time: 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm
United Campus Ministry (UCM)
18 North College Street
Athens, OH 45701
There’s no lack of dining options for OU students. Cruise down Court Street and Chipotle, Pita Pit and Jimmy Johns– your typical quality chain restaurants– align the brick road.
They’re a safehaven from the everyday dining hall experience. However, Athens also has its fair share of hidden gems. One that made my senior-year bucket-list: Purple Chopstix.
It’s a little place I’ve heard about since my freshman year. This year, while constructing a bucket-list of places to visit in Athens before graduation, Purple Chopstix immediately came to the forefront of my mind.
Opening it’s doors in 1989, the unique, colorful restaurant located on Richland Avenue is within walking distance of South Green. However, its lack of proximity from the heart of OU campus keeps Purple Chopstix a secret sanctuary of eclectic food.
Passing by, you might not assume the little cottage would be home to savory, homemade dishes, and you might be shocked to learn that those dishes do not contain traditional Chinese foods eaten with purple chopsticks. However, the most surprising quality is that Purple Chopstix is BYOB.
According to owner and head chef Ed Fisher, his restaurant allows guests to bring their own alcohol — a concept that compliments the originality of the establishment, proving its appeal to college students — due to its lack of a liquor license.
“Going out to restaurants and bars to order drinks can be costly,” says Morgan Harkey, a senior at Ohio University. “I’m a broke college student, to have the option to get a cheap bottle of wine on your own with some friends and bring it to get a nice cooked meal is not only fun but keeps me from spending endless dollars on my own drinks.”
While the BYOB policy attracts intrigue, it is seen as a negative attribute for a restaurant from the side of those in the culinary business. “It definitely keeps would keep a restaurant from making more money,” says Jake Spiccia, the owner of Pizzazz On The Circle, a restaurant in Cleveland. “And especially for a restaurant in a college town, you just rack in the money from alcohol.”
In a town like OU, where partying is at the center of the social scene, you would think a restaurant that doesn’t serve alcohol would be quickly dismissed when choosing a place to dine. However, Purple Chopstix has been around for over 25 years. That’s because the food is what sells this restaurant to students and members of the Athens community.
Before going, I read some reviews to see what I was getting myself into, and they were raving. “Autumn S” claims on TripAdvisor.com says “You can’t get this food anywhere else on earth.”
And “emilygood” promises that this a “must see when in Athens.”
I was sold on trying Purple Chopstix after only reading a few reviews. The restaurant is only open Wednesday through Saturday for dinner from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday for brunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., so we made sure to make a reservation to just be safe.
Upon arriving, you instantly sense the quirkiness of your surroundings. From the colorful walls and artwork to the fun and personable employees. Before I had even tried the food, I decided I loved the place. To get a sense of the ambiance for yourself, check out the video below.
The menu offers a wide variety of saliva-inducing plates ranging from curry dishes to Greek pizza. I went with “Sweet Potato Peanut Pasta” and was not disappointed. Purple Chopstix felt so homey and relaxing. We became friends with the waitress and even personally thanked Fisher, along with his son, Gabe.
Let’s face it: The dining halls don’t always cut it. Especially with winter coming, some times, all we want to do is indulge in a seasonal treat because trudging through the winter all the way to Shively or Nelson becomes a hassle.
But it’s also impossible to make quality treats in your dorm without access to a stove or oven — until now. So, to keep your winter warm and sweet, I present:
4 tasty mug desserts you only need your microwave to make for the holidays.
(All are made with ingredients conveniently sold at the markets).
1. Cinnamon roll in a mug
Ingredients Needed: Apple Sauce, Veggie Oil, Milk, VanillaExtract, Flour, Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, Baking Powder, Salt, Cream Cheese, and Sugar.
You can read how to make this recipe in under three minutes in the link below.
2. Banana bread in a mug
Ingredients Needed: Flour, Sugar, Brown Sugar, Salt, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Egg, Vanilla Extract, Veggie Oil, Milk, and 1 Banana.
To see how to make this in less than four minutes, click below.
3. Nutella cake in a mug
Ingredients Needed: Flour, Sugar, Egg, Cocoa Powder, Nutella, Milk, Veggie Oil, and Cream (for the icing, if desired).
Click below to see step by step directions on how to make this tasty treat in your microwave.
4. Fudge s’mores cake in a mug
Ingredients Needed: Graham Crackers (crushed into crumbs), Butter, Sugar, Egg, Vanilla Extract, Flour, Cocoa Powder, Baking Powder, Salt, and Marshmallows.
The link below tells you how to make this in your dorm in just five minutes!
All of these mug desserts contain ingredients that can be found at the markets, on campus or in the CVS on Court Street. Luckily, all contain similar ingredients, so do some experimenting with each one in the comfort of your dorm this coming winter!
Staying healthy is a hard task in college. Students are either eating too much junkfood or just not eating enough. Either way, the fact that pizza is so readily available on campuses (including this one) is both a blessing and a curse. Regardless of whether you’re healthy or not, pizza is essential to surviving the stress of college. Here are what I thought of the pies from three different venues in Athens.
BY THE SLICE
GoodFella’s is the only regularly by-the-slice pizza in Athens (unless you count the dining halls, and I don’t). And I don’t know who would want to compete with them. Pizza for lunch may not be ideal (though it’s easy to see the competitive advantage GoodFella’s has) and it’s a little expensive, but it is worth it here.
Crust: the pizza at Good Fella’s is made in a square pan-style and the crust is very thick. But it’s also soft and quite tasty. It’s actually a little sweet. It still tastes like pizza crust, though. And it’s good. A
Sauce: the tomato sauce is bright red and has a light, pure taste to it. The only problem is that there isn’t enough of it, possibly because of how much space the crust takes up. B
Cheese: The cheese is decent. It’s nothing special, but it’s not cardboard tasting stuff that many small pizzerias depend on. B
Toppings: There isn’t much offered here outside of pepperoni, but every day there is a different specialty pizza available which can be anything from bacon mac-and-cheese pizza to pesto style. Also, the pepperoni is pretty good. B
Overall: Good Fella’s is not a world class pizza joint. It is a place where you can get a simple slice of pizza for lunch. And that slice might not fill you up, but it will taste good. B
Courtside Pizza (which does offer pizza by-the-slice on designated nights) is a solid option for delivery if you’re bored with chains.
Crust: The crust is a little crunchy and not too dominating. It also tends to get really greasy. That definitely has its upside, though. B
Sauce: The sauce at Courtside Pizza is rich and red. There’s also plenty of it (which, in my opinion, results in a better pie). This can make a slice messy, but I think it’s worth it. A
Cheese: As with the sauce, there is no shortage of cheese on a pizza from Courtside pizza. But again, I think it’s justified. The cheese is messy, but it tastes great and complements the sauce perfectly. A
Toppings: Courtside Pizza has all the regular toppings, but is also willing to make pizzas with anything from buffalo chicken to potatoes. A
Overall: Courtside Pizza is a number of things. It is messy, greasy, and stuffed with ingredients. It is also delicious. A
Plus-1 Pizza is the closest you can get to a national chain in Athens without patronizing a national corporation.
Crust: The crust at Plus-1 is either thin or hand-tossed that is intriguingly close to pan-style. The hand-tossed is tasty, but it’s also greasy and a little hard to chew. It does deserve credit for creativity thanks to the “topper seasonings,” such as garlic herb, butter cheese, and ranch that are available, though. B
Sauce: The sauce at Plus-1 isn’t great and it’s not terrible. It’s just kind of there. It’s got some taste, but it’s really just filler between the cheese and the crust. If that doesn’t appeal to you, though, you might prefer to choose a different one from the seven others that are available. B
Cheese: The cheese was really impressive. Instead of just using mozzarella, Plus-1 uses a blend of both mozzarella and provolone. If that’s not enough, delicacies like smoked gouda and asiago are also available. The asiago was unique and that set it apart for me. A
Toppings: As far as toppings go, Plus-1 offers a number of interesting options, ranging from the normal with a twist (three different pepperoni types to choose from) to the bizarre (rib-eye steak). For me, though, it was enough to stick with regular pepperoni and it worked out well. After that, you can even choose to have sauce on top of the pizza such as garlic or ranch. B
Overall: Plus-1 was definitely the most interesting of the pizzas I tried. But interesting doesn’t always equal great. While it’s certainly doesn’t hurt to take risks, the ones Plus-1 took don’t help the pizza enough to ensure an A grade. B
Pizzas are served in multiple different tastes and shapes. Pizza is hard to screw up. Bad pizza isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s a good thing most of the pizza in Athens, a college town, is good. And Courtside Pizza is the best (at least, out of the three that I tried).
Are you trying to decide on a place to eat before going out with your friends for your 21st birthday? Maybe you’re going to see a touring Broadway show at Memorial Auditorium but need to find a place to have a quality meal beforehand? With so many wonderful places to eat in Athens, it can be hard to narrow down your choices. No need to worry; I’ve done the research for you! These five eateries, all of which can be found on or just off of Court Street, are the best places to enjoy a meal before any kind of occasion.
Casa Nueva is a classic Athens favorite, and with delicious Mexican-style food, vegan and gluten-free options, and live music, it’s no wonder why. Casa even uses ingredients like pawpaws when they’re in season for a truly unique dining experience. Friendly service, a casual ambience, and some of the best quesadillas in town make this restaurant a hit.
Perhaps you need to grab your food and run? Just across the street from Casa Nueva, O’Betty’s is a great little hole in the wall with famously delectable hot dogs. All the hot dogs on the menu are named after famous exotic and burlesque dancers, and vegetarian options are available. My personal recommendation is the Lily, which comes topped with homemade baked beans and cole slaw. Also, if you’re a cheese fan, their cheesy fries are the bomb. You can’t go wrong with O’Betty’s.
Athens is known for having a variety of exotic cuisines, and Sol is the epitome of that. This restaurant specializes in Cuban dishes along with traditional college student favorites such as loaded nachos (with cheese, black beans, lettuce, tomato, fire-roasted salsa, red onion, and sour cream – yum). Many of their dishes are vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free. Try their Cuban fusion wrap, fish tacos, or maduros (slightly cartelized plantains) and enjoy the friendly staff.
The minute you step into Salaam, the atmosphere sets the stage for the meal you’re about to have. Beaded curtains, colorful tapestries, and the hospitable employees make you feel right at home and ready for some amazing Mediterranean food. Try a plate of their Mediterranean pasta (penne pasta with basil pesto, feta, and sun-dried tomato) or, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, the vegan vegetable curry with tofu (fresh vegetables with fried tofu and a tomato/coconut milk curry sauce served over basmati rice with coriander chutney and papadum).
Or maybe you’re more of the Leslie Knope-type and prefer to just fill up on dessert or baked goods before going out. Although Fluff Bakery also carries entrée-type food (sandwiches, salads, and salmon, just to name a few), they’re best known for their bakery, as you may have guessed. Their cannoli, pumpkin and red velvet cupcakes, macaroons, cinnamon twists, etc., are to die for. If you’re not hungry before walking in, the smell of the kitchen will have your mouth watering in no time.
Local food truck phenom Holy Guacamole was temporarily put out of commission when the Nagy family, who own and run the truck, were in a car accident in West Virginia on Oct. 14, 2015. The family reported the accident on Holy Guacamole’s Facebook page and stated that “…Everyone is banged up and recovering. [The] Van totaled…” following with a message of uncertainty with regards to their reopening.
Fortunately for the Nagy family and the taco fans of southeastern Ohio, just one day later on Oct. 15, Holy Guacamole reopened at Little Fish Brewery at 8675 Armitage Rd. in Athens. The truck was at the brewery from 5 to 8 p.m.
This family accident comes on the tails of another fender-bender. Earlier this month, on Oct. 3, the taco trailer crashed into the truck while the proprietors were driving down U.S. Route 33 on their way to the Fiber Faire at the Athens Community Center.
The food truck serves traditional Guatemalan tacos and tamales, among other dishes. The Facebook page is filled not only with requests for new locations, but also messages of support and love in the wake of the accident. The community feels very connected to the family business with most fans calling Nagy by his first name, Rudy.
In response to concerns the family issued this response on Oct. 15, “Wow! Thanks everyone! We are touched by your kindness! We made it back yesterday. Rudy immediately started working, because that’s what Rudy does! Work! Work! Work! Nothing slows him down! He’s open today, even though his body is really hurting.”
For more information about Holy Guacamole check out this short feature from the Athens Messenger.
If you take a walk through east green around dinnertime, as you wind around majestic oaks and quaint, colonial dorms, you will most likely hear the grumblings of underclassmen about their “Shively shits.” Those of us who are past the days of meal plans can’t forget that peculiar gassy feeling that creeps up mid-stroll home following a campus-meal with your friends.
What really goes into the 3.8 million meals per year that OU Culinary Services feeds us?
When I asked Culinary Services up-front if they used food preservatives or additives, they responded, “We do not use preservatives or texturizes in our products on campus.”
This, I had a hard time believing.
I asked Culinary Services for their ingredients, which they told me were on-line. Just for the record, the ingredients are not actually online.
This was their first lie.
I asked if I could come into the dining hall to snap a few pictures, also secretly hoping to check out some ingredient labels, but they denied my request, claiming that it would make students feel uncomfortable as “residential dining venues are a place for students to relax and refuel.”
So I decided to take matters into my own hands. I had an underclassman friend swipe me into Shively so I could have the full dining hall experience.
Shively was just as homey as I remembered it – I loved feeling engulfed in the lazy atmosphere of a dining hall towards the end of a long school day. I let myself be lulled into the collegiate comfort of the warm room as I watched the lazy strides of students whose hardest decision that evening was choosing between chicken tenders and grilled cheese. Then I sank into a cushiony, retro, crescent-shaped booth by Shively’s front entrance.
There was so much food that I didn’t have to cook, and I wouldn’t have to clean up after!
“Ahhhh,” the privileges of college dining.
I filled a freshly-washed white bowl with beef vegetable soup, grabbed some classic Shively garlic bread, and made a verry elaboratee salad.
Then for dessert. For Homecoming the dining halls served these cute football-shaped cookies, along with Shively’s impressive variety of ice-cream.
Once I had allowed myself to be wined and dined, I got down to business. I snapped photos of the ingredients tags of various dishes, including the beef – vegetable soup I enjoyed.
Here are my findings.
According to the label, this Kosher and Halal-friendly soup contains disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate. Both are food additives, used as flavor enhancers, often times in conjunction with MSG. The soup also contains lactic acid, a preservative and curing agent used as a decontaminant during meat-processing.
This was Culinary Services’ second lie.
I don’t expect a dining hall to serve some bourgeois meal of organic beef, carefully raised on the pristine green pastures of New Zealand. Preservatives are arguably necessary when feeding students on such a large scale in order to keep food from spoiling.
But I don’t expect Culinary Services to lie to me about it, either.
That being said, I don’t see Culinary Services as this evil branch of OU that’s out to torture students by giving them “the Shively shits.” In comparison with what most students eat once they escape the clutches of the meal plan, dining hall food is often times the better alternative. The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that at a midsize university in Oregon, 59% of students had experienced food insecurity within the past year. Students who are strapped for cash are more likely to go for calorie-rich foods like fast food and processed foods with a longer shelf-life. Jacqueline Duffy, a social-work student living off campus at OU, said, “I would buy healthy options if I had the money, but I have to buy in bulk and that kind of stuff (produce,) goes bad.”
Purchasing a meal plan helps a student allocate a certain amount of money each semester to their food budget – ensuring that he or she will have regular access to fresh food throughout the semester. And as less-than-perfect as some of the dining hall’s cooked dishes may be, the salad bars at OU are the bomb. Equipped with sunflower seeds, nuts, spinach, feta cheese, bell peppers, cucumbers, and sometimes even kale, dining halls have the resources to provide students with produce that’s replenished throughout the week; whereas a bag of spinach in your own fridge has to be eaten in a few days before it goes bad.
And while we’re on the subject of cooked meals, how many of us off-campus folk actually cook, at all? Most busy college students still choose take-out or an Easy Mac, out of convenience. Kelsey Gerard, also a student at OU, commented, “It’s easier to un-package something and eat it.” In regards to food additives, Easy Mac has just as many preservatives as that beef- vegetable soup that I broke down for you.
When all is said and done, dining hall food may not be as good as your Mom’s cooking, but is your cooking that much better?