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.

 

 

Experience the Athens Farmers Market

Whether the sun shines down, baking everything to a sweaty crisp, or the first frost of winter blows through the barren tree branches, the Farmers Market in Athens, OH stands strong. The hardworking farmers welcome patrons with friendly smiles and tantalizing samples of crisp produce. For two days each week, you can count on these farmers being set up and ready to go before many people even open their eyes in the morning.

Pumpkins grown by Mitch's Produce and Greenhouse
Pumpkins grown by Mitch’s Produce and Greenhouse

Every Wednesday and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to noon, the Athens Farmers Market thrives. When the chill of December sets in, the event is cut down to a Saturday-only time frame until the weather warms again in April. The fresh produce changes with the season, but the vendors are (for the most part) the same year round.

You can always count on the little old man selling his wife’s delicious pies, complete with cut-out-heart-crust toppings. His favorite is black raspberry, and I agree with him. The filling-to-crust ratio is nothing short of perfection.

“Sometimes, when there are leftovers, she scoops up the extra black raspberry filling into crust, and folds it over. Like a little fried pie! It’s delicious,” he says.

Continuing down the line of vendors, it seems there are endless amounts of fresh produce. With fall fading to winter, baskets overflow with sweet potatoes. Boxes showcase piles of pumpkins and butternut squash, ready for baking into sweet Thanksgiving dishes. The sweet corn of summer is no more. Instead, farmers provide the beautiful Indian corn, fine for popcorn or fall décor.

Enjoying the sweet almond raspberry tartelette from Z Bakery
Enjoying the sweet almond raspberry tartelette from Z Bakery

While the farmers are aplenty, you can also find local bakeries and restaurants selling their products under tarp-covered tents. Artisan breads, warm pizza, and sweet tartelettes are sold by Jackie O’s, Avalanche Pizza, and Z Bakery. These treats don’t disappoint. The sweet almond raspberry tartelette from Z Bakery is the perfect size to enjoy for breakfast while walking down the extensive aisle of fresh foods.

On a lucky day, you can be greeted with any number of free samples. Savory cheeses, vibrant salsas, crisp apples, and bold dips await the leisurely shoppers toting environmentally-friendly bags filled with fresh finds.

“Do you like this garlic dip?” says one farmer. The dip is flavorful atop a crunchy slice of sweet potato. “Here’s the recipe. I made it because I really need to sell more sweet potatoes,” she says. I fall for her sales tactics and buy a basket of sweet potatoes.

Many people receive more samples as they pass the Cantrell Honey table.

“Didn’t you know that redheads get honey straws today?” The vendor’s smile and attitude is sweeter than the honey he hands to me. Oftentimes, there are children at the market, with tiny feet running from parents and tinier fingers clutching tightly to their free honey straws.

At the Market, kindness overflows more than the produce overflows its containers. Warm chitchat fills the quiet morning air. The farmers extend graciousness to shoppers, maintaining a strong relationship and making regulars of the customers. The volume of voices increases as the late-risers bustle in before noon, when the sun is directly overhead and the vendors start folding in their tents and packing away their leftovers.

When leaving the Athens Farmers Market, there is excitement. The excitement of farmers, who leave with a reward for their hard work. The excitement of shoppers, ready to craft meals from the produce made by all of the hands they just shook while buying that produce. The excitement to return within a week, hungry for more.

Dads Weekend food from a dad’s perspective

unnamed-1 Dads Weekend gave many students a chance to take their fathers to watch sporting events, go on nature hikes and or even hit up the bars.

I, however, made my dad review uptown eateries.

Now, let it be known that I am a junior and have an older brother who graduated from OU last spring, so my father has spent a decent amount of time on the Athens bricks, but he still hasn’t hit all of the well-known tasty treats.

If you have ever said to yourself, “Hm, I wonder what a dad would have to say about Athens food-and-drink culture,” which I doubt anyone has said, here is what my dad thought of his Dads weekend food:

 

Stop No. 1: The J Bar

jbar
via athensohiobars.com

What we got: I got a pumpkin beer; Bryan went with his favorite drink — a 7 and 7 (7 Up and Seagram’s Seven Crown whiskey).

Bryan’s rating: 4/5

Bryan’s thoughts: Good drink, strong. They didn’t have Seagram’s, but Crown Royal worked just fine.

 

Stop #2: Avalanche Pizza

 

via anotherfoodcritic.wordpress.com
via anotherfoodcritic.wordpress.com

What we got: BLT pizza and half cheese and half mushroom/onion pizza.

Bryan’s rating: 5/5

Bryan’s thoughts: Awesome pizza, hot and delivers under time provided.

Side note: Bryan was a little disappointed because we originally wanted to go to Stephen’s but after an hour and a half wait, we stopped by after a round (or two) at J Bar and found out they had stopped serving at 9 p.m. Bryan suggests Stephen’s calling those who aren’t going to be served or serve food later on special weekends. So there you go.

 

Stop #3: Bagel Street Deli

www.ohiofoodshed.org
via www.ohiofoodshed.org

What we got: I got the True Blue (blueberry bagel, cream cheese, cinnamon); Bryan got the Mihami Vice (salt bagel, hard boiled egg, ham and cheese).

Bryan’s rating: 4/5

Bryan’s thoughts: Awesome breakfast sandwich and salt bagel. Very crowded and hot; decided to take sandwich outside to eat.

Side note: Bryan also likes to go to Bagel Street Deli, order a salt bagel WITH NOTHING ON IT and every time he does it, I just pretend to have just met him.

 

Stop #4: Brenen’s Café

via roadtrippers.com
via roadtrippers.com

What we got: I got the Tuna Time (tuna, melted cheese, cream cheese, banana peppers, green peppers, red onion) and bowtie pasta salad; Bryan got broccoli and cheese soup and Turkey BLT on a croissant.

Bryan’s rating: 4/5

Bryan’s thoughts: Always consistent, good service.

Gluten free me, Athens, Ohio

By a show of hands, how many of you have been to a restaurant and seen the tiny font at the bottom of the menu that reads, “We will gladly accommodate special dietary needs?” I know I have! It has become increasingly popular. This is mostly because of the high growth of dietary needs.

Now let’s imagine for a minute that you are gluten-free. Most people who live a gluten-free lifestyle have celiacs disease. If you have celiacs, you can’t eat bread, pizza, or even drink certain beers. You can’t eat anything with wheat, barley, or rye grains. If you do consume these things, you can get very sick. This could make things increasingly difficult.

Luckily, the town of Athens, Ohio has many different options for people who are gluten-free.

Fancy Pants Veggie Plate , Photo curtsey of chelseasrealfood.com/
Fancy Pants Veggie Plate , Photo curtsey of chelseasrealfood.com/

Chelsea’s Real Food Truck

According to Chelsea’s Real Food Truck’s website they are a “full-service mobile kitchen, serving locally-sourced, made from scratch, gluten-free foods.” This unique truck gets most of their food from local Athens farmers so their food is always fresh and unique according to the season. You can find this option at the Athens Farmers Market, 1000 East State Street, every Saturday from 9am-noon. She also travels to many different festivals and events during the year.

Casa Nueva

http://joyousjoys.com/2013/08/12/joyous-joy-71-happy-as-a-little-clam/
Casa Nueva Enchiladas. Photo courtesy of JoyusJoy Blog.

Another very local Athens treat is Casa Nueva. While this restaurant is known for its Bloody Mary and music, it also houses its own gluten-free menu. You are guaranteed the best local products when you visit, which makes it even better. One of my favorite Casa meals is an enchilada with pulled pork and BBQ sauce, mixed with cheese and onions. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. The best part, it’s gluten free!  If that doesn’t strike your fancy, try something else on their gluten-free menu! Casa is at 4 W. State St.

Lui Lui

If you are looking for something a little different and higher end, Lui Lui’s in the place to go. With a wide variety of sushi and curry products, there are many gluten-free options. If you stop in, you should try their chicken jalfrezi. It will really get your taste buds working. They have many other options that you can browse here. They are located at 8 Station St. and are very accommodating if you let your server know.

Avalanche Pizza

The Avalanche Ranch Pizza. Photo Provided by avalanchepizza.net
The Avalanche Ranch Pizza. Photo Provided by avalanchepizza.net

Pizza is a huge staple in the lives of college students. Avalanche Pizza has trained its employees and is dedicated to serving gluten-free pizzas and subs. You can order a make your own 12” pizza with whatever toppings you can imagine on it. If you don’t feel like pizza, try one of their six subs. They range from veggie, to steak and are full of wonderful and fresh ingredients. You can take a look for yourself at all of the mouthwatering products they offer.

Last but not least

Boyd Dinning Hall

West Green Market is open for 3 meals a day and plays a part in the special diets on campus. Photo curtosey of Ohio Culinary Service
West Green Market is open for 3 meals a day and plays a part in the special diets on campus. Photo curtosey of Ohio Culinary Service

Ohio University spent all of spring semester 2015 renovating Boyd Dining Hall. Located on West Green, Boyd features new special dining options to accompany its redone look.  In the far back corner sits a station dedicated to serving students with special diets. Here, they serve gluten-free noodles, cakes, cupcakes, and sandwiches. They even have deep fryers dedicated to special needs. This is to help serve the growing population of gluten-free students on campus.

While there are many more places in and around Athens to eat and explore, these are some of the best choices for gluten-sensitive residents. Do you have a favorite spot that has a gluten-free menu? Comment below and share! Happy eating!