Whether you’re a townie or an international student on campus, it is undeniable that the usual order of burgers and fries can get boring after a while. When thinking of international cuisine, some may immediately think of Ginger Asian Kitchen as the only international cuisine option available. However, Athens offers more than that, with various restaurants offering authentic food from countries across the globe.
Ever since the establishment opened on October 2014, Thai Paradise has been a favorite among locals and students as a popular dinner and date restaurant. The variety of cuisines from across East and South East Asia allows restaurantgoers a taste of authentic Asian cuisine.
2. Opa Greek Cuisine
Although the Greek restaurant has only been opened on Court Street for over a year, students and community members have all raved about its delicious lamb and beef gyros filled with mixed meat, vegetables and topped with a homemade tzatziki sauce made from scratch. The dessert options is nothing to scoff at either with baklavas made from nuts and filo dough that will leave your mouth watering for more.
3. Star of India
Star of India is one restaurant that is not widely known to students on campus. The Indian restaurant situated next to what used to be Mr. Taco Inc, is hidden from most students on campus. However, being the only Indian restaurant in Athens, it’s an opportunity for townies and local students to get a taste of India.
Athens may be the smallest town you’ve ever visited, but when it comes to food diversity and authentic menus, it is not a place to overlook.
If you are a frequent eater at the various non-American restaurants uptown, you may have noticed the exotic-looking dishes that many foreign students had on their tables. They might have seemed somewhat exclusive in the past. Some people like to say that there are “secret menus” out there, but now all you have to do is ask for those menus. All of the Chinese restaurants on Court Street have updated their menus to both English and Chinese, and only the seasonal dishes that correspond to certain holidays in China will not be translated to English.
“Normally when we have seasonal dishes, we would promote them on the whiteboard outside, but we wouldn’t add them to the menu because they are not permanent dishes. It would cost a lot of money to update our menu every season,” said Kenny, owner of China King.
One of the reasons that most restaurants like China King don’t feel the need to make a separate menu for the seasonal dishes is because the only people who buy seasonal dishes are those who are already familiar with the food and grew up eating it. Only in a case like this would the menu not be translated to English.
Peking on North Court Street has just updated its full menu to both English and Chinese. It has a menu entirely in English with traditional “American-Chinese” meals and an authentic menu that has both Chinese and English on it, which used to be only in Chinese.
“Our buffet is popular for American people because that’s what Chinese food is to them. But, obviously it’s different for the Chinese students here. They want the real taste of home,” said Yu, co-owner of Peking. “We import some of our ingredients directly from China, some from China towns in New York and Chicago to ensure the original flavors. Sometimes people complain that the entrees are too expensive, but that’s because the ingredients and spices are hard to come by.”
While food options are becoming more open to all, the Chinese restaurants are keeping some of their services exclusive to those who order from the authentic menu. I noticed a very small delivery sign in Chinese at Peking that reads “Delicious home-style food from Peking is only a phone call away, varieties and flavors of your choice!”
According to Yu, the co-owner, he decided to make the delivery sign only in Chinese because he didn’t want delivery to be a regular service.
“The thing with our food, once it leaves the restaurant, it loses its freshness. And it’s the same with most Chinese food. So we don’t think it’s a good idea for people who order from the authentic menu to take it to go. That’s why our delivery starts at 30 dollars. And since very few Americans order, they only do the buffet; we decided not to translate it to English,” said Yu.
Like the Chinese restaurants, Star of India on West Union Street also provides both a buffet and a menu to order from. The only difference is, the food there has not been Americanized.
“We don’t do American style,” said Amar Jit, the owner. “Everything we have here is authentic Indian cuisine, including the buffet.”
Amar said that all of the spices they use at the restaurant come from Toronto, Canada, where a very large Indian population resides. They import naan, spices, tea, and other traditional Indian food essentials directly from India.