5 of the best meals in Athens you probably didn’t know about

 

1. Get yourself a sexy dog at O’Betty’s Red Hot!

O'Betty Red Hot!
O’Betty Red Hot!

Near the end of Court Street, this little hotdog shop is a sharp turn off the main drag and onto West State Street. It churns out some of the most delicious and diverse hotdogs in town. The inside of the shop is decorated with old school showgirls, red walls and cheetah print drapes. This is a great place to go if you want great local food late night or a quick bite midday. I usually order either the Varla which has sauerkraut, horseradish, bacon bits and 1000 Island Dressing all mounted on a bratwurst, or I get the Tempest which is a hot dog smothered in Casa Nueva’s Hot Habanero Salsa with chopped jalapeños, shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream. And if you are from Cincinnati and feeling a little homesick, their chili cheese fries are the closest thing to homemade Skyline chili you will find in Athens. The only menu item I advise against is the fresh garlic fries. They are literally covered in raw garlic – not my thing. Other than that side warning, everything else here is great. Prices range from $4 to $10.

 

2. Start your Saturday off with a saucy brunch at Casa Nueva.

Casa Nueva
Casa Nueva

If you are sick of dining hall brunch and want to try something a little different, walk down to Casa Nueva near the intersection of Court Street and West State Street. I am a sucker for a Mexican-inspired brunch, and this place has a reputation for creating tasty dishes with local ingredients. This restaurant gets everything local and even changes part of their menu with local seasonal ingredients. No matter what time of day, I always order the Enchiladas Verde, stacked. Their isn’t actually a brunch version of this, so I just order the stacked breakfast enchiladas and add green chilies, cream cheese and salsa verde. They have a wide variety of homemade salsas and all of them are delicious. It really is a great way to start off any Saturday. Prices range from $7 to $20.

 

3. Netflix and chill with takeout from Thai Paradise.

Thai Paradise
Thai Paradise

This may sound weird, but for some reason a big bowl of pho is my version of comfort food. It has a flavorful warm broth, lots of basil, bean sprouts, jalapeños, noodles and meatballs – just a lot of amazing things. It is the perfect food for a cold, rainy night when you just want to snuggle up in your sweats and binge watch Dexter on Netflix. The only place to properly complete this Netflix and chill bonanza is Thai Paradise. Call ahead and take a quick trip down Union to this cozy spot to grab your take out. This is one meal experience that will relieve you of your FOMO anxiety. Prices range from $11 to $30.

 

4. Get away from the crowded restaurants on parents weekend at Zoe Fine Dinning.

Zoe Fine Dinning
Zoe Fine Dinning

If your parents are coming to town, this little city-slicker’s gem snuggled next to Passion Works Studios on East State Street is the perfect place to get away from the crowds. It is one of the few places that will take reservations. A lot of underclassmen don’t know about Zoe, so it is a nice meal with a short wait. The restaurant serves a wide variety of upscale cocktails, and the menu features a lot of Hungarian-inspired cuisine. Prices range from $11 to $30 a plate, depending. So, like I said, it is a good place to take your parents!

 

5. Enjoy a heaping spoonful of soul at OMG! Rotisserie.

OMG! Rotisserie
OMG! Rotisserie

It’s a small adventure down Columbus Road, but the trip is well worth it. In the center of a concrete parking lot next to the Sunset Motel is this tiny orange restaurant lined with orange and yellow flowers. If you are in need of some fresh soul food, this is the perfect place to reach a comatose bliss. The menu is filled with  sweet and savory options, but there are a few absolute must haves when you venture out here. The chicken and sausage gumbo is a cup of flavor you won’t regret trying, the sweet potatoes are lathered in warm butter and sugar and the sweet tea has unlimited refills. Grab a breast and a wing and sit under the sun as you enjoy these delicious southern flavors. Prices range from $5 to $12.

 

Feel like I’m totally full of it and have no clue what food is? We want to hear what you think of these places and what your five favorite meals are. Join our conversation about what the best places are in Athens on Slack!

Working Athens’ Halloween: a restaurant perspective

Athens’ Halloween weekend typically brings in thousands to the city. As Court Street fills up, restaurant and bar lines are out the door. But does everyone benefit from the influx of people? People behind counter talk about what it’s like to work on block party night.

Preparing for the big night

Cynthia Abdul-Kabir is a manager at Insomnia Cookies. She has served the Halloween Block Party crowd baked goods for the past three years.

The block party is the biggest event that OU hosts each year. Just on the Facebook page, more than 1,500 people have said they were attending in 2015. Previous year’s reports tally in at 15 to 20,000 attendees.

During the festivities, Insomnia Cookies has a steady customer base, considering that they are open until 3 am. Abdul-Kabir said that the hot spot hours are from 9 pm to 11 pm when waves of people start coming in.

Because Insomnia Cookies is not a sit-down restaurant, space can sometimes be an issue.

“Last year, I worked during the day. Most of the day it was just starting up, but right around my closing time people were squeezing to get in,” she said.

Preparations for the big event started back in August.

“No one gets to call off [work]. We also try to let them [the staff] know that it’s going to be big waves and lots of people all night long,” she said.

Mainly, Abdul-Kabir has been working to prepare the drivers, since the restaurant typically delivers all night. Typically, drivers are sent out in the beginning of the night but once it gets too crazy delivers have to shut down.

“We can’t get our drivers off of Court Street. Even just to walk it takes too long,” she said.

halloween
Athens’ Halloween Block Party 2014

“It’s a blurry, loud and wild night,”
Abdul-Kabir said.

 

Dressing the part

For sit-down restaurants, like Jackie O’s business feels like normal, except that the customer base and staff might come dressed in fairy wings or donning a fake mustache.

noland
Isaac Noland at Jackie O’s

Isaac Noland is a master’s journalism student at Ohio University, he worked part-time at Jackie O’s for two years, until the fire on Union Street closed the kitchen while the business made repairs. During his time at Jackie O’s, he worked in the kitchen for three Halloween Block Parties.

“Working in the restaurant end is not terrible because a lot of people don’t want to eat in their costumes. The bars can be really busy but food wise it’s not that bad at night,” he said.

The biggest challenge for Noland and others working Halloween Block Party night is having to miss out on the fun. Noland commented that it’s challenging sometimes to be working an event and not being able to partake in it, but at least he was able to dress up as Bob from Bob’s Burgers last year.

 

O'betty's
Phillip Szczepanski behind the counter at O’Betty’s

“It’s just another shift,” said Phillip Szczepanski, who is a manager at O’Betty’s Red Hot!

Szczepanski said that block party night is busy, but he’s seen worse.

“It’s a little slower than Homecoming Night, which is easily is one of the busiest nights of the year, but Halloween is right up there,” he said.

At O’Betty’s Red Hot! around 50% more supplies are ordered beforehand and everything is set-up for when the night crew gets in.

 

 Vandalism and loitering

While most of the restaurants and bars are open late, Donkey Coffee closes early—at 6 pm.

Chris Pyle has been the owner of Donkey Coffee for the past 13 years. He discovered that the increase in business just led to an increase in loitering and theft.

Halloween in Athens does have a reputation for getting rowdy. Most arrests are for disorderly conduct.

“We were open the first two years, but it was basically 200 people in here and no one was buying anything. They were just using the bathrooms and we had tons of stuff stolen and ruined,” he said.