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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
More options than any one person can name come to mind when talking about drunk food in Athens. However, if a couple of love birds are planning a fancy date, the options are surprisingly narrowed. Although the pickings might be slim, the few Athens restaurants that are fit for Date Night are well worth a visit.
Located at 24 1/2 East State St., Zoe’s French-American cuisine offers the ideal fine-dining experience for a romantic date while maintaining a comfortable and local asthetic. Zoe is known for it’s friendly wait staff and exceptional food presentation, fitting for any couple of bobcats in love.
Looking to play dress-up and really get fancy with dinner? Cutler’s is the place to go for super-special occasions. Located inside The Ohio University Inn, the restaurant provides a private dining area for couples on Valentine’s Day. It’s a black-tie affiar complete with red table cloths and a single rose for the lady. However, if a special dinner is nearer than Valentine’s Day is, Cutler’s is still a great option for a classy night out.
If you’re in the mood for oriental but don’t feel like settling for takeout, Thai Paradise is an oriental cuisine paradise within walking distance for any OU student. The eclectic, little spot offers moonlit seating when the weather allows, complete with a cocktail named after dragons and a pad Thai dish that is to die for.
If the upcoming winter tries to freeze your love life, keep the heat alive with Sol Restaurant’s Caribbean cuisine. Sol aims to make its customers feel as though they’re vacationing on a beach somewhere.
What’s more romantic than a beach?
Also, a couple of brunch lovers won’t regret visiting Sol’s Court St. location on the weekends for brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The best part? Bottomless mimosas.
Although some may be disappointed by the lack of actual purple chopstix at this neat little restaurant, the elaborate dishes made with fresh local ingredients in a cozy dining environment will make up for it. Ed fisher opened the joint on Richland Ave. in 1989, and now, he and his son work together in the kitchen to provide customers with high-quality meals and experience. The outdoor dining bridge seats a couple in the perfect romantic setting for a date night.
The next time you think that the only eatery for a date is Big Mama’s Burritos, think again. But if Big Mama satisfies your romantic date night needs, I’m not one to judge.
Craving something new and exciting? In walking distance of Court Street? You’ve come to the right place. Most people know of all the bars and restaurants in plain sight on Court Street, but some forget the hidden ethnic restaurants that are perfect getaways. With exotic menus and worldly atmospheres, Thai Paradise, Restaurant Salaam, Sol, Jerusalem Grill and Star of India are excellent beginnings for a global adventure.
Still not convinced? With this guide, what to expect and what to order will come with ease and, of course, a happy tummy. Court Street can be intimidating, but choosing where to eat doesn’t have to be.
Thai Paradise ($-$$)
102 W. Union St.
Thai Paradise, simply put, is an American-infused eatery with dishes like curry and stir fry. The restaurant, located west of Union Street Diner on West Union Street, features a small, warm atmosphere. It’s excellent for a quick meal or a sit-down dinner.
Although not truly authentic Thai cuisine, Bu Tont, a server at Thai Paradise since its opening this fall, said the restaurant is the best and closest to authentic Thai food as it can be.
“Thailand is very tropical and some ingredients there aren’t available here, like certain vegetables, so we adapt,” Tont said. “Thai Paradise does have an American taste.”
Tont said when ordering Thai for the first time “What’s good?” doesn’t prompt an easy answer.
“It all depends on the customer. I usually recommend the Pad Pak – colorful veggies with rice in a brown garlic sauce – or Drunken Noodles – wide flat rice noodles, bell peppers, garlic, onions, and basil leaves,” Tont said.
The Pad Pak and Drunken Noodles both begin at $6.95 for lunch and $9.95 for dinner.
My suggestion? The Hot and Sour Soup is so flavorful and for $2.50 it’s a must-try. The traditional Thai sticky rice is also a delicious take on white rice. It comes as an option for a side for most dishes.
Restaurant Salaam ($$)
21 W. Washington St.
Restaurant Salaam serves the comfiest of comfort food inside its beautifully decorated restaurant of oranges and blues. The staff is polite, the service is exquisite, and the food is out of this world.
But that’s really the point. Salaam’s menu includes cuisine from the Middle East, the Mediterranean, the Balkans, North Africa, Thailand, India, and Pakistan.
Chris S., from Bowling Green, Ohio, wrote this review on Yelp: “Very nice cultural decor inside. A nice menu with some items being familiar to any who enjoy Mediterranean cuisine, but also a few unique dishes to help it stand out. Turkish coffee was a nice touch, which I don’t see enough of.”
Sharmeela S., from Columbus, Ohio, craves the Salaam ambience. In a Yelp review she wrote, “Great atmosphere in Athens! I feel like I’m in a much bigger city. The aromas when you walk in the door build the anticipation of deliciously flavorful meal. The Hilarie’s Salad with goat cheese and raisins is delightful. I had the lamb kofte for dinner – lamb meatball stew.”
Hilarie’s Salad, starting at $4 for lunch and $5 for dinner, is one of my favorite dishes. I’m a sucker for soft, melt-in-your-mouth goat cheese found in this salad.
The Coconut Curry Chicken, $11, is mildly spiced and served with basmati rice, coriander chutney (a green combination of cilantro, ginger, chili, lemon juice, cumin power, and salt), cucumber raita (a yogurt mixture), and warm bread. It’s truly a delicious surprise. And don’t worry if you’re not a coconut fan. It comes on the side.
Many of the reviews on Yelp leaned toward an unfriendly, spunky staff. However, in my experience I had excellent dining service. Try for yourself to see where you stand.
When you go, try the hot sauce on the table made from fresh red peppers. It’s to die for.
Jerusalem Grill ($)
122 W. Union St.
Jerusalem Grill is another Mediterranean restaurant great for dine-in or take-out. It’s small, quaint, and has more of a diner-esque feel than an ethnic one. But what it lacks in atmosphere it makes up with cuisine.
Expect typical Mediterranean items on the menu, including falafel, hummus, and plenty of gyro (indeed, it is pronounced /’jīrō/) and kabob options. Not-so-typical items include smoothies and homemade cheesecake. I don’t exactly understand it, but I like it.
Jerusalem Grill focuses its cuisine on the lusciousness and diversity found in modern Jerusalem. Food is prepared, cooked, and served authentically to give customers a true Jerusalem experience.
The Shish Kabob and Hummus Sandwich, $5.99, is a new twist to American shish kabobs you’ve had in your backyard (skewers included). Served in a pita instead, the charbroiled beef tenderloin is topped with tomatoes, onion, sumac, and hummus. It’s a great meal for a great price.
For an entree, try the Musaka. For $9.99, this vegetarian dish includes sauteed eggplant with tomatoes, onion, marinara sauce, and a special house seasoning. Don’t knock it till you try it.
Cynthia Tackett reviewed Jerusalem Grill on its Facebook page, saying, “I find that most Mediterranean places Americanize the menu and this menu is a little more authentic. I’d love to see more food items that aren’t mainstream on the menu, but they are new and have a small staff.”
Jerusalem Grill opened in October 2013.
Some reviews note the service is subpar and some note the restaurant is usually hiring. At least they’re trying to tackle the problem.
Jerusalem Grill posts specials, deals, and general updates on their Twitter and Facebook, and a full menu on their website. Check it out before you go.
33 N. Court St.
Sol is a perfect getaway – tucked away in an alley off Court Street — for a quiet Cuban meal and to sip on Cuban coffee. It’s comfortably tiny with a small room and tall ceilings and has a few booths with outlets for students who want to escape into studies.
The menu is very vegetarian friendly, as are most of the ethnic restaurants in Athens, and their black bean burger, $8.95, is phenomenal (I know – not exactly Cuban).
Sol also has the only rum bar in Athens and has specials every day of the week. Does half-priced bottled wine on Tuesdays and bottomless mimosas during Saturday brunch sound good to you? Bottoms up.
One review of Sol on Yelp matched my experience directly. Kat S., from Athens, wrote, “One thing that I like about the restaurant is that you can order an entree that’s less than $10 if you’re on a budget (the mac & cheese topped with pulled pork [for $8.95] is decadent). However, if you’re willing and able to spend a bit more, I am really impressed with their steak. [For $18.95,] it is served with chimichurri sauce and your choice of mashed plantains or red beans & rice.”
Hearing the buzzword “budget” was enough for me. Is it for you?
Grab some Cuban coffee for $2.50 and try a Sol Salad for $8.95. It comes with a unique house made pineapple dressing (yum!). Everything on the menu is exquisite. Give it a go.
Star of India ($$)
128 W. Union St.
Star of India serves Indian and Pakistani cuisine. Like Jerusalem Grill, Star of India’s atmosphere is not as inviting as other ethnic restaurants in Athens, but it does its job in serving unique, delicious food.
It’s one of the only Indian restaurants in and around Athens so Indian lovers don’t have much of choice for where to dine out. It causes some problems for customers who want an above average dining experience — not exactly what Star of India will supply.
What it will supply, however, is quality comfort food. The Chicken Tikka Masala,$11.99, is perfect for the approaching winter months. It includes oven baked diced chicken in a tomato and cream gravy and is served with long-grain basmati rice.
For a less expensive dining experience try the Tandoori Chicken starting at $6. The chicken is marinated in yogurt and spices then broiled in a special charcoal clay oven called the “tandoori” oven. It is served with long-grain basmati rice.
Alexander R., from Athens, on Yelp wasn’t shy with his review. He wrote, “This place is one of my favorite Indian restaurants on earth and I have been to a few. Typical small town Athens charm, the decor won’t blow your mind. But the focus is obviously on the fundamentals.”
“I might rate this restaurant differently if you picked it up and put it in a more urban environment with more competition,” Dan D., from Athens, wrote on Yelp. Since Star of India doesn’t have any Indian competition it makes it hard for customers to gauge its authenticity. “Alas my love affair has diminished as other culinary options popped up on the scene,” Dan D. said.
Where does Star of India rank on your scale? Try it out to see what you think.
Habibi’s and Souvlaki ($)
19 S. Court St., 9 W. State St.
If you’re on the go, don’t have time for a sit down dinner, or are not quite ready for the ethnic challenge, you’re still in luck. Habibi’s, 19 S. Court St., and Souvlaki, 9 W. State St., serve the perfect, tender gyro in no time.
Habibi’s has a classic beef and lamb gyro with lettuce, tomatoes, onion, parsley and gyro sauce for $5.99. Habibi’s also serves kabobs, burgers, and sandwiches at the same menu price.
Souvlaki has “YEE-ros” listed on the menu for $4.50 among other pita wraps, including the Souvlaki, marinated pork tenderloin rolled in a pita, and the vegetarian, mozzarella and cheddar cheese wrapped in a pita with lettuce, tomatoes, onion, carrots, and green peppers. Both are $4.50.
Pita pizzas, beginning at $2.75, and pita subs, starting at $4.25, are other Souvlaki favorites.
It’s worth it to try dining for a change instead of just eating. Check out the map below for a visual on all the ethnic restaurants on your global adventure.
Emily Daffron is a junior in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. She is a baby whisperer as well as editor-in-chief of Her Campus Ohio U. She hopes to work for a lifestyle magazine someday – writing feature stories, helping with photo shoots, online design, and/or magazine layout.