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!

Where would ‘Parks and Recreation’ characters drink?

If there’s one department Court Street is not lacking in, it’s bars. Each has a certain je ne sais quoi. To describe these distinct personalities, let’s turn to the television show “Parks and Recreation.” Specifically, if the show’s main characters were to take a road trip from Pawnee to Athens, where would they hang out?

Ron Swanson

Ron Swanson is not one for social gatherings, especially when it comes to enjoying a drink. So no bar on Court Street is likely to be his cup of tea (or rather, his cup of Lagavulin). Picture this: Ron sitting at the bar, drinking a Scotch (neat) while seven-plus college students invade his space, maybe rub against his face, laugh loudly while trying to get served, and prompt Ron to look extremely displeased. No, Court Street isn’t where this mustached man would spend his time. The best option for Ron would be Zoe on East State Street off Court Street. Zoe is a restaurant first, bar second. Ron would ask for a secluded table, order a large steak (rare), and keep the whisky coming. Court Street and Ron Swanson do not mix.

April Ludgate

A great fit for this dark, twisted woman is the Smiling Skull Saloon. The Skull is dark and full of townies and bikers whom April would love to observe and interact with. The Skull’s West Union Street location is a bit off the beaten path, as is April. It’s a relaxed atmosphere, so avoiding social interaction is easy. You don’t have to worry about peppy, loud college students here. A popular opinion among such students is that the Skull plays host to “weird people” and the name of the bar is often associated with a facial grimace and the phrase, “It’s so creepy!” It is definitely not on a party-hungry student’s list of places to hear the latest sugar-coated teeny-bopper hit. There’s a lot of black clothing, beanies, and you may or may not find discarded extras of drugs on the top of the toilet in the bathroom. The Skull is the perfect place for Ms. Ludgate.

Andy Dwyer

With its hipster vibe and reputation for hosting local bands, The Union Bar and Grill was the best bar for Andy. His band, MouseRat, could have played there and been a huge hit. It would have been a match made in heaven. But unfortunately the November fire derailed this option. (R.I.P. Union. until you rise again). Consequently, some recalculating is needed to determine Andy’s best match. A close second to Union is Casa Nueva Cantina and Restaurant. Casa hosts live bands but in a much calmer environment. It’s the bar to go to to sit back and enjoy your beer with friends and just hang out.

Side note: Andy Dwyer likes to jump out of/over things, so if he is sans band and in that particular mood, then Stephen’s On Court would be the bar for him. Their bottom bar has a window that is known for getting jumped out of. I would be lying if I said I didn’t know this from personal experience.

Tom Haverford

Considering Tom was part-owner of a club called the Snakehole Lounge, Court Street is a fantastic fit for him. There are so many options. But the right combination of sleazy, yet faux-VIP is Courtside Sports Bar. The two bar stations and outside area of Courtside give it that “high-end” feel that’s perfect for Tom. Courtside plays host to Ohio University athletes so there’s a high possibility of running into a campus celebrity. Tom Haverford is all about local celebrities. It’s the perfect opportunity for him to schmooze. Courtside is one of two bars specifically known for being the bar to go to if you’re underage. (The other being The Crystal, which if you go to the bars in general, you are all too aware.) We have now arrived at the sleazy aspect of Courtside. Courtside is no Snakehole Lounge, but it’s a fine substitute for Tom.

Donna Meagle

Donna Meagle is too cool for the bars of Court Street. If we had a cigar and wine club, it would be a match made in heaven. Alas, we are not Pawnee, Indiana, and do not have such an establishment. Donna would treat herself to a more expensive bar like J Bar. The bar itself isn’t particularly any classier than the other bars on Court, but it likes to pretend it is by charging more money for its drinks. It is classier than The Crystal, though. But that’s an easy feat. J Bar also has a very aesthetically-pleasing brick wall on its top floor that is nice for taking pictures against. Donna is all about social media, so some pictures with the brick backdrop would do nicely for looking like she’s in a fancier place than she is. Donna probably would just rent that entire top floor of J Bar, if we’re being real.

Leslie Knope

Leslie Knope loves waffles. Her favorite type of food is breakfast food. “Why would anybody ever eat anything besides breakfast food?” What goes great with breakfast food? Coffee. What bar has a signature drink that is coffee-based? Tony’s Tavern. Their Hot Nut is a hot shot of coffee and hazelnut liqueur. I’ve never had one myself, and couldn’t bring myself to taste one just for the purpose of this article because I hate both coffee and shots, but I have heard good things, the majority of which come from my roommate, Sarah Bernstein. “You’ve never had a Hot Nut? Are you out of your mind? They’re so good! You’d love them!” Shut up, Sarah. But I can associate a thing or two, and when I think of Leslie Knope, I immediately think of the Hot Nut. There is no other factor in this equation. Leslie Knope would go to Tony’s specifically because of this drink.

Ben Wyatt

Ben is a beer guy, and a bar known for their wide variety of beers is Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery. The bar has 38 beers on draft, so this gives Ben ample opportunity to try a new beer or two because God knows, there has to be a beer out there he enjoys more than Miller Lite. One would hope, anyway. Jackie O’s draws a diverse, friendly crowd that creates a relaxed atmosphere for someone to sit back and enjoy her beer. Jackie O’s also features live bands, but the music is more blues/garage-rock.

Jerry Gergich

Who cares? He’ll ruin everything anyway.

Ann Perkins

Although Ann has had some great character development, a central theme in her life is her dating situation. It always seems to be her storyline. That being so, Ann would go to Broney’s Alumni Grill during one her dating phases because a large portion of its patrons is the older crowd, which is more of Ann’s niche. Single Ann would go to Broney’s to put herself out there, dating-wise. Even Ann in a relationship would go there with her significant other to mingle with other couples in a calmer environment.

Chris Traeger

If you take Chris Traeger to any bar, he will — “literally” — find any way to remain positive. Even if he is taken into The Crystal, where it almost always spells like urine and feces, Chris would spin that situation positively. That’s what he does. He loves positivity. But I won’t use that as a fallback. He still deserves a well-thought-out Court Street bar choice. This beautiful man would fit in well at The C.I. It’s heavily populated by Greeks but in a surprisingly harmonious way that you don’t have to worry about being annoyed. It’s an overall happy atmosphere and even though the bar gets a bit crowded, you only have to dance your way through. Chris Traeger dances a mean jig. Dancing and happiness are two qualities The C.I. and Chris have in common.

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Hannah Haseman is a strategic communications major in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She spends a startling amount of time watching television shows and movies. Her dream job is to critique those in the entertainment industry through reviews or, more specifically, the bulls-eye section of Entertainment Weekly. 

Discover these out-of-the way dining spots

Scents of charred burgers and hot french fries flow out of the burger joints on Court Street, and greasy chicken and spicy Mexican food smells  fill the air around Union Street. It’s quiet, and people are settling down from the weekend. It’s a Sunday night and many people are home, but a few sneak out for a quick bite.

There are many restaurants on Court Street, and some are easy to miss. For more adventurous people, lesser-known places just off Court Street such as Sol, Restaurant Salaam and Zoe are hidden gems.

At 21 West Washington St., not far past Donkey Coffee, Salaam has been around since 2009. Mark and Hilarie Burhans, co-owners of Salaam, originally had a hookah café where Sol is now. They realized they enjoyed the food aspect of business much more and decided to start a restaurant that sold Middle Eastern food. Since starting the restaurant, they’ve had much success. Salaam serves global cuisine, including Indian, North African, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food.

“We first started this business to make people happy,” Hilarie Burhans said. “We stayed because we love the people.”

Salaam relies on word of mouth rather than advertising to drive business.

“Once someone comes in and tries the food, we get a loyal customer,” Hilarie Burhans said. “Everyone comes back and they always bring their friends.”

Students have heard about Salaam through organizations and classmates. “I first went to Salaam through Hillel,” OU senior Caitlin Karelitz said. “I have come back a few times after that and have loved it every time.”

Salaam’s customers are a mix of people, with students making up a smaller percentage than at other restaurants around Court Street. One reason they’re less likely to frequent Salaam is time.

Karelitz, a senior, goes Uptown more often than when she was a freshman or sophomore. “Not having a meal plan is hard when you don’t want to cook,” Karelitz said. “But also I don’t have time to visit a sit-down restaurant, which limits my options.”

Salaam offers different options from the usual chain restaurants. A popular meal to order is the falafel, which is eight discs of fried, seasoned ground chickpeas with tahini lemon sauce.

The exotic and calm vibes are very welcoming to anyone who wants to try something different, but Salaam is not the only hidden restaurant on Court Street.

Another big hit Uptown is Sol. This Cuban restaurant, 33 North Court Street, is located in the alleyway between Insomnia Cookies and Wings Over Athens. Being down an alley makes it easy to miss.

Unlike Salaam, Sol does advertise. They have a Facebook page and other advertisements. “People don’t think about Sol because not everyone likes Cuban,” sophomore Erin Pogue said. “Whenever my parents come down, it’s one of our first choices in dining.”

Sol, voted best overall restaurant two years running by the Ohio Brew Week, offers authentic Cuban cuisine as well as traditional American favorites such as steak, fish and ribs. In addition to the variety of food options, Sol offers more than 24 rums, 30 different bottled beers and a selection of red and white wines to complement their menu.

Sol is most known for its brunch starting at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, which is why many students dine there with their parents when they visit. Sol is definitely a place students can go on a budget. Two poplar menu items are the Mac & Cheese with BBQ Pork and the Sol Breakfast, both of which are under $10.

“I think I had a good first experience at Sol,” junior Sammy Presti said. “We went for my friend’s birthday and they had the table ready to go when we got there, which was really nice.” On the weekends it is good to make reservations because it is hard to predict how busy it will be. The best times to go are when they open, either at 11:00 a.m. or 5 p.m. That way they are not as packed.

The third restaurant many people don’t know about is Zoe. This upscale, sophisticated restaurant may be off the radar of the average college student due to its prices. Zoe has a nice bar with a variety of drinks. This is the perfect place for a date night or business meeting.

“I go to Zoe about three or four times a year, and it’s often for business,” Athens native Chris Gillespie said. “The other times are when I get an invitation from friends because usually they pay.”

Zoe differs from Salaam and Sol because they have different styles of food. The food is higher end, specialty items. Originally Zoe served French-American fine dining. Now they still have some French items but have a wider variety in foods such as vegetarian, chicken, steaks and seafood. This is not the place to go to order a burger and fries. The food changes so often that the menus are paper and not laminated. During the summer they have seasonal desserts that include melon-flavored sherbets, a Paw Paw dessert and Baked Alaska. This high-end dining is already exclusive based on the items they serve, but being a little farther off Court Street gives them a physical seclusion.

“The one downfall is there is no place to park,” Gillespie said. “Despite the parking problems, the quality of food outweighs the minor flaws.”

Zoe is a family owned restaurant and has been at its current location, 24 1/2 E. State Street, just past Passion Works Studio, for the past six years. Zoe was started by owner Scott Bradley nine years ago and was previously located in The Plains, where Fluff’s Rickshaw Thai restaurant was more recently. Zoe draws many Athens natives and university faculty members, but many young couples will come in for a special occasion such as Valentine’s Day. Over time they have attracted a younger crowd and hope to continue this growth.

“Zoe has this stigma of being this expensive place,” Front of the House Manager James Farley said. “Once people come in and look at the menu, they discover that it is not as expensive as they think and are usually pleasantly surprised.”

Zoe’s prices may not be the cheapest, but the food that is served justifies the higher prices. Foods that are found on their menu include, cedar plank roasted salmon, flat iron steak, and scallops. The flat iron steak is an $18 meal, which includes a 6 oz. steak, mashed potatoes and vegetables. A very popular and inexpensive meal is the Asiago Gnocchi, which is only $9. This is a great on the go meal for a student who is on a budget, but is tired of the same meal every weekend.

The interior design gives off a fancy, sophisticated look. The open kitchen allows customers to see the cooking in progress. On top of that, they have a mixology night every Wednesday where they have a special cocktail menu separate from their everyday cocktail menu. “During mixology night, we often see many groups of women or men rather than couples,” Farley said. “They are just looking for a relaxing night and usually set up in the bar section.”

Zoe gets its name out through advertisements on WOUB and occasionally running an ad in the Athens News. Most of their service comes from word of mouth. Many regulars will come and bring their friends.

“Location I think is definitely a big reason people don’t know about us because we aren’t directly on Court Street,” Farley said. “I always see people walk past this window, look in and then look up at our sign to see the name and then continue walking. They just don’t know we exist.” The big weekends such as Homecoming and Parents Weekend bring in a lot of customers. Zoe also gets a fair number of customers through business meetings and interviews.

Restaurant Salaam, Sol and Zoe have so much to offer, but their locations stop them from being top of mind. If students break out of their regular routine and go try out these hidden gems, they might just discover a new place they love.

Sidebar: A look inside the restaurants.
Here’s where to find three great dining spots

 

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Andie Danesi is a junior Publication Design/Infographics major with a minor in Journalism. She hopes to one day become an art director at a magazine, but until then she values each experience as an opportunity to grow as she continues her love for design. Check out her design portfolio.