When it comes to excellent food, Athens, GA may not be the first place that springs to mind. But it is quite a foodie paradise. And they’ve got a couple fabulous hotels too, in case you’ve got a student you need to visit here’s you guide on where to sleep and eat while you are visiting Athens, GA.
One of my regrets is that I never went away to school. It seems my peers who lived on campus formed life long friendships, as opposed to me, who commuted to for college and lived at home. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my college years, but still, a recent visit to Athens, GA, home of UGA got me thinking about what it would have been like to have been a student there for four years. No doubt the food scene has gotten incredibly better – I loved the spots I visited on a recent getaway. And thanks to the Mazda CX-5 for providing the cool ride for my city escape.
Can we just first talk about the cool style of the Graduate Hotel? I’ve stayed at a couple other Graduate hotels (Oxford, MS and Ann Arbor, MI) and loved them so much, I knew that when I visited Athens I’d have to stay at the one there. I’m basically on a mission to stay at every Graduate Hotel in the country!
Look how cool the room keys are at Graduate Hotels. Every university has some famous person that’s graduated from there, right? They take their ids and make them into rooms keys! Oh and as if fate had this picture destined to happen, as soon as we settled into our room a huge storm started. But just as we were about to leave for dinner, it cleared up and were rewarded with a lovely rainbow (see it with the Mazda CX-5 above)!
Besides cool hotels like the Graduate, I bet that the dining scene has evolved tremendously in Athens since my college days too. I honestly thought we may have a hard time finding decent places to eat, but I was shocked that I actually had a hard time narrowing down where we would go! There are truly some amazing restaurants in Athens, GA! And luckily we ate at some of the best restaurants in Athens.
I made us an 8pm reservation for Friday at Home Made in Athens. It was a short drive (less than 2 miles from the Graduate hotel).
Can I tell you a secret? After the reading the menu online, it was the dessert that had me hooked. A fig cheesecake flan! Two of my favorite kinds of desserts combine? I mean, just look at it (below). Start with the Palomish Cocktail. This tequila based cocktail is the perfect kickoff to the amazing flavors and textures that are about to cross your palate.
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Yes, dessert was phenomenal but so were the first two courses as well. The Peach gazpacho was perfect for the hot weather and the chargrilled oysters were divine as well. I am overjoyed we picked this as our first restaurant to visit in Athens. Home Made was just lovely. Highly recommend you add it to your must visit restaurants when you visit Athens.
Timing couldn’t have been more perfect as we got back to the Graduate just in time to catch the last half of the concert that was taking place at The Foundry (the special events spot on site at The Graduate). If you have never seen the Journey tribute band, Departure, you are missing out, friends! Glen said of all their shows (we’ve seen them three times) the sound was best at The Foundry.
Brunch at South Kitchen in Athens – another terrific Athens, GA restaurant
After a night of restful sleep, we headed out for breakfast at South Kitchen in Athens. Luckily this restaurants was close enough to the hotel that we could simply walk and give the Mazda a little rest. The beds at The Graduate are so comfy and we didn’t hear any noise (even though the hotel is located in the heart of the city). I’m sure on game day weekends this must be packed but we were able to simply walk right in. Fun fact, the building that this Athens restaurant is in has the second most marble of any building in Georgia.
Skip mimosas and bloody marys for their specialty cocktail, a Strawberry Negroni. Yes, it is a bold choice for brunch but YOLO! You have to get the tater tots to start. What makes them special? The dipping sauces that they come with: marmalade, garlic ranch and sweet pepper. Then, if you love poutine as much as I do, get the fried chicken over poutine for your main entree. Since this was 11 am and we wouldn’t be eating again for about 8 hours, I didn’t feel bad to really go wild. After your meal, spend some time in the lobby of the building where South Kitchen restaurant is located and take in the beautiful design.
An afternoon excursion at Athens Botanical Gardens
Did you know that Athens has beautiful botanical gardens? And the best part? They are free for anyone to enjoy! It was really hot as you can imagine in Athens during the middle of August. But we still enjoyed their Botanical gardens. Even if you don’t feel like walking around outside, they’ve got a really neat interior with plants of all different species.
It is huge so allow yourself plenty of time to stroll around and admire all the different plants and displays. Note that if you visit on a weekend, you might be shooed away by a photographer taking engagement / wedding photos. Oh well, we still got to explore and enjoy most of the gardens. And we had an abundance of butterflies all around us, which I loved.
Dinner at The Pine Athens – a new, yet fabulous addition to Athens restaurant scene
A newcomer in Athens dining is the Pine. They’ve got a huge lot in the back for free parking, but luckily we were able to score a spot right up front and easily fit the Mazda CX-5. Protip: There is a a lovely sports bar in the basement called Root where you can enjoy a pre or post dinner drink.
I thought it fitting to order the Staycation, since I was having a mini staycation at the Graduate Hotel and dining around Athens. The refreshing tequila based drink, is quite fruity with a hibiscus coconut shrub and pineapple juice. However, if you are watching your calories, or just watching your drinking calories, order the Mom Bod with watermelon juice, lemon juice, and grapefruit bitters.
To start, the chickpea lettuce wraps are amazing with a spicy kick, and their cauliflower salad. However, their entrees a magnificent and so unlike other dishes I’ve had at other restaurants. Funny enough, I recently visited the Bahamas and so many vendors claimed to have “crab fried rice”. The things was, there was zero crab at all. But not at The Pine. Their crab fried rice was chock full of crab but more than that is had a unique taste that I loved, not to mention the presentation.
The fish special of the evening, a fried piece of Skate is mixed with collard greens and tomatoes. Glen devoured it and couldn’t stop talking about terrific that dish was for the rest of our trip! Make sure you put The Pine restaurant in Athens on your list when you visit this college town.
Brunch at The Last Resort Athens – one last bite at a perennial Athens restaurant favorite!
Luckily for us, we visited Athens during a non-busy weekend. We spoke to a couple who rents their town homes out during game weekends and make a small fortune. Besides costly stays, restaurants in Athens get crowded during these times too. There were a ton of people waiting for what is arguably Athens most popular brunch spot, The Last Resort. It would have been easy to balk at the number of people ahead of us but they are great at turning tables and we didn’t have to wait long at all.
We had a cozy little nook in the corner and began our brunch in Athens at this fabulous restaurant with one of their specialty mimosas. While I realize I had just eschewed the idea of mimosas at brunch in favor of a proper cocktail, there were so many interested sounding ones like the Blood Orange, Poinsettia and Funday (sparkling wine with orange and cranberry juice) I couldn’t resist ordering one. And you shouldn’t either!
Though there’s metered parking on the street, it is free on Sundays and Glen was easily able to parallel park our SUV using the cameras that come in the car.