There is a lot to see, do and eat in Athens as well as the surrounding region. Here are some ideas if you need inspiration. For more depth, details and to read things I forgot to mention, check out the Athens category on the main page.
To learn more about Athens, take a look at this great project from OU students – Soul of Athens
And for all things food in this region – take a look at the 30 Mile Meal.
Twice or thrice a year I drive down to Lake Hope State Park and rent a cabin for a long weekend. I hike at my favorite places – Cantwell Cliffs, Cedar Falls, Ash Cave and Moonville Tunnel. I make fires, get caught up on books and podcasts. I play a game Risk or Carcassone depending on the company of my companion(s). But the real reason I go is to eat like a fool in Athens, my favorite college town east of the Mississippi. Athens is a short 22 mile drive from Lake Hope which is about how long I can stay awake after what is typically a lunch at two…or more locations. And it is a fast and easy 1 1/2 hours from Columbus – so I have been known to go there for breakfast, lunch or dinner on a whim. I always go O’Betty’s and get in as many meals as I can as well as a Burrito Buggy burrito to go.
Athens Farmers Market
The Market is open all year on Saturdays and Wednesdays from April to December. Hours are 10 AM to 1 PM.
329 East State Street
Avalanche pizza may look a bit cheesy from the outside but these guys know what they are doing. Avalanche has been voted as the best pizza in Athens eight years in a row. The shop has won several national and international pizza competition awards. Among their 45 plus toppings are Kimchi, Red Bliss potatoes, and cashews.
Pictured below are two of their dozens of gourmet pies.
Ted Nugent – Genoa Salami, Chicken. Ham, Pepperoni, Steak, Meatballs Mozzarella and Provolone
Godzilla – Best Pizza in World Pizza Championship (Italy) 2007
Spinach, Feta Cheese, Chicken, Sun dried Tomatoes, Provolone, and something else
A true Athens experience is getting a burrito from the Burrito Buggy late at night in the heart of campus, the buggy was doing Chipotle before the concept was big, One little food cart makes a lot of yummy big burritos. I love this place and look for it whenever I am at Athens. Hours vary by time of year, number of students in town, and weather conditions.
Casa Nueva Restaurant, Bodega, and Cantina
6 West State Street
Casa as the locals call it started in 1985 as a worker owned co-op restaurant. It is still worker owned today maintaining its hippy, tree hugger, whole foods roots and continuing to deliver some exceptional food at reasonable prices. The Bodega and Cantina are extensions to the original restaurant space. The Bodega offers quick meals and appetizers while the Cantina serves as a waiting area, fully serviced bar and venue for local performing acts.
As much of the food as possible is from local or Ohio suppliers whenever practical. The supplier lists features over 40 local farmers and food companies as well as Columbus Brewing Company and Marietta Brewing Company. The menu is changes each season to feature and showcase the produce available. A must try for any visit is the salsa sampler of chips with two or more salsas. You will not be disappointed. The menu does offer meat but is very vegetarian friendly. Most of the menu is Mexican themed or inspired but there are other food styles represented for personal as well as bio-diversity. The menu changes with the seasons featuring what is available locally as the core ingredients for many items. Breakfast is really good as well. The restaurant is always busy on the weekends. There can be a wait at peak times but feel free to use my survival strategy, put your name on the wait list then walk across the street to O’Betty’s to order a hot dog and fries to go to make wait enjoyable. Or if you can find a spot at the Casa Cantina Bar, order a local brew and a salsa sampler to kill some time.
Donkey Coffee and Espresso
17 1/2 West Washington Street
Donkey Coffee and Espresso
Fair Trade hot and cold coffee beverages served with snacks and treats from local producers including: Crumbs Bakery, Big Chimney, Avalanche Pizza, and more.
Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery
24 West Union
Beer. Damn good beer and artisan ales. Made from local ingredients when possible.
Miller’s Chicken (Poultry Company)
235 West State Street
The Miller family has sold chicken, in various forms since the 1940’s. This simple, cinder block building is tucked away off the beaten path in town but is well-known to locals You can buy buckets of chicken, pints of side dishes, or chicken hearts and gizzards. They make a fine fried chicken and the prices are very pocket friendly to promote poultry consumption.
O’Betty’s (Ohhh.. Betty’s… mmm)
15 West State Street
740 589 6111
Monday – Saturday 11 AM – 3AM
Sunday 12 PM – 8 PM
O’Betty’s Red Hot Dogs and Sausages
Oh, O’Betty’s. This is my main reason for and first stop of most of my trips to Athens. The shop won the dining hearts in Athens since it opened in 2003 and has been voted best Hot Dog each year since 2004. The theme of the place involves hot dogs named after various striptease and pin up models from the first half of the 20th century.
The hot dogs are 5 Star all beef dogs with a natural casing (one of the best commercially available hot dogs in the country). There are twelve “varietease” of dogs including a create your own style and tofu dog for vegetarians . If you want a Chicago style dog – go with the Salome – “Dance of the 7 Veils” – sport peppers, sweet relish, pickle spear, diced tomatoes, diced onion, Stadium Mustard, and celery seed. Any kind of topping you can think of is available as well as salsas from Casa Nueva, baked beans, mushrooms, and on occasion, toppings such as corn relish and pepperjack cheese.
My current favorite is a bratwurst – The Sophie – a Sheyboygan Brat with diced jalapeno, mustard, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, fresh chopped parsley on a toasted, crusty french style roll. Yum.
The Fresh Cut fries – are perfect.
The dine in area accommodates about 16 people, most people do carry out. On a Friday or Saturday night expect long lines of college students outside O’Betty’s waiting for their chance to get the perfect hangover food. My favorite memory is, (at about 2 AM) getting the third to last dog and the last order of fries after seeing the Dirtbombs in 2005.
Another bonus of O’Betty’s – the mini in-house Hot Dog History Museum / Weiner Hall of Fame.
This is a mandatory stop when in Athens.
Owner Bob Satmary enjoys what they do and clearly put service and fun first for the business. They are always chatting it up with their friends/customers. And they like to mix things up as well. In the winter – expect some tasty soups to keep warm and all year-long expect special hot dog combos to keep things hopping (last one I experienced was a Mango BBQ sauce dog with bacon – yum!).
The greatest (but no longer held) event in Athens in my opinion was the Hot Dog Derby and Hot Dog Eating Contest – two local events that are not to be missed.
you want to win that hot dog contest – plan on eating over a dozen of these.
One of my best life experiences was working at O’Betty’s for a shift.