I wasn’t sure why I wanted to visit Athens Georgia. We were trying to skip Atlanta in favor of smaller cities, like Macon and Savannah. I heard Athens was a fun college town, home to the University of Georgia Bulldogs. I thought it would be fun to drink at college bars, and eat at some southern greasy spoons. We found those experiences, but some of the other experiences we had made me realize there is more to eat in Athens than college grub.
A Weekend to Eat in Athens
Within minutes of arriving in Athens, after a lengthy drive from Macon, we sat down at Seabear Oyster Bar. It’s not at all what I expected for our first meal in Georgia. Seabear Oyster Bar is located in the Bottleworks, a group of buildings once used by Coca-Cola to bottle. Now, it houses a series of restaurants and food outlets, each of which tries to work within the historic characteristics of the buildings.
I was famished after the drive, and we chowed down. The menu was a mix of Asian and Southern fusion. And, although prior to this stop on the #USChowDown I wanted all classic southern food, I was happy to get just a little taste of Asia.
An Asian inspired scallion pancake formed a crispy bottom for sweet rock crab and a spicy mayo:
Beautiful chargrilled okra was a nice change from the tasty, but fried, okra we had been eating along the trip. This version, served in a cast iron skillet, was topped with an aioli sprinkled with Old Bay seasoning:
Seabear Oyster Bar prides themselves on their New England style clam chowder, and I can see why. Creamy, and delicious, it was topped with smoky pancetta:
Thai style, green curry mussels were the perfect way to give us a little taste of Thailand:
After dining on top notch small plates at Seabear, I was ready to dive into the rest of the dining scene in Athens. The city is loaded with fabulous higher-end restaurants. But I wanted cheap eats. I wanted to eat where the college students ate. And, for that, we hit a couple of interesting places.
Yes, we visited The Grill for a Saturday morning breakfast. It is a 24 hour dinner in downtown, well known with the college kids for late night eats. For us, it was the perfect stop for biscuits and gravy and some fried eggs. We visited Clocked, a 50s style diner packed with young folks at night. We chowed down on greasy burgers, tater tots, and amazingly thick shakes, loaded with chocolate and peanut butter.
And, we ate at a traditional Mexican restaurant with a complicated name, Tlaloc. Although most of the places where we ate in Athens were walking distance from our hotel, in downtown, Tlaloc required a little drive. Only about 5 minutes outside of town, they offered traditional Mexican food, on big platters. Mexican is one of my comfort foods, and had been off our radar while we were eating along the Gulf Coast. This was a treat!
Grabbing Drinks in Athens
I wanted to visit Athens during the #USChowDown simply because I heard it was a fun college town. Yes, the food was good. But we visited over a weekend, and decided to let our hair down a little. We probably drank a bit more in Athens than we did during most stops on the road trip. I am probably not the first person to admit that about Athens. We hit a couple of college bars, where I felt way too old. But, we also explored the craft beer and cocktail scene in Athens.
One of the most popular places to go for a drink with a view is the rooftop at the Georgia Theater. It’s a unique experience because you walk up to, well, a theater, before heading upstairs to the bar. If all theaters had rooftop bars, maybe more people would go to the theater!
We heard good things about Trappeze Pub, which is a great place to drink craft beer. But, by this point on the road trip, I was craving cocktails. Luckily, on the other side of the wall was Five Bar, which not only specialized in cocktails, but offered a $5 signature cocktail special for happy hour. And, these were some fine cocktails. Nothing quick or pre-made here, but instead they offered a well made Old Fashioned, and other unique cocktails. We were kind of hooked and stopped by each of the 3 nights we were in Athens.
Craft Beer in Athens
Although we had been learning all about craft beer during our road trip, we had two very unique craft beer experiences while in Athens.
As we moved from state to state, we learned about the different restrictions that craft breweries face on selling to the public. It just seems the laws have not caught up to the drinking trends in the South. The most unique work around on these restrictions was in Athens. At Creature Comforts Beer, they are not able to sell beer to the public at their tap room. Instead, they are able to sell tours of their brewery, and at the end you can taste the beer. My kind of tour.
To keep track of it all, they offered plastic bracelets, with detachable tabs. Each time I tasted a beer, they removed one of the “beer” labeled tabs. This bracelet offered 6 tastings, each of which was about 2/3 of a pint of beer. At the end, we got to keep the glass.
I liked the atmosphere at Creature Comforts, a smaller brewery in comparison to its rival just outside of town – Terrapin. It was a Friday night, and the open air tasting room was filled with people, coming in with their kids and their dogs. It was casual, and fun. Everyone just enjoying some fresh craft beer in downtown Athens.
The other way we got to enjoy craft beer in Athens that was different than our other stops, was that Terrapin Beer Company hosted their annual Hop Fest.
This was our first beer festival, and we were a little overwhelmed. Basic tickets were sold similarly to those at Creature Comforts. People received a pint glass and a certain number of tastes along with their brewery tour.
We received VIP tickets, which offered unlimited tastes. It meant we could try their mango habanero and grapefruit brews. I even tried a watermelon gose, which was tart and refreshing on a hot day. Terrapin had so many beers on tap, and I wanted to try them all. I even asked for only small tasting portions, but there was no way to get through every one, and we left with a few still on my to taste list.
The festival itself was held in their tap room, along with a few tents outside. There were food vendors, and free boiled peanuts, a Georgian specialty. They had a stage with live music. And, like the night before at Creature Comforts, there were kids and dogs a plenty. It was a fun way to drink craft beer in Athens!
Where to Eat in Athens Georgia
I enjoyed our time in Athens, perhaps a bit too much. But, it was short. With only 3 nights, and being sandwiched between two of the longest driving days of our American road trip, we just ran out of time for everything we wanted to eat in Athens. Yes, this list is woefully insufficient, but it is a good place to start for good eats (and drinks) in Athens.
Seabear Oyster Bar – Oysters, seafood, and small plates located in the Bottleworks, a series of food outlets just a few blocks outside of the downtown
The National – Although we met the owner of The National, and heard really good things about it, we just ran out of time. They specialize in Mediterranean cuisine, with Southern influences
Tlaloc – Super traditional Mexican cuisine, a short drive from downtown
Clocked Diner – Greasy spoon for burgers and way tasty shakes
The Grill – 50s style, 24 hour diner, perfect for late night grub, or early morning hangovers
Where to Drink in Athens Georgia
Rooftop at The Georgia Theater – Fun on a nice night, with a good view
Five Bar – Perfect for $5 cocktails between 4-6 pm
Creature Comforts Beer – Purchase a tour and get some free beer
Terrapin Beer Company – The tasting room is a little farther out of town, but their beer is available everywhere!
While in Athens, we stayed at the new Hotel Indigo in Athens, and were really impressed. Comfortable and fresh rooms, all within walking distance of downtown bars and restaurants, and the University.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.