An Insider’s Guide To The Best Restaurants In Athens, Ga

Athens, Georgia is known for it’s loyal UGA fans, unique residents and, of course, their diverse food options! Restaurants in Athens, GA like Mama’s Boy, South Kitchen Bar, and Hilltop Grille offer up the good ol’ southern home-cooking you’ve heard so much about, but did you know that Athens also offers exotic options from restaurants like The National and Cali N Tito’s? Or perhaps you’re looking for some bar food from Trappeze Pub, some vegetarian options from The Grit, or even some seafood from Last Resort Grill. Whatever you’re craving, chances are Athens has it.

best restaurants in athens ga

Photo courtesy of The National

Best Seafood

Last Resort Grill

You’ll probably recognize Last Resort Grill from the iconic mural on the side of the restaurant, but have you actually ordered food there? If not, you definitely need to check it out! This restaurant is one of the most well-known spots in downtown Athens, and their food speaks even louder than that beautiful mural.

Last Resort offers tons of southern-style seafood options like the Salmon and Grits. But if you don’t like seafood, have no fear! Though they are famous for the surf, they also have plenty of turf to choose from, like the Roasted Pork Tenderloin.

Best Vegetarian/Vegan

The Grit

The Grit is an excellent place for an alternative to meat. Their expansive menu is a dream come true for non-meat eaters, but also has enough flavor to satisfy just about any hungry stomach.

If it’s a nice day, try getting one of the tables outside. The restaurant sits at the back of downtown Athens in a nice rustic area, so you can eat your Mondo Burrito while enjoying the scenery around you!

If you go there for breakfast, make sure to order the El Rey – a tortilla covered in pinto beans, salsa, cheese, and scrambled eggs (or tofu). Oh, and make sure to come with an empty stomach, or be prepared to take some leftovers home!

Best Place For A Large Group

The National

Are you and your crew craving some exotic food? Well, The National’s got you covered. Their small plates are perfect for sharing with friends and tasting plenty of flavors.

The Mediterranean-inspired cuisine is ideal if your taste buds are feeling adventurous. The menu is constantly changing since The National buys from local farmers, making every meal a unique one!

Best Bar Food

Trappeze Pub

Looking for some finger food to snack on? Trappeze turns bar food into an Athens delicacy and gives you all of your favorite bar food options – gourmet popcorn, boiled peanuts and sweet potato fries? Yum! They also have small plates and larger entrees if you’re feeling a little hungrier than you originally thought.

Though the food is higher quality than typical bar food, the prices are still pretty low. It’s a great place for a tasty, low-priced meal. Their expansive craft beer list is another reason to visit, because after all, it is a pub! They have plenty of local beers, so you can feel like a true Athenian.

Best Date Night Spots

Hilltop Grille

Craving a cozy atmosphere for you and your significant other? Drop in to Hilltop Grille for a nice meal with warm lighting and a welcoming vibe. There’s also a blazing fire to warm you up on those cold Georgia days.

They serve southern comfort food along with their seafood and steaks to make you feel even more at home. The menu is a bit pricier than most Athens-local restaurants, but the quality of the food is worth it. After all, who can put a price on a cozy night away from the freezing Georgia temperatures?

South Kitchen + Bar

South Kitchen + Bar not only has southern food, but serves it up elegantly, right down to their fried beignets! The restaurant also has beautiful, large windows, giving you a nice view no matter where you eat.

The marble columns throughout the restaurant also give it a nice, classy look. Take your loved one out for a night on the town, and make sure to grab a meal here. Your date is sure to be impressed by the chic look, and you’ll be happy with the reasonably-priced food!

Best Breakfast

Mama’s Boy

If you’ve ever heard someone speak about Athens food, you’ve most likely heard Mama’s Boy’s name thrown into the sentence. Mama’s Boy is a favorite among Athens locals, and there’s no question why. Get there early if you want a guaranteed spot – the restaurant is pretty small and the lines form as soon as their doors open in the morning!

The restaurant is only open until 2:30 PM on Monday thru Thursday, and 3:30 PM on Friday thru Sunday, so make sure to arrive early so you don’t miss out on this Athens-famous breakfast. No matter what you order, make sure to ask for an extra biscuit. The light, fluffy biscuits will truly solidify your love for Athens’ favorite breakfast spot. Try the Georgia Peach French Toast for a fun, local-inspired start to your day… After all, who doesn’t love Georgia peaches?

Ike & Jane Cafe and Bakery

If you don’t have time to wait in line for your breakfast, Ike & Jane is a more understated breakfast location. Their bakery features daily-fresh donuts and even offer gluten-free options! The cafe is great if you’re looking for a hot breakfast, and they even serve lunch, too.

If you’re trying to put some spice into your morning, try the roasted jalapeños with bacon, egg and white cheddar – it’s a cult classic for Ike & Jane addicts. The lunch offers soups, salads and sandwiches for a delicious, classic meal.

Best Throwback

Clocked!

Don’t you miss the simpler days when popping Double Bubble bubbles and sharing milkshakes were all the rage? With Clocked you can relive the glory days… But with a twist. Their classic American food (like hamburgers and hotdogs) can be served the way you’ve always loved (cheese, onions, lettuce and plenty of ketchup), or you can be a little adventurous and order a Peanut Butter & Jelly Burger or a Blackberry Bacon & Jam Burger.

Grab a seat at the bar if you want to watch some old SciFi movies on a vintage TV and split a shake with your loved one. Order the red velvet milkshake and ask them to make it a malt. This whimsical diner will certainly remind you of the days of poodle skirts and swing dancing.

The Grill

The Grill is another restaurant that takes you back in time, complete with neon diner signs and diner-style booths. This old-fashioned spot offers one of Athens’ locals most treasured foods: feta fries. If you haven’t tried the feta fries, can you even say you’ve had the full Athens experience?

Meet up with your friends and grab an order of feta fries to share… But fair warning, you might want to order your own portion once you try them! This is another great location for milkshakes, too. The chocolate malt is a classic, delicious sweet treat done right. The Grill is also open 24/7, so you can head over for lunch or even a midnight snack.

Best Sweet Tooth Satisfier

Zombie Coffee & Donuts

Zombie is pretty new to the Athens community, but it’s already a most-loved spot in downtown. Everyone loves donuts, and customizing them just makes them even better! At Zombie, you can choose your own toppings to create your very own fun donut. Oreos, Fruity Pebbles, SweeTarts… The possibilities are endless.

These donuts are cake-based and so soft, you’ll certainly want to come back to this deliciously sweet location. Grab some coffee, too, if the sugar rush simply isn’t enough to energize you!

Insomnia

Cookies and ice cream are the perfect late-night treat, and Insomnia has both. You can even make an ice-cream sandwich with your choice of two cookies and a scoop of ice-cream. But maybe you’re just looking for cookies – you can order a box for you and your friends, or a few cookies for yourself. They’ll warm the cookies up for you, too!

Insomnia is open until 3AM on Sundays through Thursdays and 4AM on Fridays and Saturdays, so indulge in those late night sweet cravings and pick up a few cookies to go. Make sure to order a S’mores deluxe cookie while you’re there – graham crackers and marshmallows and chocolate, oh my!

Pauley’s Crepe Bar

Pauley’s has a great lunch and dinner menu, but they’re most famous for their delicious crepes. The long list has crepes that could appeal to anyone – sweet or savory. Make sure to try the Apple Pie crepes, complete with chunks of apples and a dash of cinnamon!

The decor is pretty unique, too. The walls are covered in plaques with pictures of people who have joined the Around The World Beer Club (which involves drinking at least 100 different beers and marking it on a beer card), accompanied by a fun quote by each person.

They also offer some great food options other than crepes. Their chicken salad sandwich on sourdough bread is a mouth-watering option that you’ll want to order again and again!

Best Kid-Friendly Atmosphere

Cali N Tito’s

The Latin American influence on this restaurant is definitely easy to see. Decorations cover the walls and ceilings, and there is always something fun happening! Cali N Tito’s has two locations in Athens: South Lumpkin Street and Cedar Shoals Drive.

If it’s a nice day out, head over to the South Lumpkin location and eat your meal outside in the sunshine. If the weather’s not looking too great, try the Cedar Shoals location, a bigger spot where everything is indoors.

The Cedar Shoals location also has tricycles and a dance floor for busy kids. Cali N Tito’s is guaranteed to be a fun night for the family! Don’t let the fun atmosphere distract you from ordering some Latin American-inspired food. The cuisine is as authentic and unique as the decor. Order the Fried Sweet Plantains with your meal for some unique finger food.

Best Southern Comfort Food

The Place

Fried chicken, fried green tomatoes and caramelized onions… Sometimes we all need a little southern twang. The Place has everything you love about southern cuisine, complete with chicken and dumplins, just like your mom used to make.

Each weekday has a different theme to the meats offered, so make sure to visit on a Tuesday for Country Fried Steak or a Wednesday for Hump Day Pulled BBQ. Head on upstairs to the bar if you’re looking for their unique cocktails or other drinks, or stay downstairs if you’re here for a meal. The small size of the restaurant makes your visit nice and cozy and wraps you in the southern hospitality you’ve heard so much about in Georgia.

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Restaurants in Athens, GA offer up good ol’ southern home-cooking you’ve heard so much about, but did you know that Athens also offers some unique options.

Becky Burgess

Becky Burgess is a student at the University of Georgia, majoring in journalism at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications and minoring in fashion merchandising. She is the first American-born female on both sides of her family, and loves to travel to England, Scotland, Wales and France to visit her extended family and explore her family history. Because of this, Becky has had a love of adventure and travel from a young age, and enjoys exploring the nooks and crannies of every city she enters. She currently resides in Athens, Georgia, but hopes to one day travel the world and document her experiences.

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