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Athens, GA City Guide

by Stephanie

Athens, GA map Illustration by Sarah Lawrence

Today’s Athens, GA City Guide comes from Alyssa DeHayes and Natasha Murphy, two friends living in Athens, Georgia. Alyssa is a publicist for record labels and independent artists in the US and abroad at the Athens-based Team Clermont. Natasha is a freelance web developer who spends her days building online projects. Both are UGA grads who share a love of live music, great food, fancy cocktails and online shopping.

Today, Alyssa and Natasha are giving us a tour of their home of Athens, GA. From eateries to flea markets, they share the best of this southern city. Thanks, Alyssa and Natasha, for this wonderful guide! — Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump . . .

Check out this Google Map with all of the below listings!


To Eat

The Branded Butcher
Charcuterie is the word at Chef Matthew Palmerlee’s new venture. Small plates of charcuterie rotate frequently, and if you’re anything like us, the dish of pimento goat cheese will be sparkling clean when you’re done with it. The brunch cocktail chalkboard boasts a Big Girl Mimosa.

Daily Co-op Groceries
Our local co-op and natural goods general store carries local and organic produce, health food, natural toiletries, pre-made sandwiches and dips, and bulk goods. Plenty of options for all dietary needs.

Farm 255
Locally sourced produce and meats from their area farm partners. Many of the employees spend time on the farm caring for the livestock and vegetables that make their way to the restaurant. Their locavore food truck serves affordable fare during lunch hours and sets up at community events during other hours. After dinner service, the outdoor stage on the patio showcases touring and local bands.

Five Star Day
The biscuits and gravy include five star-shaped biscuits, and the soul-chicken is a satisfying dinner choice. Home-style with a creative flair, you won’t leave hungry, as each entree feels like a warm hug. Fried green tomatoes, cornbread, and Hoppin’ John are highlights.

The Globe
Your downtown soccer football headquarters, this traditional pub is great for a meal but even better for lingering. House-made potato chips with melted blue cheese, fish & chips, tandoori chicken salad, the economical Twin Pines diner burgers, and a solid draught list make this a great place to linger in a cozy booth.

The Grit
An Athens legend, this place wrote the book on Southern-style vegetarian fare. In addition to the always hard to choose from daily special and veggie board, the menu boasts a big selection of international favorites such as falafel, samosas, and quesadillas. Their salsa and marinara recipes always turn out perfect. The brunch is definitely something you should try while you’re in town (especially if you’re out late the night before).

Jittery Joe’s Roaster
The flagship location of local coffee purveyor Jittery Joe’s, the roaster is where it all begins. Grab a cup on the front porch.

Last Resort
Make reservations if you plan on going for dinner. If you go for brunch, get there 15 minutes before it opens. A favorite of sorority girls and locals alike, brunch and lunch are surprisingly affordable ($8 entree options), and a dinner favorite is the Praline Chicken or Shrimp & Grits.

The National
A truly memorable dining experience. Chef Peter Dale never fails to make good use of seasonal offerings and locally sourced meat and seafood. Menu highlights include gazpacho, boquerones, medjool dates with celery and manchego, the veggie plate . . . really everything on the menu is a highlight. The wine selection is among the best in town. Pro-tip: if you’re unable to get a reservation (they go fast), show up anyway. Seating at the bar and outdoor tables is first come, first serve.

Ted’s Most Best
Sister restaurant to the Grit, Ted’s boasts an impressive menu of personal pizzas. The arugula with an egg is one of our favorites! The patio is a great place to share an evening meal. There’s also a bocce ball court!

To Do

Indie South Fair
Athens is full of creative, independent spirits, and twice a year, the Indie South Fair provides a venue for them to showcase and sell their wares. Formerly called Athens Indie Craftstravaganza, it boasts a vintage market, kids’ activities, music, and local food carts.

Ciné Bar Café
Ciné is Athens’ independent movie theatre and art house. Sip a glass of wine or a latte and munch on a pumpkin chocolate chip cookie while taking in a film and the latest art exhibit.

Catch a Show
Known far and wide as a music town, there are shows at almost every venue every night of the week. Pick up a copy of Flagpole, the local alt weekly paper, and check the calendar for shows at 40 Watt ClubThe Georgia TheatreCaledonia LoungeMelting Point, and the bars that also host shows. Athfest and Popfest host downtown festivals each year.

Twilight Criterium
Held each May, Twilight is a fun-filled weekend of bike-related activity. The event culminates with a nighttime race through the cleared, shutdown streets of downtown Athens.


Adjacent to Trappeze you’ll find Highwire, the cocktail counterpart to the highly acclaimed craft beer bar. On some nights, you can get lost in one of the establishment’s many seating booths and listen to a full jazz set or other low-key musical performance. The two restaurants share a kitchen, so rest assured if you’re hungry; you’ll be able to get something to eat.

The Manhattan
An Athens classic. Home of the Blenheim’s and Maker’s Mark cocktail. When proprietor Joey Tatum purchased the bar, he decided to leave the decor unchanged. Velvet paintings of beautiful ladies, a fantastic collection of vintage barware, and eclectic handmade furniture make this a must visit.

Little Kings
Also owned by Joey Tatum, Little Kings boasts one of the three best patios in town (there’s cornhole!). Weekend dance parties during the warmer months are a great prelude to nightswimming. Gummy bears and goldfish crackers are served during happy hour.

Max Canada
There are five pool tables, a foosball table, a good selection of pinball machines, and darts. There’s also one of those machines for playing erotic photo hunt. We never recognize the music they play (which says a lot), but we’re always so glad when we finally make our way to the bar for a reasonably priced pitcher of beer or extremely strong cocktail.

A very special place indeed. Trappeze boasts many beers on tap and far more in bottles. You won’t be able to order a Coors Light here, but you will get to try some amazing new beers — think Japanese saison with notes of lemongrass or a banana beer. Their food menu is pretty great, too. Highlights include a vegetarian Reuben with house-made pickled cabbage and a nice selection of cheeses.

To Stay

A popular wedding and special events venue, the Foundry Park Inn (& Spa) offers everything. Its musical venue, the Melting Point, is a great place to see national acts like Yo La Tengo in a laid-back atmosphere.

Hotel Indigo
Hotel Indigo offers hip furnishings and LEED Gold-certified facilities right at the end of downtown. Check out the local art in the gallery while sipping a cocktail from the bar.


Southern Vision
It’s a tough task for vintage boutiques in any city to differentiate themselves, but Southern Vision has its own voice as a shop. Below Jittery Joe’s, downtown on Broad St., you’ll find skate supplies; band tees printed by the owner, Clancy; a large, organized record selection; and of course, vintage.

Agora (vintage)
A self-proclaimed funk-junk extravaganza! You can find the coolest items at Agora! This large shop is filled with consignment spaces for vintage, antiques, records, and handmade items.

Avid Bookshop
Awesome independent bookstore. Local proprietress Janet Geddis has done a fantastic job of creating a community-focused space for readings and other events.

With an emphasis on local and sustainable fashion, owner Sanni Baumgartner curates a boutique of well-edited vintage and local handmade accessories. Highlights include Community Service, a line of reworked vintage items altered to be wearable today, and jewelry by Laurel Hill.

Peruse owner Lori Palluck’s selection of fun and very wearable vintage clothing and jewelry.

A great place to pick up a gift for mom. Offers a great selection of scented candles and original handmade cards. Watch out for the cute store kitty!

Tibi, Diane Von Furstenburg, Longchamp, Vera Bradley, Frye, Marc by Marc Jacobs, BCBG — this is the place to go if you’re looking for designer items. Their twice-annual 70% off sale is seriously not to be missed.

Jackson Street Books
Browse the book selection for used treasures.

Minx (vintage)
Go here if you’re in the market for cute dresses, awesome housewares, or boots. The stock moves fast, so if you see something you like, go ahead and give it a home.

Native America Gallery
Minnetonka moccasins, dream catchers, beading supplies, and turquoise jewelry galore make this specialty boutique a dependable place to pick up a gift for a friend or for yourself.

R. Wood Studio Ceramics
Lovely local pottery. Look out for annual studio sales!

Treehouse Kid & Craft
Super cute kid’s shop, DIY center, and craft supply store. Mom will wish the clothes came in her size, and the kids will want to learn about mom’s craft supplies. Unique toys, craft supplies like washi tape, craft classes, and more.

Independent record store carrying local releases and a wide selection of vinyl, old and new.

Carefully curated boutique featuring hip brands like Equipment, Stylestalker, One Teaspoon, and Chaser.


To Eat

Big City Bread
The brunch line moves quickly, and dinner is a fun change from the usual downtown haunts. Grab a baguette to go, and keep an eye out for the holiday market in the courtyard.

Dondero’s Kitchen
Grab a gourmet picnic to go!

The pupusas! Oh, how they sing! Everything is wonderful at this out-of-the-way Mexican restaurant.

From the blue mason jar pendant lamps to the handmade tablecloths, you will feel right at home when you dine at Heirloom. The menu items are delicious, seasonal, and well thought out. Their brunch is among the best in Athens (seriously, try the grits). Each brunch features a new “love on a biscuit” offering. Our favorite so far has been pulled pork with a poached egg! The lunch service is also of note, with a rotating selection of sandwiches, soups, and salads made with the freshest locally sourced ingredients available. And the dinner service is perfect for those looking to dine in a quiet, relaxed atmosphere away from downtown. Wine dinners, cheese tastings, and other special events happen regularly, so be sure to check out the calendar on their website!

Ike & Jane
Go nuts for donuts! Lucky charms donuts, the Elvis donut (peanut butter, bacon, and banana), red velvet donuts . . . an endless selection of donuts and pastries! You can receive 10% off your purchase by talking like a pirate, singing your favorite Prince song, or following whatever instructions are posted behind the counter that day.

Marti’s at Midday
A gourmet to-go food shop. Try this cute little cafe for lunch or stop in before a picnic to pick up some of their curry chicken salad or pimento cheese!

White Tiger
Ken Manring makes some seriously good barbeque. And seriously good grilled vegetables. And one amazing happy top cheeseburger. Cash/local checks only.

Agua Linda
A good place for Mexican food. A great place for drinking margaritas outside.

Senor Sol
Local favorite for delicious Mexican fare; tasty margaritas and micheladas; and fast, friendly service.

1000 Faces Coffee Cupping
1000 Faces roasts coffee locally and sources beans based on their fair-trade manifesto (see the website!).


Normal Bar
This neighborhood watering hole is locals’ refuge from the students downtown. Cocktail highlights include Hecho in Mexico, made with the natural cane sugar Mexican Coca-Cola, Mermaid Tears, and the Killer Bee.

To Do

Athens Farmer’s Market
The early bird gets the worm, or the heirloom tomato, or lacinato kale, or bushel of green beans. Worth waking early, local vendors are on hand with coffee and breakfast options, as well.

Take a class in aerial dance, trapeze, strength and conditioning, and more in the historic Tracy Street Warehouse complex. Reward yourself after with a treat from Hip-Pops next door.

J&J Flea Market
Get there early for antiques, records, and bargains. The Mexican food inside one of the indoor markets will fill you up, and the leather vendor will personalize belts, dog collars, and keychains for you with Western flair. Warm months bring produce and plant vendors.

Kurt Wood Record Sale
Not to be missed! Check the site regularly to see when the next sale will be.


To Eat

Add-Drug Pharmacy Counter
Grab a sandwich, milkshake, or a dab of pimento cheese on a burger while sitting at the classic pharmacy counter.

Cali & Tito’s
Delicious Cuban food served in one of the most eclectic dining environments you’ll ever see! The fish burrito is out of this world! Cash/local checks only.

Five & Ten
Recent James Beard-award winner Hugh Acheson helped make a name for good food in Athens. They have plans to relocate in 2012 to a bigger space. You can follow their progress on their website.

The Royal Peasant
Go watch a game of footie! Eat some fish & chips! Watch out, the curry’s surprisingly spicy! There’s limited seating at this British-centric pub, so be prepared to wait if you show up when there’s a good game on. Good for draft-beer lovers and soccer fans.


Hawthorne House
Hawthorne House is an interior design resource center that offers fabric by the yard, antiques, and design services.

Alyssa (left) & Natasha (right)

Off the Beaten Path

– Visit the The State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

– Visit the Georgia Museum of Art (on campus, but open to the public!).

– The Four Coursemen and Home.Made are two groups that host supper clubs.

– Visit The Tree That Owns Itself. This tree’s former owner willed the land beneath it to the tree.

Noteworthy Athenians

Chefs: Hugh Acheson

Artists/Designers/Photographers/Visual Artists: Eleanor DavisLou KregelTerry RowlettLauren GreggCraig SheldonMichael Lachowski

Creative Athenians featured on D*S: Rinne AllenLucy Allen GillisRebecca Wood, Susan Hable

Suggested For You


  • I swear these city guides are ridiculously well-timed. You posted the Charleston guide a few weeks before my first trip there and now you posted Athens! I’m going there for a quick trip pre-Turkey day! You get me, D*S.

  • I’m so happy you featured Athens! It is an awesome town worthy of being mentioned on your wonderful blog :o)

  • While it’s awesome that Athens got its own guide, it should be noted that the J&J Flea Market should be in the “Off the Beaten Path” list — it’s a few miles outside of Athens off Hwy 441 N, not really near Normaltown. Also, unless they got a new store kitty, Frontier’s cat sadly passed away some time ago. Last but not least, Transmetropolitan (downtown and West side locations) definitely deserves a mention as some of the best pizza in town! They serve slices all day, feature a lasagna of the day and offer a variety of other Italian dishes. Upstairs there’s a well-stocked bar and a nice view of the action on Clayton Street.

  • I hate to nitpick, but this guide is only focusing on two areas of Athens, and it’s omitting a lot of great local places in favor of what I can only call the hipster spots…..and it’s not entirely correct. J&J Flea Market, for instance, is not in Normaltown/Boulevard. It’s outside Athens on 441 North. Really confused about why they placed it there.

  • What an awesome, awesome guide! I know because I live here! Thanks Design Sponge for having Alyssa and Natasha do this! They did such a great job.

  • I came here 8 years ago for a visit….and never left! I treasure this city so much and love it more everyday! Thanks for the great guide ladies!!!

  • Athens is the best, and this guide covers all my favorite spots. I’m super happy about the mention of my jewelry at Community, thanks y’all!

  • Great detailed post of my beloved college town.

    I frequented Trapeze and Walker’s. Often ate at The Grill, Transmet, and you cannot forget the hotdog guy after bar hoping. it was perfect.

    However, I am sad to see they did not include Weaver D’s on list. Its ties to the band REM and history in the town make it a staple. Especially since the owner recently said that business was slow and he might have to close his doors. Ever since the people of Athens have been pouring in to support this town legend.

  • At the risk of doing a bit of shameless self-promotion – would you also consider listing Suska (a very well edited consignment boutique that stocks contemporary women’s fashions, shoes, handbags, jewelry and more) in your list above? We are located in 5 Points at 1664 S. Lumpkin St. and are currently undergoing an expansion into a space next door that will carry all things interior from antiques and mid century modern to upcycled vintage and new handcrafted items. Check us out http://www.suskaathens.com

  • After graduating 10 years ago and moving across the country, I hardly get back. It’s great to catch up with the all the goings on and to know it’s still as cool as ever. I can’t wait to go back for a visit and check out the new spots. I miss you Athens! Thank you, Design Sponge for featuring this great little town.

  • Love the post – all great places to visit. To add to it I’d make sure to stop at Transmet for amazing pizza, sandwich, or salad. Little Italy is great for a late night slice and their sandwiches are out of this world big! Can’t forget about Weaver D’s – famous for R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People album. Walker’s is both a great bar and coffee shop. And while not nearly as exciting, the Eastside does have some great food offerings, Viva Argentine and Sisters Creole shouldn’t be forgotten!

    I love the map, but it’s driving me crazy that the locations are off for some of the places (The Globe and Branded Butcher are on Lumpkin, not College, Five Star is to the right of the arch…). Ahhh…the planning geek side of me is taking over….everything doesn’t have to be 100% accurate! :)

    Great job to everyone involved!

  • My little hometown on Designsponge! What a delight. So happy you mentioned Cine, Tlaloc (they have a wonderful Mexican breakfast with hot chocolate) and Normal Bar. The Four Coursemen are no more, but have started new gorilla dinners as Shotgun Dinners and Coterie Tie. Also worth a trip: Jittery Joe’s Roaster’s and Ben’s Bikes for arty, funky well tuned and rehabbed vintage bikes. Suska in Five Points is a wonderful consignment boutique, carrying carefully curated clothes that you couldn’t find elsewhere in Athens.

    I still wish we had more clothing options for women over 30 (Ann Taylor Loft and TJ Maxx and Heery’s are all we got), but I do love this town.

  • A really nice guide to my favorite little city – and my home town. Include, please, the GEORGIA MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY on Cedar Street. It’s the State of Georgia natural history museum.

  • Nicely done, but did it really need to list every single place in Athens? I thought this was supposed to be highlights. Also, Farm’s food truck no longer does lunch on the patio, for those who are wondering.

  • Surprised this doesn’t Mention AthFest. It’s in the summer but definitely worth experiencing, especially for movie lovers.
    Clocked is the best place for burgers. YourPie is the best place for pizza. The Trial Gardens on campus are also worth visiting.

  • Yay! My town! Also for the DIY crowd don’t forget Margot Sterling downtown. They have an amazing bead collection.

  • Margot is great–not only do they have beads, they also have sugar gliders! (tiny, friendly marsupials who like to hang out in Margot’s clothing). And Laurel Hill’s jewelry is truly beautiful, especially the sterling silver banners that she will inscribe with any words you like.

  • oh Lordy, this is my favorite little town. I miss it so much. Drive through the historic districts (Boulevard St., especially) and see the pretty little houses

  • So thrilled to see Athens on Design*Sponge!! I moved here 6 years ago for school and haven’t left yet :) I would definitely suggest The Hill as a place to stay for any out-of-towners. It’s a hidden gem on the edge of Athens and Jefferson with homes restored from the 1800’s. It’s owned by Lee Epting who can tell you more about Athens than you could care to know :)

  • Such a great feature! I lived in Athens for 5 years and loved every minute of it. For everyone who mentioned Weaver D’s, it’s actually on the verge of closing due to lack of customers lately. (Which is really really sad given what a staple it is to Athens!)

  • Got to live in Athens for 4 years while going to UGA, and it completely stole my heart and soul. I don’t know if another town will ever compare. I had to move away from Athens for a job, and just reading this guide makes me miss living there so much I could cry. It’s a small town with a huge, charming personality!

  • yay athens! such great spots are mentioned here…don’t forget to save some room for the homemade pie i make at the grit, creative seasonal flavors in delectably flaky crusts!

  • Great to see my hometown featured here, but this ignores Athens’ rich African-American history and misrepresents it as a white town. Pretty disappointing that “southern charm” eclipses its true history.

  • The two brothers look very much alike.If only I could fly.I decline!You’re suffering from an allergy? Not bad.I heard that you’re getting marriedI heard that you’re getting marriedThe sun comes up in the east.This car is in good condition.Here is my card

  • The UGA Hotel & Conference Center is also an excellent place for both locals and visitors. I had my wedding reception there (it was perfect — the staff did an awesome job!), and it’s a popular spot for tailgating during the fall.