Our 24 Hours in Athens, Georgia: Top Picks in Food, Fashion & Music

August 27th, 2010 by Sammy

Athens rocks and not just in the music sense. When we picked Athens, Georgia as the location for our pilot we knew nothing about the town. Okay, that’s not true. Darla knew that it was the home of the Bulldogs. Sammy knew that it was a college town – what college? No idea. Julia knew that rock legends R.E.M. and B52s hailed from its streets. That was honestly the extent of our knowledge.

Ask us about Athens and good luck getting us to shut up about how much we saw and did in one day. We followed the locals’ suggestions and visited their favorite spots. From sipping coffee at the townie and college students’ alike favorite caffeine joint, to jamming with a staple in Athens’ flourishing music scene to playing dress-up in a warehouse-size store of vintage and one-of-a-kind finds – we definitely gave RoadHug the love it deserves. In return, this tight-knit, creatively caring and local-centric community gave us a warm welcome and introduction to what this Georgia town is all about.

Read on for what Darla, Sammy and Julia tasted, wore and listened to during their 24 hours in Athens, Georgia.

Darla’s 8 step process for satisfying a mean food craving in Athens.

The White Tiger — #3 on Darla’s list

1. Start e’ry day at The Grit. Why? Because being around southern vegetarians is a nice way to start the morning.

2. Visit FarmCart. Not only can you scarf down a bangin’ housemade sausage dog, but you can also polish off a PBR tall boy while waiting for resident cutie Lou to work his magic on the grill. And, honestly, there’s nothing like drinking in the middle of the afternoon by yourself to make you feel like a real degenerate.

3. Pull up a picnic table at The White Tiger (complete with orange floral print plastic tablecloth). Order the BBQ Sandwich and revel in the fact that Ken (one of the Tiger’s owner’s) drop the word ‘righteous’ 7 times in one story.

4. Pork sausage dogs. Pulled pork sandwiches. Alright. If you want to eat something other than a pig or if Porky happens to be a personal friend of yours, go to Clocked and order the Black Bean Burger. Even a flesh loving carnivore like me thinks it’s reason enough to return.

5. Don’t trust my suggestions so far? Forget you. Just kidding. If you don’t like what I’m throwing out there, give Mary Charles a call over at Athens Food Tours. Since it’s her JOB to know where to eat, you know you can trust her. She’ll take you around to some of her local haunts — like La Dolce Vita where you can savor some local heirloom tomatoes with housemade mozzarella.

6. Here’s an old theory of mine: frozen yogurt sucks. Here’s a new theory of mine: frozen yogurt from Yoguri rocks. Instead of tasting like ice cream, owner Vena Kim figured out a way to make it taste like real Greek yogurt. And you know what they say “When in Athens … or Rome … or whatever.”

7. Become a porch dweller at Jittery Joe’s. It’s simple really. Walk in. Order coffee (it’s all they serve after all). Sit on porch. Become BFF’s with owner and head-roaster, Charlie. Done.

8. Finish your day at Normal Bar in … wait for it … the Normaltown neighborhood of Athens. Drink the local brew — Terrapin, eat the boiled peanuts (pronounced “bowled” down here in Georgia) and admire the gorgeous bartenders.

Sammy’s top 10 list for finding fashion in the Athens heat.

Athenians shopping at Agora … Sammy’s #1 on her list.

1. Like some people go veggie … I say go vintage. Go vintage because the town’s shopping district boasts at least four vintage stores (check out Agora for the most awesomely affordable finds in vintage clothing for the ladies and the gents) and because like food, local fashion just feels better.

2. Music isn’t just for listening — it’s for wearing, too. Check out Gigworn for some sweet tees promoting the town’s 400-plus local bands. And unlike that Backstreet Boys shirt that cost you $35 at their 2004 summer tour, the rock shirts at Gigworn cost about the same (if not less) than a ticket to see a show at local venues like the 40 Watt Club. Is that the sweet musical sound of cha-ching that I hear?

3. Fashion from the young and restless. The young and restless college community, that is. University of Georgia is smack dab in the center of downtown Athens. So when you walk from the East Clayton boutiques to East Broad where UGA begins, you’re sure to catch a smattering of styles as inspired by the young academia of America. Sure, fashion isn’t physics (thank goodness), but it’s definitely worth a lesson or two from those young and crazy kids.

4. The town’s favorite color of fashion is green. Sick of your wardrobe and want to make a trade for some new threads? It’s as easy as this: The season changes. Your style changes. Your closet needs a clean-out. You clean out your closet. You bring those unwanted threads to a consignment or vintage store in Athens. You choose new styles at the store, you make a swap, and everybody from you to the owner to the environment are happy.

5. Cowboy hats aren’t just for cowboys. I saw a few cowboy hats and cowboy/cowgirl boots on those down (but not so dirty) Athens’ streets. Did I really see cowboys? I don’t know. Do I care if they were really cowboys? No, I don’t. Did they look good in their southern/western inspired apparel? Yes, they did. Case closed, Sammy D cowboy style endorsed.

6. The store where everyone knows your name. Ever walk into an H&M and be greeted by a personality-less store associate who adds little flavor to your shopping experience other than to acknowledge that yes, you are in an H&M and yes, you would like to know where the $5 sales rack is please?

Not in Athens. First, there ain’t no H&M here. Second, there ain’t no way you’re walking into a store without meeting the store owner or at the very least, an employee who’s passionate about giving you a positive shopping experience free from changing room lines and Rihanna’s “Disturbia” screaming into your ears as you comb the racks.

7. Don’t cross that T and don’t dub that W. I know you shop there. Hell, I even shop there occasionally. But do I HAVE to shop there? No, I don’t. Do you? No, you don’t. And neither do Athenians — and guess what? They don’t.

Big box stores like Target and Wal-Mart exist in Georgia, but nowhere near the downtown shopping district of Athens. So instead of trucking out to the nearest strip mall for their consumerist fix, Athenians turn to local business for their fashion. Urban? H&M? Forever 21? They’re at the mall. And according to Athens, that’s exactly where they can stay.

8. Name that Store. Junkman Brother’s Daughter. Minx. Wuxtry. Helix. Dynamite. Agora. Boogie Dog. I’m not talking in tongues. I’m not making drug references. And no, this isn’t a list of name ideas for a Sammy D alter ego.

All of the above are names of stores in Athens — from new apparel to vintage to records to jewelry to cigars and collectibles — the locals seem to know the nuances of the English language well. Guess I shouldn’t challenge them to a game of Scrabble?

9. Style stories aren’t just for the movies. At locals-endorsed coffee joint Jittery Joe’s, I met this kick-ass UGA student named Parker. And Parker was wearing a kick-ass sterling silver and turquoise wrist band a friend had sent him from Tibet. Apparently, the bracelet was over a hundred years old, quite valuable, and shipped all the way over seas to Parker in Athens.

It’s the conversation (and people) behind the style that makes the fashion most memorable. Or, in this case, at least worth blogging about.

10. The “Something for Everyone” mentality. Call me out on my wax poetic if you want, but Athens is a place where you can truly be yourself with both substance and style. Wear a burlap sack in Athens and the locals would applaud you for your innovativeness. Then they’d ask how they could make their own to contribute to the burlap sack movement, or whatever this progressive, artistically-driven-musical-haven-college-town-hippie retreat-locals-born-and-raised-southern-hamlet chooses to coin it.

Note: Sammy wrote a heck-of-a-lot more about fashion in Athens. I guess it’s just the I-love-to-share mentality in her. (She’s behind our FourSquare, Twitter, and Facebook, if you didn’t sense that already). Read the expanded version of her fashion in Athens recap on her personal blog here.

Julia’s 6 1/2 tips on how to get down in Athens.

Darla, Sammy & Julia smack dab in the middle of Athens’ band Modern Skirts.

1. Go to the 40 Watt Club. Even though it’s moved from its original location and is no longer lit by just a single, 40 watt bulb (phew – as if I didn’t bump into things enough with normal lighting), the new location is THE happening spot in town for music. Cool fact? It was made from things the owners found–even the toilet—and assembled by a group of volunteers. Now THAT is the definition of supporting local music!

2. Walk around Broad Street right along the UGA campus and chat with people. If you are an introvert, fear not. The locals have so much pride in their quirky artist town that they’ll be more than happy to welcome you like a new family member, minus bright pink lipstick on your cheek. Ask them what band you should check out and you’ll be surprised how much everyone in town knows about the local music calendar.

3. Go to Normal Bar. It’s just the cat’s pajamas. Not only do they have gluten-free beer (a must-have for an allergy-fest like me), but the bar’s soundtrack is never dull and the place is packed as early as 5pm on a Wednesday. The owner is a former touring musician and you can find him there almost every day of the week. You’ll be sure to make friends with the locals over a shot (or two…or six). And girls, say hi to the handsome bartender Noel if he’s there. Although rumor has it that he’s taken, a little treat for the eyes never did any harm!

4. Play banjo somewhere. It just seems appropriate. Since I didn’t get to do this on my trip (my heart is still breaking) I’m challenging you to. Please, find a banjo, play it and send me a picture so I can live vicariously through you. Note: My email is julia@roadhugusa.com!

5. Since you’re going to be brushing shoulders with all the local rockstars, you’ve got to look the part yourself. Stop into Gigworn for a rocker t-shirt sensory overload and choose anything from a $5 shirt sporting local bands like Venice is Sinking to a $150 R.E.M. shirt from their first collection. Local musicians who shop there always get 20% off so with you supporting this business that supports the music business then you’re super supporting the music business and oh, well, you get what I’m trying to say!

6. Watch the Modern Skirts perform if they’re in town. Seriously, don’t ask questions. Just do it. I was lucky enough to catch an impromptu performance in their living room and was dancing on the kitchen floor before they even got to the first chorus. And considering we were strangers only five minutes earlier, it brings new meaning to the phrase “Dance like nobody’s watching.” And they LOVED it; responding with even more energy in their performance. See them and you and your glutes will thank me from all that booty shakin’.

6 1/2. When playing a saw, wedge it deep between your legs. And since you’ll probably have a tough time finding a saw to play I’ll only count that as half a tip.

Did we miss something in Athens? Just because we’ve already been, doesn’t mean we just might return. Drop us a suggestion on what to see and do in Athens and any other area of the country — hey, you just might see us in YOUR town!

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  1. Michelle says:

    Funny about tip 6 1/2 – up north the advice is the opposite… The annual NYC Musical Saw Festival was earlier this month and they have a workshop (http://www.musicalsawfestival.org ). Julia might want to visit it one summer and show them how it’s done down south :)

  2. Hannah says:

    So glad ya’ll had such a great visit, and thanks for choosing Athens for your pilot! Please let us know how things progress- in the meantime, we’ll recommend this blog entry to visitors who want to hit all our hip spots!

  3. Rachel says:

    Next time you’re in town, stop at The Grill for a Strawberry Milkshake and a plate of fries with feta dip. It’s a party in your mouth you won’t want to leave early.

  4. Tony says:

    Champ and Boss Bailey’s American tavern have some pretty awesome local acts that come through regulary as well. Sometimes even get a chance to see your favorite bartender jamming out cover songs.

  5. Anna says:

    You forgot the punk houses, and Daily!

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