When it comes to eating local, many people think that an area's farmers market provides the only option to purchase such fare. Athens, as usual, is different in this respect.
In the city of Athens, residents have upwards of 20 restaurants where they can find menus that feature some or many local ingredients. Some of these restaurants, such as Casa Nueva, are famous as the "locavore's solution," with menus heavily loaded with local ingredients.
Other restaurants fly under the radar, but still support area farmers and producers by buying local. Some of these include Abrio's on East State Street, Bagel Street Deli and Kiser's BBQ Shack.
In July, Athens celebrated 30-Mile Meal month. The 30-Mile Meal Project is a collaboration of the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) and more than 130 local food partners. This initiative pushes the envelope on the growing 100 Mile Meal movement with its own "super-local" effort to assist visitors and residents in finding (within a 30-mile radius of Athens) "local foods and places to savor the flavors and food experiences of the region," according to the Visitors Bureau website (www.athensohio.com/30mile/)
The mission is to increase, through collaboration and cross promotion, the visibility and sustainability of local foods, farmers, producers, markets, restaurants, bars and food events.
One part of the 30-Mile Meal Project was Restaurant Week, July 17-23, which featured 20 restaurants known for using local ingredients.
Over at Abrio's Brick Oven, owner Joe Limoli says on the 30-Mile meal website that the establishment has local ingredients throughout its menu.
"We have been supporting local farmers for over six years now," he said. "30-Mile Restaurant Week (gave) us a great chance to showcase some of our more popular and inventive recipes."
Another eatery that is known for its local ingredients, as well as some pretty intricate pizza toppings, is Avalanche Pizza. Owner John Gutekanst and his staff use a variety of local vegetables, cheeses and meats when preparing innovative specialty pizzas.
At Bagel Street Deli, the restaurant features local ingredients ranging from Canadian bacon or ham from King Family Farm, to cheeses from Laurel Valley Creamery, to greens, tomatoes and onions from Dexter Run Farms.
For higher-end dining, Zoe's in Athens has a menu that showcases dozens of locally sourced ingredients as well as weekly Farmers Market specials. A notable item is the Athens County Paella featuring spelt berry pilaf with local ramps, artichoke, lemon zest, almonds, filet beans, chickpeas and bell pepper.
With a more global look at cuisine that uses decidedly local ingredients, Restaurant Salaam on West Washington Street includes dairy products from Snowville Creamery, produce from Shade Organic Farm, greens from Green Edge Gardens, eggs from the Hanesworth Farm, locally roasted coffee and more.
If it's a decidedly American meal that is desired instead, O'Betty's Red Hot on West State Street uses King Family Farm sausage, bratwurst, basil, tomatoes and chilies; Green Edge Gardens mushrooms, tomatoes, basil; Starline Organics garlic; buns from Fluff Bakery; and pawpaw relish and cheeses from Integration Acres.
Over at Kiser's BBQ Shack, owner Sean Kiser said that using local ingredients is important to him because he wants the restaurant to be part of the community.
The restaurant deals with about seven different local food producers, he said, getting meats from King Family Farm, beef from Dexter Run Farms, Snowville Creamery dairy products and produce from a variety of farms.
"I want to use local farms and help raise money locally," he said. "I've always been pretty passionate about Athens and what people do for each other here. When we got this idea (to start Kiser's) it was always there that we need to use local farms and put a real investment in our local economy."
Some other notable restaurants heavy on local ingredients include the Village Bakery & Caf and its sister restaurant next door, Della Zona, which features locally-grown organic vegetables, pastured meats and eggs, farmstead cheeses and GMO-free ingredients. The Catalyst Caf is another offspring of the Village Bakery and Della Zona.
Brew du Soleil Espresso offers a variety of coffee-drinks using Snowville dairy products and baked goods from Crumb's Bakery as well as the Village Bakery.
The Columbus Road Deli, the Rocky Boots' Factory Grill, Lui Lui's, Jackie O's Pub and Brewery, Fluff Bakery & Catering, the Eclipse Company Store and Cutler's Restaurant at the OU Inn and others are all other restaurants that participated in the 30-Mile Meal restaurant week and make Athens a distinct locale full of options to purchase local food of all types and stripes.
This is the final article in a series focused on local food, farmers and markets in the Athens area.