Best of Athens

Best of Athens

Below are the first half of the results for our 2021 Best of Athens Reader's Choice Awards, highlighting winners for our People, Foodies' Favorites and Miscellaneous categories.

Our second half of results will be revealed next week.


Law enforcement officer

K9 Alex — OUPD

For another year, K9 Alex reigns supreme in terms of area law enforcement officer popularity. To be fair, most categories in our “People” section that find an animal as a nominee also find an animal as the top finalist. In K9 Alex’s case, it’s really hard to compete with those soulful, brown eyes.

Also garnering honors were Jimmy Childs, of the Athens County Sheriff’s Office, and Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith.

Local business owner/entrepreneur

Emily Christine — Tavolino

This year’s top business owner or entrepreneur is Emily Christine, who owns and operates Tavolino. The restaurant is well known for its Italian cuisine, but many may also recognize it as a business that continually gave away free lunches — packed with fresh bread and hearty soup, no less — during the pandemic. Congrats, Emily!

Second Place goes to Shelley Lieberman of Friendly Paws, and third place goes to Jim Harris, who owns the Wendy’s restaurants in the area.

Local journalist

Sydney Dawes

This year’s first place winner is Sydney Dawes, editor of The Athens NEWS (you all are too kind).

Second place goes to WOUB’s Chris Riddle, who became a friendly voice (if he wasn’t already) to people as they listened to the news as they worked from home or socially distanced. Third place goes to former A-NEWS Editor Terry Smith, who now contributes to the Ohio Capital Journal.

Local politician we hope will go far

Taylor Sappington

Athens County wants Nelsonville City Auditor Taylor Sappington to go far. The numbers man of Nelsonville has had an eventful tenure thus far, from the initial discovery of theft in office by a previous city employee to the completion of transparency efforts for city finances. Sappington previously had a run for a state representative seat, challenging incumbent Jay Edwards.

Athens Countians also gave a thumbs up to both State Rep. Edwards and Athens Mayor Steve Patterson.

Local politician we hope will go far away

Jay Edwards

State Rep. Jay Edwards placed first this year (a theme over the past few years), beating out the competition by a wide margin. However, the state representative also won recognition in the positive sibling of this category.

Placing second was Damon Krane, who isn’t an elected official, but is currently running for a seat on Athens City Council and previously ran for Athens mayor. Third place goes to Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn.

Public servant

Joe Burrow

Joe Burrow won top praise in the public servant category for his efforts to draw attention to food insecurity in his home county. The Bengals quarterback inspired the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund, which was created by the Athens County Food Pantry and the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.

In second place was Pumpkin, who provides the public service of existing and providing hope to all who pass by his perch at the Board of Elections office. Third place this year goes to Beau Goodrich.

Editor's note: This entry has been updated to reflect a correction in the nature of the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund. The fund supports the efforts of the Athens County Food Pantry, which also created the fund in partnership with the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.

Medical provider (person)

Dr. Sergio Ulloa

For another year, Dr. Sergio Ulloa, DO, who specialized in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine for OPG Heritage College Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, took home the bulk of votes in this category. Second place honors go to Dr. Anna Wright, DO, of OhioHealth. Third place goes to Dr. Jared Sheets, MD, of Holzer Health System.

Church/spiritual leader

Joe Burrow

Burrow also won this year’s church and spiritual leader category, beating out the second place winner, Jesus Christ himself, by a large number of votes.

Third place, however, went to New Life Assembly of God’s Phil Foster. Jesus and Joe Burrow are tough competition, Mr. Foster, but you still managed to garner hundreds of votes.

DJ/Radio Personality

Brandon (DJ B-Funk) Thompson

Top honors for the Best DJ/Radio Personality go to DJ B-Funk, also known as Brandon Thompson.

Second and third place go to DJ Barticus (Michael Bart) and DJ-A Rock (Aaron Thomas).

Real-estate agent

Bryan Wharton

The top real-estate agent in this year’s contest was Bryan Wharton of Ohio Realty.

Taking second place is Ally Rapp Lee of Athens Real Estate Company, and third place goes to Stephanie Wood, who is also an agent of Ohio Realty.

Tattoo Artist

Jim Kisor

This year’s King of Ink is the one and only Jim Kisor, who owns and creates body art at Decorative Injections. Second place goes to Eric Pierce, also of Decorative Injections, and third place goes to Alex Andrews of Thunder Bunny Tattoo Parlour.


Beth Welsh

Beth Welsh took home bragging rights this year as Athens’ best dentist. Taking second place was Shane England, and taking third place was Tim LaVelle.


Shane Foster

Dr. Shane Foster, of Athens Eye Care, was voted Best Dentist in this year’s contest. Dr. Kathy Biddinger, of Athens Eye Professionals, placed second; Dr. Arnie LaGraff, also of Athens Eye Professionals, took home third place.


Place to order carry-out

Dynasty Restaurant

This past year has been one full of carryout, delivery, and ultimately eating at home. Some restaurants’ efforts to improve or carry on their carry-out services during the pandemic stood out to voters: Dynasty Restaurant carried home top praise.

Also receiving recognition was Casa Nueva — for its bake-your own burritos, among other items — and O’Betty’s Red Hot, whose takeout window knows no stranger.

Outdoor eating/drinking venue

Eclipse Company Store

Other restaurants were able to mobilize outdoor operations in addition to carry-out services, and Athens took note.

The majority of votes in this category went to Eclipse Company Store, which offered outdoor seating and eating options throughout last year and recently reopened under new ownership.

Second place goes to Little Fish Brewing Company, and third place goes to Jackie O’s Taproom and Production.


Avalanche Pizza

This year, we’re bringing back the “avalanche” puns, as the locally iconic pizza shop snagged the top slot for the best pizza in Athens. So, here you have it: pizza eaters can experience an “avalanche” of flavors, toppings, and catchy pie names at Avalanche Pizza. Sorry to be cheesy, friends.

Second place goes to Donato’s, and third place goes to Little Italy in The Plains.


Union Street Diner

The hot spot for breakfast in Athens is Union Street Diner, the winner of this year’s best breakfast category. Gotta get the steak and eggs or stuffed French toast.

Our runners-up in this category are also homes to A+ assortments of breakfast items: Gigi’s Country Kitchen took home second place, and Casa Nueva placed third.

Chicken Wings

Miller’s Chicken

Miller’s Chicken reigned supreme in this year’s Best Chicken Wings category. We mean, *really* supreme. As in, 500 votes more than the nearest competition supreme. Second place went to Shade on Street, and third place went to Wings Over Athens.

Ethnic Restaurant

Dynasty Restaurant

Taking home first place Best Ethnic Restaurant this year is Dynasty Restaurant, located on Richland Avenue. Snagging second this year is Athens classic, Lam’s Garden (which recently announced its closure, slated for the end of this month). Third place goes to Restaurant Salaam.

Fine Dining


Zoe came out on top in the Athens fine dining scene this year. Voters also raised their glasses to Ciro Italian Kitchen and Bar and Lui Lui Restaurant.

Food truck

Burrito Buggy

Riding off with yet another victory in the Food Truck category is Burrito Buggy. Voters just can’t resist the allure of the Supreme Burrito, but people outside of the county also feel drawn to the colorful food truck. OU alumni make a point to stop at the buggy when they return to the Athens area.

Second place goes to Dr. May’s Thai Kitchen Take-Out, and A-Town Pies and Fries scored third.

Place to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Larry’s Dawg House

Best of Athens voters have spoken, and yet again, Larry’s Dawg House on West Union Street is the sweetest spot for the sweetest treats. Coming in as second place winner is Insomnia Cookies, which is the preferred sweet treat for Athens’ night owls. Third place goes to Fluff Bakery.


The Pub Bar and Grill

The Pub yet again is holding down the title of best burger in A-town (and beyond), trouncing every other nominee by hundreds of votes. Coming in at second was Jackie O’s Public House and Restaurant, and third place goes to the lovely Larry’s Dawg House.


Bagel Street Deli

Now this, *this* category had a clear-cut winner. Best of Athens voters cast more than 1,000 votes in favor of the best bagel shop this side of the Hocking: Bagel Street Deli. You really can’t beat the friendly service, the savory lunch gems, and the cheeky sammie names.

Second place went to Brenen’s Coffee Cafe, which makes a dang good sandwich, and third place goes to The Pigskin Bar and Grille, which, hey, also makes a dang good sandwich.


The Pub Bar and Grill

Out of the many impressive restaurants and bars that Athens County residents patronize, some stood out more than others to Best of Athens voters. Taking home the title of Best Restaurant or Bar this year is The Pub Bar and Grille (having the best burgers in the land possibly contributed to this win).

Competition in this category was ridiculously close, with a total of three (you read that right, three) votes separating the champion from the second place winner, Casa Nueva. Our third place winner, Jackie O’s Public House Restaurant, was less than thirty votes behind Casa this year.

Vegetarian Cuisine

Casa Nueva

Casa Nueva continues to wow voters with its vegetarian eating options, placing first yet another year in the Vegetarian Cuisine category. But Athens honored its other vegetarian-friendly eateries: Thai Paradise placed second in this year’s contest, and Purple Chopstix placed third.

Uniquely Athens Restaurant

Casa Nueva

Some restaurants embody the spirit of our city in their cuisine, their atmosphere, their charisma. Voters first (and predominantly) thought of Casa Nueva when thinking about eateries that are uniquely Athens, but they also cast votes in favor of other Athens classics, like second place winner Bagel Street Deli and third place winner Larry’s Dawg House.

Coffee House

Donkey Coffee

Best of Athens voters shouted loud and clear this year (as they have been for, well, a while now) their love for Athenian icon and all-around cool spot Donkey Coffee. And why shouldn’t they? It has caffeine (and decaf) to fit every fancy.

But voters also raised coffee mugs to Court Street Coffee (our second place winner) and Brenen’s Coffee Cafe (our third place winner).

Brewery, Distillery, Winery

Jackie O’s Taproom and Production

Ok, I should’ve saved my references (a.k.a., dumb puns) to raising glasses, cups, mugs, etc. for this category. Call it a rookie mistake, as this is my first go-around with the Best of Athens Reader’s Choice Awards. Anywho, this was yet another close call category, with a mere thirty-something votes separating first and second place. Ultimately, first place this year goes to… Jackie O’s Taproom and Production!

Second place goes to another fine establishment: West End CiderHouse and Distillery. Third place went to Little Fish Brewing Co.

Chain Restaurant

Texas Roadhouse

Texas Roadhouse, yet again our top chain restaurant among Reader’s Choice Award voters, beat out our second place winner, Wendy’s, by six votes. Third place goes to Richland Avenue’s Taco John’s.

Local issue that riles you up the most

Jay Edwards

And this year, the winning topic that riles up Athens Countians the most is a person: State Rep. Jay Edwards. Although we’re not positive where voters were going with this choice, Edwards last year came under scrutiny for his personal connection to ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, who was indicted last year in connection with a $60 million bribery case.

The issue of face masks (people not wearing them or not wearing them correctly, to be specific) was the second issue that riled up our Best of Athens voters. The third issue that received top recognition was Ohio University’s budget crisis.

Annual local event or festival we missed the most


We missed out on a lot since our last contest, one thing being festivals. The festival that was most missed by Best of Athens voters was Palmer Fest (which reportedly occurred neither officially or unofficially). However, Athens Countians also greatly missed Nelsonville Music Festival (which sadly will not be proceeding this year, too) and Ohio Brew Week.

Local charitable cause

Passion Works

Taking home top honors for this year’s contest is Passion Works Studio, an art center recognized for its work with artists with developmental differences and its iconic, brilliantly colored Passion Flowers.

Voters also gave a large nod to Friends of the Shelter Dogs, and organization that works to connect dogs staying at the Athens County Dog Shelter with area families. Third place goes to the Athens County Food Pantry, which has received national recognition in recent years in connection to Joe Burrow’s Heisman acceptance speech and the mass fundraising that followed.

Athens’ best-kept secret

White’s Mill

White’s Mill, according to Best of Athens Voters, is Athens’ best-kept secret. The patch of heaven that overlooks the Hocking River is known by those who visit it (and those who haven’t… is it really a secret?) for its extensive flower assortment and fun trinkets.

Next up: hiking trails. We weren’t sure how this was quite a secret, but some trails are more obscure than others. Finally, Sells Park received third place for its best-kept secrecy.

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