Here are the 2017 results for The Athens NEWS' Best of Athens reader survey in the foodie favorites category.
Best Uniquely Athens Restaurant
If you explore back into the cave-man days of Best of Athens, in those prehistoric years of the late 1980s, you might be surprised to find the winner of 2017’s Best Uniquely Athens Restaurant Award winning that same category oh so many years ago. Casa Nueva was uniquely Athens 30 years ago, and remains so today.
And the food has only gotten better.
The second-place winner can’t be said to be dogging it, however. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) O’Betty’s Red Hot makes Athens-centric hot dogs to die for (but please don’t). Purple Chopstix, which by all rights should have placed in the Fine Dining category, takes third spot.
Fourth and fifth place, respectively, go to Bagel Street Deli and Restaurant Salaam.
Best Fine Dining
Zoe Fine Dining
If you want to find dining, you’ll have no trouble in Athens County. You can’t walk 10 feet without stumbling over some sort of dining. But if you want to find FINE DINING, your options dwindle down to five or six decent places. At the top of this delicious heap for 2017 is Zoe Fine Dining, last year’s winner as well. Located in uptown Athens, Zoe – with or without the umlaut, your choice – serves up meals that haunt your taste buds for weeks after.
Second place goes to Lui Lui down in the Station Project (great brick-oven pizza and Asian dishes at the same spot), and third goes to Restaurant Salaam, offering unique Middle Eastern/Mediterranean dishes. (Second through fourth place in this category were all relatively close to one another in terms of voting.)
Fourth and fifth place: Cutler’s Restaurant in the Ohio University Inn and Stephen’s on Court, respectively.
Best Ethnic Restaurant
When it comes to Foodies’ Favorites, Athens County has a lot going for it with regard to ethnic restaurants.
This means a lot of competition in this category, and all the greater honor for this year’s winner, Casa Nueva, to enjoy.
Casa is a worker-owned co-op featuring Mexican-inspired food, vegan and gluten-free options, as well as live music. It’s classic Athens.
Second place goes to Thai Paradise on West Union (don’t forget to rub the statue’s belly at the entrance), and third goes to uptown’s Restaurant Salaam, which won first place last year and offers Middle Eastern/Mediterranean fare.
Honorable mentions go to the Sol, with locations on Court and East State streets, serving Cuban cuisine, and Star of India on West Union Street.
Union Street Diner
We have a new winner for Best Breakfast this year, with the Union Street Diner pulling the slice of whole-wheat toast out from under Casa Nueva (past repeat winner). Both places make tasty, wholesome, memorable breakfasts. Yum.
So, of course, Casa Nueva takes second place in this category, far ahead of third-place winner GiGi’s Country Kitchen in The Plains. GiGi’s is a new entrant in this category, and we’ll just have to go over there and check it out.
Fourth and fifth place, respectively, go to Bagel Street Deli and Bob Evans.
Best Chicken Wings
Miller’s Chicken, long considered one of West Side Athens’ best-kept secrets, is breaking into the mainstream this year with its win in the Best Chicken Wings category. Take that, KFC!
Close behind Miller’s Chicken is the Wings over Athens restaurant, which is a chain, but we won’t hold it against them because their wings are so good. The relatively newer West Side Wingery, located conveniently across from the West End Ciderhouse, took third place this year. WSW features also features tacos – wings + tacos are a pretty sweet combo, if you ask us.
Buffalo Wild Wings and Shade on State Street won fourth and fifth place in this category this year, respectively.
Best Vegetarian Cuisine
Athens is probably the easiest place in the world to give up meat. Why? Because our community has so many amazing options for veggie dining.
The best place for creative inventions of meatless wonder, according to our readers, is Casa Nueva, which has won in this category the past two years.
In second place is Fluff Bakery, which specializes not only in baked goods but all manner of delicious fare, vegetarian and otherwise.
Third place goes to Thai Paradise on West Union Street, which features both Thai and Chinese delicacies.Honorable mentions are Restaurant Salaam, which got fourth place, and Purple Chopstix, which took fifth.
And lest you meat-eaters feel left out, all of the winners also have plenty of menu items with chicken, fish, shrimp or (less often) other meat.
Bagel Street Deli
In this new category, Best Sandwich, the Bagel Street Deli takes the top prize running away. If you stop by and try, say, a “Tom’s Well Hung” (turkey, salami, choice of cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo), you’ll know why BSD wins first place in Best of Athens.
Second place goes to Kiser’s Barbecue, THE spot for memorably tasty BBQ in Athens County. Third best sandwich, according to our Best of Athens readers, can be enjoyed at Jackie O’s.
Fourth and fifth place, respectively, are Brenen’s on South Court in Athens (love that BLT) and The Pub, up on North Court.
It was a tight race, but in the end Jackie O’s came on top with Best Hamburger of 2017, edging out second-place winner The Pub.
Jackie O’s boasts a mighty fine burger. As you might suspect, it includes beef, and a bun, and cheese, and toppings. That’s all pretty standard for the burger world. These burgers are also all served with kettle chips and a dill pickle.
Abbie Hoffman once said that sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger. We don’t know about that, but we know that the Jackie O’s burger is something sacred, and that’s saying something.
In second place, as mentioned, is The Pub, frequent winner of this category in past years. Taking third place this year is Larry’s Dawg House on West Union Street.
Honorable mentions go to Union Street Diner and Kiser’s Barbecue.
Best New Restaurant
El Camino Mexican Restaurant
Let El Camino show you the way! El Camino Mexican Restaurant wins first place in the Best New Restaurant category this year (“El Camino” means “The Road” or “The Way” in Spanish). El Camino opened in the former Casa Lopez location at the far end of East State Street early last year.
Greek/Mediterranean restaurant Opa! wins second place in this category this year. It’s located on South Court Street in the space that formerly housed Habibi’s. Franco’s Pizza on South Court takes third place, followed by GoGo Burrito in Trimble.
Starting Gates Bier Halle on West Union Street rounds out this category in fifth place.
Athens has no shortage of bars and restaurants. In fact, it’s a veritable Mecca of both. Combined restaurants/bars are especially impressive in Athens, but top billing goes to Jackie O’s this year, which features a Brewery and Public House on West Union Street and a Taproom on Stimson Avenue.
Jackie O’s has won this year for Best Hamburger as well as Best Local Brewery, Distillery or Winery. No wonder, then, that it takes top honors as Best Restaurant/Bar. Enjoy one of their best burgers along with one of their best local brews. Can’t lose. Can’t stop. Won’t stop.
In second place is last year’s winner. Casa Nueva/Cantina. A perfect evening starts out with a hearty but elegant meal in the restaurant half, then transitions to the bar side to hear some great music and enjoy a craft brew drawn from the tap.
In third place is Courtside Pizza, which has a nice new counter set up for said pizza, and two, count ’em, TWO bars for plenty of options for drink.
Honorable mentions go to The Union in fourth place and Pigskin Bar and Grille in fifth.
Best coffee house
Donkey Coffee and Espresso
Winning this caffeinated category this year is Donkey Coffee and Espresso, a repeat winner. Donkey has wide appeal in Athens not just because of its tasty coffee but because of its relaxing, cozy environment, with an eye toward sustainability. If you look carefully, you just might find a beatnik sitting at a corner table.
The second favorite coffee house in our 2017 Best of Athens contest is Court Street Coffee, as it was last year. Third place goes to Brenen’s on South Court Street, followed by Catalyst Café on West Union Street. Fluff Bakery & Catering rounds out this category in fifth place.
Best Local Brewery, Distillery or Winery
Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery needs little introduction in Athens. And soon, it may not need much of one in Ohio in general. The brewery is expanding its reach across the state and Midwest with its ever-growing distribution program out of the brewing facilities located on Stimson Avenue, next to Jackie O’s Taproom. Sure, they’ve got hoppy IPAs and some easy-drinking fruited beers. But beers aged in bourbon barrels, or funky sour ales? They have you covered.
Little Fish Brewing Company, named the best “new” brewery in Ohio two years running by website RateBeer, wins second place in this category this year. Little Fish is located on Armitage Road in Athens. The West End Cider House’s locally made ciders and liquors also have a significant fanbase, with that West Washington Street bar taking home the third place spot this year. Pleasant Hill Winery, located just outside Athens, wins fourth place this year, followed by Devil’s Kettle Brewery on Columbus Road in fifth.
Best Place to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
Fluff Bakery & Catering
Technically speaking, a tooth – sweet or otherwise – is not a sentient being. It can’t really be satisfied. It’s a person’s taste receptors on the taste buds (gustatory calyculi) and other areas including the upper surface of the tongue and the epiglottis – along with their nerve connections to the brain – that provide the sense of taste. But sensible sorts, we decided not to name this category “Best Place to Satisfy Your Gustatory Calyculi.”
Anyway, to make a long story short (too late!), first place in this category – whatever you want to call it – is Fluff Bakery & Catering, the popular bakery/restaurant in 8 North Court.
Second place goes to Insomnia Cookies, just down the street from Fluff, with third going to Whit’s Frozen Custard at Court and Union.
Sweet Arts Bakery (West Union) and Village Bakery (East State Street) take fourth and fifth, respectively.
Best Food Cart
Food cart? More like food ART. The iconic Burrito Buggy, typically located on East Union Street next to College Green, won first place in the Best Food Cart category this year. The Buggy also won first place in this category last year.
OMG! Rotisserie on Columbus Road recently unveiled its own food cart, also typically found on East Union Street, and that food truck wins second place this year. The Cajun Clucker food truck takes third place, typically found serving up Cajun delights outside Little Fish Brewing Company on Armitage Road. Ali Baba’s gyro cart takes home fourth place this year, followed by the relative newcomer Hot Potato in fifth place (both are also located near College Green typically).
It is the stuff of legends. It is the fuel of choice for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It’s a late-night saving grace. It is a leftover breakfast food. It’s the choice selection of birthday parties and office celebrations.
It’s pizza, and it’s an icon of American food culture. Winner for best pizza in Athens goes to Avalanche, which also won last year. Whether you keep it simple or go for one of the more extravagant signature pies, Avalanche pizza and Athens go together like peas and carrots. Although, as far as we know, Avalanche does not currently offer a peas and carrots pizza.
In second place for best ‘za is Courtside Pizza on Court Street. Third place goes to Jackie O’s on West Union Street.
Honorable mentions go to GoodFella’s in fourth place and Plus One in fifth.
Best Late Night Food
Union Street Diner
Late night food is a magical and inspiring part of life in Athens. This is partly because it has no limits. When it’s late at night and you’re hungry – possibly even a little intoxicated – just about anything will work. Fortunately, in Athens, you don’t have to settle for anything. We have all sorts of options for late night food.
The top option according to our readers is the ever-reliable Union Street Diner, open 24/7 (thank God).
Our first-place winner last year – O’Betty’s Red Hot on West State Street – takes home the second place spot this year. You’ve never had a hot dog until you’ve had an O’Betty’s dog, and their fries are killer to boot.
Third place goes to another uptown classic, Big Mamma’s Burritos, followed by the just-as-classic Souvaki’s and Goodfella’s in fourth and fifth place, respectively.