Here are the 2018 Best of Athens winners in the "Foodies' Favorites" category.
Best Chicken Wings
One of the longest continuing restaurants in the same location in Athens, Miller’s Chicken once again wins top cluck for Best Chicken Wings. We’re pretty sure if we added categories for Best Chicken Drumstick, Breast, Wing, Thigh, Gizzard or Liver, as well as Best Haddock, Best Ocean Perch and Best Assorted Fried Vegetables, Miller’s would win those, too.
Wings Over Athens takes the second-place honors, with Shade On State Street winning third.
Fourth and fifth place go to Buffalo Wild Wings and Jackie O’s Public House, respectively.
Best Ethnic Restaurant
Once again this year, Restaurant Salaam – the popular West Washington Street restaurant that specializes in Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern fare – wins for Best Ethnic Restaurant. We love the food, the service, the food, the atmosphere, the food. Did we mention the food?
Thai Paradise, over on West Union Street, wins a well-deserved second place in this relatively tight category (only 19 votes separated the top three finishers).
Third place goes to the increasingly popular Mexican restaurant, Gran Ranchero, on East State Street. Reliably good Mexican food, quick, friendly service and a fun atmosphere.
Fourth, fifth and sixth place go to Casa Nueva, Purple Chopstix and Star of India, respectively.
Best Food Cart
Food cart? More like food ART (yes, we made the same joke last year). Burrito Buggy, an Athens staple typically located on East Union Street next to College Green, wins first place in the Best Food Cart category this year, as it did the year prior (and the year before that). While the Buggy is likely going to be sold to some new owners, many hope the Buggy won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
The Cajun Clucker food truck takes second place, this year. It’s typically found serving up Cajun and Dixie delights outside Little Fish Brewing Company on Armitage Road. Hot Potato – offering some great vegetarians options via food truck – wins third place in this category, followed by the gyro-slinging buggy Ali Baba’s (both typically are located off College Green on East Union Street).
Tamale vendor Nixtamilized wins fifth place this year
Best Fine Dining
Zoe Fine Dining
This year, like most every other year, Zoe Fine Dining is first-place finisher for Fine Dining. While it never hurts to include the name of a Best of Athens category in your business name, Zoe comes by this win honestly. This is a classy restaurant with top-quality food, service and atmosphere. If your date isn’t more amenable to your (attempted) winning personality after your dinner at Zoe, you really need to look at yourself.
Restaurant Salaam takes a deserved second place for Fine Dining, with third place going to Lui Lui in the Station Plaza. Fourth and fifth honors, respectively, go to Cutler’s (in the Ohio University Inn) and Tavolino.
Best New Restaurant
Eclipse Company Store Craft Beer Hall
It was a banner year for our first-place winner, the Eclipse Company Store Craft Beer Hall. The restaurant/bar/venue was opened by local business owner Sean Kiser of Kiser’s Barbeque in the old Eclipse Company Town in The Plains early last year. The restaurant/bar/venue has seen a lot of success (and showcased some great bands in the meantime) since then, so much so that Kiser announced earlier this year that Kiser’s Barbecue will be closing, moving some of its food offerings to Eclipse, in order to help the business grow further.
OMG! Rotisserie, which opened a location on Columbus Road in Athens in 2015 and another on Court Street in January of this year, wins second place in this category this year.
Small-but-mighty new Italian restaurant Tavolino (meaning “Little table” in Italian) takes home the third place spot this year in this category. It’s located at 9 N. Shafer St. in Athens.
Pizza chain Lotsa Stone Fired Pizza (located on South Court Street) wins fourth place this year, followed by new local business Corner on Union in fifth place (located in the former W.G. Grinders location on West Union Street).
Best Late-Night Food
Union Street Diner
Back for another year on the throne is Union Street Diner in first place for the Best Late Night Food category, most likely for its 24-hour promise to satisfy tipsy after-hour cravings and early-morning coffees alike. Those who subscribe to the belief that any time is breakfast time know the diner well, and anyone who’s ever been hungry in town past 3 a.m. likely has a special place in his or her heart for the Union Street staple.
Second fiddle for the late-night food scene this year is played by O’Betty’s Red Hot on West State Street. A necessity for hot dog fans (as well as anyone with a penchant for veggie dogs), O’Betty’s is an Athens classic that’s hard to forget. The same could be said for third-place winner Big Mama’s Burritos on Court Street, whose unique flavors have fed many an OU-student at all hours.
In fourth place we have Souvlaki’s Mediterranean, O’Betty’s neighbor on West State, and in fifth is D.P. Dough on Richland Avenue.
Best Uniquely Athens Restaurant
Casa Nueva isn’t almost uniquely Athens, or kind of uniquely Athens, or sort of uniquely Athens – IT IS UNIQUELY ATHENS with no qualifications. (And grammatically, the word “unique” should never be qualified anyhow.) Successive generations of Ohio University students, when asked to recall an Athens restaurant that best captured the spirit and vibe of this unique community, more often than not cite Casa Nueva.
And they just might remember the best margarita in town, as well.
Second place for unique (almost unique) goes to O’Betty’s Red Hot, a funky gourmet uptown hot-dog shop. Definitely Athens.
Bagel Street Deli picks up third place, while fourth and fifth, respectively, go to Purple Chopstix and Restaurant Salaam – all three clearly Athens-centric restaurants.
Union Street Diner
In this especially competitive category, this year the Union Street Diner won the battle with its main competition, Casa Nueva, who placed second with a very strong showing. Either way, you can’t go wrong, with both establishments featuring tasty and (usually) healthy breakfasts, casual, relaxing atmospheres, and great service.
Third place goes to Gigi’s Country Kitchen in The Plains.
Fourth and fifth-place honors go to Bob Evans and Village Bakery and Café, respectively (two establishments for which the serving of food is likely the only characteristic they share in common).
Best Local Brewery, Distillery or Winery
Jackie O's Pub & Brewery
Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery is lauded throughout the U.S. for its attention to the craft and art of brewing really great beer, and the business brings in people from across the state and country with its limited releases of special bottles. So, it’s no surprise that Jackie O’s takes the number one spot this year in the Best Local Brewery, Distillery or Winery, as it did last year.
It’s also no great surprise that relative newcomer Little Fish Brewing Company (located on Armitage Road in Athens) comes in second, just seven votes behind Jackie O’s. Little Fish has been named the best “new” brewery in Ohio two years running by website RateBeer, and its barrel-aged Woodthrush beer won a gold medal in its style category at the World Beer Cup in 2016.
Meanwhile, the West End Cider House’s locally made ciders and liquors also have a significant fan base, with that West Washington Street bar taking home the third-place spot this year. Pleasant Hill Winery, located just outside Athens, wins fourth place, followed by Devil’s Kettle Brewery on Columbus Road in fifth.
Best Place to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
Fluff Bakery & Catering
Athens is perhaps known better for its brews than its baked goods: bars and coffee shops far outnumber the sweet dessert havens at our disposal. Still, one location has solidified itself in the minds of our readers as the supreme ruler of cheat days.
That location is Fluff Bakery & Catering at 8 N. Court St., which takes first place for Best Place to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth for the third year in a row. Baked delights and Silverbridge Coffee make Fluff a go-to for sugar addicts all around town.
Our second-place winner is Larry’s Dawg House on West Union Street, whose frozen treats are certainly a summer favorite (and a year-round craving for some). In third place is relatively new Sweet Arts Bakery & Café, also on West Union, which offers another option for cake and pastry lovers.
In fourth place we have Insomnia Cookies, last year’s second runner-up, and Whit’s Frozen Custard places fifth.
Best Coffee House
With the announcement of international coffee juggernaut Starbucks invading the uptown Athens market (on West Union Street) later this year, many local retail coffee shops raised concerns about the potential adverse effect on their business. But while we have no idea whether their worries are warranted, a few of them can take legitimate solace in winning placement in the Best of Athens’ Best Coffee House category.
As it usually (maybe always?) does, Donkey Coffee wins this category going away, with the second-place winner, Court Street Coffee, 300 votes behind.
Third places goes to Catalyst Café, way out West Union Street.
Fourth- and fifth-place winners, respectively, are Tim Horton’s (also a chain coffee house!) and Brenen’s Coffee Café, on South Court Street.
When’s the last time you woke up in the morning and the nighttime hadn’t gone away? Right, never. And it’s getting to be that way with the Best of Athens Best Pizza category. Some Athens residents have grown up and had children during the years that Avalanche Pizza has been winning this category.
2018 is no different. Avalanche wins in… an avalanche. (Wouldn’t it be cool if a local pizza place called itself “Landslide Pizza”?)
Second place, as it did last year, goes to Courtside Pizza, the uptown pizza place/bar that’s popular with OU students.
Winning third, fourth and fifth place, respectively, are Jackie O’s Public House, Plus One Pizza and Franco’s Pizza Place.
Bagel Street Deli
You can’t go wrong with a nice hot bagel-wich to start out your day, especially when it has house-made ingredients, and can easily be made vegetarian. That’s just one reason why Athens’ Bagel Street Deli takes home the first-place spot this year in our “Best Sandwich” category, as it did last year.
Second place this year goes to Kiser’s Barbeque on State (it won second place last year as well), which is slightly sad, because Kiser’s will be closing later this month. Yet, a new fast-casual burger restaurant will take its place, and some of its barbecue, etc. offerings will be moved over to the Eclipse Company Store Craft Beer Hall in The Plains.
Third place in this category goes to Jackie O’s Public House on West Union Street in Athens, followed swiftly by Brenen’s Coffee Cafe on Court Street in fourth, and The Pub, also on Court Street, in fifth.
Best Vegetarian Cuisine
This category has belonged to Casa Nueva for as long as we at The NEWS can remember, which for some of us is about an hour ago. Since 2011 (and possibly earlier), the legendary worker-owned restaurant has remained on top, as far as our readers are concerned, for the Best Vegetarian Cuisine in the area. This year, the restaurant stole the show, winning by 218 votes.
In second place is Village Bakery & Café, located on East State Street, which didn’t place at all last year or the year before. This is the Café’s best ranking to date in the category, having won third place in 2013 and just snagging an honorable mention in 2015.
Restaurant Salaam and its fabulous falafel take third place this year, followed by Purple Chopstix in fourth and Tavolino in fifth place, which just about evens out the ethnic food options for vegetarian diners.
Jackie O's Public House
In this inarguably most competitive category in the Best of Athens, Jackie O’s Public House repeats its first-place victory from last year, beating out its very tough competitor The Pub by, drum roll please, ONE VOTE.
They both make great burgers, and this particular writer would be hard-pressed to pick between them, and why would I want to do that? It’s not smart to tick off the folks who are making your hamburgers.
Third places goes to Larry’s Dawg House, which also makes sensational hamburgers (and hot dogs).
Fourth- and fifth-place in the Burger Wars go to Eclipse Company Store Craft Beer Hall and the Union Street Diner, respectively.
Mexican food fans – including those who prefer eclectic Mexican food – are in the majority this year as Casa Nueva/Cantina takes first place in the Best Restaurant/Bar category, one of two “Foodie” wins for the co-op, alongside Best Vegetarian Cuisine. Casa hosts community events every week including live music, as well as dance and trivia nights.
Increasingly popular in recent years has been Casa’s free early shows – 6 p.m. Saturday and some Thursday evenings – featuring local and regional bands. Family- and old-coot friendly events, and usually packed to the gills.
The margin was close but Casa beat out second-place-winner Jackie O’s Public House by just eight votes. Jackie O’s took the crown last year, continuing its back-and-forth dance with Casa over the title.
This year, Jackie O’s (or one of its several subsets) also won “Best Local Brewery” and snagged “Best Hamburger” as well. (We’re not announcing the Nightlife categories till Monday.)
Third place goes to Texas Roadhouse on East State Street this year, so that’s pretty cool for those with designated transportation. The same crowd will be happy to hear that Eclipse Company Store Craft Beer Hall in The Plains came in fourth place, followed by uptown Athens’ The Pub in fifth.