Best of Athens Logo 2018

Best Bartender

Todd 'Uncle Fun' Dunbebin

In a touching gesture, the community overwhelmingly voted the late Todd “Uncle Fun” Dunbebin as the Best Bartender this year. The longtime Tony’s Tavern bartender was a well-respected member of the community who was always ready with a joke. He’s missed dearly by many in Athens. He passed away earlier this year.

Second place goes to Beau Nishimura, the mustachioed man of mystery behind the bar at Little Fish Brewing Company (he’s not actually that mysterious). He was our second-place winner last year as well.

Josh Brown of Casa Cantina wins third place this year. Yet, Josh is more than just a bartender. He also often handles sound for the live-music venue, plus books entertainment for the Cantina.

Honorable mentions go to Adam Lee of The Pub and Nicholas Littlehouse of the West End Cider House in fourth and fifth places.

Best Place to Dance

Casa Cantina

Only a few places in Athens actively encourage dancing, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of places suited to the activity. Casa Cantina is the reigning champ for this category, winning first place for the seventh year in a row. With as many dance nights and live performances that are hosted in this popular worker-owned bar/restaurant, it’s no wonder that when our readers think dancing, they think Casa.

In second place for another year is The Union, another well-known venue for dance parties and boogie-downs. Taking the third place seat is Eclipse Company Store and Craft Beer Hall in The Plains, debuting in this category after less than a year of the beer hall opening. This is one of several categories Eclipse placed in this year, taking fourth place spots in both the Best Restaurant/Bar and Best-Kept Secret categories, and dominating as Best New Business and Best New Restaurant, to name a few.

Fourth place for dance venues is the sizzling hot Broney’s Alumni Grill, while fifth and sixth place go to The Pub and The Pigskin.

Best Bar for People over 30

Tony's Tavern

Another year, another victory for Tony’s Tavern on East State Street, which our BOA voters select as Best Bar for People Over 30 every single year. But don’t let the number “30” fool you – Tony’s has done a great job of attracting patrons of all (legal) ages since it opened way back in the early 1980s.

Second place goes to the West End Cider House down at the bottom of West Washington Street.

Interestingly, both Tony’s and the Cider House occupy sites that for many years held famous (sometimes infamous) townie bars under different owners. The Tony’s space used to be Mary Johnson’s, and the West End Cider House was the West End Tavern.

Third, fourth and fifth place, respectively, go to Little Fish Brewing Co., Casa Cantina, Cat’s Eye Saloon and The Union.

Best Local Band or Performer

The Wild Honeybees

This popular ensemble, with its sizzling hot R&B by way of The Big Easy, once again wins Best Local Band or Performer. The Wild Honeybees are basically The Royales of the modern age. (The horn-driven rockin’, R&B, blues Royales used to win this category every year – maybe a reunion show someday?). The Honeybees, meanwhile, Saturday night performed at a rollicking New Orleans Dance Party backstage in Memorial Auditorium.

Winning second place is DJ Barticus, also winner of Best DJ/Radio Personality this year.

Water Witches take third place – this band appears in The Athens NEWS’ “What’s Happening” section nearly every Thursday.

Fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place winners are Hellnaw, The Come On Come Ons and Any Colour, respectively.

Best Happy Hour

Jackie O's

Ohhh, happy hours. The happiest of hours in anyone’s day – when beer and liquor flow like water, and our wallets don’t bear as much of a burden as usual in the pursuit of blissful inebriation (or mild buzz, whichever floats your boat).

First place in this category this year, as was the case last year, is Jackie O’s for its well-attended Power Hour each evening from 8 to 9, where select JOs brews cost only $3.

Tony’s Tavern wins second place this year. Can you say $1.50 hot nuts? Because we sure can’t after pounding so many of these things.

Relative newcomer the Eclipse Company Store Craft Beer Hall wins third place this year for its $1-off-pints deal every day from 2 to 6 p.m.

Honorable mentions in this category go to fourth-place winner Red Brick Tavern and fifth-place winner The Pub.

Best Open Stage

Casa Cantina

Casa Cantina’s long-running open stage, hosted every Wednesday night by longtime local musician and local music advocate Chris Biester, once again wins top honors for Best Open Stage. And that’s saying a lot, considering you can’t stumble 15 feet in the uptown Athens area without falling into an open stage.

Donkey Coffee claims second place for Best Open Stage, gradually and quietly developing a reputation for fronting quality amateur (and other) acts each Thursday evening with its Open Mic Nights.

Third place goes to the Smiling Skull Saloon with weekly Tuesday night open stages.

Fourth- and fifth-place, respectively, go to the West End Cider House and the Front Room Coffee House, which each host weekly open stages.

Best Live Music Venue 

The Union Bar

One of the reasons Athens, Ohio, ranks as royalty among southeast Ohio music scenes is the presence of so many great live-music venues in this town, as well as on the periphery of Athens, in Nelsonville, Pomeroy, etc. And at the top of the heap is His (or Her?) Royal Highness The Union Bar.

The Union has won this category numerous times, and hasn’t missed a step judging by its notching another victory as Best Live Music Venue. All we can request is bring back the Dave Davies Band or The Black Keys!

Second place goes to Stuart’s Opera House, which renovated and expanded is better than ever. Stuart’s brings in top quality national and international musical acts, as well as hosting the ABC Players and other local/regional performance events. We love our Stuart’s.

Casa Cantina, with live music several times a week and increasingly popular Saturday early shows, wins third place.

Fourth and fifth place go to the Eclipse Company Store Craft Beer Hall and Jackie O’s Public House, respectively.

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