Restaurants & Bars

Athens, GA - updates, anybody?

uptown jimmy | Jun 10, 200904:44 PM     38

Howdy! Just thought maybe it was time for a new general-purpose thread on "The Classic City" (never understood why that nickname was warranted, but hey! that's just me). We don't eat out much, but when we do we don't mind commenting on it. Chime in and share your latest experiences, won't you? There's a lot of restaurants in Athens, and new ones open and old ones close all the time, so let's get things current, shall we?

The National - We were given gift certificates to this restaurant by friends, and so we gave the place another shot after not being altogether impressed on our first visit back when they opened. Wow. Lovely experience, just really good food and spot-on service. We had a beef dish and a fish dish, an app and a dessert, forgot the details, but everything was superb. I'm not the only one in town who thinks they needed a little time to get the kinks worked out when they opened, which is typical, but this restaurant is now firing on all cylinders, from what we can tell. We went back for apps and wine at the bar recently, and again the experience was perfect. Really, really good food.

Just Pho - We got excited back when this place opened, as I fell in love with Vietnamese food back in my SF days and craved it for years after moving to Athens. Alas, we've had better food. The Pho we've had in Atlanta and Charleston is much better, and the Cha Gio we've had in SF is faaaar better, and the Banh Mi we recently tried for the first time at Hong's on Buford Hwy in Atlanta was divine, but Just Pho is just mediocre, as far as we can tell. And the service was sorta sad, too. Oh well.

Taqueria del Sol - We like the food here, don't love it, don't quite get what all the fuss is about. There are MUCH better tacos to be found elsewhere in Athens. Not a big fan of flour tortillas with my taco meat, either. A nice beer and liquor selection, but in a rather sterile atmosphere.

Jot 'Em Down - They've moved over to Old Macon Hwy, just off Milledge Ave., right at the loop. Really, really good Q. I'm a Carolina boy, and these folks make it just about as good as any of the Western NC-style places still in bidness up in my old NC home. Real smoke from real wood, good sides, etc. The new location has a lovely down-home feel to it, the staff is sweet-tempered and helpful, heck, what's not to like? The utter lack of anything green on the menu, I suppose, but who needs a salad when the Q is this good? Yea, baby.

Inoko Sushi Express - Tried this between shifts the other day. We used to work for Inoko and his partner Kizawa back when they owned Utage downtown. Utage was one of the better sushi joints we ever tried, lovely atmosphere, excellent sushi, etc. But Inoko sold the place a while back, and sushi in Athens has utterly failed to be better than decent ever since. I was excited to hear that Inoko was back in the sushi bidness, but I think perhaps Kizawa was the real sushi master at Utage back in the glory days, and he's long since moved on to other climes. Sigh. I miss Kizawa. He was a very talented sushi chef, and a perfectionist as well, and he was a sweety in a stiff old-school Japanese sort of way. He used to call me "Kooky JJ". Anyway, the fish at Express is pretty darned good, but the rice is consistently undercooked, under-seasoned, and pebbly. And after all, sushi is all about the rice, in the end. This will not be a regular haunt for us. Again, sigh.

That's all we have for now, except for the place I work at these days, where the food is very, very good, and where I eat every day for my shift meal, but which will go unmentioned and unloved here for the time being out of concern for my journalistic integrity and sense of objectivity.

BTW, there's some new fish house downtown. Anybody tried it? I'm a confirmed skeptic when it comes to a fish house so far from any large body of water, and these days, what with fish stocks plummeting around the world, well, hmph: I'll just leave it at that.

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