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athens (GA) dinner spot

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We'll be in Athens for a nite later this month and looking for a nice dinner out - pls no "Q" or chains...

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  1. As in my post earlier, try the Five and Ten. Some don't think it's up to NYC standards but I grew up there and think it's great.

    1. Five and Ten is excellent. Farm 255 is supposed to be good, but I haven't been yet. Maybe this weekend, if I'm lucky.

      1. In addition to Five and Ten (1653 S. Lumpkin St in Five Points) which is an excellent choice. I really like Bischero at 237 Prince Ave. in the Bottleworks (an old Coca-Cola Distributing Plant). Its a great Italian place. You can sit outside (the gardenias are blooming right now)...

        I'm not a big fan of Farm... I like the 'idea' (use only local produce) but I've never really had a great meal there...

        1 Reply
        1. re: JMo

          I agree on Farm... great idea without the culinary prowess to quite pull it off. I've found the food incredibly bland, but the space is beautiful and mojitos are made from scratch... what irks me is how obnoxious their outdoor music gets, saturating all of the west end of downtown. Those folks down on the patio at the Caledonia really get pummeled.

        2. Five and Ten is the best in town in my opinion. Last Resort Grill is a little lesss expensive but always pretty solid. East West Bistro (upstairs) downtown has impeccable seafood.

          Link: http://www.fiveandten.com/#

          1. 5 and 10 has the only real 'chef' in town. the rest, as in Last Resort, are students and people still trying to find themselves. still, now that the 'chef' has become more wide spread, some of the food can be questionable. i have had some very good dishes at 5 &10 but on the other hand, the worst 'sauerbraten' ever. i don't even know why they tried that dish. their forte is 'light', 'california'. don't expect too much from dishes which are supposed to be 'deep' in flavor....they don't do it. they do the light stuff very well. in no case would i describe it as NY quality.

            bischero has faded somewhat. i think they have discovered that there are no chef's in town and that no matter how hard they try, the wannabees can't cut it. when the Italians were there, they did wonderful, NY quality things. the wannabees have never really tasted the good stuff so they don't know what to aim for. so sorry to see that.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mzim

              Five & Ten easily measures up to all but the very fanciest high-end restaurants in America. It's often profoundly good food, occasionally just very good, never worse than that, IMO.

            2. I am interested that you say only 5 and 10 has a "true chef". It is my understanding that Chef Acheson sp? has never had formal culinary training. I have been to 5&10 and it was great. POint being you dont have to be a "true chef" to produce the goods.

              2 Replies
              1. re: qrkid

                Sorry to reply so late. A chef isn't defined by their formal training in some culinary school. Far from it. A great number of the finest chefs ever have never been near a culinary school.

                A chef is defined by their level of expertise, basically: by the quality of his/her food and the level of professionalism in his/her kitchen.

                1. re: qrkid

                  Going to culinary school does not make you a chef or even a good cook----you really think those 19 year-olds walking out of there are chefs?? Not to talk down on formal training, but it is all in the individual. One can become a chef in other ways than the formal route.

                  and somehow Food and Wine and the James Beard Foundation seem to think that our dear Mr. Acheson is a "true chef"

                2. Bischero is not as good as when they had the real Italians there but there still some good things. I love their calamari, will often split a pizza as an appitizer and the pasta with sausage and cream sauce (buttera?) is very rich but very good.
                  Jose was indeed at L'Estrella then at Zupamo's then at the Garden Cafe before opening Griseole. He was at the Beverly Hilton before that and cooks much more than Mexican. His paella is very good but the food is overall uneven. Still he is such a nice host that each trip down there is a treat.
                  I like Harry Bissett's a great deal especailly the cajun and seafood choices.
                  Hugh has his own special style which can be superb at times and overly fussy at others.
                  All and all there are some very intersting choices here...enough to make eating out a pleasure more times than not.

                  20 Replies
                  1. re: gashrink

                    I ate at Harry Bissett's last night for my first time...or as my husband Beavis refers to it: Hairy Bisquits. I know Uptown Jimmy isn't a fan, but I had a wonderful experience and can't wait to return later in the year for some oysters on the half. (People were ordering them, I just can't shake the whole month with the R thing.)

                    We split the cajun popcorn (fried crawfish) and those were good. I had the eggplant entree, a fried eggplant "boat" stuffed with crab, shrimp and topped with crawfish etouffee. It was way too much food but absolutely delicious. The etouffee was dirty and spicy, every bit as good as I've had in New Orleans. There was a powerful herb in it that I couldn't place though. Something like cilantro but not. Maybe mint? It was good, I just regret not asking what it was. My husband had the carpetbagger steak: filet with 2 fried oysters and bernaise. Also delicious. We finished the meal with the praline cheesecake, light and fluffy topped with pralines.

                    Will definitely go back. Good service, enjoyed the "balcony" seating, more on the menu to look forward to.

                    1. re: creativeusername

                      Which one did you go to? Somebody said the new one is better than the one downtown....

                      1. re: uptown jimmy

                        Downtown. I didn't remember reading that there was another one but if that means it might get even better, I'm there. I forgot to mention how pleasantly surprized I was at the bill. Cheap cheap.

                        I'm bound and determined to try everything y'all have mentioned in Athens. Every Saturday night is an opportunity! I only wish I could get Beavis to try 5&10 with me. Might have to wait until my sister visits for that one. :(

                        1. re: creativeusername

                          Beavis must really hate awesome food, or the mere promise thereof.

                          1. re: uptown jimmy

                            He's got an inner hound, I just have to ease him into unfamiliar territory because he still orders steak no matter where we go. It took 7 years to get him to eat something other than a california roll when we went for sushi. "Don't tell me what those orange bubbles are because I like them and I'm kinda thinking they're probably fish eggs." Baby steps to the bus.

                            Where will you send us next weekend? Last Resort maybe?

                            1. re: creativeusername

                              Man. Can't give the Resort the thumbs up. Hate to be a constant hater, but...

                              But seriously, 5&10 has several awesome meat dishes. We were there Saturday and they had a chicken dish, a ribeye dish, a flank steak dish, and a lovely-looking pork chop dish. They always have grits and potatoes of some sort. I can't gurantee he'd like the preparation, but it would be hard to find good meat treated with more reverance and care in the state of GA. And the meat itself is some of the best available in this country. If that don't get him in there, ain't nothing going to. Honestly, he'd have to love the steak, it's amazing. I'm getting hungry.

                              Anyway, good luck! Their menu is online, btw, though it isn't always quite accurate, day to day.

                              I guess I just love 5%10, being the tireless cheerleader for them that I am.

                              1. re: uptown jimmy

                                rightfully so! five and ten is hands down the BEST dining experience i've ever had. & ten really is amazing and has to be one of the best restaurants in the south.

                                1. re: batdown

                                  It's not me! I believe you all. I have drooled on my laptop looking at the online menu. I have dreamed about it from your descriptions. I want the skatewing, dammit!

                                  What's the attire like? It'll be an easier sell to Beavis if it's casual.

                                  1. re: creativeusername

                                    5&10 is great - and like everything else in Athens it is casual. Hip casual though. No tie or jacket of course, but men are generally in some sort of collared shirt. Last time we ate there REM was also there and most of them were in T shirts of some sort but they are REM, of course . . . for the rest of us, unless it is a really spiffy t shirt, I would wear something else! Be sure and try the prix fixe - gosford wine sends out the menu each week and it is a bargain - 3 courses for 24 bucks, seatings at 530, 545 and 6 - reservations usually a must though for that. We do that all the time and it is generally very very good

                                    1. re: athensmomof3

                                      I've only eaten at 5&10 twice, but each time i was completely comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans. one of my favorite things about five and ten is they are completely devoid of useless pomp. it's very casual, very relaxed, which adds to the more than enjoyable experience.

                                      1. re: batdown

                                        Lack of useless pomp is excellent. (So are really spiffy t-shirts but we can save them for another day.)

                                        Just sold Beavis. Woohooooooo! T minus 5 days and counting...

                                        1. re: creativeusername

                                          good to hear! let us know what you have! my lady and I are going for her birthday in mid july - I cant wait. as a money-starved grad student, it's hard to get out to 5&10 with any kind of regularity...but I figure i can manufacture enough special occasions.... ;)

                                          1. re: batdown

                                            Beavis will be very happy with the rib eye if it is on the menu. Hugh usually has at least one steak type main course. I've had fine oysters in june at 5&10. I love them. If there is a soup on the menu try it Hugh's soups are the best. In general, however I usually order a special off the blackboard.
                                            In any case be sure to post about your experience.

                                            1. re: gashrink

                                              We had a salsify soup there a few months ago. It was the best thing I ever tasted.

                                              And I truly have no idea what slasify is.

                                                1. re: uptown jimmy

                                                  It's a little like a mild parsnip.
                                                  here are today's soups:
                                                  english pea and watercress soup 7
                                                  with poached shrimp and lemon oil.

                                                  sweet corn soup 7
                                                  with vanilla, sautéed morels and chive whipped cream.

                                                  They do have the ribeye and my favorite chrispy sweetbreads.

                                                  1. re: gashrink

                                                    Yeah. I was joking, sorta. It has almost a black, craggy skin with a milky-white flesh inside. It's a tuber, I guess, long and skinny like a huge black carrot. Deeee-licious.

                              1. re: creativeusername

                                Thank you hounders, thank you. 5&10 is my new favorite restaurant.


                                ambiance/service: comfortable and unpretentious
                                bread: like Mom used to make
                                cheese course: shelburne and dante, excellent stinky stuff...even the pickled grapes served with it were outstanding
                                app: country ham "prosciutto" w/melon. melt in your mouth. husband uttered the words "I'm in my happy place"
                                soup: sweet corn w/vanilla and morels. if they serve soup in heaven, this is it.
                                entrees: husband had Halibut (I know! blew me away!) which was fantastic, I had the skate wing (dude...how could I not?). just wow. like comfort food, only better. the 'slaw' was a perfect conduit b/w the fish and grits.
                                dessert: husband had coconut cake w/rum raisin ice cream. best we've ever had. I had vanilla creme brullee w/homemade cookies. perfect way to end a perfect meal.

                                I'd been told by others (not on this board) that portions were small and the food is "fru-fru." That's crap. Portions were perfect, food was unassuming yet brilliantly creative.

                                I would sweep floors in this place for the chance of a daily shift meal.

                                1. re: creativeusername

                                  Thanks for coming in and glad you enjoyed it. Staff meal is at four and the broom is in the dish room.

                        2. I went to the DePalmas in Homewood last night. Had the mascarpone ravioli. Not bad. Not great. Looking for a good place for cook's night off tomorrow but not Italian. Is there any good festival food at Athfest worth spending $15 on a wristband or should we avoid it altogether?

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: creativeusername

                            you should spend the 15 dollars on a wristband to hear the music; it's well worth it.

                            1. re: creativeusername

                              DePalma's is not really Italian food. It's theoretically more Italian-American, done with what tastes like supermarket brand boxed pasta, but rarely does anything taste house made.

                              1. re: Dax

                                I'd agree with Italian-American. It did hit the spot though. Of course, I was hungry enough to gnaw my arm off when I got the invitation so it would have had to be Olive Garden bad for me to not have cleaned my plate.

                                1. re: creativeusername

                                  The problem with DePalma's is that do not salt the water they cook the pasta in. The told me it would mess up their pasta cooker. After several discussions I've just stopped going. Everything else is fine but you can't add sauce or salt later it's not the same as cooking pasta in properly salted H2O. that's why the pasta doesn't taste as good as it should.
                                  Bischero's has good Italian.

                                  1. re: gashrink

                                    I'll save Bischeros for when I'm not so burned out on Italian. Too much of it lately.

                                    Some people I know have been recommending Basil Press and Porterhouse to me lately but I gotta say I'm just not at all impressed with the menus and walking by, nothing about either makes me want to go in for a meal.

                                    [...sigh...] You people have completely ruined me. All I want is to go back to Five and Ten.

                                      1. re: creativeusername

                                        I ate at the basil press recently. It was good, but not good enough to justify the high prices. If im paying 90-100 for a dinner out for two, im goint to 5&10.

                                        but it seems like they have a very reasonable lunch, so i'll probably be back in the daytime.

                                        1. re: creativeusername

                                          Bischeros is no longer Bischeros; it's called 237 Prince, http://www.237prince.com/, and while the pizza oven still works, I just had an incredibly pedestrian Margherita. Too bad. I was hoping for a crust that was far more chewy, a pizza with far less cheese.

                                2. Five and Ten every time. A fantastic meal each time I've been, which is quite a lot. Always surprising and delicious.

                                  1. Do yourself a favor and hit The Grit. Downhome veg cooking.

                                    Last Resort Grill is great as well, if a bit pricey.

                                    15 Replies
                                    1. re: shipwreck

                                      The Last Resort is not great, nor is it pricey.

                                      The Grit is not exceptional, either. It can be good, but it is never great, and it is often inconsistent enough to be barely edible.

                                      And, by the way, there's no such thing as "downhome veg cooking". All "downhome cooking" contains bits of meat.

                                      1. re: uptown jimmy

                                        Sorry to dissappoint you, sir. I'll keep my opinions to myself next time.

                                        1. re: shipwreck

                                          Sorry. I was being snippy, or so blunt as to seem snippy, and I generally try to avoid that. I've just gotten sorta tired of what I perceive as an almost gleeful embracement of culinary mediocrity here in Athens. But's it's nobody's fault but my own that I live here. Please forgive me.

                                          Post away, please. Don't mind the snippy guy in the corner....

                                          1. re: uptown jimmy

                                            No worries, friend; I can be that way too.

                                            I suspect I would feel similarly about Grit if I lived there. It isn't exactly 5 star dining but it's such a cool novelty and I eat it so rarely (being in Atlanta) that I love it.

                                            To each his own.

                                            1. re: shipwreck

                                              Hey I like Bissett's and jimmy can't stand it. I don't think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread like lots of Athenians, but I have very rarely ever been totally dissatisfied with my dinners there.
                                              That's the great thing about Chowhound; all of these different opinions.

                                              1. re: Dax

                                                It may be that I ate a Bissett's when a less-skilled cook was in the kitchen. That's a constant problem in Athens, just rampant inconsistency. Same with The Grit: I've had some darned good meals there, but have gone back to find the same dishes so poorly-prepared as to be not worth eating. They used to have some dynamite curry noddle bowls, come to think of it....

                                                Another thing, though, is that I'm spoiled. I grew up on my grandmother's cooking in N.C. She was easily one of the finest cooks of her generation, just a classic Southern sorceress in the kitchen, and she cooked straight from my grandfather's garden, where he grew every imaginable vegetable on several acres. They were just amazing, amazing foodies in the old Southern tradition. And then I've been lucky to live and eat in San Francisco, Charleston, and New Orleans, where the cooking is mighty fine at all levels of the game. So I just feel like a lot of the restaurants in Athens sorta serve pale imitations of their target cuisines, not usually downright bad, but just mostly unimpressive.

                                                For example, I like the pizza at Transmet just fine, but it does pale next to pizza I've had in San Fran or New York. So I'm always piping in when somebody declares a local restaurant "great", which maybe I should stop doing. It's a fact, though, that Chowhound has been an invaluable resource for us over the years, and yet we have been burned a few times by advice that was less than, umm, trustworthy. I always feel a sort of responsibility for people who are in town for a short while, wanting to maximize their food experiences in a strange place. Somebody who has had a burrito in the Mission District in San Fran is just not going to find Taco Stand or Barberito's very interesting, you know?

                                                We were in Chatanooga recently, and I was blown away by several restaurants there. I was struck yet again how little real passion or excellence most restaurants in Athens bring to the table, the folks at Five and Ten being an obvious exception. It's not as if Athens doesn't have enough people to serve. And the success of Five and Ten proves that there are real foodies here. Come to think of it, though, Atlanta is famously somewhat under-served with real culinary excellence, as compared with other major North American markets, so maybe it's the area. Funny thing is, once you get outside of the Chowhound circle, most folks around here seem to think corporate chain restaurants to be the best thing going. I've got some really funny/painful stories about food-quests in Athens, just real head-shakers.

                                                Anyway, that's far more than enough from me for today!

                                                1. re: uptown jimmy

                                                  did you post your Chatanooga "blown away" reviews anywhere? we've been debating visiting the city.

                                                  1. re: uptown jimmy

                                                    I find your posts accurate and you shouldn't feel bad about posting the truth. Transmet is extremely inconsistent though. I've stopped going there after 4 or 5 bad slices in a row.
                                                    DePalmas is awful. The pasta is disgusting. It is worse than store bought. I'm not sure what is wrong with it. I've had perfectly fine pasta from a box but DePalmas easily has the worst pasta I've ever had.

                                                    1. re: siasl

                                                      I couldn't agree with you more! What is the magic DePalmas has over this town??? I've had some of the worst meals of my life there, and very terrible service. It absolutely flips my stomach that they have the nerve to advertise themselves as "authentic Italian." It just goes to show, like Jimmy says, how easily the masses of this town are impressed with mediocrity (overpriced mediocrity at that) - and just keep going back for more.

                                                      1. re: charlottecooks

                                                        Yeah. I guess you guys nailed those two places. We could probably get into a VERY long discussion on what ails this area culinarily, but I'm not even sure I'm qualified to get into it. I think there are deep cultural/historical issues involved, dating back hundreds of years, but I'm sure the simplest explanation is that Athens is a college town at the end of the day.

                                                        Not that that explains Atlanta, or the rest of the state. We are extraordinarily lucky to have 5&10 in our midst, though I'd feel even luckier if I could afford to eat there more than twice a year!

                                                        But I don't want to give the impression that I am a snob. Far from it. I just love good food, lovingly prepared by people who care. If that means some hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese joint on the wrong street in the wrong part of town, great. But inconsistency and mediocrity feel like an insult to me. Why do anything in life if you aren't going to give it your all? If you gotta be there, make the best darn pizza you can! Why not? It takes more energy to do things badly than to do them well, I say, and the love you get back from people who have been made happy by your efforts is priceless. Truly priceless. There's nothing better than getting gushy feedback from someone who has been truly pleased by your food.

                                                        To be sure, there's a few Mexican places in town where the food is extremely tasty; I just don't digest Mexican food so well, so I almost never eat it.

                                                        1. re: uptown jimmy

                                                          Mexican, Salvadorean, Colombian, Peruvian, Lebanese... It's not that I think Athens is perfect wrt food (far from it), but compared to pretty much any town this size, I'd bet it's doing very well.

                                                          1. re: hillarybrown

                                                            agreed. I've eaten in lots of the better known North American food cities (NYC, San Fran, Montreal, New Orleans, LA, Boston hundreds of times, etc) and find Athens, on a per capita basis, to be doing well enough considering its demographics.

                                                            Far from perfect and some places, like De Palmas, Last Resort and East-West seem to get far more attention in town than they deserve, but overall I enjoy the selections available here. One of its problems is consistency and another is variation - we do not have enough restaurants offering "high end" and/or regional cuisine to compete and bring the quality of food higher (5 and 10 excepted). Ie only recently is DePalmas getting some "Italian" competition.

                                                            Then again, I eat tons of Latin American cuisine. Athens does respectably well with Latin, but tends to focus more on taqueria offerings and/or relys on Tex-Mex combo platters rather than offering more complicated regional dishes. Where are the moles, sauces other than roja, etc.?

                                                            Does that mean that just because something is "good for Athens" that I will give it a pass? No. But it won't stop me from going there to get my fix (ie. Siri) until I go somewhere for the real deal. Athens could be a hell of a lot worse.

                                                        2. re: charlottecooks

                                                          There is one huge problem with DePalmas. They refuse to put salt in the water they cook their pasta in. I had asked them to change this policy but they have refused saying it would clog up their pasta maker. I find this frankly unbelievable but i have confirmed this on several occasions. pasta should be coked in water as salty as the ocean. you cannot make this up with sauce or salting the psta after it is coked the salt has to get into the pasta while cooking. As a result DePalmas pastas are awful, tasteless and bland no matter how good their sauces are. Even Olive garden is better and Bischaro's (sp?) is much better. I have to go to De Palmas today at noon for a fare well lunch for some one (I was not consulted on the location) and will try to enjoy something that is not pasta.
                                                          By the way I had a very good dinner the other night at East West Bistro Lobster egg role and duck. Better than some times there.

                                                    2. re: Dax

                                                      Oh yeah, my brunch at Bissetts this weekend (Saturday) was just ok rather than my usual great experience.

                                                      Oyster sampler of bienville and rockefeller was delicious as usual.

                                                      I ordered the steak and eggs with home fries. The 8 oz ribeye was way more medium or even medium well than medium rare and bland. I realize you don't have a heck of a lot to work with on a thin 8 oz ribeye, but ... the two eggs over easy were excellent, home fries were home fries. I should have stuck with one of their signature steaks. Blood mary was delicious and the service was wonderful as always.

                                                      1. re: Dax

                                                        The National is another good choice in Athens. I had lunch there twice this week. My friends and I had a special hanger steak sandwich with Gorgonzola, their great turkey burger with cheddar, meaty chicken salad, an interesting vegetarian sandwich and a fine ham and cheese. Dinner features many great small plates (tapas) and some good entrees. Hugh's touch (from 5&10) is evident but the menu is very different.
                                                        Worth a try.