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Apr 13, 2008 09:19 AM

Athens, GA: new businesses news.

I love living in Athens. I'm a local health inspector here, so I have an inside track on restaurants that are soon to open. This topic is about promoting the livelihood of those businesses that have applied for food service permits with the local health department. As this board is about promoting the restaurant industry in Athens, I see no conflict of interest in letting everyone know what is up and coming. Most of my work is public record anyway.

On Broad Street in downtown, there will soon be another Japanese option for sushi lovers. MOAE is soon to open in the space next door to the street entrance of Speakeasy.

BISCHEROS in the Bottleworks on Prince Ave. recently changed ownership, which means the menu and the preparations are brand new. If you thought the pizza was less than authentic before, you may want to give it another try.

On Baxter, in the shopping center just across from Tu Metapan, a new Vietnamese cafe offers quick noodle bowls. Drop into JUST PHO AND MORE and say hello to the very gracious owners.

For beer lovers, you may want to give TRAPEZE a test run. They hail from the cozy space that connects to Hot Corner Cafe on Washinton St. in the west end of downtown.

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  1. hi i am visiting the south board from out of town. i hope my post is not deleted for being off-topic, but i must comment, Steve, that i'm very pleased to see that somewhere out there is a health inspector who actually seems to care about food! athens is very lucky to have you-- be proud of what you do!

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. Is Just Pho open yet? I'm excited. We had pho for the first (and second) time recently in Charleston, and it's one of the best foods in the world if done corrctly.

        And it's about time Athens got some real Asian food. All this faux-Chinese and faux-Thai is just not good enough.

        2 Replies
        1. re: uptown jimmy

          Yes, it's opened. It's pretty much like the Pho restaurants near Atlanta.

          1. re: azngurlyen06

            What's the address? Some pho would be great for lunch one of the days this week.

        2. Thanks for the heads-up! I will happily try some pho and moae. I stopped by Bischeros just last week and although I was sad to see the saltimbocca off the menu, the calimari pasta was wonderful. Actually everything we ordered was delicious.

          22 Replies
          1. re: ketzl

            Will try the nee Pho place if I can find it. Don't know Tu Metapan either.
            The new Bischero menu is OK but I miss my favorites there, Insalta de Mare, the super rich pasta butera (sp?) the rabid ragu and the saltimbocca not to mention the smoked salmon pizza.
            I've gone about 4 times to the new version. They use loose sausage meat instead of pieces of sausage and the toppings on the pizza are skimpier but that's more authentic (near the end Bischero's was overloading their pizzas). The flash fried calamari is just as light and tender and tasty as ever. Still the best version of that dish I have had anywhere. The sandwiches are strange but good. cheese sauce instead of melted cheese a rolled flat bread muffeleta not what I expected but still tasty. The menu is more limited but you have the most authentic Italian restaurant in Athens and one to which I intend to return.

            1. re: gashrink

              We ate at Bischero a few years back and didn't deem it worthy of repeated patronage.

              I hear that Mirko is opening a third location downtown soon? The product at their original location in downtown Watkinsville seems to have suffered a bit since he started his various expansion efforts. This is an all-too-typical problem, I must say.

              And btw, how many "Italian" restaurants does downtown Athens need? We're approaching a dozen or so. What gives?

              The pho place is on Baxter just down the road from Kroger, where the Tusacn Market used to be. Right across the street from Bulldog Sporting Goods. Gotta try it this weekend. Pho, when done properly, is one of the world's great foods. Vietnamese food in general is one of my favorites. I wonder if they serve cha gio? I miss my favorite hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese joint out in San Francisco....

              1. re: uptown jimmy

                Athens only needs one good Italian restaurant. Unfortunately, out of the ten or so that we have, there aren't any good ones.The 3rd Mirko will be on Baxter near the library. My wife tried the one on the east side and said that while the food was very good, it was the same hassle just to sit and get a meal.

                1. re: littlecsr

                  No doubt. Full agreement on all points.

                  Mirko was darned good the first few times we ate there, but our last visit was disappointing. I don't have the patience for inconsistency, so we probably won't go back. And the odd approach to ordering and serving is extremely off-putting to me.

                  1. re: uptown jimmy

                    A third mikro? holy cow! That guy needs to step on the brakes. Eager to hear about the pho place, we'll be returning to athens soon to visit and I'd love it if that place turned out to be good. keep the updates coming!

                    1. re: hillarybrown

                      We had a pretty bad meal there not long ago. We actually sent one plate back, as it was barely edible. The chef was in Italy, and his crew did not do very well in his absence. The woman who tends to the front of the house was very gracious about the whole thing, but we haven't been back.

                      In the past, we have really enjoyed the lasgana there, but we eat out so seldom that we are strongly hesitant to return to a restaurant that displays inconsistency. Actually, that's one of the reasons we eat out so infrequently around here...

                      1. re: uptown jimmy

                        I have *consistently* had good food at La Dolce Vita, having eaten there on multiple occasions.

                        You seem to have bad experiences at a lot of places in Athens, so I wonder if you have very high standards or if Athens dining is really that awful or if you just have rotten luck.

                        1. re: AmyWatts

                          The Athens restaurant scene is plaqued by mediocrity, as I have opined before. It's a college town, ultimately, and I know from experience how difficult it is to find employees who are passionate about, and fully-engaged in, the preparation of food.

                          My general disposition is not so much about gleefully finding fault, but rather about wishing that mediocre-to-decent wasn't the norm around here. I've lived all over the country, and I've traveled a lot, so I suppose I could make the case that I have a pretty well-developed palate, but I don't really want to do that.

                          I would, however, make the case that the bar for success in the Athens restaurant scene seems pretty low. And that surprises me. I have friends who will attest, for instance, that the food scene in the Durham/Chapel Hill area (a similar couple of college towns, at least superficially) is far better than in Athens. Why would that be? I have every reason to trust them, and a search of the South board here on Chowhound would seem to bear them out.

                          The question is, and it's a fair question, is whether I have very high standards, or if, on the contrary, a lot of people in Athens have very low standards. ; )

                          But that leads to a larger discussion. There was a lenghty thread not so long ago concerning the best food cities in North America, which of course covers Mexico and Canada as well as the USA. The thread went on for hundreds of posts, and I don't remember Atlanta being mentioned even once. That's something to ponder. I think one might ask the obvious question: whether GA as a whole has a really top-notch food scene. As Atlanta goes, so goes Athens, as far as I can tell. Athens is dominated these days by affluent suburban Atlanta kids, and they bring with them tastes molded by lifetimes spent eating really mediocre food, much of it chain restaurants and the like.

                          But the Latino and Asian food offerings seem to be very strong in Atlanta, and perhaps they will help to elevate the food scene in Athens in the coming years. We already have very good Mexican food, though I don't eat it very often for reasons of personal taste and logistical convenience. I hope the new pho joint on Baxter works out. Athens really, really needs some good Asian food. Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, whatever. Bring it.

                          For what it's worth, let me assure, one doesn't need very high standards to have "off nights" at La Dolce Vita. Though I have eaten some of best lasagna in the world there several times. Might be time to give them another shot. I love that lasagna.

                          1. re: uptown jimmy

                            Thanks for a fair response to my questions. I just worry sometimes that when you give a restaurant that's trying (and on the whole succeeding) to make good food a negative review that it keeps people from going there. I've read these boards when looking at places to go in cities I'm visiting and some of your reviews would have kept me from going to restaurants here in Athens if I'd read them. I'll agree that Athens choice of cuisine is lacking in many respects, but I think that means we have to give a bigger chance to the ones that are trying and, for the most part, doing it well. I hate to say "best of the worst" because I don't think it's *that* bad here. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if someone's read your negative comments about all the other Italian joints in town, I'd hate for them to just say "f*** it, we'll do Olive Garden."

                            In other words, keep up the good work posting, and if I disagree with you, I'll be sure to come in right behind you and post to that effect. :)

                            1. re: AmyWatts

                              I'd just about as soon eat at Olive garden as eat at Depalma's, if food is the only thing we're judging.


                              1. re: uptown jimmy

                                I've had nothing but excellent food at Bischero's and their Calamari is to die for. Depalma's does not put salt (or at least not enough salt) in the water they cook their pasta in which makes for tasteless pasta so I'd agree with Jimmy about Olive garden being better.
                                The Pho place was just fine. Very limited menu and no exotic pho ingredients (like tendon) but the pho with rib eye and brisket was just fine. More meat than I was used to, typical noodles and broth, the usual herbs and sauces to add to taste. I've had much better in Atlanta but there was nothing wrong with it and it's a lot better than Doc Chey's for a noodle fix.
                                Over all I'm much more positive about the Athens Food scene than Jimmy.
                                5 & 10, the National, Bischero, Harry Bisset's, East West and the wide choice of Tex/Mex, Salvadoran and other Latin restaurants and Shokotini (SP?) for sushi give us a great selection of superior food for a town this size. One could wish for more and better, but I think we have a lot of excellent choices in town now

                  2. re: uptown jimmy

                    Still haven't tried Just Pho on Baxter. Everybody says it's just ok. My girl Karen at Fook's Foods said it was ok, and that the owner was having a pretty hard time. She siad the majority of customers were utterly confused as to what to do with all the various traditional accompaniments, the sprouts, the basil and mints, the jalapenos, etc. Evidently the owner was watching a LOT of expensive sprouts and herbs get thrown into the trash, and is now not serving them to anybody unless you ask for them.


                    I told Karen the owner of Just Pho should be proactive and tell people how to eat the food, in a friendly manner. I'll give the place a try, but I'm reluctant as everybody says it's just ok. They probably use bullion cubes to augment the broth, something mediocre pho places are notorious for doing, or so I hear.

                    1. re: uptown jimmy

                      The broth doesn't taste like bouillon. I thought it was pretty good.

                      1. re: uptown jimmy

                        Knowing absolutely nothing about Vietnamese food, my wife and I really enjoyed it. She definitely did NOT skimp on the sprouts and herbs. If I had any complaints at all, it was that there was too much of one herb in the broth (some sort of mint flavor).

                        On the day that I went, they actually created a purely vegetarian (tofu) option. They are still working this out as apparently this is unheard of back in the motherland.

                        I'd give them a shot. I'd be interested in UJ's opinion as I have zero frame of reference for this type of food.

                        1. re: littlecsr

                          I'm there. I'd be stupid not to give them at least one shot. I do love me some Vietnamese food.

                          Do they serve the fried Vietnamese sausage rolls, that sort of thing?

                          1. re: uptown jimmy

                            The menu is very limited, but it seems like I saw something LIKE that under appetizers. I was in and out pretty quick just doing pick up. Would love to hear your opinion.

                            1. re: littlecsr

                              Alrighty, then. We ate at Just Pho today for lunch and thoroughly enjoyed it. The wifely devoured her pho with many moans, and gosh-darn-it I thought it was really, really good. Wonderful broth.

                              I was happy to learn that they eagerly prepare Cha Giao Bun (a bowl of rice noodles with chopped veggies, various herbs like mint and basil, chopped-up fried Vietnamese sausage rolls, and Nuac Mam, a sweetened fish sauce condiment). Awesome, almost as good as the best we ever had, and I do count Cha Giao Bun as one of my favorite all-time dishes from any cuisine.

                              Great service, great food, though the plate of herbs might have been picked through just a bit better for the few bits of spoiled herbage. We will return regularly. Yay! We have real, and really good, Vietnamese food in Athens!

                          2. re: littlecsr

                            are you sure it wasn't star anise? It has a very potent licorice-like flavor, to the point of often being a little over-powering.

                            1. re: Dax

                              I'm not sure. The main thing that I remember from last week was the sort of "minty" scent (and thus taste) coming from my broth. You know what I mean-- the scent where your nasal passages seem to open just a bit wider? Between that and the mint looking green leaves in my soup, I just assumed it was mint.

                              I don't want to dwell on anything that might appear negative. My point was that the soup tasted very fresh, not too salty, and unless they masked it very well, did not seem to come from bullion.

                              1. re: littlecsr

                                Was just there with some of my vietnamese friends and they were bitching that there wasn't any mint. Apparently they're used to it being there. I think the quality is pretty damn good, might go back for lunch today actually. It's not the best I've had, but it's not the worst by far either (that might have been the pho that I tried to make the first time.. yeah... haha).

                                1. re: epsi1on

                                  Had lunch at Pho recently and it was good. The anise and Thai basil (holy basil) in the pho are true ingredients. I was hoping for more, as always, like tendon, tripe and meatballs but that's OK, it was nice to have a bowl of pho without driving round trip 3 hours.
                                  They were out of Thai Basil when we were there and they offered us cilantro. I pleaded for basil and it was then they brought it out. We asked for spring rolls and they said it would be an hour and a half. We passed. But still, it is good to be forgiving and to enjoy, so we did and it was a pleasant repast.
                                  We'll return. Maybe the curse of the absence of the mastery of the seven great Asian cuisines will be lifted and our fair county will have something to no longer long for.

                  3. The original comment has been removed