Best restaurants in Athens Ohio
Looking for the best place to eat in Athens?
I've lived in Athens Ohio since I came to this sometimes-sleepy college town (Ohio University) as a freshman in 1992. Eating in Athens back then in the long, long ago was a tedious affair, unless you liked typical Americana fare. (There was a great Korean restaurant in Athens for a few years, but it's now long gone.) The good news: Athens' culinary prowess has grown over the years. If you're looking for info on boring Athens box eateries like Applebee's, Texas Roadhouse, etc, look elsewhere. This Athens Ohio restaurant guide features one-off wonders of the food world, and only the good places to eat in Athens.
Top Restaurants in Athens OH
Sushi sushi sushi. Head to East State Street. Look for the Staples on the right. You'll find China Panda tucked into that little strip mall. If you like other Japanese cuisine, you're in luck. The China Panda menu is vast and includes several different Chinese and Japanese cooking styles. The sushi bar isn't as good as ultra-ritzy joints on either coast, but it's almost as good as it gets in Ohio and tenfold better than any other "sushi" options in Athens. If you're into an authentic Chinese eating experience ask for the Chinese Chinese menu. It's in English, but filled with authentic traditional Chinese dishes and it's only available by request.
A very Athenian restaurant, Casa is huge - both culturally and physically. If you're into vegetarian cuisine, you can't do better in Athens. (They serve meat too.) When the service is on, they're the best. But if you catch them at their worst, you won't want to go back any time soon. Why such hit and miss service? We used to say it's because tips are shared by all employees, regardless of both the role the employee plays (dish dog, waiter, bartender) and the shift they work (lazy weekday morning vs. hectic weekend night,) thus removing the incentive of the busiest workers and allowing those with seniority to take the easiest shifts. ...But now they don't accept tips, so that's another, similar story. But the food is almost always excellent.
Can you believe there were no Mexican restaurants in Athens OH in 1992? Nutty. There were three for a while, but we're back down to two. Though Casa Lopez doesn't have a liquor license (the other one does,) it's otherwise great enough to be one of the best restaurants in Athens Ohio. Head out East State Street, keep going. Past the movie theater and the Arby's. Casa Lopez is the orange building on the right. No need to go into much detail here. It's largely a typical Midwest Mexican joint. The tacos aren't as good as you'll find at an authentic taqueria, but Casa Lopez is otherwise A-OK. Try the chorizo quesadilla.
With more pizza toppings than you can throw a... however that saying goes, Avalanche continues to win local, national and even worldwide pizza competitions. 100% organic sauce compliments dozens of creative 'za inventions. Carry out and delivery only. Located on East State Street near the Speedway. They make great artisan bread, too.
Fluff / Rickshaw Thai
Two restaurants merged into one! Mix a haute bakery with a non-traditional Thai restaurant, add a liquor license and great coffee and what do you get? This joint! It's hard to top the culinary character of this weird combo. One of the specials last week: meatloaf sandwich. Dinner is 5pm to 10pm Tues - Sat. The bakery serves all day, w/ some non-bakery stuff too. If the street is packed with cars, try the Athens parking garage a block away.
Chicken the way your mom never made it, because she didn't know how to make it this good. Miller's has been around a long time. I forget exactly how long, but they'd been here a long time when I got here many years ago. They do one thing, and they do it right. Order the chicken. (But don't forget the abundant sides!) There's not much around Miller's but it's only a short hike down the hill from uptown Athens.
Bagel Street Deli
Holy bagels Bat Man!! This place is amazing. Head to Court St. for this incredible sandwich shop. Too many selections to count. (Their menu spreads over two walls and several chalk boards like a yummy slime mold.) Meat selections abound. There's breakfast too. If you're looking for vegetarian food in Athens Ohio try the "Feta is Betta" on a Bialys bagel. But sub out the sprouts for some hard boiled egg. Their tofu menu is substantial too.
O'betty's Red Hot
Located on West State Street just a few steps from Court Street you'll find one of the most spectacular hot dog museums on the planet. Oh, and the food's great too. Fresh made fries compliment a creative burlesque themed hot dog menu. These 100% beef dogs snap with natural casings. Toppings selection is nearly unlimited, so use your imagination and make the best hot dog ever! If you're a vegetarian, substitute a veggie dog and go nuts.
Star of India
Indian food in Athens Ohio. Who'd've thought? Athens Ohio food has included Indian food for some time now. Nutty. Head out Union St. Star of India is on the right, across from the old train depot. Their dinner entrees are usually great. Try the chicken tikka masala or the navratan curry. The vegetable pakora and mango lassi are to die for. The lunch buffet is cheap, but it's hit or miss. Some love it. Some not so much. If you're versed in Indian cuisine and they're not too busy, they'll usually make off-menu selections too.
A full bar with decent wine compliments the largest fine dining menu of any Athens Ohio restaurant. The little touches are nice: flavored butter paired with a selection of breads, the best French onion soup in town, and one of the few places you can get a decent scallop dish. They rarely answer their phone but they usually return calls, and there's little parking, all metered, but Zoe is worth the hassle.
The red curry is delicious. Same with the Mala string beans and Larb gai. Haven't had anything sub-par here yet, except for the service. ...And that's only because they're so busy. We've been waiting for a proper Athens Thai restaurant for decades. (Forever, really.) This place also dabbles in Vietnamese (pho) and has an ample Chinese menu too. But if you see somebody ordering general Tso's or Kung Pao here, please slap them for me.
Best Athens Restaurants - Honorable Mentions
Souvlakis - Best hummus in Athens. Not open mornings.
Salaam - Middle-eastern-ish
Jackie O's - Great beer and good food.
Sol - The best weekend brunch in Athens. Great, delicious brunch menu.
The Pub - Beer cheese soup on Wednesdays! Great bar food uptown.
Stephen's - Try the baked cod.
Fusion Noodle Company - No longer the best pho or pad thai, but still okay.
Kiser's BBQ - Owner was rude to me, so I won't eat there, but the BBQ is good.
If you have any questions, please contact amateur food critic Dan Dreifort via the link at the bottom of the uncool index page. Don't see your restaurant here? Ask for a review.
Dan Dreifort does consults on SEO and usability and enjoys international horse bungee. He wears size 10.5 shoes and used to have a 30" waist. Friends called Dan Dreifort 'Duck' in high school. His mother calls him 'wonderful' or sometimes, 'damnit.'