UGA boasts badass sports teams (and now gold medal Olympians nbd), a coveted downtown scene, and a big and beautiful campus. If that doesn’t convince you already, we have what’s truly important to anybody: epic Athens food.

As a freshman, exploring my food options was just as important as walking my classes. I was awestruck at our award-winning dining halls, and whenever I wanted to venture out, DT was only about a 15-minute walk from Creswell. I tried out new options for almost every meal. Within my first year, I was still left with more options remaining.

I’d say my experience and research makes me a well-qualified guide Dawg for all things Athens food and drink. That’s why Spoon UGA has put together this helpful guide for all of your desperate food endeavors on and around campus.

1. When You Have the Munchies and Need Food at 2 am: Cookout


Photo courtesy of @elaine_cassandra on Instagram

Open ‘til 3 am Sunday through Thursday and until 4 am on weekends, Cookout welcomes you and your friends’ late night cravings with an iconic bulldog statue at its door.

Burgers, BBQ, hotdogs, hushpuppies… If you name it, they probably have it (not to mention over 40 milkshake flavors). Their menu is endless and definitely accommodates for a college budget. You get a lot of bang for your buck, and I guarantee that you won’t leave hungry.

2. When You Need to Grab Lunch Under $10 Between Classes: Stay On Campus


Photo by Mollie Simon

If you’re not on meal plan, there are quick service cafés scattered about every nook and cranny on campus. UGA is currently in the midst of a total food revamp, so get excited and be on the look out.

This includes a Panda Express, an expanded Chick-Fil-A Express, The Niche Pizza Co. and Einstein Bros. Bagels (just to name a few of many).

The Bulldog Café, Tate Café, and ‘Tween the Pages Café vendors are all steps away from North and West Campus. South Campus has access to Einsten Bros. and Caribou Coffee in the new SLC. On East Campus, the Red Clay Café (in Joe Frank Harris aka ECV) has you covered for refreshing salads and deli options.

Pawpoints and/or Bulldog Bucks are accepted at any of these vendors if you’re low on cash.

3. When You’re Sick of Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts: Two Story Coffee

Photo by Gabi Rosenthal

If you’re passing through 5 Points, you’ll see a charming, two-story, red house that’s actually a homey coffee shop. The coffee itself is a work of art, and this authentic café is made for studying.

There are study tables everywhere — from the screened-in porch to the couches on the second floor. Espresso and coffee are hand-pressed and made fresh at the vintage-looking bar, and every late-night crammer can get their coffee fix until 10 pm on weekdays. It’s truly every coffee-addict’s dream.

4. If You’re Going on a First Date: Walker’s Coffee and Pub


Photo by Samantha Fehd

Walker’s is located in the heart of downtown, with private, indoor and semi-outdoor seating, and offers unique beverage options. You and your date can meet here for a short coffee break or for a casual sip, making it a safe bet. It’s not too expensive either, which helps the “to split or not to split the bill” situation less awkward.

The low music and lighting setting, combined with pleasant smells, is optimal; and you don’t have to worry about messy eating mishaps. Plus, if the date is going well, you can get refills and try different kinds, or if you want to cut it short, a cup of Joe doesn’t have to last long.

5. When You’re Craving Asian Cuisine: Shokitini


Photo by Samantha Fehd

I go here for the best sushi in Athens, and a lot of my friends order the teriyaki chicken served inside a pineapple. Panda Express is great for lunch, and O-House sushi is questionable, but you need to go here for authentic Asian food that you simply can’t find elsewhere in Athens.

Another great perk is their karaoke lounge upstairs. If you’re looking for a good time with a large group, book a room so you can finally show off your Grammy-worthy voice while also trying your hand at chopsticks.

#SpoonTip: GO TO THE BAR. If it’s not that busy, sometimes they’ll offer a free appetizer or deep-fried Oreo’s for dessert. I did it, and I had a great convo with the sushi chef, and he made a customized roll that was off the menu (and off the charts good).

6. When You’re Trying to be Healthy: Heirloom Café

Photo courtesy of @akwhitson on Instagram

Located right off of Prince Avenue, near the Health Science Campus (appropriately), you’ll find Heirloom Café. Known for a great brunch spot, their menu changes seasonally, so you’ll always have a fresh variety to choose from.

They use ingredients that are locally grown and raised, and there are plenty of healthy options from gourmet salads, huevos rancheros, and delectable vegetable plates. There’s no mystery as to where your food came from or how fresh it is made.

7. When Your Parents are Visiting and They’re Footing the Bill: 5&10


Photo courtesy of @fiveandten on Instagram

Here’s another gem from 5 Points for when you’re feeling fancy and want gourmet Southern cuisine. Their steak and seafood entrees are pricey (around $20-30 per person), but brunch is a little cheaper at around $10-15 per person. They also offer gourmet desserts and pastries.

The owner, Hugh Acheson, is known for his European twist on traditional Southern comfort foods, like Summer Squash Fritters with charred scallion creme fraîche and potato gnocchi. He and his restaurant has been recognized with a handful of awards. To name a couple, Acheson has been named Food & Wine’s Best New Chef (2002), and 5&10 was named Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Best Restaurant of the Year (2007).

8. When You’re “Doing it for the Insta”: Mama’s Boy

Photo courtesy of @spoonuga on Instagram

Almost everyone from the classic city has the classic Instagram photo in front of the blue bike painted on to their white brick wall (if not of their food). Mama’s Boy is open during breakfast and lunch hours (another traditional, Athens brunch location), known for “Southern fun dining.”

The food lives up to its title. Almost every breakfast plate is served with cheese grits, and their unique potato hash plates are must-tries. You can choose from eight different biscuit sandwiches, and even take them to “grab & go” on weekday mornings before class (featuring a free cup of Jittery Joe’s coffee). They also offer gluten free and vegan options, so the menu is friendly towards dietary needs.

#SpoonTip: Don’t miss out on Pancake Tuesday’s. See picture for further argument.

9. When You’re Craving Something Sweet: Ben and Jerry’s

Photo courtesy of Mollie Simon

Visiting Ben and Jerry’s downtown is nothing like picking out flavors at the grocery store. Now that they offer dairy free options, even the lactose intolerant (including me) is screaming for their ice cream. If not for their range of euphoric flavors, UGA students appreciate their presence in the community.

Each year, Free Cone Day yields a line traveling down the block and then wrapping around the corner (because nothing is more attractive to college students than free ice cream). But most importantly, they host a ton of percentage nights for UGA philanthropies and clubs, and cater many on-campus events (including Spoon UGA events).

10. On Your 21st Birthday: Creature Comforts Brewing Co.


Photo courtesy of @andrewthomaslee on Instagram

If you really want to feel like you’re #adulting on your 21st, have a beer tasting party at Creature Comforts Brewery Co. Athens takes pride in its original, local personality, which is reflected through every one of their rich and zesty, handcrafted beers.

The staff will personally guide and inform you on everything they have to offer (all on tap). There are usually around five to ten different kinds to try, and signature flavors rotate regularly.

11. If You or Your Friends Don’t Eat Meat: The Grit


Photo courtesy of @gogrit on Intagram

Whether you’re vegetarian or vegan, The Grit makes going meatless a breeze. They offer everything from sandwiches and soups of the day to vegan pies, cakes, and cookies (they even have a vegan Chocolate Death dessert). I love going to this charming and artsy restaurant for the best sweet potato fries in town.

12. When You’re Craving a Slice: Your Pie

Photo by Hui Li

If I dove into the numerous pizza places you could find in Athens, this article might take years to read. Everyone can find something they like at Your Pie. As another locally-owned franchise, they have three locations in Athens (the 5 Points location is closest to campus).

They have seven unique, signature pizzas, but the create-your-own option is a personal favorite, because of the variety of endless toppings to choose from. If you have dietary restrictions, vegan cheese or gluten free crust is available, which is hard to come by at regular pizza joints.

They guarantee to have your pizza hand tossed and out from the brick oven in under five minutes, because they understand that your cravings are real. And be sure to finish off the experience with a scoop of gelato.

13. When You’re Trying to Watch the Game: Mellow Mushroom

Photo by Mollie Simon

If you and your friends were unfortunate enough to snag tickets to the game, you can always band together with fellow Bulldog fans downtown at Mellow Mushroom. You’ll be able to see the game from almost anywhere in the restaurant thanks to flat screen televisions, and I promise you, won’t miss out on the blaring chants and cheers. Plus, what’s better than football and pizza?

14. When You Need to Sober Up: The Grill


Photo courtesy of @guide2athens on Instagram

If you’re going to go DT, then you’ll want to stop by The Grille after bar hopping all night. Conveniently located right next to the downtown bus stop, the diner serves burgers, fries, and dogs 24/7 on a dime (or at least under $10).

Stop by for a large, juicy, bacon and swiss burger with a side of feta fries and one of their hand-spun milkshakes. And if you start to see the break of dawn, breakfast items are always served. Their food and location makes this diner a landmark and tradition for our college town (just look for the neon sign on the city’s main corner).

15. To Check Out the Athens Music Scene: The Foundry

chicken dippers

Photo by Hailey Nelson

Enjoy an array of tasty appetizers, sandwiches, entrees, and desserts while listening to live, local music. The bar is also a great place to listen and mingle if you’re just going for the sound.

Athens is known mainly for it’s rock, indie, country, and bluegrass roots and original artists, like The B-52s, Danger Mouse, and Bill Anderson. Who knows if you’ll witness one of the first of performances of an emerging, musical legend? I recommend checking out the Foundry’s calendar for upcoming events and musical performances.