ADDRESS: 295 East Dougherty St.
ADDRESS: 295 East Dougherty St.
I'm a writer, and by this I mean that I'm one of those rats who will sit in a coffee shop for hours and steal your electrical outlet. And since Athens is full of other coffee shop rats, I'm constantly searching for new places I can claim. Cue my decision to visit Iron Works Coffee, a part of the new Graduate Athens package.
Back when the news of Graduate first broke in Flagpole, the hotel sounded like it was going to be a tribute to UGA. So upon my visit, I expected some red and black and Dawg paraphernalia, because let's face it, the university is a moneymaker. However, the attitude here isn't like that at all. It's graduated, if you will, and I respect that so much. There are slight references to the university and its team, but you have to search carefully to find them. The bedrooms might be a little more vocal, but I'm here for the coffee.
The atmosphere also defied my expectations in terms of space. Although Iron Works itself is small, it isn't cramped. The clientele overflows into Graduate's adjacent lobby, which is open to the public until midnight. You don't have to be a hotel guest to use the internet, which is nice, and they play good music. It feels less like a lobby and more like a hub, an open spot where people can grab some coffee or get some work done. Hotels have always felt exclusive to me, so being welcomed with my laptop and notebooks - my rat gear - was a nice surprise. It's a coffee shop environment that traded an arrogant atmosphere for better seating.
Iron Works serves Le Colombe products and covers basic forms of coffee: normal coffee, lattes, cappuccino, the like. Non-caffeinated drinks include bottled juices and beer. Food-wise, there's a selection of pastries and pre-prepared sandwiches and salads. I had the chicken salad sandwich (the top seller) and it was delicious. The only complaint I have is that the cafe itself was understaffed for several hours. The girl behind the counter was friendly and helpful (she even comped my coffee since I bought some orange juice earlier), and I hated seeing her fret when the late afternoon rush came in.
I'll definitely be back, because I enjoy the lobby's tasteful environment and I actually got a good amount of work done. So Iron Works and Graduate Athens, thanks for beating my expectations and not scowling when I brought my office to your lobby.
ADDRESS: 1397 Prince Ave.
The legend of Automatic Pizza has finally been realized. Talk of a Normaltown pizza spot has been going on forever -- I remember finding out about the restaurant almost a year ago, and I still felt out of the loop.
If I'm being a little flowery, it's only because pizza makes me sentimental. One of the first things I truly loved about Athens was its pizza. During freshman year, I transformed into a straight-up aficionado, venturing between Transmetropolitan, dining halls (East Village's personal pan pizzas were my favorite, but there's just something about Snelling's cheesy bread.), and various YourPie establishments. Little Italy made the cut on a few occasions, but times were different then. And then I got older and started eating pizza at other spots, like Ted's Most Best. The point is that Athens has a pretty strong pizza scene, and Automatic Pizza manages to stand out with all that company.
Automatic Pizza is co-owned by Bain Mattox, who also runs The World Famous and Normal Bar. There are a few ties to his other establishments, like the drink selections and shiny ceiling tiles that mimic Normal Bar's. It's a small space with a strong attitude. There's actually more seating with those picnic benches outside, but right now it's too cold for that. Obviously there's a homage to cars and a drive-in atmosphere given the building's history, but there's also a touch of whimsy (and shoutout to Double Dutch Press for that logo!). "American" is a tricky word, but that's a lot of the feel that Automatic Pizza exudes, especially music-wise: come on, they played Stevie Nicks and Etta James. Also, they use plastic toys as table markers and even let me hold on to my walrus for a little while longer. I was sold before I took my first bite.
On this day, I was eager to experiment, especially because I could design my own slices instead of choosing from what was available. Essentially, I went for the most distinct ingredients I could find and paired them with artichoke hearts because they really make pizza sing. The slices themselves aren't overwhelmingly sized; maybe a little larger than one from Ted's. Bain recommended that I get two slices if I was really hungry, and after the first one I just ignored that my body was starting to hurt. My mouth won over my stomach, plain and simple.
Automatic's pizza sizzles with a thin crust and sharp cheese -- I dressed up my slices with cherry peppers, artichoke hearts, smoked peppers, the like, but that first cheese-packed bite took me back to my greasy childhood. That first taste was worth the wait and will probably haunt my daydreams for the next few weeks. Now hurry over there and grab a slice of your own before they sell out again, for the love of pizza.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Five Points
ADDRESS: 1658 S. Lumpkin st.
I've been looking forward to Condor Chocolates for quite some time, and for obvious reasons (chocolate). Condor Chocolates opened on Dec. 20, just in time for the gluttonous tail end of 2014, and completely sold out within a week. The menu is simple, as almost everything derives from the cacao bean. The exception is bottled water.
Brothers Nick and Peter Dale (you know Peter from The National) devised the idea for Condor Chocolates in Ecuador, which is cacao producers in the world. The Dales wanted to showcase Ecuadorian chocolate and pay respect to their mother's heritage.
Nick said that Condor's atmosphere was inspired by a collection of bean-to-bar manufacturers. The vibe is like a blend between a coffee shop and a bar: it's not too quiet or pretentious, and the space is open and encourages conversation. The gourmet attitude is balanced with a graphic homage to Ecuador. If you can resist the chocolate, it's a great place to get work done or people-watch.
I have one rule for Condor Chocolates: proceed with caution. The products take chocolate to a whole new level, but they're also intense. I couldn't finish my glass of hot chocolate because I felt like my heart was going to stop. You might want to split up some of that chocolatey goodness with another person, or at least have a glass of water on hand if you need to dilute your caffeine overload.
Occasionally, fantastic smells waft through the room. Aside from the obvious chocolate and coffee, I caught caramel and warm butter. Like I said, this place can be dangerous. Fortunately, there's still more to come from Condor Chocolates. After Valentine's Day, the shop will launch chocolate bars and a series of spreads: chocolate syrup, chocolate peanut butter and chocolate hazelnut. Get excited.
Oh brothers Dale, thank you for doing such justice to the cacao bean. The only turn-offs I can possibly imagine derive from an aversion to caffeine, an allergy to chocolate or the lack of a soul. I firmly believe that Condor Chocolates will put Athens on the map as a southern dessert town. All it took was a taste.
By Molly Berg
Kids/Pets: Yes/ Yes
This past weekend local nonprofit AthFest Educates produced another successful AthFest Music and Arts Festival in the heart of downtown. The festival served as the first produced by new executive director Jill Helme who assumed the position in April. Despite the blazing heat, AthFest drew in steady crowds from from Wednesday through Sunday. Along with the usual club crawl and artist booths, this year’s lineup boasted Kishi Bashi and Drivin N’ Cryin as two of its headliners.
On Saturday night, Kishi Bashi drew a packed audience on Washington Street at the Pulaski Street stage. A former violinist for of Montreal, Kishi Bashi created a stir earlier in the year when he headlined the Athens Slingshot Festival. Clearly Athens couldn’t wait for his return.
Known for his experimental technique, his AthFest set included his trademark looping, colorful lights and violin. A relaxing show, the Kishi Bashi set hypnotized the packed crowd of festival goers. He sang tracks from his second full-length album “Lighght” which came out just last month. At first, the audience listened silently, watching Kishi Bashi create his chill melodies on stage. By the show’s end, the audience had adjusted to his unique style. Fans were soon singing along and clapping in time to the songs. An unusual choice for a Saturday headliner, Kishi Bashi brought in a large turnout of happy fans, fulfilled by the soft music heard on Pulaski Street stage.
In an energetic turn, hard rock band Drivin N’ Cryin closed out AthFest on Sunday night on the same stage. The band drew in a much smaller crowd than Kishi Bashi, but the fans still reacted just as enthusiastically. Opening with “Jesus Christ!” off their new album “Songs for the Turntable”, Drivin N’ Cryin hopped right into their set. They played their set while the sun went down, each song with the same amount of energy throughout the show. As Drivin N’ Cryin put a fun and dramatic period on AthFest, fans retired home to rest after a weekend of hot weather and diverse music.
J & J Flea Market
ADDRESS: 11661 Commerce Road
A hidden secret in Athens, J & J Flea Market holds the title of being Georgia’s biggest flea market. Off of Commerce Road beyond downtown, J & J is located on over 150 acres of wooded land. The market continues to be a staple of the thrifting community three decades after its initial opening. A low-cost activity, the J & J Flea Market is free to the public and open every weekend. Shoppers visit regularly to find discount treasures.
Because of J and J’s vast acreage, vendors come from all over the state to sell their goods. Thousands of tables offer unique antiques and collectibles to visitors. In addition to its outdoor vendors, J & J contains four long building containers on the grounds. Inside the containers are the permanent stores, where the same vendors can be found on a weekly basis. One of my favorite stores is The Question Shop, which sells hundreds of comic books for only 25 cents each. Visitors can also find discount video games, clothes, movies, records and furniture in the stores. Each of the four containers is open every weekend, rain or shine.
J & J also offers lunch to hungry shoppers. Several restaurants permanently exist on the grounds including the Flea Bite Café, the Mexican Café and Taqueria Mi Tierra. The Flea Bite sells sodas, hot dogs and hamburgers, while the Mexican Café and Taqueria Mi Tierra offer authentic Mexican food. The Mexican food is reason enough to come to J & J.
Open Saturday and Sunday 8 to 5, J & J continues to host large crowds every weekend. Plenty of parking is available all over the grounds, regardless of the time of day. Many choose to park next to the lake, which is home to several ducks and geese that live on the grounds. Guests can sit in the wooden pavilion next to the lake and feed the ducks.
Guests can also wander through the outdoor rows of vendors, located next to the containers. Some vendors sell fresh fruits and vegetables, while others offer homegrown plants. These vegetables and plants are often cheaper than local grocery stores. Another outdoor section is Pet Row, where vendors bring their animals for adoption. Animals include cats, dogs, rabbits and even chickens. J & J also runs the J & J Railroad, a trolley that travels across the grounds. Pet Row and the J & J Railroad are some of the biggest attractions for kids.
Interested in becoming a vendor? J & J makes it easy. All you have to do is register with the front office and pay a fee. Rates are as low as $10 a day. Potential vendors can visit J & J’s official website, or visit the office the Friday before the market. With J & J Flea Market, it’s easy to buy, and even sell, valuable goods.
- Molly Berg
ADDRESS: 995 Hawthorne Ave.
Project Safe on Hawthorne Ave. is one of three thrift stores that operate under the local charity under the same name. Project Safe's goal is to help women who experience domestic violence and increase awareness and advocacy. However, the Project Safe stores also have another cause - they offer the option of affordable clothing and home items to those in need. For those who are more fortunate, 90 cents of every dollar spent in the stores goes right to the charity.
Upon entering the store, you're greeted by racks of clothes and a children's area. I really like how the children's area exists because it shows Project Safe's dedication to mothers. Most of the toys here are for sale, and the area borders the section where children's clothes are sold. Most of the first room is dominated by clothing. In the back, there are a few dressing rooms.
The right side of the large room is home to appliances, home decor, media like books and movies, and art - or, if you're an artist, frames. A lot of the home decor fits into the knick-knack category, but there are also lots of essentials like dishes and blankets.
Adjacent is another room that houses larger items, typically furniture. Items with a lower demand are also kept in this room and marketed at lower prices. Right now, for example, it's been in the 80s and 90s, and winter coats are half off and sweaters are selling for 25 cents apiece.
Price-wise, Project Safe changed the way I look at thrifting. So far, Project Safe boasts the lowest prices I've encountered in Athens, and I like knowing that my money is going to a cause I support. I think the most I've ever spent there was around $8.00, and that charge covered a lot of stuff. There are a few racks with more expensive items, usually higher-quality or vintage clothes. Also, obviously, items like furniture are going to cost more than the clothes.
Often the employees will ring up an item so it has a significantly lower price or ends up being free. I'll use my last trip to Project Safe as an example. See that shirt on the right? I saw it, instantly adored it, and decided to try it on, knowing it couldn't cost more than three dollars. Meanwhile, my boyfriend hunted for frames, and found four - these totaled to $3.50, but he hadn't paid yet. I brought the shirt up to the register to show it off, and, you know, get it. The woman behind the counter bagged the shirt and gave it back to me - the total on the register's screen stayed the same.
The folks at Project Safe are always willing to take donations and thankful to those who bring items by. You can even get a return on your taxes for donating items to the shops. Overall, whether it's to some items in the shop or donate things you no longer need, going to Project Safe is an easy way to help people right in Athens.
ADDRESS: 297 Prince Ave. #19
Athens' newest specialty shop, Revival Yarns, is far more than a place to get yarn and knitting needles. Instead, Revival Yarns surpasses that and acts as a haven for those who want to knit, crochet, learn, and most importantly, connect with others who share their passion. The owners, Lindsay and Cara, opened the shop because Athens lacked one, and now there's a greater opportunity for knowledge and community.
Physically, Revival Yarns feels airy and inviting - it's a place you want to stay in. The shop space is open and takes great advantage of natural light. The yarn is stocked in open shelves, so the products don't obstruct the rest of the store's environment.
I like how the shop is dotted with advice. The product shelves include several patterns, and there are results all around the space. For someone with little experience knitting, these displays are encouraging and reiterate what people can make with their own hands. At the front of the shop, there's a knitters' nook and a small library that houses related books. It seems like the space doesn't want you to leave, either.
Another thing I like about the space is that it incorporates yarn into its decor without being cheesy. There are a few touches of yarn bombing in unexpected places, like above the restroom door. Additionally, all the bunting in the shop is knit, which I thought was really clever.
On April 26th, Revival Yarns had its grand opening, an event featuring snacks provided by the Boulevard Knitting Group and cupcakes from Viva!, a speed-knitting contest, and a raffle for three gift baskets. Somehow I actually won one of those baskets, and it's really great. My favorite part of the grand opening was getting to see this new space utilized the way Lindsay and Cara dreamed it. Now I just have to learn to knit.
ADDRESS: Sandy Creek Park
This month's Rabbit Box story showcase, Out on a Limb, took place last night at Sandy Creek Park. The audience was larger than I expected, expanding out of the amphitheater. Guests were advised to bring blankets and warm clothes since the temperature dropped, but people thought to bring other provisions as well, such as food and dogs. The result was a warm, comfortable atmosphere.
The premise of Rabbit Box is simple: tell a true story. Participants recite a 7-8 minute story pertaining to the event's theme (so in this case, the stories were about going out on a limb). Paper isn't involved: you can't read a speech or bring any notes onstage. If you're interested in telling a story for an upcoming event, contact Rabbit Box here.
Seven slated storytellers and one guest (more on that later), took the stage adjacent to a fire pit. Some stories covered relationships, such as Scott Shamp's tale about his grandfather, David Noah's experience on top of the water tower with a girl he had a crush on, and Alex White's hike in the Ocala National Forest with his father. Other stories were about amazing or crazy experiences, such as Jim Ford's first encounter with whales, Brittany Barnes' road kill hunt, Bert Parks' first night in the army, and Grayson Morris' misadventures of young adulthood.
During intermission, the crowd was encouraged to move around, socialize, and roast marshmallows at the fire pit. One of the slotted speakers, Danetta Silmon, was unable to attend, so guests were encouraged to put their names in a box (the Rabbit Box) to be drawn for a "Cracker Jack story." Because Cracker Jack stories are spontaneous, the speaker only has to tell a four-minute story. The drawn speaker, Andy, told us about how he went out on a limb when he got lost in Rome when he was 17.
Most of Rabbit Box's showcases are indoors, at the Melting Point, but I really like that my first experience was an outdoor show. With nice weather and a theme such as "Out on a Limb," it only makes sense that the stories are told among the trees. As it darkened, the atmosphere changed. Such is nature. The campfire and string lights on the stage grew brighter and felt warmer, a crowd of fireflies served as both an audience and a backdrop, and the words mattered more than ever.
On May 14th, the Melting Point will host "Silver Box: Stories from our Elders." Then, on June 11th, Rabbit Box is teaming up with Art Rocks Athens for a special event. Part of me is sad that the next few Rabbit Box events aren't outside or around a fire, but that just means I'll have a new experience to encounter and new stories to hear.
ADDRESS: 2161 West Broad St
There comes a point where you have to stop driving by a place and walk right in. Such was the case with Taj Mahal, which I pass by all the time on the way to the Kroger on Alps. If you're an adventurous eater or a lover of south Asian cuisine, you need to make a visit.
The decor is somewhat bare and white, but the content makes up for it, and food trumps atmosphere in the realm of grocery stores. Taj Mahal carries food that is found in Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, and Arabic cuisine.
Taj Mahal's stores range from raw ingredients, such as bags of rice, to pre-packed meal bases that only need meat and produce. The impression I get is that you can walk in with a low or high amount of cooking experience and still find what you need to prepare a good meal.
Taj Mahal's best feature is definitely its many freezers, which are packed with frozen produce, meats, microwaveable appetizers, and even some pre-made dishes. The meat freezer is particularly great, because it's stocked with lamb and goat, which I didn't even know where to find in Athens.
Of course, Taj Mahal carries other items, such as cosmetics, hair dye, and home fragrances. If you're an adventurous cook or just a sucker for ethnic food, stop by Taj Mahal and look at the selection for yourself. I promise that it far outpaces what you'll find in the two corporate grocery stores a few turns away.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Five Points
ADDRESS: 2085 South Milledge Ave.
Last night, Latticeworks, an independent group of graduate students at UGA's Lamar Dodd School of Art, put on its first in a series of fundraisers. Crossfire was a pop-up event that combined visual art, music, alcohol, and a community of graduate students.
The event was held at the Raintree Fairfax apartments on Milledge, but had the feeling of a warehouse show. As someone who only found out about this 45 minutes in advance, I'd like to say that Crossfire was organized and developed very well. I'm also amazed at how many sponsors Latticeworks had. Donderos' Kitchen, 1000 Faces Coffee, The Loft, and Pageboy Salon are only a handful of businesses that supported this group.
One of the best things about art shows is the opportunity to get some free food, and Crossfire did not disappoint. Attendees were greeted with hundreds of bottles of Terrapin Hopsecutioner and sliders from The World Famous (and they were awesome, so World Famous, you should add them to your menu).
The back of the venue housed a gallery featuring works from members of Latticeworks. The gallery featured a variety of mediums, including sculpture, collage, charcoal drawings, and even performance art.
Crossfire also featured several fundraising outlets, including a raffle, a small thrift(y) store, and many opportunities for donation. The raffle had the greatest reception and offered prizes that ranged from gift certificates to sponsors like Cinco y Diez and White Tiger Gourmet to studio time with art professors to a glamour shot and even a lap dance.
Overall, I'd say Crossfire was a great success and had a warm, buzzy atmosphere. I thought it was fantastic to see such initiative and dedication from a group of people who aren't that much older than I am. It was also great to see so much local support. Latticeworks, I can't wait to see what you do next.