Photo Credit: Randy Schafer
The World Famous
The home football games played in Athens every year are special times, whether you are a fan of our Georgia Bulldogs or not. If you’re not, you see game-time as an opportunity to run to the grocery store, where you will likely be unmolested by football enthusiasts.
If you are, you probably have strong feelings about where to set up for tailgating, what hour is appropriate to start drinking (it bears some relationship to the time of the game, but the exact formula varies) and what, exactly, should provide your non-liquid sustenance for the day.
Athens restaurants are generally a mess and a half those days. A few years ago, I made the mistake of running downtown to pick up pizza during a Georgia-Auburn night game. Never again, unless I plan on staying there. Culinary pursuits that don’t involve making your eats yourself are generally sidelined.
That said, there are things you can eat on those days that you can’t get any other time, and it can be worth it, even if you don’t bleed red and black, to venture out of your house and get some.
The best place to start off your day early is at The World Famous, on Hull Street in downtown Athens, which usually opens at 8 a.m. for home games and has something different on offer each time. Yes, it’s a townie bar, but there are townies who love football, too.
The chalkboard behind the bar has borne a large image of Todd Gurley since the beginning of this season, modified each week to reflect the Bulldogs’ opponent. Owner David Eduardo points out that, so far, most of the bar/restaurant’s traffic on home games has consisted of opposing fans, who seem to find its environment less than intimidating, and it is indeed very civil.
If you don’t appreciate Mr. Gurley’s talents, you may yet find yourself in the mood for a burrito of habaneros, pork, beans and egg, either grilled or just wrapped and presented straight up. Both versions, with a spicy little container of sauce, are delicious.
One prime example of exclusive gameday grub is the Poss’ Barbecue sandwiches at Marti’s at Midday, on Prince Avenue in Normaltown. Back in the day, Poss’ used to have the exclusive right to sell food inside Sanford Stadium, and the fellow now slinging the simple chopped-pork sandwiches grew up doing the same as a kid, helping pack up thousands of sandwiches the night before. You may know Bobby Poss’ voice from his radio ads for Aaron Bonding, which air (or at least used to) during the Georgia game and provide much amusement, and the drive-in restaurant of the same name was a standard on the Atlanta Highway for years.
The sandwiches themselves are pretty perfect as far as Georgia BBQ goes. It’s often said that we don’t really have our own regional style, but we do: finely chopped pork, but ideally not wet, stuffed into a soft white hamburger bun and doused with a tomato-vinegar sauce, then wrapped tightly in aluminum foil and kept hot, so the flavors meld and the consistency softens yet further.
You could eat one of these or, probably, two, after having some dental work done, and although they aren’t as classy as North Carolina-style BBQ, they produce a strong sense of nostalgia and warmth. The sandwiches are $5 each, and you can also get the meat by the pound and extra sauce but no sides. If the tent isn’t up, poke your head inside Marti’s and inquire.
For dessert, there’s the Kona Ice truck, which usually parks on Baxter Street, near the dorms, and has a smaller version inside Sanford. It’s not exclusively out on gamedays, but neither does it have a permanent location. It’s a franchised mobile business, which serves up snowcones in a wide variety of flavors.
The 10 most popular are available on the side of the truck, for self-serve—meaning you can make yourself a treat that is mostly syrup—but more are inside, from fruity stuff (pineapple, green apple, banana) to weirder choices (wedding cake, cotton candy, “tiger’s blood”). You can get it sans sugar or even sans flavor (there’s a dispenser for dogs at the bottom of the truck), as well as with a lei, should you buy the largest size.
The truck’s other gigs mostly involve charity work, and you can book it for events as well as follow its comings and goings on Twitter at Kona_Ice_Athens.