Fish Shack: Itâ€™s surprising to me that no one yet has been able to make a go of it doing a basic fish shack business in Athens. Sure, weâ€™re not exactly coastal, but Atlanta has places that succeed at doing your basic baskets of fried this and that, plus hushpuppies and the like, so why canâ€™t we?
Skogieâ€™s on Baxter (525 Baxter St.), an extension of the Gainesville restaurant on Lake Lanier, opened a couple of months ago in the space previously occupied by Big Easy CafÃ©, between Dominoâ€™s and a wing shop, trying to do exactly that. The menu is significantly smaller than that of its progenitor, limited pretty much to fish, shrimp and chicken. Ordering is set up as a series of choices: â€œPick UR Protein.â€ Grilled or fried? â€œHow U Like Itâ€ (i.e., basket, poâ€™boy or salad)? Sides? Sauce? Boom, youâ€™re done, and your food is out quickly. Everything is laid out very specifically. Thereâ€™s no wondering how many shrimp youâ€™re going to get when the answer, specified on the boards above the counter, is 16. Sides are unexpectedly numerous: pretty good hushpuppies, bland coleslaw, too-sweet broccoli salad (which, nonetheless, is nice as a healthier option), homemade sweet potato chips, waffle fries, fried okra, fried pickles and fried green tomatoes.
The poâ€™boy made with fried shrimp is acceptable but not stellar, and that sort of holds true for the restaurantâ€™s offerings as a whole, even though its operators get credit for not just Sysco-ing everything they serve. The piece of French bread toast that comes on the side of a basket is probably the highlight of the meal, buttery, browned on the griddle and substantial. You can, should you so choose, get your fried fish, chicken or shrimp â€œskogified,â€ which means doused in buffalo hot-wing sauce thatâ€™s been modified to include a bit of BBQ sauce and garlic. I imagine that works better for the chicken than either of the other options, and the sauce is surprisingly hot. â€œSkogifiedâ€ is not the same, you should note, as â€œskogie sauce,â€ which is the basic mixture of ketchup, mayo, etc., that serves as house sauce at many restaurants.
The prices are good, ranging from $5.99 to $6.99 for most offerings, and students who pay cash and show an ID get a dollar off their meal. Skogieâ€™s is open for lunch and dinner every day, with plans to add breakfast and espresso soon. It doesnâ€™t serve alcohol, does plenty of take-out and delivery (through Bulldawg Food) and takes credit cards.
Brewpub: The list of restaurants in Athens Iâ€™ve never been to is brief by this point and ever dwindling. Weirdly, Copper Creek Brewing Co. (140 E. Washington St.), which has been around a long time (12 years!), was one of them until recently, when its new lunch offerings prompted a visit. Itâ€™s one of those restaurants whose lunch caters to folks who show up in neckties, the professional class of Athens that youâ€™re less likely to see at Taco Stand, and its service reflects that slight formality, with waitresses who draw a smiley face on the check and ask questions with a big smile. Copper cookware hangs from the ceiling in abundance, prompting some Chicken Little-ish glances up.
You can get a fine deal with a pint of one of the house brews with your lunch, but if youâ€™re teetotalling during the daylight hours, you still might check it out. Most of the lunch menu will cost you $8, and the offerings are both nicer and more interesting than you might expect. The chicken pot pie, for example, is presented in a pretty serving dish, baked to order. Unfortunately, some seasoning I couldnâ€™t quite place (chervil? tarragon?) overwhelmed the flavor of both crust and filling. The fried catfish poâ€™boy with remoulade and pickled onions was well executed, not the soggy mess that kind of sandwich can often become. A particular highlight was the fried turkey sandwich, which doesnâ€™t mean I quite understand it. I expected a fried turkey patty, but the slices of tender meat may instead come from a whole fried turkey or perhaps been subjected to some pan-frying. Whatever the process, the result is good, combined with pesto aioli, smoked gouda, roasted peppers and red onion on sourdough. A cup of French onion soup is OK, too, although better suited to cold weather than to what weâ€™ve been having. Copper Creek is open for lunch and dinner weekdays, dinner on Saturdays and closed Sundays. It serves its own beers and others, has a full bar and takes credit cards.
What Up?: Read about the Athens Food Cart Festival (Mar. 31) in our Calendar Pick in this issue. Yay, food carts!… Something called Quickly Babo Tea and Amazing Burger is opening up at 660 West Broad between Finley and Pope, where construction work has been ongoing recently, perhaps a branch of the large pan-Asian franchise (â€œthe worldâ€™s largest chain of Asian food and drinksâ€) that serves everything from burgers to â€œegg puffsâ€ and all kinds of interesting beverages. More details to come as research progresses… Starting next Thursday (Mar. 29), the downtown Transmet will be serving pizza slices at the upstairs bar from 10 p.m.â€“2 a.m. (when the kitchen is usually closed).
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