Food & DrinkGrub Notes

OK Cafe, Juice Up, Mama Bird’s Offer Grab-and-Go Goodness

BETTER THAN OK: The little stand next to Wuxtry on College Avenue with a big cut-out of a coffee cup and the letters “OK” has been a number of things over the course of its life, most recently a branch of Ike & Jane. Now Ben Goodwin, formerly of Helix, has opened a little to-go eatery called OK Cafe (not to be confused with A-OK Cafe under Marvin’s Shoes, down the block). 

Its menu is tiny: four or five sandwiches, coffee, sodas, snacks and Belgian waffles made fresh to order. It’s also extremely well priced, with the sandwiches running either four or five dollars, a fine deal for a quick and tasty bite to eat. They’re also excellent simple pleasures, made on a seriously heavy panini press that is well greased with good butter. They arrive flattened and requiring napkins for your fingers in varieties including ham and cheese (with great mustard), roast beef and cheddar (with horseradish), plain grilled cheese (equally yummy) and a peanut butter/banana/Nutella combo. There is almost nothing more pleasant than one of these on a cold, brisk, sunny day, eaten on a bench downtown. 

There are a lot of cute details at OK. The drinks include a selection of vintage sodas, like Peach and Grape Nehi. A new record album, often coffee-themed, from Wuxtry appears in the window each day. If you want a pack of Reese’s Peanut-Butter Cups or a small bag of Lays potato chips to round out your meal, you can get those too. The waffles are a great option. Big, fluffy and mildly salty, they come topped with powdered sugar standard and other things can be added. If you didn’t feel like a terrible person about it, you could eat one for lunch. 

The effect overall, complete with the friendly attitude of whoever happens to be in the shed, is of your mom making you a nice hot lunch on a cold day. The restaurant is open from 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. weekdays, 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Saturdays and again from 10 p.m.–2 a.m., with the same menu, Thursday through Saturday. It takes credit cards and has zippo in the way of seating.

RAW LIVIN’: Juice Up: The Original Juice Cafe (283 E. Broad St., 706-395-6684) may have a name that is a mouthful, but its products are simple and clean. It is more than a little weird to find the former 283 Bar well scrubbed and well lit, adorned with fresh white and green paint and a number of frames containing inspiring words about juice. Still, if you didn’t know it used to be a bar, you might not guess. 

Much like Journey Juice, it’s fairly raw-foody, with a selection of raw snacks on some shelves to the left of the register. The juice itself is tasty, with nothing too weird. The Anti Turtle (with apple, kale, cucumber, etc.) is fresh and green and not excessively sweet. The Orange Delight (mostly carrots) is the same, except orange. Cheerful young folks cram veggies and fruits into their large juicers, which emit horrific noises, then swiftly hand you the results in a strangely blank cup that seems a missed opportunity for branding. A refrigerated case holds smallish half-wraps that emphasize healthful eating. You can get coffee, too, if you need something a little stronger to energize you. 

We’ll see if juice becomes the next fro-yo, but for now, Athens seems able to support two juice places, and if Juice Up isn’t quite as polished and committed a product as Journey Juice, it is at least well located. It’s open every day and takes credit cards.

BRANCHING OUT: Jennie Phillips-De la Vega opened Mama Bird’s Granola & Kitchen, a small market/community kitchen in November, where she sells not only her own delicious granola but a surprising array of good stuff, all made nearby: Unruly Chocolates, Georgia olive oil, Weckback Family Creamery cheeses (a little bitter but strangely addictive), Luna bread, organic vegetables, grass-fed beef, plus local books, knick-knacks, jewelry and more. 

Homemade goods by De la Vega herself are on hand in the fridge and freezer (a tasty mushroom-broth-based lentil and veggie soup; delicious capra gia, or spiced goat cheese, perfect for snacking), and if she happens to be out of sandwiches, she will make you one. Who knew ham and hummus would pair so nicely with spinach and tomatoes? The location, in the 909 Broad building across from what was Jittery Joe’s Roaster, is a little far from the main drag of downtown, but the garage offers free parking for two hours. The folks who live in the apartment building are probably especially happy to have it downstairs, but anyone who needs to pick up groceries downtown should remember it as a fine option. 

Mama Bird’s is open Tuesday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m.6:30 p.m. It serves coffee at deep discounts if you bring your own mug, offers tons of cooking classes, has toys for your kids to play with and takes credit cards.