BAR FOOD: Ever since the shuttering of Farm Cart (which, BTW, is soon to return in slightly different form), if you’re all warm and happy and a little toasted while sitting at Normal Bar, and you want a bite to eat without crossing Prince (a treacherous matter if you dare jaywalk), you’ve been limited to the few munchies on hand. And while the bar’s boiled peanuts are delicious, you would be hard-pressed to consider them a meal.
Thankfully, Ike & Jane (1307 Prince Ave.), the by now almost venerable source of breakfast and lunch goodies, saw an opening and instituted what it calls Ike @ Nite Thursday through Saturday from 6–10 p.m. The digs are informal. You walk up to a window that looks right into the kitchen and order through it. You can take your food to go, sit at one of the two wooden tables outside (uncovered but with a heavy-duty heater for the winter months) or have it delivered to you inside Normal Bar. For now, it’s cash-only, due to antiquated wiring, so plan ahead, Athenians.
The fare is simple stuff—burgers, hot dogs, potato chips—and priced to match at $4–$6 for most items. Whether it is as good as what Farm Cart served is up for debate (on the whole, I think not), but it is right there, well-priced and would especially hit the spot if you have a beer or two in you—or some hungry kiddos. The hot dogs come with ketchup, mustard and good housemade pickles (the Jane); chili and cheese (meh); or in a veggie version with sesame slaw and ginger mustard.
The hamburgers are better, with the Normal (more of a cheeseburger, with a special sauce that, for once, is not just ketchup and mayonnaise mixed but closer to a Thousand Island with some BBQ accents) edging out the Ike (grilled onions, housemade pickles, ketchup and mustard).
The Frito pie is a fine idea but not such a great rendition. Everything comes with a bag of chips, making the prices an even better deal. There is a dollar dessert that provides a wee bite of sweet and changes regularly. You can also get a side of veggies and hummus, King of Pops popsicles in warm weather and Mexican Coca-Cola. Cuteness is tempered by simplicity, and the radio plays Top 40.
THE MORNING AFTER: Brunch in Athens is serious business. Popular spots have lines out the door, especially on big weekends like the Twilight Criterium and AthFest. Restaurant folk tend to hate it because the menus are generally uninteresting (eggs, sausage, yada yada), the profit margins are slim and the customers act entitled.
When White Tiger Gourmet (217 Hiawassee Ave.) started doing an all-you-can-eat buffet brunch, it was a fantastic deal, especially if your kids could eat their weight in bacon, but the move a few months ago to an à la carte format has led to a big jump in quality, and the dining experience is, as ever, reliably pleasant. It’s odd to drive past other places that are jam-packed on a late Sunday morning and arrive at the old grocery building only to find it relatively quiet. Is it because the booze is still BYO? Is it that people haven’t realized the restaurant now takes credit cards all the time? Is it just too tucked away?
The brunch is as good as anything else White Tiger offers, which is to say, rather good. The hot chicken (grilled chicken with cheddar and sriracha on a biscuit) isn’t nearly hot enough, and the biscuit absorbs and mutes most of the spice, but that’s about the only real complaint. French toast made with the same biscuits on the restaurant’s remarkable, almost alchemical griddle, is far better than the usual gooey, overly sweet mess. The frittata plate is sometimes modified into a scramble, and it may come with thin-sliced collards and broccoli, well-salted and enormous, plus a side salad and a selection of fruit, for $7.50, probably the best deal on the menu. Two could eat it and be satisfied, both in terms of volume and of deliciousness.
The Man (home fries topped with barbecue pork and a fried egg) is great hangover food in particular, with the potatoes soaking up the BBQ sauce and the egg yolk. On the whole, it beats out the BBQ Benedict, which is similar but uses a biscuit for the starch and adds sausage gravy. Do you want pancakes covered with BBQ but didn’t know it until now? White Tiger has you covered. Carnivores (tasty, salty ham steak) and vegans (soysage, grilled tofu) should be equally happy.
The selection of toys and books on the shelves at the back of the room will keep even a fairly obnoxious toddler happy and out of folks’ hair for the space of an hour, and specials are listed at the register. If you are looking for tasty food in a relaxed environment that does not mean unhappily waiting for your head to clear on the sidewalk rather than happily tucking into a plate of grub, White Tiger is the ticket. Brunch is on Sundays from 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
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