HAND PIES UP: One of the nicest things about the West Broad Farmers Market is its location next to the urban farm that takes up a lot of the property. Walking between rows of tomatoes or next to a small blueberry patch, or investigating the chickens who live in a fenced area at the edge of the space, one sees the open sky above and feels transported, even serene. The fact that it has a considerable number of food vendors as well as picnic tables means you can enjoy a lunch or a brunch or a snack while experiencing that same environment.
Abrahim’s Parlor, which makes Trinidadian doubles (sort of chickpea sandwiches on a puffy, poori-like bread) and other delicious food, is still there. Independent Baking Co. usually sets up a table to sell croissants, pain au chocolate, other viennoiserie and bread. Rashe’s Cuisine might be selling Jamaican food, and Soul Food With a Twist might be offering its wares. Dipped And Frosted will tempt your children (or you!) with cake pops and candy apples in unusual flavors, and Mama Bird’s often has tamales and healthy muffins. There are cookies and samples of fresh fruit in season, and an older Hispanic couple retails tinga, fresh tortillas and a wonderful black bean dip accented with crema.
One of the newest vendors is Hankie Pie, a cute-as-a-button business run by Madeline and Margie Siggelkow, sisters from the Midwest who moved to Georgia with a dream and funded their business through a Kickstarter campaign. They laid out their case well, and people responded. Now they’re at the market pretty much every week, and taking orders through Athens Locally Grown and their own website.
Hankie Pie does both full-sized and hand pies, both sweet and savory, in flavors including chocolate pecan; peach; peach blueberry; spinach, artichoke and feta; lemon chess; turkey, egg and cheddar; swiss chard, mushroom, onion and feta; blackberry; smoked salmon with spinach; strawberry and cream; apple brie; strawberry rhubarb; and chocolate bourbon pecan. Among the full-sized pies, some have latticed tops, while others have crumb toppings.
The results are a bit mixed, although it’s possible some of that is due to the heat at the market, which may do a number on a delicate creation like pie. The full-sized lemon chess I had, in Hankie Pie’s early weeks at the market, seemed under-baked, with a filling that was a bit too dense and a crust that was overly chewy. I’ve had better experiences with the smaller, savory pies, which have a drier filling that may work better with the crust. The spinach, artichoke and feta, in particular, is a fine small breakfast or a snack. The peach blueberry hand-pies, too, are not too sweet or goopy, with a good burst of fruit when you bite in that doesn’t drip all over the place.
I wish I could recommend the stand unreservedly. The Siggelkows are friendly and sweet, and they are doing things in the right way. They also might be improving; Georgia (spoiler alert) has a significantly different climate from Minnesota, and bakers can learn to adjust for that kind of thing. Hand-pies run $3 each; full-sized pies are more like $16–$20. Hankie Pie also has cold-brew coffee and lemonade.
FRESH-MEX: Does the world need another chain of BYO-burrito restaurants? Well, it has one. Diablo’s Southwest Grill (1791 Oconee Connector, 706-543-3399), which opened recently in Epps Bridge Centre, a stone’s throw from the Gap, is exactly such: menu on the wall, approach the counter to order, pick your toppings and accessories, get your free chips when you pay, and take your food to a table or booth.
The food is not dramatically different from anywhere else, with elements that resemble the choices at Barberitos, Moe’s, Chipotle and Willy’s, all of which also exist in Athens. There are vegetarian options and meatatarian options, things for carbo-phobes and carb-lovers. The cilantro-lime rice takes a page right out of Chipotle’s book. The food is fine, although not particularly exciting, more fuel for a day of participating in commerce than gourmet destination.
How does it differ from those places? Primarily decor. With a saddle used as a stool by the door (labeled “best seat in the house” in vinyl letters on the wall) and a giant set of horns protruding from the wall above the food-preparation counter, as though a monster bull was trying to force its way into the space, it’s fairly Texas in its attitude. Nothing seems to get cooked to order, but flames are a design motif nonetheless.
Some of its innovations are decent. Most booths include a free charging station for your device, with a plethora of connectors snaking out from the wall. And the requisite salsa bar provides its tiny plastic ramekins pre-packaged, with lids, which may be a greater waste of plastic but also means you aren’t stuck waiting behind someone slowly ladling a dollop of this and a squirt of that. Diablo’s is open for lunch and dinner every day, does catering and doesn’t serve booze.
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