QUICK TRIP: Over the past two years, downtown Athens seems to have been moving in the direction of becoming nothing but luxury student apartments interspersed with franchised chicken restaurants. That said, hot wings are a necessity sometimes, and Wings Over Athens (311 E. Broad St., 706-850-1569), although it is a chain, does a pretty good job with them. Occupying the space at the corner of Broad and Jackson that was previously Takorea, it is full of spotless white tile, without any of the grunginess one usually associated with wing joints.
The menu is a little full of its own jargon, and it can be difficult to figure out exactly how many wings are in a Puddle Jumper versus a C-5 Galaxy or a Skymaster if you don’t know jack about planes. Luckily, the staff is helpful and eager to save you money if you pick the wrong combination of things. There are other things besides wings (boneless and traditional), like ribs, cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches and salads, but they seem extraneous, especially when the wings are tasty.
Classic hot flavors—from Wimpy to After Burner, with Red Alert coming in at roughly a medium—are well executed, something like honey barbecue that could easily be too sweet is not that sugary, and the dry-rub West Texas mesquite is possibly the best of the bunch. Dry-rub wings can often come off like baked chicken treated with a brief sprinkle of flavor dust, but these are well fried, and the rub is in the sweet spot for flavor, neither boring nor tongue-numbing. You can get the same dry-rub mixes applied to your waffle fries, although they don’t adhere as well there as they do to the chicken.
Wings Over Athens is open 11 a.m.–1 a.m. Sunday through Tuesday, 11 a.m.–2 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday and 11 a.m.–3 a.m. Friday and Saturday. It doesn’t serve alcohol, but does both take-out and delivery—place orders at wingsover.com—as well as catering.
ROAD TRIP: Why are so many good restaurants in gas stations? Well, for one thing, the customer’s expectations are lower to start out with. When you’re met with convenience store cigarette advertising instead of white tablecloths, anything that might be tasty seems even more so by comparison. For another, the rent is inexpensive, which tends to encourage more interesting businesses. It’s analogous to food trucks, in that the financial barrier to entry tends to be lower, which means entrepreneurs are more willing to try new things.
All this is a long way of saying you should definitely make a trip to Pinky’s Indian Cuisine (30581 U.S. Highway 441, 706-363-8859), which occupies the left half of the Petro Express on the far side of I-85 in Commerce. Clean and bright, with a freezer case full of ice cream and photographs of various Indian specialties decorating the walls, it has a number of tables for dine-in but also does take-out. Most of the menu is posted on the wall behind the counter, but additional specialties are on a laminated piece of paper by the register, and it’s possible there will be other options if you ask.
Pinky’s has hot wings, as any gas station restaurant should, but it also has a wide variety of Indian dishes: puri, samosas (veg and non-veg), chicken korma, lovely kadai chicken (cooked with onions, peppers and tomatoes), chicken curry, chicken vindaloo, chicken tikka, paneer dishes including palak paneer with spinach (maybe a little under-seasoned), mediocre naan (regular and garlic), wonderfully delicious paratha stuffed with potatoes and onions, vegetable and chicken rice dishes, a curry made with mushrooms and fries, seekh kabab (both chicken and a compact but well-seasoned and beautifully cooked lamb on a bed of fried onions), samosa chaat (a snacky dish that includes cut-up vegetable samosas, chickpeas and small pieces of vermicelli) and, not on either menu but one of the best things available, dosai (big, lacy rice-and-lentil-flour pancakes that you tear off hunks of and use to wrap potatoes, onions and peas cooked together).
There is mint raita to cool things off and an intensely hot red sauce available upon request that is quite tasty but also lingers. Mango lassi will help return your tongue to normal. There are also fig, avocado, Oreo and mango milkshakes, and ownership is very friendly and willing to accommodate requests. Pinky’s is open 11 a.m.–8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and does not serve alcohol.
WHAT UP?: Hungry Howie’s, on Baxter Street, has closed, making way for a computer-repair store. Suncatcher Cafe, in Watkinsville, is now serving lunch on Sundays. Bajan Delight, which has oxtails, curry chicken, curry goat, pork chops, rice and peas, plantains and more, is open at 585 Vine St., in the Triangle Plaza, Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Craft Public House does, in fact, have a poké bowl, not just an appetizer that doesn’t include rice. The space on Harris Street that was going to be Liberty is for sale.
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