JOE AND SAM’S (1021 Jamestown Blvd., 706-705-1400): Watkinsville doesn’t have the plethora of independent coffee shops that Athens does, so this one, opened about a year ago, is very welcome. It turns out to be far more than just a place to grab a quick fancy latte, though. In fact, I’d categorize it as a restaurant that happens to have a large coffee menu rather than a coffee place that happens to serve food.
The vibe is Modern Farmhouse—white paint, high ceilings, wood, simple chandeliers, flowers, copious and massive coffee mugs for sale with script fonts on them—and the clientele fits. If you’re still being COVID cautious, there’s a drive-through (it’s in the same shopping center as Rachel’s, off Hog Mountain Road; turn in and follow the signs that direct you around the back until you get to the window/menu board to order), so you can grab your beverages and your food to-go. The coffee is Jittery Joe’s, and it’s well brewed. I’m not much for tall fancy drinks that require a lot of effort, but the ginger dragon (a combo of intense, steeped ginger, honey and lemon that is sort of like a hot toddy minus the whiskey) is a warm, sinus-opening delight.
Breakfast is generally pretty good at Joe and Sam’s. The biscuits are fairly delicate and floury, made with a good amount of black pepper. They get a little squooshy when filled with ingredients, but the classic combo of sausage, egg and cheese works well. Gluten-free is an option. The avocado toast needs a more robust, crisply toasted undercarriage, and it could use a sprinkle of salt or spice to bring out the avocado. I’m not sure about the swipe of mascarpone under the avocado, which is more sweet than savory. The place makes a good breakfast burrito, too, medium-sized, tightly wrapped and with breakfast sausage rather than chorizo. Conclude what you will from the fact that it doesn’t come with salsa, but it does work with an array of ingredients.
Then there’s lunch and even dinner, served from the same menu from 11 a.m. to as late as 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, when the restaurant opens at 6:30 a.m. The remaining hours are: 6:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m.–3 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday. You can order online for speedier pick up. It’s mostly sandwiches (some hot, some cold), all served with a pickle and a side of Zapp’s chips, fruit or a simple and tasty cucumber salad. The Oconee Cuban is a totally decent effort at the classic combo of ham, Swiss, mustard and pickles, subbing in turkey for roast pork. The Grown-Up Grilled Cheese (cheddar and gruyere; add bacon for $1) is a little soggy but tastes good. The Reuben, which can be made with turkey, falls apart completely and might necessitate a fork. Generally, the bread needs a little work because it can’t always stand up to the fillings. Upgrade your side to an orzo salad and you might be pleasantly surprised to get something so simple: a few flecks of green, a lot of garlic flavor, not much else. Joe and Sam’s also bake a bunch of things: scones, cookies, oat bars. It has a kids menu, a quiche plate and salads. If you live nearby, you’re probably really happy about it.
CONDOR CHOCOLATES (160 E. Washington St., 706-521-8966): The downtown location of this much loved chocolate factory isn’t all that different, yet, from the original Five Points shop. It’s just bigger and puts the coffee-roasting operation and other machinery more on view—fun for kids, unless yours, like mine, decide to ignore it entirely, fixated on chocolate. The menu, for now, is minimal: lovely truffles, some chocolate bars, brownies, cloud boulders (homemade marshmallows dipped in chocolate), milkshakes, gelato and affogato, ice cream sandwiches that can be rolled in cacao nibs, a focused selection of coffee drinks made from the same operation’s Choco Coffee, tea, cocoa, milk and sparkling water. It’s not a place for a meal, but it’s classy and beautiful. It’s good to have it downtown, both for treats and for gifts. Condor has always managed to walk the line between artisanal and “actually tastes good,” and there are no changes to its being able to meet that mission—just a bit more room and sunlight in a big, white space. The downtown location is open slightly shorter hours than the Five Points one: 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 12–6 p.m. Sunday.
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