Grub Notes

Athens Spaces Turned Chain Places: Not Your Average Pizza and Ice Cream

Emmy Squared Pizza

EMMY SQUARED PIZZA (199 Prince Ave., 762-315-4005): What is it like walking into the space on Prince Avenue that was The Grit for years and years and now houses a fancyish Detroit-style-by-way-of-Brooklyn pizza place? It’s weird. Some things feel the same, including the at-times indifferent service. The beautiful bones of the former grocery remain untouched, although they’ve been scrubbed up a bit. The haint blue paint here and there, the large windows, the serving station in the corner of the side room, the plaster walls with brick peeking through all feel familiar. But in the end, they’re not. It’s disorienting, and one can’t help but feel that the restaurant, through no real fault of its own, managed to annoy exactly the people (Boulevardians, Cobbhamites) who otherwise would have made up its regular clientele. Even with school back in session, it’s not particularly busy. Students are more apt to grab a cheap slice. Athens hasn’t really embraced the fancy pizza trend, probably because most of us don’t make enough money to do so. 

Enough preamble. How’s the pizza? It’s pretty nice stuff, and once you figure out how much to order you might be happier about the price ($17–25 for the non-gluten-free pies). A six-slice pie will definitely feed more than one person—possibly two, but probably not three unless you also get a gigantic salad. It’s thick, like a focaccia, but lighter and less oily than a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, with cheese scattered around the pan that melts and crisps around the crust. Vodka sauce makes a lot of appearances on the menu, but isn’t enough to balance the heftiness of the crust, which requires more substantial toppings than a Neapolitan- or New York-style slice. Some ingredients are mischaracterized. Order the Seoul Mate, which says it comes topped with vegan spicy kimchi, sausage, peppers and mushrooms, and you may look in vain for cabbage, finding only a Gochujang-accented drizzle across the pie. The Good Paulie (caramelized onions, sausage, Gouda) was the best balanced pie I tried, neither toppings nor crust dominating. The meatballs in the appetizer section are delicately textured but far too salty, especially at a painful $15. The marinated cucumbers with soy sauce and sesame seeds are also intensely salty, and not in a good way. You’re better off with a massive Brussels sprout salad with blue cheese, cashews, dried cherries, nicely pickled red onions and a miso dressing. Honestly, you could probably split the salad for lunch with a friend and feel like you got a great deal. 

The other thing Emmy’s prides itself on is its burgers, available in two almost indistinguishable versions. One has “Emmy sauce” and lettuce, and the other has “Sammy sauce” and caramelized onions, and my waitress admitted that both sauces were a Thousand Island variation, but that she couldn’t tell the difference between them. That said, it is a delicious burger, well cooked, on a pretzel bun that doesn’t dissolve into a wet wad in your fingers. Is it $17–19 worth of deliciousness, considering that it doesn’t come with a side? That’s up to you to weigh. If you’re looking to get a deal at Emmy’s, the weekday lunch specials can be useful, and there is a kids menu. The restaurant is closed Monday and Tuesday but open for lunch and dinner every other day. It also has a full bar and some high-end-sounding cocktails.

JENI’S SPLENDID ICE CREAMS (1710 S. Lumpkin St., 706-493-7377): How is this pricey, chichi chain different from the above, apart from not occupying the shell of a beloved restaurant? That might be enough of a difference! Jeni’s isn’t cheap, but it is charming, tucked into a former bank building in Five Points that looks like a little house. The standard ice cream will run you almost $7, but does come with two scoops. Make sure you pick two flavors that complement one another if it’s a hot day and you sit on the big, lovely deck out back, as they will begin to mingle quickly. It’s best known for flavors that can be more salty than sweet: salted peanut butter, salted licorice, salty caramel. The licorice is fun and a great way to protect your ice cream from your children, but it’s not as good as a classic like milkiest chocolate, which is smooth and simple. Coffee with cream and sugar is possibly the best flavor on the menu, starting out like your usual coffee ice cream before deepening into something that tastes like fresh-ground beans. Jeni’s is well known for its creaminess, but the vegan flavors are good, too, and there are a number of them, including a lemon bar coconut-cream-based ice cream with shortbread. You can get more flavors if you want, including a flight of 10 options if you are a big spender. There are pints in the freezer, too, if you want to lay out $12 for one rather than picking it up at the grocery store for $8. Jeni’s is open from noon to 11 p.m. daily.