The digs at 19 South Court Street have not been kind to businesses. GG’s Bubble Tea lasted only a year, and before that, 19 South Bar and Grill didn’t fare much better. Owner Dylan Armstrong, however, seems intent to remember lessons learned from the previous concept, and when The Dragon’s Cup opened in March 2012, it featured not only all of the menu of its former tenant, but also some creative new additions to make the business more versatile. In addition to the bubble teas, The Dragon’s Cup offers herbal teas of many varieties as well as some simple Asian dishes and treats from other local bakeries.
A newer addition to Athens’ Court Street buggy scene, the artist formerly known as Chica Chica Chop Chop has taken things up a notch by transforming into a full-blown restaurant. Owners Todd and Tuti Wilson have kept a blog detailing the restaurant’s construction and beginnings, and it will soon be open to the townsfolk. The ambitious owners have even attracted the attention of Food Network, and the enterprising Cuban food establishment has opted for a new menu, new environment and an all-new bar concept, essentially remaking their product in the process. Ambitious, indeed.
Another stop along the localvore train in Athens, Village Bakery is a part of a group of three co-owned restaurants in town specializing in home-grown fare, both as a coffee shop and as a lunch stop, along with next door neighbor Della Zona Pizzeria. The businesses not only rely on local suppliers for ingredients, but they subsequently sell their things to places like Brew du Solil Cafe down the street. As I’ve said before, the “30 mile club” in Athens never ceases to amaze me with how tightly-knit the businesses are. They’re constantly out to support each other, and it might be the nicest business model I’ve seen yet.
Unique among Athens’ many coffee shops, Brew du Soleil Espresso Cafe is a drive-up cafe outside the city’s mall near its eastern edge. There’s nowhere to sit, and there’s nowhere to “walk in” but it keeps in business nonetheless; an immobile little building serving a wide variety of drinks. It offers service to passerby in cars as well as the weekly Athens Farmer’s Market, which plants itself around the cafe every Saturday morning. While it’s certainly not the most elaborate business, and it does not give you the chance to enjoy the coffee shop vibe, there are a lot of good things to say about this place.
Far from the pack of Chinese places in Athens’ Court Street area, China Panda instead caters more to the local townsfolk. As the only place in town selling Chinese and Japanese cuisine in tandem, this is probably the only place in the area you’ll be able to get really quality sushi. With so many Chinese food places in such a small town, one would think it would struggle to stay competitive. On the contrary, I think China Panda has carved out a unique niche in attracting more than just the international students with longings of home.
Unlike many of the food carts coming and going through Athens during the day, Tornado Potato does not find its home at the Court Street/Union Street intersection throughout the day in hopes of attracting the lunch crowd. Instead, Tornado Potato almost exclusively comes out at night (unless it’s homecoming weekend, apparently). And instead of Union Street, Tornado Potato can always be found at the parking lot next door to Lucky’s Sports Tavern and across the street from Court Street Diner.
The newest addition to Court Street in Athens, Wings Over Athens is actually a part of a chain of 30 Wings Over… locations generally spread throughout the East Coast and Midwest, based in Massachusetts. The airplane-themed wings place boasts the added accessibility of being a late-night option for food, and therefore you’ll find it near many a college campus, dishing out wings by the pound to nightcrawlers and bargoers. The wings are the crux of the menu and I can see the appeal of a place like this to the intoxicated. It replaces Killer Tomato, which closed shop down the street.
Opened in 1985 by a group of experienced restauranteurs, Casa Nueva Restaurant, Bodega and Cantina is as much a social experiment as it is a place to grab a bite to eat. A worker-owned cooperative, the restaurant currently employs 23 “worker-owners” serving up Mexican cuisine infused with distinctly Southeast Ohio flair. Casa Cantina is many things; it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner menus as well as serving as a bar and nightclub in the evenings, where live bands and raves can often be found. It’s difficult to define exactly what the main purpose of the business is, but it gives a lot to the community.