A July 2005 trip
to Athens by Lovestogo
Quote: I was totally Alone in Athens while attending a 3-day class for work. With only a few free hours after class, a presentation to prepare, and no husband to run around with, I only had time to eat, sleep, and study.
The city of Athens was named in honor of the Greek city that was the center of culture and learning during ancient times. Athens, Georgia, is a cultural and diversified city, with the University of Georgia being chartered as the first state supported university.
By 1923, Athens was established as a leader in the cotton industry, as the city was the second largest manufacturer of cotton in the state and remained that way through the 1950s.
In the 1970s, the music scene in Athens began to gain momentum, and bands such as R.E.M and the B-52’s became big success stories, both starting their careers in Athens.
Today, Athens is a classic college town that is growing by leaps and bounds, with many new restaurants and businesses springing up.
With only 3 days in the city, my most memorable experience was meeting new people, learning new skills, and enjoying good food at new restaurants while wondering how much higher the temperature and humidity was going to rise.
Since I stayed in the downtown area and had very little free time to explore the city, I can only recommend walking in the downtown area. It is full of historical buildings, cute boutiques, cafés, restaurants, and galleries. The streets were adorned with several decorated and painted dogs, which represented the UGA mascot. With the University of Georgia campus being downtown, there will always be something going on, and the craziness really begins with the football and basketball seasons. When the University of Kentucky Wildcats are in town, the cats and dawgs always roar and fight!
If flying into Athens and staying downtown, a car is not necessary, as there are many cafés and restaurants nearby. The Holiday Inn has a free shuttle that will pick you up and return you to the Athens airport.
I flew into Atlanta and drove to Athens. If doing this, follow the signs from the rental car pick up lots to I-85 North. Pick up GA-316 East towards Lawrenceville and Athens. This is a divided four-lane highway, and even in rush hour traffic, you still keep moving, although it will be slow. If going to the Holiday Inn, stay on this road which turns into Epps Bridge Parkway and US 78/GA 10.
If planning to explore the city, a car would be handy, but Athens does have a public transit system. If planning on driving downtown, be aware that many of the streets are one way and are not very well marked.
Hotel | "Holiday Inn"
The Athens Holiday Inn was my home-away-from-home for a 3-night business trip. It is conveniently located to downtown Athens and the University of Georgia campus begins across the street. A car would not be required to access the downtown area.
This property has 306 rooms, 253 of them nonsmoking. Standard accommodations are in the Courtyard/Central Tower and deluxe accommodations are in the North/Executive Towers. I had a Courtyard room, which consisted of all rooms having exterior doors on two stories. The rooms faced a small garden area, which had chairs, tables, and a small fountain. The landscaping was nice, with flowering trees in full bloom and a variety of brightly colored flowers.
My room had a queen-size bed, and when I walked in, it looked comfortable and homey. The bedspread was slightly turned down, with four pillows standing up against the headboard in a diagonal line as if to say, "Come, kick off your shoes and rest a spell." It also had a desk and chair, another "easy" chair, and a three-drawer armoire, which contained a swivel pullout tray for the TV. This was especially nice since you could position the television for easy viewing from the bed. There were two phones, one on the desk and one on the nightstand, with no charges for local calls. Wake-up calls could be programmed in through the desk phone, high-speed Internet service was available in all rooms, and a USA Today newspaper was at your door every morning.
The bathroom had a tub/shower combo with plenty of towels/washcloths, and there were complimentary containers of shampoo/lotion in case I had forgotten them. Fresh-smelling, soft, clean towels were left every day, another just-like-home amenity. An iron, ironing board, hairdryer, and small coffeemaker were also in the room.
An indoor pool, whirlpool, sundeck, and exercise room is also available at this location. Several people were taking advantage of the pool and whirlpool, even though it was in the mid-90’s outside. The air-conditioned exercise room faced the pool, and while it appeared small, it had treadmills, weights, a water cooler, and TV.
An on-site restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with room service available from 6:30am to 11pm. I never ate at the restaurant, so I cannot vouch for the food quality or prices. Continental breakfasts are available to those who have rooms in the North and Executive Towers.
The Athens Holiday Inn accepts pets under 25 pounds in the Courtyard rooms only. There is plenty of parking, and if you are in the Courtyard rooms, parking is directly in front of your room. An additional parking lot is across the street.
This hotel was about customer service! Being recipients of the Excellence award, their in-room comment card said it all: if you can answer NO to any of these questions, we want to hear from you now… while we have an opportunity to meet your needs. Now that’s what I call customer service.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 13, 2005
Holiday Inn Downtown
197 E. Broad Street
Athens, Georgia 30601
The Basil Press restaurant opened in the fall of 1998 in the old Herald Building (c. 1890) that used to house the Athens Observer newspaper. It is located on the corner of Washington and Lumpkin Streets in downtown Athens and is only a few blocks from the Holiday Inn.
This was our first lunch together as a class, and we had reservations for 11:30am. We had to wait a few minutes before the restaurant opened, but that was okay, since we would be ahead of the crowd. We were seated in the front dining room, directly in front of a huge curved window, which allowed the bright Georgia sun to stream in. The table had fresh linen tablecloths/napkins, and I quickly observed that this must be one of Athens more sophisticated, yet casual, restaurants.
The Basil Press’ lunch menu includes soups, salads, appetizers, and lunch entrées. Two people in our group ordered the Sherried French Onion Soup, which was baked with provolone cheese and garlic herb crostini ($4.95). It looked a little messy to eat, but both declared it "wonderfully delicious." With six of us, we had a variety of dishes to discuss when our orders arrived. Two of us chose the Sea Scallops Meuniere($7.95), which was scallops sautéed with mushrooms and garlic in a white wine lemon butter sauce and served over angel hair pasta. This dish contained four extra large sea scallops and was very tasty. Other ordered selections were the Blackened Salmon ($7.95), which was a grilled salmon filet served with mango salsa and citrus glaze and the Manicotti ($6.95), which was spinach-, parmesan-, ricotta-, and mozzarella-filled pasta shells baked with tomato basil sauce, and the Seafood Tortellini($8.95), which was cheese-filled pasta with shrimp, lobster, and scallops in a parmesan herb sauce. The food was excellent and the conversation was free-flowing as the diversified group got acquainted over lunch. As we walked the couple of blocks back to class, we all discussed our lunch experience and agreed that the Basil Press was a great restaurant.
The dinner menu at the Basil Press has several of the lunch menu favorites, with prices doubling. The above entrées at dinner were Sea Scallops Meuniere ($18.95), Blackened Salmon ($18.95), and the Manicotti ($14.95). There are additional entrées at dinner, such as the Filet Mignon, grilled with caramelized pearl onion glaze and garlic rosemary butter ($21.95), a roast half chicken ($17.95), and pan-seared center-cut Pork Chops with Vidalia onion sweet and sour sauce ($17.95). The average prices for most items on the dinner menu are $17.95 and $18.95.
Lunch prices range from $6.95 to $8.95 for the main entrées, soups are around $5, and salads are between $5.25 and $6.95. Desserts range between $4.50 and $5.95.
The Basil Press is open seven days a week, 11:30am to 2pm for lunch and 5:30 to 10pm for dinner. Reservations are taken, and based upon the lunch crowd, it would be highly recommended to have them.
104 E. Washington St.
Athens, Georgia 30601
The Last Resort Grill in Athens originally opened in 1966 as a bar and music club and has featured such famous performers as Jimmy Buffet and Steve Martin. After closing in the mid-80s, it opened again in August of 1992 as an upscale restaurant.
Our class ate lunch at the Last Resort on our second day. We hustled to be there before 11:30am, as our instructor had indicated we would have a long wait if we didn’t. We were immediately seated, and the hostess was informed up front that we were on a time limit. This message was conveyed to our server, who was very prompt in taking our drink and lunch orders.
Since there were six people in our group, we were seated at one of the larger tables, and I noticed that the restaurant filled quickly. One of the ladies worked at the University of Georgia, and she said that it was a very, very popular place to eat, both with the students and the faculty. It wasn’t long until the small restaurant was filled to capacity and people were standing in line, impatiently watching their watches as the precious minutes ticked away.
The lunch menu included soups, salads, sandwiches, pastas, and main entrées, with nothing on the menu being priced over $7.95. Debating between the special of the day (a broccoli quiche) and the Carolina Crab Cakes, I chose the crab cakes ($7.95). The crab meat was mixed with roasted sweet peppers, rolled in sourdough crumbs, and sautéed to a warm golden brown. They were served on fresh greens with a red-pepper aioli. Delicious! A couple of the ladies ordered the Gourmet burger ($5.95), which was seasoned with Worcestershire and horseradish and served on a toasted onion roll. They confirmed it was as delicious as it looked.
The showcase full of desserts also is something to see at the Last Resort Grill. Everyone seemed to gravitate towards the showcase while discussing which one of the tempting homemade desserts would be the best. Although we didn’t have time (or room) for desserts, the "locals" in our group informed us on our walk back to class as to how yummy they really were and what we had missed out on. Maybe next time!
The Last Resort is open for lunch from 11am to 3pm and for dinner from 5 to 10 pm Sunday through Thursday and 5 to 11 pm on Friday and Saturdays. They have a soup of the day, as well as salads and appetizers. The main entrées range in price from $11.95 to $14.95, with fresh seafood being at market price. Some of the dinner entrées, chicken carbonara, salmon and grits, and blue trout, sound very interesting. Brunch is served on Sundays from 11am to 3pm and features omelets, priced from $6.25 to $7.95, as well as breakfast enchiladas ($6.50) and stuffed French toast ($6.50).
This meal was delicious, and I suggest that you make the Last Resort Grill one of your first dining stops while in Athens.
Last Resort Grill
174-184 West Clayton St.
Athens, Georgia 30601
Restaurant | "Harry Bissett's New Orleans Cafe & Oyster Bar"
While in Athens, our class was treated to dinner at Harry Bissett’s, one of the city’s most popular downtown restaurants that is well-known for its New Orleans style of Cajun/Creole dishes.
We walked from class to the restaurant and found a party inside and out. Several small tables were on the sidewalk outside, and upon entering, you were immediately in the bar area, which had 3 to 4 small tables and 8 to 10 chairs at the bar. A group was celebrating a coworker’s 65th birthday, complete with cake, hats, and noisemakers, and as the workday came to a close, more and more people filtered in for drinks, conversation, and dinner.
The difference between the bar and dining room area is like night and day. After entering into the dining area, the ambience is immediately elevated to casual but elegant dining in quiet rooms with antique furniture and freshly pressed linen tablecloths and napkins covering the dining room tables.
Our party of seven was seated in an upstairs dining room that reminded me of the buildings on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. As we pondered over the menus, we asked the "locals" in the group for recommendations. The menu was extremely varied, with several varieties of fresh oysters, seafood, pasta, veal, chicken, certified Angus beef, and the traditional Cajun dishes the restaurant is known for. We chose seven different dishes, from Filet Mignon with Béarnaise Sauce ($20.50) to Crawfish Etouffeé (14.95) to Louisiana Crab Cakes ($24.95). I chose the Cedar Plank Salmon ($18.95), which was a salmon filet grilled and smoked on a piece of cedar wood, with a small amount of chopped lemon and orange on top. I was disappointed with my selection, as it was tasteless. I knew I should have stuck with my original choice of either the rib-eye steak or crab cakes. Everyone else in the group said that their selection was wonderful and delicious. The dinner menu is priced from $12.50 to $22.95, with soups priced from $3.95 to $5.75 and appetizers priced from $6.95 to $8.50. An extensive white and red wine list is available, as well as coffee, teas, and sodas.
Dessert is usually a no-no, but since I was disappointed with my main entrée, I rewarded myself with one of their much raved about desserts ($3.50 to $4.50). With a southern assortment ranging from Sweet Potato Pecan Pie, Crème Brulee, and their own Harry Bissett’s Bread Pudding to French Silk Pie and Praline Cheesecake, surely I couldn’t make another bad choice. I chose the Praline Cheesecake, which was New York-style cheesecake laced with a Southern pecan confection. I was not disappointed! The cheesecake was drizzled with caramel syrup and had hunks of pecans in a caramelized-type syrup. Yum!! Yum!! I didn’t waste a bite!
Hungry? Look for the crowd; it will most likely be at Harry Bissett’s. Hours for lunch are Tuesday to Friday, 11:30am to 3pm, Saturday brunch 11:30am to 3:30pm, Sunday brunch 11am to 4pm, and dinner 5:30 to 10pm weekdays and 5:30 to 11pm on Friday and Saturday.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 13, 2005
279 E. Broad St.
Athens, Georgia 30601