The Grill: A blast to the past

Features, Opinion

By Anna Hicks

The Classic City is not only known for its openness to new musicians, trends and great food, but also its timeless traditions. The Grill, a 50’s diner themed restaurant, is a place where it all comes together.

Located in the heart of downtown Athens, The Grill is one of the most nostalgic and recognizable restaurants near UGA’s campus. It’s one of the few places in Athens that is open 24/7, making it the perfect place for students and locals alike to snag a midnight snack. Opened in 1981 by Bob Russo, it is the second oldest restaurant in the city and is a place of wistful nostalgia for many alumni.

“I have many special memories at The Grill, from going with my parents before a football game as a child, to taking my own children there when we come to visit Athens,” Jennifer Wolford, a UGA alumni says. “It’s become a three generational tradition for us.”

Russo, a native New Yorker, moved to Athens to open a steakhouse, but soon began to open other international restaurants as well, including Gyro Wrap and Chow Goldstein. Russo’s introduction of international cuisine helped expand the food scene in Athens for years to come.

Although traditions and memories can make a place feel special, delicious food is often what brings people together and The Grill does not disappoint. As a diner-themed restaurant, a good burger with fries and a milkshake is often what people go there for. They offer a wide selection of burgers from bacon cheeseburgers to veggie burgers to burgers with onions and mushrooms, in addition to their hand cut fries with feta dressing. The feta cheese dressing is a one-of-a-kind homemade recipe you can’t find anywhere else in Athens.

“The feta dressing was really good, the chunks of feta made it amazing,” says rising senior Jayla Brown, after trying it for the first time. “It isn’t like sauces you find anywhere else, it’s different. I would definitely choose that over ketchup or honey mustard with my fries.”

Another trademark recipe of The Grill is their classic, malt milkshake. The shakes come in three flavors: vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, and each one is made with fresh milk and a scoop of their powered malt. These creamy milkshakes make for the perfect late night snack to get with friends.

As a vintage, 50s diner themed restaurant, many would not think of The Grill as a place to find healthier and dietary friendly meals, but like much of Athens, The Grill has adapted to many of its customers needs and now offers vegan and vegetarian options, such as salads and veggie burgers.

“It was a surprise for me to learn they offered vegetarian and vegan options,” rising senior Scarlett Reicher says. “It can be hard for people with dietary restrictions to find places to eat and The Grill wouldn’t have been the first place I’d have thought to look.”

The Grill is an Athens staple filled with great food and memories for low prices. Although the older building could be cleaner and use updating, the authentic feel is what many customers like. Located right across from The Arch, it’s central location is ideal for UGA students and visitors. It’s definitely an experience worth trying on the next visit to Athens.

“When I think of Athens and The Arch, The Grill immediately comes to mind,” Wolford says. It’s one of the few places in downtown that has stayed and has really become a staple of the community. I couldn’t imagine Athens without it.”

Botanical Gardens Gives Fresh Produce to Athens Community

Features, News

By Charlotte Luke

This summer, the Dig and Grow area of the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia bursts with delicious colors and smells: purple, red, and yellow stalks of chard, fragrant leaves of basil, tiny tomatoes budding from their vines, kale curling out of the soil.

More than 1,000 edible plants grown from seed by the Garden’s greenhouse manager, Melanie Parker, were planted in January 2018. Today, Dig and Grow is a thriving source of fresh vegetables and herbs and an important opportunity for “children [to] learn at an early age that vegetables don’t come from the grocery store originally,” said Ann Frierson, an advisory board member of the Botanical Garden for three decades.

But in addition to providing an “edible gardening experiential learning gallery,” said Cora Keber, Director of Education at the Botanical Garden, Dig and Grow provides fresh produce for people in the Athens community.

After the grand opening of the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden in March, the Botanical Garden partnered with Campus Kitchen, a student-run hunger relief program of the UGA Office of Service-Learning. Specifically, much of the produce grown in the Dig and Grow area of the Children’s Garden supports Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, a program through Campus Kitchen in which participants receive pre-made meals and a bag of fresh produce each week.

“We have donated hundreds of pounds of produce since opening in March and will continue to provide to our community whether it be through tasting in the garden, our programs or meals and produce provided by Campus Kitchen,” said Ms. Keber.

Dig and Grow and the Botanical Garden cultivate food and educational experiences, but Ann Frierson said she also envisions the Garden as a nice escape for visitors.

“The beauty of this garden is that it exposes people to nature which is becoming something harder and harder to experience as we become a concrete jungle, and to be able to get out within nature is critical to everyone’s state of mind.”

The grounds of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia are open Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission and parking are free.

Food Waste on College Campuses

Features, News

By Elyssa Abbott

One in six Americans are unsure where their next meal will come from, even though 40% of food prepared never even touches the plate.

“Certainly, the statistics on waste and food insecurity are staggering and it is natural to wonder why one issue [waste] isn’t being used to address the other [hunger],” said Brenna Ellison, associate professor in Agriculture and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois. “Even though there is legislation to protect organizations who donate uneaten food in good faith, many are still concerned that they could be held liable if someone were to get sick from the donated food. One way to increase benefits to donating organizations would be to provide some sort of tax incentives where they would be willing to incur the costs of redistributing food.”

According to HuffPost, 130 billion pounds of food are discarded each year. U.S. colleges alone waste 22 million pounds of food per year. Due to the popular buffet style found on college campuses, food waste is overwhelmingly high. In addition to the “all-you-care-to-eat” dining approach the University of Georgia and schools around the country follow, the conveyor belt designed to transport dishes back to the kitchen allows students to not feel responsible for the waste they created. A common characteristic of college students is saving the most amount of money possible, which leads to purchasing groceries in bulk. Often times, the food will spoil before eaten.

In American colleges, a meal plan that typically includes five meals a week can cost anywhere from $720-$1850 for a single semester. Students understand that this is pricey and will fill multiple plates of food to receive the full value out of their meal plan investment. As imagined, the wide array of options found in dining halls skews perception to overestimate how much they can actually eat. After paper, food waste is the second largest contributor to waste due to the carelessness of college dining hall tactics.

The 22 million pounds of food colleges waste each year also includes food that never touches the plate. Dining hall food managers have the incredibly difficult job of estimating how many students will visit the dining hall that particular day, as well as determining the amount of food each will eat. Different foods and genres will be eaten more than others, so this task provides a challenge. Colleges across the country have begun implementing programs and different approaches to college dining.

The University of Georgia is one of the few schools that have switched to, “tray-less,” dining halls. This cuts down on the amount of plates a single student can carry. Still, colleges often use the “all-you-care-to-eat” (AYCTE) aspect to their advantage when recruiting.

“However, an a la carte or pay by weight pricing system would most likely result in less waste as students now have a financial incentive to think more carefully about the foods they select and waste,” Ellison said. “Other ways dining halls could reduce waste could be by using different serviceware (e.g., smaller plates, smaller scoops); offering samples; or pre-portioning items (instead of self-service). Each potential change has its own associated costs, though, which have to be considered. For example, offering samples may reduce food waste but could increase packaging waste (extra sample cups/silverware) or water use (if sample dishes are used).”

Simple solutions may be the most efficient way to overcome drastic food waste. A 2011 study with 600 university student participants found that more than 57 grams of food were wasted per student. After researchers issued a message to the students about food waste, it decreased by 15 percent. Posting signs in the dining halls could be an easy fix to diminish food waste on campus. Dining halls choosing to reduce portion sizes or reuse untouched leftovers are possibilities, but come with liability risk and controversy. At Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, resident halls have received solar-powered food composters to accommodate those that choose to grocery shop. The University of California, Davis, has started a student led program that collects near 2,000 pounds a week in carrot peels and coffee grounds from the school’s waste to compost the items into a material donated to community gardens. Food Recovery Network, a well-known student driven program at the University of Maryland, recovered 30,000 meals compiled of untouched leftovers in their first active year. The meals were given out around the D.C. area, a community where one in seven households struggle with hunger.

The immense amount of waste that comes from college campuses, communities that receive recognition for cutting-edge innovations and renowned studies, should outrage people. Colleges have the resources to fix this problem and improve hunger rates in the U.S., as well as elsewhere. Typical buffet style dining halls serve as a detriment to those that struggle with hunger, simply because loading an unnecessary amount of food onto a plate   appeals to 18 year olds when searching for higher education.

In a 2013 article with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation , José Graziano da Silva, director of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, said a solution has to happen.“We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day.”