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.”