Yes, the Grit is an Athens institution. I get it. I know that vegans and vegetarians have limited options in Athens.
To me The Grit has always been the perfect example of what people are referring to when citing Athens townie snobbery relevant to dining. The “You Are So Lucky to Be Here, and I Am Far Too Cool to Serve You; O THE HUMANITY” attitude has almost always been present when I’ve visited–and let me tell you, I’ve visited plenty since my first arrival in Athens in 1992. If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m a fan of making others comfortable. I like a place that is customer-oriented and is willing to do whatever necessary, within reason, to help and accommodate its patrons.
But, since I am a glass half-full person, I’ll start with the positive.
The Grit is happily situated within walking distance of downtown, by Bottleworks on Prince Avenue. It’s loaded with Athens indie cred, yet is well-known enough to have published its own cookbook. It has ample seating–not too crowded, with booths–and is open now for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
It’s lovely. I don’t wish The Grit away. I just have a few bones to pick. (BONES! TO PICK!!! HAHAHAHA…oh, never mind.)
THE GOOD: The Golden Bowl really is a must-try Athens dish. It’s craved by omnivores and vegetarians alike. It’s tofu done very, very well: flavorful and crispy, which is apparently not the easiest thing to pull off, with rice and your choice of cheese and/or vegetables. I have endured the long, frustrating service from the Grit many times just to partake of the Golden Bowl.
Bottled Coke. That’s a huge plus.
They have a decent selection of beer (lots of local, Terrapin-y stuff; I had a Golden Ale) and some wines.
The cakes are excellent–many people order them here for birthdays.
THE BAD: Good-sounding food with mediocre-to-bland, even bad, execution. Take my noodle bowl:
There was just no way I could make this look appetizing. Ruth, my lunch companion, was a little horrified. “It looks like worms,” she said. Who can argue with that? Um, no, it’s udon noodles with spicy citrus-sesame sauce. And if it were delicious, that would make up for its appearance, to me. But…it wasn’t. As most of the dishes I’ve taken a chance on at The Grit have been, it was mediocre at best. Salty and mucky.
Ruth was happy with her loaded nachos, which looked unimpressive to me but were as she’d expected and desired:
THE (DIS)SERVICE: To be fair, I was greeted by a very friendly, normal-acting employee. “I always want to ask [any normal, nice employees at The Grit] how they got this job,” Ruth remarked. Our waitress was friendly enough, but was either overburdened or unconcerned with bringing our check quite a while after we finished eating (you know, the cash and debit cards are waiting on the table and you’re trying to catch her eye?).
My main grumble is that The Grit doesn’t split checks and they make a HUGE deal about it. They’re doing YOU a favor to give you change, JEEZ. Ruth went up to the counter to get cash and was told with a sigh, “You’ll have to wait for Jay.” Whoever that is.