White Tiger Gourmet is one of Athens’ best kept secrets, but it should be shouted from the rooftops.
Chef/owner Ken Manring and chocolatier/co-owner Amanda Crouse run this amazing mom-and-pop (um, literally) gem. Amanda, a UGA grad in Fine Arts, was “introduced to chocolate making while working at the Chocolate Shoppe (now closed) in downtown Athens.” She creates exquisite, creamy dark and milk chocolates you simply can’t find anywhere else, especially in the Athens area. Ken trained at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and worked in Vermont, Washington, California and Mexico before settling in his native Georgia. Usually you can spot their toddler horsing around the restaurant (mine would be busy breaking their artwork, but I digress). Everyone’s family here.
White Tiger used to be open for lunch only, but recently began serving Friday and Saturday night dinners. I haven’t been and am dying to go; they usually have a band or musician playing, too. You can follow White Tiger on Facebook here.
We had a great crowd for this stop; seven foodies rated this week’s burgers. As usual, the scale is 1-5, where 1 = horrid and 5 = amazing.
“Relaxed and inviting.” There’s plenty of seating in this homey, laid-back eatery. It’s not fancy; it’s comfortable, artsy, unique–three things that, combined, characterize Athens “fine dining” to me. Fine dining is about the FOOD, not the cloth napkins. “My kind of place,” one reviewer remarked. “The building has a great history that is discussed in the menu,” wrote another. Here’s that history, quoted here because it’s another thing that makes Athens special:
White Tiger makes its home in the 100-plus year old structure on Hiawassee Avenue, in the Historic Boulevard District. Built in 1905, the space originally housed a grocery store called Davis House and served the needs of the then mill neighborhood. In the sixties, it became a restaurant called Thrashers, famous for their sausage biscuits; and more recently was home to The Green Scene and then Rooster’s BBQ.
This rating reflects some reviewers’ opinion that the dishes are “expensive for only a burger”–but the menu’s pricing is comparable to Clocked and Burger Factory. You get what you pay for; some reviewers felt “the prices are reasonable for the kind of food offered.” There’s a difference betweem McDonald’s ‘beef’ and fresh-ground, handmade all-beef patties and local, organic vegetables. It’s very easy to make a nice plate there for under $10, so ultimately I find it extremely reasonable. The chocolates are weighed, and you’ll get a wonderful deal compared to costly Godiva nastiness.
White Tiger’s food is seasonally-focused and inspired by Southern comfort food, with a healthy bent. Staples on their menu include pecan wood-smoked pulled pork BBQ (the “White Tiger” sauce is a wonderful and vinegar-based), smoked chicken salad, huge burgers, several appetizing vegetarian/vegan options, and eggs and pancakes (served ALL DAY!). The burgers were perfectly cooked–one was a bit overcooked, but others were medium well. Juicy, well-seasoned beef; substantial bun. “You hardly need condiments!” one reviewer said.
The chocolate is nothing short of incredible. Seriously. I was one happy camper yesterday when I saw the selection: dark chocolate lemon truffle, dark chocolate basil truffle (don’t knock it), milk chocolate creams, chocolate-covered Oreos and Zapp’s potato chips. Amanda outdid herself.
“A vast array of interesting drinks…different sodas and uncommon specialty bottles,” wrote a reviewer. There’s sweet tea and usually a flavored green tea or lemonade. There’s a huge selection of sodas refrigerated in the back; you pay one price and select your own. Amanda told me that you can BYOB anytime (I had no idea!!). 1,000 Faces coffee is served, as well. Some of the diners wanted fountain sodas, but…can’t you get that anywhere? I think it’s more fun to have special drinks I can’t get many other places. And the sweet tea is excellent.
I love how friendly and interested Ken and Amanda are. Every time I’ve visited there’s been some banter from the kitchen, a friendly hello–an experience that was repeated today, even though the restaurant was the busiest I’ve seen it (yay!). I called ahead to let them know we had a group coming, knowing that Ken doesn’t have a full staff in the kitchen.
Service was rapid, especially compared to other visits I’ve had. Again, though, this isn’t McDonald’s, and sometimes a bit of a wait is the tradeoff for amazing food at a lovely, intimate locale.
Reviewers all wanted to return sometime. I’m thinking date night with Brett, who will love the BBQ and burgers!
One note: White Tiger doesn’t take credit/debit cards. They’re cash only, which has proven inconvenient on more than one occasion. I hope they remedy this, because I do think it will ultimately hurt the business.
Bottom line: I’ll be back, and I hope White Tiger is a permanent Athens fixture.
This is the best, most random thing:
Don’t mess with Sutherland’s food.