Celebrate Valentine’s Day With Signature Athens Eats

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Like most major holidays in America, Valentine’s Day has become a cash crazy weekend for stores, restaurants, and services. On what is considered the most important date-night of the year, thousands of couples will take to the streets to share an intimate evening sharing one of the few forces that brings all humans together across boundaries: food. Nestled in rural Appalachia, Athens, OH sports an eclectic food scene with a variety of restaurants serving everything from Middle Eastern fare to chicken and waffle pizzas. If you are looking for something special this coming Valentine’s Day, look no further. Here you will find a short guide on area establishments to consider taking your sweetie to (or treating yourself).

Some of the establishments listed will offer a prix fixe menu, simply referring to a fine dining menu featuring a fixed price and a set number of course.

Valentine’s Day Dinner with Fluff Bakery and Pork & Pickles
Where: Fluff Bakery & Café, 8 N Court St
When: Tuesday, Feb. 14 from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The Restaurant: In a joint effort, Fluff Bakery and butcher-shop Pork and Pickles will collaborate for the first of what both owners hope to be many times. Located on Court Street next to Pita Pit and Court Street Diner, Fluff serves as one of Athens highest rated purveyors of baked goods. The restaurant does not just stop at cookies and pastries, however. Fluff also serves savory breakfasts, flavorsome lunches, and coffees and teas as well as fine beers and wines. While they close up shop early at 3pm, affiliate West Side Wingery on Schafer Street dutifully serves the needs of refined taste buds looking for casual fare.

Pork and Pickles located in The Plains offers locally-sourced and humanely-grown and butchered cuts of meat and pickled vegetables. Some offerings include bacon, chorizo, and pork loin priced per pound, as well as pickled red onions and sweet-hot peppers. Products can be found at multiple locations including Village Bakery from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and the Athens Famers Market on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The butchery is the perfect stop for home cooks interesting in locally sourced and wholesome products and also accommodates special orders such as pâtés and lardo.

The Date: The dinner will offer a five-course prix fixe menu featuring a starter of amuse bouche, followed by linguine with peas, cured hand, ricotta cheese and mint. For the dessert course, house made ice cream and cookies are sure to deliver the perfect amount of sweet to balance several flavorful courses. Each course includes a pre-selected drink pairing. Both seatings are limited, and interested parties should purchase tickets sooner rather than later.

What’s Recommended: “I think I am most jazzed about the Carrots Five Ways course,” said Pork and Pickles owner Becky Clark. “I love the idea of using a simple ingredient, such as a carrot, and manipulating it through different cooking methods. A few of these methods are roasted, pickled, and carrot dust.”
The dish comes with pistachios to add a layer of “depth and richness” to the flavor profile, and is paired with a hand-selected bourbon inspired cocktail chosen by Fluff’s owner Jessica Kopelwitz.
Clark additionally expressed excitement over a course consisting of Brown-Butter Potato Fondue. “Think mashed potatoes, but on a whole different level,” she said.
Menus can be found on Pork and Pickles’ Facebook page.


Sol Valentine’s Day Couples Dinner
Where: Sol Island Bar & Grill, 33 N Court St
When: Tuesday Feb. 14, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Reservations: (740) 592-1740
The Restaurant: Sol brings Caribbean-inspired cuisine to small-town Athens. Originally situated in uptown Athens, the restaurant has recently opened a second location on East State Street featuring an expanded menu including a weekend Bloody Mary bar. The Court Street location can only be described as a hidden treasure, tucked into an out of the way alley. Particularly impressive may be that the establishment has only been in operation since 2012, and in as little as five years has accumulated enough success not only to open a second location, but to make a notable name among themselves in Athens.

Amid their specials, kids eat free on Wednesdays, and Sol is the perfect work time treat with delivered box lunches (a minimum of five must be purchased) which can be ordered with 24 hours’ notice. The business also caters for special events, and the uptown Athens location is available Sunday through Thursday for private events. The eatery also features Brew Week inspired dishes each summer with sumptuous brew-inspired recipes.

The Date: Sol will offer a prix fixe menu at $75 per couple, or $59 with student ID. The menu features a number of international dishes, including a Caribbean Sweet Potato Soup with Crema, described as “a golden and silky soup with the tropical flavors of ginger, coconut, and rum topped with crema.” Included in the price is champagne and chocolate, and each course offers a vegetarian option.

What’s Recommended: A starter of chorizo empanadas is a surefire way to get the meal going. Menus can be found on Sol’s website, or their Facebook page.



Lui Lui Valentine’s Day
Where: Lui Lui, 8 Station St
When: Feb. 10-14
Reservations: (740) 594-8905
The Restaurant: For over 20 years now, Lui Lui has offered a fine dining experience to residents and visitors of Athens alike. Following its grand opening in 1994, the restaurant remains a permanent fixture of Athens. Like other local favorites, Lui Lui offers an eclectic international menu with dishes ranging from chicken curry meatballs, to bacon mango wood fired pizza. The weekly star of the menu is fresh rolled sushi, available every Tuesday after 4:30 p.m.

With the impressive array of cuisine that composes Lui Lui’s menu, it should come as no shock that the business also offers a variety of meals suitable for vegetarians, as well as those with gluten allergies (upon request). To rival these many options is a well-stocked beer and wine selection featuring fairly priced glasses and bottles to pair nicely with each meal.

The Date: The restaurant will feature two prix fixe menus, each $40 and $55 a couple respectively. Diners will have the opportunity to select an option from each course. For the $40 dessert menu, available choices are a lemongrass citrus crème brulee and chocolate covered strawberries, or a chocolate mousse and New York cheesecake with blueberry topping. Some entrée items on the $55 menu are a flavorful pepper seared red tuna and shrimp pesto fettucine. From their purchased menu couples will selected one appetizer, two entrees, and one shared desert.

What’s Recommended: From the $40 menu, the half rack of lamb with and Asian spiced tomato sauce with garlic and ginger combines the forces of tender lamb and aromatic ginger paired with mashed potatoes and vegetables. The $55 menu dessert boasts a lemonberry mascarpone cake and cheesecake with blueberry topping.


O’Betty’s 2 for $16 Valentine’s Day Special
Where: O’Betty’s Red Hot, 15 W State St
When: Tuesday, Feb. 14, 4-8 p.m.
Reservations: Walk-in
The Restaurant: O’Betty’s is another central fixture in Athens, and with good reason. What began in 2003 as a dream of a burlesque-themed hot dog shop has evolved into undeniably one of Athens best eateries. The impressive menu features crackling all-beef (and vegan) hotdogs with mouthwatering toppings and names inspired by history’s most sensual and seductive performers. Among these are the Dixie, so-named for the “Marilyn Monroe of Burelesque.” The Dixie is O’Betty’s take on the classic coney, sporting spicy home made chili (also available meatless), sharp cheddar cheese, diced onions and brown mustard. The Tempest, modeled after “The Queen of Exotic Dancers” Tempest Storm comes loaded with Casa Nueva’s spicy habanero salsa, cool, thick sour cream, shredded cheddar and diced jalapenos for some serious mouth heat.

The Tempest and Dixie are two of nine “show stoppers,” all featuring luscious ingredients and a pronounced snap upon biting into the grilled meat. In addition, O’Betty’s carries premium sandwiches consisting of bratwurst and sausages, a variety of hand cut fries, handmade desserts and Coke products. A simplified late night menu is offered from 9 p.m.-3 a.m., but the restaurant manages to consistently keep customers on their toes with daily specials.

On Mondays, diners can stop by and enjoy “Classic Monday” dogs, featuring original recipes that helped make O’Betty’s such a success after their 2003 opening. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, kitchen manager Sarah Slater employs a manger’s choice “Anything Goes” special, with self-inspired recipes such as chicken sausage with spinach pesto, sautéed peppers, and caramelized onions. On Wednesdays, Mac and Cheese Day, different macaroni and cheese flavors are piled atop a dog. Fridays are Fry days, offering special styles of such as the Tempest inspired fries.

It is not just the divine dogs and drool-worthy fries that make this place so special though. Part of the appeal rests in its ambiance, with friendly employees and an intimate atmosphere with images of the most beloved ladies of classic striptease and impressive hot-dog related artifacts.

The Date: The 2 for $16 deal is held Monday through Friday, but diners who stop in on Valentine’s Day are in for an additional treat. The meal deal includes two hot dogs any style, a large basket of fries, two drinks, and a dessert to share for a meal that will not break the bank, but does not sacrifice on taste or ambiance ether. O’Betty’s is the perfect spot for more casual couples without a need for five course menus.
“O’Betty’s is a fantastic choice for date night any time, but especially on Valentine’s Day.” Said kitchen manager Sarah Slater. “It will be decorated and I am making a handmade chocolate mousse dessert for our dinner for two special…it’s the best deal in town.”

What’s Recommended: “My personal favorite dog is the Blaze, which is a bacon wrapped hot dog with creamy coleslaw.” said Slater. When asked many employees present the expression of a parent being demanded to choose between two children at the thought of having to pick a favorite out of the many offerings. The only true way to know would be to sample them all.



Athens Uncorked Valentine’s Weekend with Pianist Janice Paris
Where: Athens Uncorked Wine Bar, 14 Station St
When: Saturday, Feb. 11, 8 p.m.
The Bar: Athens Uncorked made its debut in December of 2014, and immediately became a hit as the town’s first and only wine bar. Offering respite from the binge drinking spectacle that is Court Street, the bar caters to a more sophisticated and mature audience. Beer and wine enthusiasts and aficionados can find expertly crafted cocktails, carefully selected wines, and artisan beers to be enjoyed in a warm and inspiring atmosphere. Located in close proximity to Lui Lui, Athens Uncorked is an ideal stop for before or after dinner.

The business offers a wide array of services, including a monthly book club, bi-monthly painting classes through The Clever Canvas, live music and wine guild memberships. Even more outstanding is its ability to suit any budget. Wine guild membership start as low as $30, offering two bottles monthly. For $25 the Well Read Wine and Book Club provides a monthly discussion on a pre-selected text complete with snacks, and a wine selection for members to take home at the end of the night. Despite the high quality of their products and services, customers can still find wallet-friendly deals sure to please.

Among their live events, the bar has hosted singers and bands as well as performances such as a burlesque performance by the Moonstruck Burlesque company. Private events can also be hosted with space available on the second floor.

The Date: Athens Uncorked is a good date night any night, however on Saturday Feb. 11 pianist Janis Pars will deliver an intimate performance. Paris graduated from OU in 2013, and has since spent her time as a musical educator for Nelsonville-York school district.

What’s Recommended: As a special for Valentine’s Day and the month of February, Athens Uncorked has decided to bring back its decadent Chocolate Covered Cherry Sangria. Red wine and cherry juice are blended with the dark notes of chocolate and soaked cherries. To complete the inspired cocktail, the rim is lined with a thick layer of sugar. In addition to numerous drinks, the wine bar also offers bar snacks including meats and cheeses with a house-made ground mustard that carries a serious kick.

Athens Uncorked own Chocolate Covered Cherry Sangria. (Submitted)


The Cider House
Where: West End Cider House, 234 W Washington St
When: Monday-Thursday, 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., Friday-Saturday, 1 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The Bar: West End Cider House opened its doors in 2013, setting down a path that Athens Uncorked would eventually follow. Nestled at the intersection of West Washington and Schafer, the bar offers a variety of hand-crafted ciders, meads, fine artisan beers, wines, cocktails, and more. Located away from the hubbub of uptown Athens, West End Cider House provides another safe haven for those who find little enjoyment in the student packed bar scene. Friendly employees are sure to offer suggestions, and samples are available any time during regular operating hours.

The Cider House is one of the many successful Athens businesses dedicated to the use of local ingredients and products. Taps are changed weekly, and boards inside and outside the bar reflect daily and weekly changes in available products.

In addition to their satisfying hand beverages, the bar sits across the street from West Side Wingery. They are also partnered with Southern-chic restaurant Omg! Rotisserie which offers free delivery to the bar.

The Date: A stop to West Side Wingery or a delivered meal from Omg! align perfectly as a dinner date night. Alternately, an hour or a few spent in the bar without a dinner can be found just as enjoyable. The Cider House delivers a cozy atmosphere, with a beautifully lit back patio available during warmer days. The bar has no special events planned for Valentine’s Day, but is sure to attract numerous area couples regardless.

What’s Recommended: The ever-changing menu offers limitless possibilities. To drink at the bar without actually trying the crisp and tart ciders (in a variety of fruit flavors) offered is a sadly missed opportunity. Aside from their ciders, highly recommended is the mead. A popular drink during the Middle Ages and Classical Antiquity, the fermented honey beverage has made a modern comeback in recent years. Be wary of the alcohol content however, which can hold an ABV content of anywhere from 6% to 20 or higher.