Southern Living writer David Hanson spent a day in Athens, Georgia, asking the locals where he should go. Each person led to a great discovery that led to another. He tells us how it played out. Here, he tells us how it played out.
9:14 a.m. I begin at Ike & Jane, a bakery where I meet pastry chef Lydia Clopton. As I try her bacon-peanut-butter-banana-topped handmade glazed donut, Lydia introduces boyfriend Dean Neff, the executive chef at Southern cuisine outpost Five & Ten. Dean’s brother played with Athens’ hottest act, the Drive-by Truckers. He suggests I head to the band’s favorite local guitar shop.
11:45 a.m. Scott Baxendale at Baxendale Guitar has built or fixed guitars for Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Jr., and John Mellencamp. He asks if I like trapeze and points me down the street to Canopy.
12:45 p.m. Rope swings hang above padded floors in Canopy, a warehouse where pros perform and train, and kids and adults learn the art of aerial dance. Director Melissa Roberts invites me to take a swing, so I heave ho. Stomach properly riled, I mention soul food, so Melissa sends me to Weaver D’s.
2:15 p.m. “Automatic!” I hear as I walk in the door at Weaver D’s. It’s Dexter Weaver—owner, soul food chef, and Athensicon. Sweet tea washes down my fried chicken, greens, and cornbread. Dexter, the inspiration for R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People, signs his cookbooks. By this time in the day he’s got coffee on the mind.
3:30 p.m. Dexter points me Up the street to Jittery Joe’s, where a long, wooden warehouse smokes coffee fumes. I sip an espresso and meet Charlie Mustard roasting in back. He suggests stone artist Stan Mullen’s quirky old warehouse space, but Stan’s not home and has a big dog. It’s Tuesday, so Charlie sends me to meet Miss Ethel at the farmers’ market.
4:15 p.m. Miss Ethel Collins works the tiny farm stand at West Broad Farmer’s Market, open Tuesday afternoons and Saturday mornings, at the community garden recently planted at the city’s historic black elementary school. She occasionally sells her entire stock of rainbow chard, kale, arugula, and sweet potatoes to Dean Neff at Five & Ten. No surprise she recommends dinner at the restaurant.
7 p.m. Hugh Acheson’s flagship restaurant, Five & Ten, is slated to move into a century-old house on Milledge Avenue in April 2013, but for now I’m in their Five Points birthplace, sharing the bar with two chatty wine-drinking ladies. But I’m all talked out. My night ends with the shrimp and andouille Frogmore stew and its playful Creole slap.