The Grill, Athens GA

This is Marie, talking about The Grill in Athens, GA. Technically this visit involved desserts because I had a shake for dinner, you see.

This place has been around long enough that some of their “decor” is actually just old stuff they never took out, like the juke box attachments for the booths along the walls. The place has a lot of character. Of course it has the kitschy old style signs for beverages that no longer exist or were sold for a nickel. However, they also have a divider down the middle of the room that has glass display cases full of strange antique toys, comics and collectibles. There’s no way to take a picture of the stuff that would turn out, and I wouldn’t want to spoil the amusement factor of seeing the old toys and silly things in those displays. I wouldn’t recommend using their rest room either if you can avoid it, unless you are into the really old-fashioned kind, or you collect really bizarre bathroom graffiti.

You’ll never go wrong putting a burger and shake joint near a college campus. The Grill has been right up the block from the main entrance to the UGA campus in Athens for a pretty long time (Grant half-remembers them moving to this location in 1989 and having a liquor license tied up for months), and seen a lot of places move in and out around it. Currently there is a Five Guys in the spot on the corner by the Arches that used to be the location for a really awful Chinese place (“China Eventually,” Randy called it), and apparently, before that something else even worse. The Grill has enough of an identity that it never suffers from the competition. And I have to say, before I started hanging out with Grant, I didn’t eat out more than every other month or so, but still managed to make it to this place now and then.

The last two times I went there, I had a shake for a meal instead of whatever else was on the menu. I really like their chocolate malt. It’s pretty dangerous. If you’ve read last month’s chapter about Zesto’s, you’ve heard that I’m rather fond of theirs as well. However, those come in ordinary forgettable cups with plastic lids. At The Grill, shakes and malts come in the steel mixing cup along with a nifty cone-shaped paper cup balanced in a chilled metal stand, so you can pour your own serving out and make it last. Presentation is definitely a bonus here. Also, if as often happens there’s a little lump of unmixed ice cream, you can smoosh the lump onto the side of the metal cup without worrying that the foam or waxed paper will suffer for it, as you would in joints with lesser presentation.

However, there was a lot more going on at the table than just my ice cream. We’d gone as a party, you see, meeting up with our friends Dave and Shaindle, who live in Toronto, and Devlin and Mandy, who don’t get to see us all that often as we are inconveniently no longer living in Athens and they’re unavailable most weekends. Almost everyone enjoyed various burgers or sandwiches. Apparently The Grill serves up one of the best Reubens in town.

Grant had a huge third-of-a-pound burger with peppers and onions, with those distinctive dark Grill crinkle fries that have the skin left on. They’re a little different from most fries. If you are married to the brittle shoe string type, you won’t like these. They’re hot enough to please my taste buds which enjoy being on fire–it’s probably a reason why I don’t generally finish more than a quarter of any fry order. They have a fair amount of character and locals have long figured out that a small side of feta dressing is imperative to the experience. If you visit Athens and try this place, you must order a side of feta for your fries.

I make a habit of not ordering grilled cheese at a restaurant because a) I can make it at home for about a tenth the cost (so long as I’m not using $29-a-pound cheese, anyway), and b) I like mine better. Especially if I am using the really good, decadent kinds of cheese. However, I think I may change my mind about that for my next visit to this place, because someone at the table had a gooey grilled cheese that looked much better than the usual kid’s menu fare. The burgers are what will keep you coming back, however. The tuna melt is pretty good, too. However, you can also get a salad if you insist. But whatever you do, don’t eat too much and pass on the shake.