Iron Works Coffee Company, Athens GA

We received a suggestion to check out Iron Works Coffee, which opened in early November. It’s a little cafe in the lobby of the new Graduate Hotel, and while we don’t actually care for coffee, Marie loves tea and I don’t mind hot chocolate, so we stopped by for a light breakfast before going to visit one of Marie’s friends and drop off some clothes for her new grandson.

Graduate is a new “concept” hotel, which is opening classy-but-affordable rooms in college towns. They started in October with properties in Athens and in Tempe AZ, and plan to open five more in 2015: Oxford MS, Raleigh NC, Madison WI, Charlottesville VA and Bloomington IN. For the Athens location, they moved into the historic Foundry Park Inn and Spa, which has had multiple owners over the years, and have done a nice renovation. Their PR suggests that they’re targeting alumni who want to attend either formal or impromptu reunions or come to town for game day, and that the interior decor will feature locally-themed artwork and school colors.

Personally, the locally-themed artwork that evokes my college days is a great big Jack Davis mural of Hairy Dawg on the Reed Hall basement wall, and not exposed brickwork and shelves of old Childcraft volumes, but your mileage may vary.

What actually spurred us to have something to eat and drink here was the interesting news that they were about to host a scavenger hunt, which is why our readers who follow us on social media saw a little bit about Iron Works last month. I love scavenger hunts, and the prizes were really good as well. The pastries and muffins are really good, but this hot chocolate is completely wonderful. It’s made from scratch, using a recipe that the coffee shop’s manager spent weeks getting just right, and includes some crumbled peppermint. Wow, it was terrific.

I was pleased to see that the property’s new owners are still running the old Melting Point club. I was doubly pleased to see that the Normaltown Flyers are still together and played there a few nights previously. I think that the coffee shop can get a good bit of morning business from the students within walking distance – there’s a huge conglomeration of student-targeted apartments right across the street – and that, if Graduate successfully markets itself to former Athenians who want a nice place to stay and be nostalgic, there will be a whole mess of people raving about this hot chocolate. Why’d we just make it a day trip instead of staying the weekend here?

You can see all the restaurants that we have visited for our blog on this map, with links back to the original blog posts. It’s a terrific resource for anybody planning a road trip through the southeast!