New restaurants, specialty shops, exhibits and more are coming to Athens in 2022! Local favorites like Cafe Racer Coffee + Donuts and Condor Chocolates are opening second locations, while all-new and new-to-Athens businesses like Slutty Vegan, Farm Burger and ZZ & Simone's are joining the Athens community. Plus, The Classic Center Arena breaks ground in February 2022, taking the first step to bringing all-new music, sports and entertainment to downtown. Head to Athens this year to see all the new sights and taste all the new foods.
New restaurants in Athens
Condor has been blessing Athens’ historic Five Points neighborhood with bean-to-bar Ecuadorian chocolate since 2014, and on November 24, 2021, a new Condor Chocolates cafe and factory opened downtown. The new shop is open Tuesday through Sunday, serving up hot cocoa, Choco coffee and of course, chocolate. The new location has a special focus on Choco coffee roasting, named for the Choco toucan, unique to the Choco cloud forests of Ecuador. Choco coffee continues the bean-to-bar tradition of Condor Chocolates, honoring the owners' family heritage by showcasing specialty Ecuadorian coffee.
Farm Burger, a southeastern US restaurant chain known for farm-to-table burgers and local hormone-free meat, is opening a location on Prince Avenue in Athens. The restaurant is slated to open in January of 2022, with its seasonal menus and local meat and produce. Farm Burger is working to redefine the burger by bringing together a community of ranchers, farmers, chefs, restaurateurs and eaters, creating a kinship around its healthful and humane values.
Since it opened in 2018, Slutty Vegan has been making waves in Atlanta, and now it’s coming to Baxter Street in Athens in 2022! The restaurant serves huge, overflowing, decadent plant-based burgers to thunderous reviews, and is an exciting addition to the Classic City’s vegetarian and vegan food scene. Founder Pinky Cole has long wanted to bring vegan options and food awareness to Atlanta's West End, and now that she's conquered Atlanta, she's bringing her delicious plant-based meals to Athens. A huge part of that goal for Cole was opening up a conversation about food for people who have little experience with vegan options, hoping to offer delicious foods that are nourishing and healthy.
ZZ & Simone's
Shae and Ryan Sims of Dinner Party in Five Points are expanding to add ZZ & Simone’s on Lumpkin Street in Athens. The whimsical name comes from a couple of names and nicknames in the Sims family. One of the shining features of the menu is a selection of from-scratch gelato, and the restaurant will also have a full bar including cocktails, fun wines and an extensive amaro/aperitivo/digestivo selection. They also serve pizza, pasta and a selection of meat and seafood. The restaurant opened just before Christmas of 2021, and it's open for reservations.
Cafe Racer Coffee + Donuts
Cafe Racer has been slinging donuts and biscuits in Oglethorpe since 2018, and now they’re coming to West Broad Street in Athens with Cafe Racer two! According to the restaurant’s Facebook page, the new spot should open in Spring/Summer 2022 with the same fresh espresso drinks, handmade donuts and stacked biscuits. You'd think Cafe Racer's signature sass, which can be found throughout its social media and menus, would be half the fun, that is until you try one of their donuts, like the salty bay (a caramel cream-filled donut with a crisp salt-and-sugar layer on top) or the puff daddie (a light and puffy potato donut full of vanilla bean cream and topped with a Counter Culture espresso glaze).
The cocktail manager at The National and the sous chef at Seabear Oyster Bar have come together to create an all-new intimate cocktail & wine-forward bar accompanied by a food program called Puma Yu’s in the historic Southern Mill building. Part of the team behind The Side Hustle popup project and creators of Pet Pet Spicy spice company, Ally and Pete are creating something all new and exciting for Athens to be a part of. One of the less flashy but more exciting things that Puma Yu's will be doing is paying every employee the same hourly rate and splitting the tip pool evenly among everyone on shift, changing the typical restaurant structure to foster a cohesive team from front to back, which is a top priority for Puma Yu’s. They're estimated to open in February 2022!
New shopping in Athens
REI, an outdoor recreation retail store with a rabid national following, will open its first Athens outpost fall of 2022, in the Athens Beechwood shopping center. Born from a love of the great outdoors, REI's mission is to awaken a lifelong love of the outdoors in everyone and to provide the clothing and equipment to make experiences in the wilderness fun, safe and possible. the company also hopes to help preserve the environment by fostering a love for the wild places of the world. It is expected to open up in the building opposite TJMaxx HomeGoods in the Beechwood shopping center, where Stein Mart used to be.
New entertainment in Athens
The Classic Center Arena
The Classic Center Arena is scheduled to break ground in January 2022, with a projected completion of date Fall 2023, and 50 events already booked for the venue. The arena will have the capacity to hold 7,500 people. The Classic Center has formally signed an agreement to bring a professional hockey team that will join the beloved UGA Ice Dawgs in calling The Classic Center Arena their home facility. With flexibility not seen in any other venue in Athens, the arena is expected to host larger concerts than any Athens location can currently house, plus conferences, trade shows and conventions. The Classic Center has paid special attention to accessibility as well, with ADA seating throughout the arena and a sensory room to provide a quiet, soothing place for guests with sensory processing difficulties.
Athena Studios, a new sound stage development that will be the first of its kind in Athens, Georgia, broke ground in late 2021. Upon completion, the 45-acre installment will have over 350,000 square feet of purpose-built space for film and television production. Since 2008, the state of Georgia has offered tax incentives for film and TV production, creating a production boom in the state that has led to the creation of Athena Studios. Athens, only an hour from Atlanta with charm to spare, is home to an array of unfilmed “picture-perfect” locations ideal for any scene.
New Arts & Exhibits
Porcelain Museum at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia
The newest part of the state’s official 313-acre garden, the Porcelain & Decorative Arts Museum at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia features eight different gallery spaces that blend conservation, botanicals, art, beauty and curiosity. Free, timed tours of the museum can be scheduled at BotGarden.UGA.edu. After a soft opening during COVID-19, the dedication of the museum and surrounding Center for Art and Nature will be in April 2022.
The Athens Mural Alley
The Athens Mural Alley is a public art project that fills the alleyway between Clayton Street and Washington St. in downtown Athens. Taylor Shaw's "Greetings from Athens" mural was completed in 2020. In the Fall of 2021, an additional 5' x 5' panels from other local artists debuted. The new panels depict the theme "Here & Now 2021" with inspiration drawing from "recovery, advocacy, activism, optimism and hope," showing the resiliency of the Athens community. The project is a collaboration among the Athens Area Arts Council, Athens Cultural Affairs Commission, Athens Downtown Development Authority and Lyndon House Arts Center.
The University of Georgia Lamar Dodd School of Art has announced the opening of The Athenaeum, a contemporary art space open in downtown Athens, at 287 West Broad Street. The 5000-square-foot venue has been remodeled to create a space for art exhibitions, workshops, lectures and classes, in addition to a Reading Room, featuring curated texts and audio-visual materials related to current exhibits. The Athenaeum will host one exhibition per semester as well as the annual MFA exhibition. Building on themes presented in the works on display, a series of public programs will link them to research and thinking happening across the University and within the Athens community.
Planning a Getaway to Athens
With so many new things to do and see (and eat!), it may well be time for a getaway to Athens! With plenty of places to stay, live music and so many new things to try, there's definitely something for everyone in the Classic City. For more Athens travel ideas and complete planning information, go to VisitAthensGA.com.