One of the things that I love about living in Columbus is that we’re just a short drive to fresh country air and gorgeous views. While I certainly enjoy city life, my soul needs some breathing room every once in a while. That’s why I was thrilled to have the chance to travel to Athens, OH with my hubby for a quick weekend getaway.
This was the first time we’d left our little guy overnight for a weekend, so it came with a fair bit of anxiety. Luckily, Little P was an angel, and we kept ourselves so busy with Athens’ bustling food scene and breathtaking landscapes that I didn’t have time to worry. We enjoyed our stay so much, I had to share some of our favorite spots for any of you local folks who might be looking for a beautiful and relaxing couple’s getaway spot.
Nestled in the Hocking Hills, Athens is a quaint college town surrounded by tree lined hills and thriving farms. They pride themselves on being at the front end of the local food movement, so much so that many restaurants participate in the 30 Mile Meal initiative which seeks to source all of their ingredients from within a 30 mile radius.
Nearly every restaurant we ate at had something like this in the menu, detailing exactly where their ingredients came from. This one was from our first stop at Restaurant Salaam, a quirky Mediterranean/Middle Eastern restaurant with a laid back, fun, and funky vibe.
We started our meal with the Mediterranean version of a cheese stick- flaky phyllo dough wrapped around melted feta cheese–and a side of baba ganoush with their homemade bread. I am still dreaming about those cheese sticks!
We both ordered lamb for our main courses, but my hubby definitely won with his pick of the lamb chops. You can get a look at those beauties over on Instagram.
On Saturday morning, we strolled over to the Athen’s Farmer’s Market which is a sight to behold. At least 50 vendors line the parking lot, selling everything from homemade bread, peppers, and locally made cheese, to fresh crepes and baked goods.
Everyone was so friendly, and we stopped to chat with several of the vendors along the way. It was such a pleasant way to pass a morning. We loved our cold brew coffee from Dirty Girl and an English Tea Bun from Molina Family Farms. We also enjoyed some killer tacos, a ginger cookie, a gluten free Everything Focaccia Bread, and some Sea Salt Fudge we brought home for later. Needless to say, we didn’t need breakfast after a stop at the market!
After taking a little break to work off those tacos, we headed to Jackie O’s for lunch. Jackie O’s is a brewery and restaurant, which (surprise, surprise!) is committed to sourcing their ingredients locally. I love their Razz Wheat Beer, which thankfully is available at many Columbus establishments as well, but the highlight of our meal here was definitely the Beer Battered Fish and Chips. It may be the best fish and chips I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve been to London, Cape Cod, Charleston, but it turns out the best fish and chips were in Athens all along. Who would’ve guessed?
After our delicious meal, we headed out to Jackie O’s farm, so we could get a first hand look at where all that yummy food comes from. This was such a special treat. We were blessed with gorgeous weather, complete with a scrumptious blue sky and puffy white clouds. They provide the perfect backdrop for the farm, which sits snuggly in the hills of Athens.
I have so much respect for local farmers, and hearing the story of this farm only added to that respect. Working the earth is certainly not an easy job, but it was obvious Jackie O’s farmers took great pride in their work. They had a passion for learning new methods and several plans for expanding and improving their land. It was truly amazing to see how much food they are able to produce on a fairly small amount of land. It’s clear the farmers care deeply about the land, the food they produce, and the community they serve.
Jackie O also grows hops to use for their beers. It was so neat to see them vining up to telephone wire. We were told hops can grow up to two feet a week!
After our farm tour we were ready to head back to the hotel to freshen up and grab a little nap. This was vacation, after all! After a little refresher, we headed back into downtown Athens for dinner at Casa Nueva. This place came recommended by at least 6 different people. They’re an employee owned restaurant serving up fresh Mexican food with lots of homemade salsas. We both loved our meals–me, the enchiladas, and the Mr., tacos, but honestly, the highlight of the meal was the chips and salsa sampler. The seasonal Verde Tradicional and the House Medium were both so good, we bought a jar of each to take home with us.
On Sunday, we slept in. It was pure bliss! We lazied our way over to The Village Bakery and Cafe for breakfast. I drooled at all of the pastries before settling for my tried and true: waffles and eggs, served with a side of locally produced chicken sausage.
Before taking off, we spent some time strolling around downtown Athens. It’s such a charming town, with plenty of natural green space and historic buildings. I’m sure it’s a lot more crowded during the school year, but the streets were pleasantly sparse on a Sunday morning. Our last stop was at Donkey Coffee for one of the best iced chais I’ve ever had. This place, like so many others in the area, is committed to social justice and the arts. They serve only Fair Trade Coffee, and it’s darn good! I loved the coziness of this place. I could definitely spend an entire afternoon there sipping on drinks and playing board games!
After that, we headed home with full bellies and plenty of treats to enjoy back in Columbus. We enjoyed our time in Athens so much and are already planning to go back with Patrick again!
If you’d like to find out more about Athens, OH, please visit the Athens, OH Tourism Board website!