Dining

Aces in Athens

Interpol's Sam Fogarino's favorite spots to eat and drink in Athens, Georgia
Interpol
Photo: Courtesy of Interpol

Sam Fogarino attributes his culinary skills to his Sicilian roots. "I started cooking pretty young," the Interpol drummer says. "But I'm not a chef. I'm an Italian guy who learned how to cook from his mother and his grandmother." Moving out on his own prompted him to get better in the kitchen, out of necessity ("I was like, 'I'm not eating spaghetti sauce out of a jar!'"), and today Fogarino recalls fond memories of cooking for his bandmates while they recorded 2002's Turn on the Bright Lights in a mansion in Connecticut.

Though as a band, Interpol has become synonymous with New York, these days Fogarino makes his home in the Normaltown area of Athens, Georgia, a music city that bore R.E.M. and The B-52s and which he calls "a little blue island in a harsh, fierce sea of red." He still throws the occasional dinner, but there are enticing options for eating out in a town that claims two of Hugh Acheson's restaurants. "There's range," Fogarino says. "You can get a hot dog at a bar, and then go and have a very fancy dinner with Southern fare." Catch Interpol on tour this summer, and if you find yourself in Athens, check out Fogarino's favorite spots.

Breakfast: Ike & Jane 
"I'm going to pretend I'm hosting you, so at breakfast, we're probably hungover. So we're going to go to Ike & Jane. You can get a full-on breakfast if you want—eggs or a breakfast sandwich, but f*ck that—we're going to have some doughnuts. And they're gonna have, like, cereal or caramel and potato chips on them. Or they're going to be glazed with bacon on them. Or they're just plain old-fashioned cake doughnuts. They have both the basic, classic stuff, or the sugar-salt combination."

Lunch: White Tiger Gourmet 
"White Tiger is a burger joint that makes hand-formed patties, the best in town. You'd never know that it's any kind of eatery if you walked by, except for the logos of the credit cards they accept in the window. It used to be a corner store, and it has very high ceilings and mismatched tables and chairs, and there's some really bizarre artwork hanging on the walls. You can sit inside or on picnic tables outside in a big yard. And it's in the middle of a residential neighborhood—there's nothing else around. So it's truly this weird little dining experience. Let the grease run down your arm and enjoy it."

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Dinner: 5 & 10 
"For dinner, I'd suggest 5 & 10, which is a Hugh Acheson-owned establishment. This is his second location—he had a more modest spot, and he bought a big historic house and moved the restaurant into it. There's a big wraparound porch, and in the daytime, they have a little coffee section with a barista, so you can get a cortado and sit outside. Inside, it's all kind of muted colors, a lot of gray and black, and the bar is amazing. And Hugh does his thing in the kitchen, sprinkling a little sophistication over very classic Southern fare. The menu changes all the time, but there's a staple called the Frogmore Stew, which is like a Southern bouillabaisse, with chorizo, shrimp and fresh vegetables. It's very brothy."

Bar: Normal Bar 
"I like cocktail bars, but I'll just get a vodka martini. Instead, for drinks, we'll go to the Normal Bar in Normaltown, which is owned by the same gentleman who owns Automatic, one of my favorite pizza places. It's a straight-up bar, nothing fancy. It's darkish, and you can play darts by the picture window in the front. You can go out back, and in the winter, they light bonfires, so you can smoke out there and not freeze your ass off. And in the summertime, well, you're just gonna be hot."

Dessert: The National 
"For dessert, we'll go to Hugh Acheson's other restaurant, The National, which was my first favorite place in town. Hugh's a partner in it, but it's mostly run by the lovely Peter Dale, the head chef and a partner in the restaurant as well. Their food is incredible in its own right, but they always have the best pastries, too. And whether it's a creation of theirs or a take on a classic, it's nothing like you've ever had before. There was once a chocolate cake that I think they borrowed from a soul food restaurant in Harlem. It was the moistest thing you've ever had in your life, with a chocolate cream frosting sprinkled with salted smoked almonds. At one point they had to take it off the menu, because no other dessert was selling. I asked if I could buy a whole cake, but I don't know what happened with that."

Ike & Jane 1307 Prince Ave. Athens GA 30606 706-850-1580 White Tiger Gourmet 217 Hiawassee Ave. Athens GA 30601 706-353-6847 5 & 10 1073 S. Milledge Ave. Athens GA 30605 706-546-7300 Normal Bar 1365 Prince Ave. Athens GA 30606 706-548-6186 The National 232 W. Hancock Ave. Athens GA 30601 706-549-3450

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