Using Newspapers and City Directories: A Sampling of Athens Restaurants

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Written by our friends at the Athens-Clarke County Heritage Room

As much as restaurants and chefs have attracted a great deal of attention in recent years, a couple decades ago the favorite restaurants of any given town, including Athens, Georgia, could easily pass through their entire development without a newspaper or magazine article devoted to them. Unlike with the music venues and artists discussed in this series, the researcher is left gleaning information from where it is available, instead of picking from many options. Appropriately, we return to city directories in this post, both to pinpoint postal addresses and to attempt to date the opening and closing of restaurants and other culinary establishments. (On a related note, is there a business currently operating in the Athens area which has an online presence not included in the Heritage Room’s Food Culture collection of archived websites? Let us know.)

To begin, a look at some advertisements you would find when scanning the microfilm or digital scans of old newspapers:

From the October 20, 1983, issue of the Athens Observer, a rare treat of an advertisement for Sparky’s, in that the items to which the coupons apply are described in varying detail. Sparky’s was located at the Athens Flea Market, in a building torn down to make way for the Classic Center. 

From the February 9, 1979, issue of the Red and Black, a Valentine’s-themed early advertisement for Cookies and Company. Note that its location is merely “downtown”; we will return to this conundrum in a moment.

From the April 4, 1979, Red and Black… the Taco Stand, celebrating its second anniversary, still only has one location. 

On the same page of that Red and Black, Tony’s Restaurant promotes its discounted chicken dinner. Though we know from personal anecdotes and photographs that Tony’s was located in the spot later occupied by Rocky’s Pizzeria (and currently Amici) that this ad does not provide an exact address. Another issue to be rectified later.

This ad from the September 27, 1979, Athens Observer provides a photograph as well as an address, helping those who did not get to experience the A & A Bakery to identify the storefront’s present-day occupant: the long-standing bar the Roadhouse.

In the January 19, 1978, Athens Observer, the El Dorado announces it will begin serving breakfast. As we have noted previously in this series, the El Dorado was found in the Morton Theatre building before the theater itself was renovated; several businesses rented space there. 

Traversing from downtown to Five Points, Steverino’s presents quite a visual in the September 13, 1979, issue of the Athens Observer.

And in this ad from the March 24, 1983, Athens Observer, the Lighthouse provides what an historian of restaurants and cuisine may find to be a wealth of information. Open the image in a new tab to see it in its larger, original size and decide what you would have ordered while listening to Prince–no, not that Prince. (This ad could take the researcher on all sorts of tangents, not only musically because of the artists listed, but geographically because of the location indicated: “Across from Hodgson’s Pharmacy.” Without knowing the multiple Hodgson’s locations over the years, we could easily get sidetracked.)

Before we delve into city directories, a full page from the January 29, 1976, Red and Black offers plenty tidbits of information, including an ad for Somebody’s, the pizza restaurant located at the Station, a old Southern Railroad station on Hoyt Street that had been repurposed for varied commercial operations. The owner of Somebody’s, John Mooney, was later convicted of a murder-for-hire of Theodore Harty, the owner T. K. Harty’s Saloon, also located at the Station. The two had been locked into a bitter rivalry that involved price wars, evictions, and arson. (What remains of the Station now houses the Athens Community Council on Aging.) On a lighter note, we can see what was playing at the downtown cinemas that weekend. And we get an add for the long-running Pizza Inn.

In a clipping from the December 1982 Southern Bell telephone book, we are taken on a few distinct paths. First, to Baxter Street, in the 1980s and early 1990s the home of many of the city’s most popular restaurants, including the aforementioned Pizza Inn, DaVinci’s, Manuel’s, Hunan, locations of a regional chain (Provino’s) and a national (Pizza Hut), and, as seen here, South China. Back downtown, an ad tells the historian that Bankers’ and the Olde Spaghetti Store were run by the same team and the Barn operated at the History Village Inn and Conference Center (what is today the Foundry).

On a single page of the December 1988 Southern Bell book, we get evidence of Sparky’s still going strong, a second Taco Stand, and Vince’s Peddler Steak House at 351 East Broad, the storefront later home to East West Bistro. And of course yet another Baxter Street establishment: T-Bones Texas Style Steak House.

Jumping ahead to the January 1993 Southern Bell phone book, I am surprised not to find a later addition to the Baxter Street restaurant scene, Chef Wolfgang’s European Cuisine. This restaurant replaced the Pizza Hut, becoming the first of several restaurants (more recently, the Sultan and Farm Cart) to occupy the building with the distinctive roof that dine-in Pizza Huts once featured. I decide to check some Polk directories. Polk is a leading name in the world of city directories, which offer more information, organized in a more systematic way, than the telephone books that were once common household items.

In the 1995 edition of Polk, Wolfgang’s is found at 1074 Baxter. But there is no business listed at that address in the 1994 edition. Another player in the city-directory scene, the Hill-Donnelly Cross Reference Directory, does a better job with its address-by-address street listings: in the February 1994 directory, the 1074 address is listed with no business name next to it, letting the reader know that the address had not been neglected. In the February 1995, Wolfgang’s has filled the blank space. Of course this does not establish a precise opening date for the establishment; it does provide enough information, however, to suggest that it opened in 1994 or possibly at the start of 1995.

Thankfully, Wolfgang Kluth made the walls of his establishment available to local artists. His restaurant thus made its way into the Flagpole art column in its March 16, 1994, issue. The notice does not exactly indicate that the restaurant was already open; it could be interpreted to mean that it would soon open. Either way, this clipping lets us know clearly that Wolfgang’s was in business at some point fairly early in 1994. Most likely, it had barely missed getting listed in the 1994 Hill-Donnelly and Polk directories; this lag between the time of publication of any printed resource and the information found within the resource always has to be taken into account by researchers.

Back to the 1988 Southern Bell directory… the same page bears a listing for the aforementioned Rocky’s Pizzeria, right before Ronnie B’s (still located on Harris Street, five years after we came across it in the second part of our article on the Last Resort and the 40 Watt “Uptown”). Now that we have this address, we can match it with that of Tony’s. 

We turn now to another directory company, Johnson Publishing, and its 1977 Athens, Georgia City Directory. It confirms that Tony’s was found at 233 East Clayton. For this example, we provide scans of each place Tony’s is listed in directory. Besides the regular alphabetical listings, the “yellow pages” (called by Johnson the Classified Business Directory), and the street listings (which we’ll discuss in a moment), many city directories have telephone listings. That is, telephone numbers listed in numerical order. In the Johnson 1977 directory, the Athens Telephone Locator section begins with 226-7782 and ends with 972-2917. In those days, all these numbers had the same area code: 404. 

In the images below, the alphabetical listing comes first, followed on the next line by the telephone listing, the street guide, then the “yellow page” (in this case, featuring ads for a few other local restaurants you may remember). Of course, the Telephone Locator section does not provide addresses, but at least one can match a number with the business, then look up the business in the other sections. Control-click (on Apples) or right-click (all other computers) on each image then click on, “Open image in new tab,” to see them at their original, larger size.

Recall that, above, the ad for Cookies and Company did not include a postal address. I know from personal experience that it was on the basement level of a building on College Avenue, and later moved two storefronts northward to the corner of College and Clayton. But my memories, and your memories, are only one side of a story. Having come across an ad for the Chocolate Shoppe, which I also remember was located at that precise corner spot that Cookies and Company later took over, I work backwards. 

I turn to the Street Guide portion of the April 2004 Polk directory to attain the Chocolate Shoppe’s address. Found in most city directories, these street listings, from a starting point (in this case: “E Clayton St (Athens)-From 201 College Ave East”), provide the business or persons residing at each address as one proceeds upward in the postal-address numbers. Again in this case, 101 (which happens to be the long-standing Horton’s pharmacy) to 110 (the Bank of America building) to 115 (Kum’s Fashions) and so on. Sure enough, as I remember it, the Chocolate Shoppe is found right after the heading “College Ave Intersects” at 216 East Clayton Street. 

The Polk street listing also tells me where to find the business in that directory’s “yellow pages,” as seen in the scan below. Establishments like the Chocolate Shoppe can be harder to find in directories. Are they listed under bakeries? gift shops? The researcher in this case would find it under gift shops, but not exactly. It is by itself in the category, Gift baskets & parcels, one alphabetical step above. Previous editions, and the other directories mentioned in this article, had actually placed the Chocolate Shoppe where you may more likely expect it: Candy and confectionery.

Now a more recent directory will confirm that Cookies and Company moved to 216 East Clayton. The April 2005 Polk finds the business still at the College address. But the April 2006 edition confirms that Cookies has now moved. (And we learn that it is found in the Bakers section of the classified listings.) We now have confirmed both the connection between Tony’s and Rocky’s, and the interlocking fate of Cookies and Company and the Chocolate Shoppe. 

To conclude, some bonus images for the Baxter Street restaurants noted above. First, from the January 26, 1978, Athens Observer:

From the September 13, 1979, Athens Observer:

And from the October 13, 1978, Red and Black, an article on the recently-opened DaVinci’s, relating the backstory of its Chicago deep-dish pizza, making note of the restaurant’s unique handmade tables, and providing black-and-white photographs that at least give a faint idea of what it was like visiting that popular spot.

Finally, in case you want proof that a Pizza Hut once resided at 1074 Baxter (if the roof isn’t proof enough), check out this ad from the July 8, 1970, Red and Black: