Taste – Summer 2022
By Griffin Nelson | Photos By Evermore Photo Co.
Coffee and a fresh donut — its the most American way to start the day. Filling that need was the original concept behind Cafe Racer when Chris Hart opened up the double drive through in nearby Crawford, Ga. in 2018. He’d moved there from Athens several years before and dreamed of the possibilities for commuters on their way into the city from the more rural surrounding area.
At the time he was working for Nathan Mende, a local business owner, helping him better streamline his website. When the job was done he challenged Hart, asking what he wanted to do next. Hart shared his dream and Mende gave him the foothold he needed to make it come true by purchasing the building that Cafe Racer fans have come to know and love, becoming a silent partner in the process.
Though Hart has been able to grow the business through incredibly hard work and persistence, allowing him to buy out Mende, he says, “Nathan believed in me and invested in me,” Mende is undoubtedly an important part of the cafe’s origin story.
Coming alongside Hart is his wife, Gabbie Hart, who works side-by-side with him as a business and life partner. “This is something I could not have done without her,” Hart admits. They married just months after the opening of Cafe Racer and have lived and breathed their motto of “making good stuff fast” ever since.
The emphasis on “fast” is important for the convenience factor and because it means that it’s fresh. The dough takes a little less than 24 hours to make, meaning they have to start making the next day’s dough as soon as they close up shop the preceding day.
The incredible number of hours invested in each Maine-style potato donut includes roasting whole russets, peeling, chopping, and ricing them, incorporating them into the dough, and then letting it rest overnight, followed by rolling and cutting each donut by hand, frying it to golden perfection and glazing with their classic espresso glaze or any number of weekly revolving flavors.
The team and employees have built Cafe Racer on a cult following but are soon expanding to a new and bigger location in the heart of Athens. They’re also throwing a decked out food truck into the mix to better serve their community and handle higher volume catering orders for special events. With six-times the efficiency and the capabilities to make 90 dozen donuts every hour they can avoid the dreaded ‘sold out’ sign. “Once the new spot is open and the catering truck is here, there really won’t be any limits on the catering that we can do,” Cafe Racer’s catering manager says.
Between the truck and the new location, it will be a synch to grab a cup of Counter Culture coffee and a hot donut without having to make the drive out to Crawford. The hope is to be up and running at the new location by the fall, so follow @caferacerhwy78 on Instagram for important announcements. And, if the need for fresh coffee and donuts can’t wait that long, the short trip to the drive-through in Crawford is undoubtedly worth the time.
Wine can often be an intimidating beverage. There are beautiful subtleties to flavor that can be difficult to interpret without a bit of guidance or direction. Not to mention, prices range from a handful of dollars to hundreds and thousands or more per bottle.
Krista Slater saw an unfulfilled need and wanted to make wine more accessible to beginners without alienating the experts. Slater and her husband Jerry, who also own the Expat, “wanted to create a space that was social retail,” a place to relax and shop at the same time, while also providing the opportunity to learn more about wine as a whole, so they opened The Lark Winespace.
Whether it’s through a tasting or asking questions, Slater, a certified sommelier, is here to help. “Wine is art,” she points out. “You can learn so much about a community from its wine.”
The broad selection in the shop speaks to the beautiful diversity of Athens and the neighborhood surrounding the Bottleworks location. You can find a little bit of everything from red to white, bubbly and rosé, including a rotating selection of eight wines behind the counter meant to encourage customers to try something new. There is no tasting format for a “choose your own adventure” approach, giving the opportunity to try a flight or a single glass.
For a constant source of variety join the wine club! Rolling out by the end of winter, the wine club will feature a selection of wines that could be a anything from anywhere. Sign up for either a monthly four-pack of wine or a quarterly six-pack. “The reason to join this club is to try new things,” Slater points out. If you prefer to grab a bottle and drink your wine in the beautiful Wine Space itself, grab a snack of sustainably sourced tinned seafood and Georgia-made sourdough crackers to pair. The shop carries a small but mighty selection of snacks and cocktail accoutrements to round out the diverse space.
So stop by, and don’t be afraid to ask questions and try something new at The Lark; Slater and her staff are excited to help you find a wine that you will love!
If you haven’t tried the hop water or sodas at New Creation Soda Works, now is the time! They’re serving up smash burgers every Saturday this Summer from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. along with their soda on tap and specialty drinks like mocktails, ice cream floats and more. It’s the perfect opportunity to check out their new space within the beautifully renovated Thaxton’s Turkey Hatchery in Bishop and pick up a six-pack of hop water or margarita mix while you’re there.