When Mimi Maumus located her food business, home.made, at 1072 Baxter St. in 2011, she said the rent was affordable because Baxter Street was a “bad location.” The first review of her restaurant referred to Baxter Street as the “boulevard of broken dreams.”
Now, eight years later, established businesses such as Sunshine Cycles and Dick Ferguson’s men’s store are locating more and more on Baxter Street, which “legitimizes the rest of us,” Maumus said.
Maumus is one of a trio of local restaurateurs that have been leaders in the revamping of the street, offering more dining options to local residents and students emphasizing made-from-scratch items using fresh, quality ingredients.
Remembering the early years of home.made, Maumus said she first focused on catering for weekend events. Eventually, home.made started serving a weekday lunch. After a florist formerly adjacent to the restaurant closed three years ago, home.made expanded and began offering dinner. Currently, the restaurant offers a full-service lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday.
Maumus said the majority of the food served at home.made is made from scratch or locally sourced.
“Since I started in the restaurant business, there are so many more farms now,” she said.
Maumus supports local farms who pay their workers fairly.
The restaurant focuses on seasonal foods, so the menu changes almost daily. Some dinner items include seared salmon and Springer Mountain chicken. The restaurant’s “Supper Club” specials offer two-course meals for $15, such as fried okra with gluten-free meatloaf.
Cart to table
Next to home.made at 1074 Baxter St. is The Farm Cart, owned by Iwalani Farfour and her husband Michael, who began taking a food truck to the Athens Farmers Market in 2015. The success of the truck inspired the couple to establish the restaurant, which opened April 30.
The couple chose the Baxter Street location because it has ample parking and a patio.
“It’s close enough to downtown, but not downtown prices, as far as rent,” Farfour said.
The opportunity to be near home.made was also a factor in choosing the current location because Farfour considers The Farm Cart to be a complimentary business with a similar clientele.
Farfour said The Farm Cart serves a “biscuit built with intention,” with layers of quality ingredients. She grows some of the ingredients at Full Moon Farm, an organic vegetable farm, which she has run for the last six years.
The breakfast menu includes The Staple — a buttermilk biscuit with bacon, fried egg, cheese and strawberry jam, $10.50. And The Carolina Boy — the same biscuit with pulled pork, Carolina mustard sauce, fried egg and apple dill slaw, $9.00. Breakfast is served all day, and a lunch menu — featuring sandwiches, burgers and salads — is available after 11 a.m. Tuesday-Friday.
When possible, The Farm Cart serves local vegetables and meats.
“We try to make sure that our products are sourced from companies that we understand where they are sourcing from,” Farfour said.
She and her husband also manage Collective Harvest, a group of local farmers who work together to market their produce. Collective Harvest has individual and business clients, including restaurants such as 5&10, Big City Bread and Donna Chang’s.
‘Forgotten little corridor’
Just down the street at 1075 Baxter St., Mama Jewel’s Kitchen has served breakfast and lunch since 2015. When owner Kelly Padgitt first chose the location, the feel seemed dismal.
“A couple [restaurants] closed down and those buildings sat empty and it seemed Baxter was sort of this forgotten little corridor,” Padgitt said.
Padgitt said there are now great restaurants on Baxter, and thinks customers appreciate not having to fight campus traffic to reach them. Although Mama Jewel’s Kitchen is open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday-Sunday, she said Saturday and Sunday are the most popular with students.
Everything at Mama Jewel’s Kitchen is made from scratch using ingredients that are fresh and free of preservatives. Padgitt said the restaurant’s sales have increased each year, and she relies on “word of mouth” to bring in new customers. She also has her parents’ help in co-owning the restaurant.
Her biscuit sandwich, the Ooey Gooey, $8.99, was listed as one of the 100 dishes Georgia locals love on exploregeorgia.org, the state’s official tourism website. Another customer favorite is the Nut-N-Honey, a fried chicken breast topped with pecans and honey, $8.99.
“It’s definitely a family business,” Padgitt said. “It’s named after family. You’ll find my kids here some weekends working.”
More businesses opening
In addition to these homegrown restaurants, Baxter Street is drawing other new spots and locations of chains. D92 Korean BBQ opened in February and is a new location of a metro-Atlanta based operation. New Orleans-themed Pelican’s SnoBalls opened at 510 Baxter St. this spring. And, Athens is still awaiting the opening of Paws Up Cafe, a cat-themed cafe at 686 Baxter St.
“I think the more restaurants we can put on Baxter, the more family-friendly businesses we can put here, the better off we all are,” Padgitt said.