Union Street Diner: The Best Restaurant in Ohio University (Athens, OH)

It’s unfair how good Union Street Diner is. I almost feel bad for every other restaurant in the area that has to compete with them. If Thomas Rarden and Daniel Boone were still alive today you can just about guarantee they’d agree with me when I say that Union Street Diner (or Union for short) is one of the greatest 24-hour-diners east of the Mississippi.

A view of Union street. Up the hill and to the left is the diner.

Located in Athens, Ohio, this diner is so central to the student life experience of those attending Ohio University that credit cards and dollar bills are often foregone in favor of conducting business with biscuits, sausage links and strawberry milkshakes. It’s no wonder then that Athens is simultaneously ranked as the poorest county in Ohio but also has some of the best breakfast food ever put to plate.

The Food: If I could sum up the food at Union in one word, it would have to be “Ohhhhhhh”. GOAT would also be a good one-word-substitute. Fire works too.

If biscuits and gravy were considered legal persons I wouldn’t hesitate to marry this beauty.

The biscuits and gravy: creamy and salty. The hash browns: crisp but with a soft center. The eggs: fried to perfection. The sausage: ready to be doused in gravy and shoveled into an eager gullet. There’s nothing to complain about. I’ve been to many, many diners across the United States and even up into Canada and none of them are on the same level as Union Street Diner when it comes to their breakfast items.

When it comes to items on the menu that aren’t traditional breakfast foods, they don’t slouch either. The burgers are prepared as half-pound burgers rather than measly quarter-pound burgers. The veggie melt is an incredible vegetarian choice for all you vegetarian daddies. For the daddies who can’t eat any animal products at all, there are even some vegan options such as the black bean burger or garden (Rarden) burger.

Here’ a link to their full menu: http://unionstreetdiner.com/img/UnionStreetDinerMenu.pdf.

The Atmosphere: Ohio University is a beautiful campus accentuated by the natural beauty of the Appalachian foothills in which it resides.

Yes, this photo is taken from TripAdvisor. Yes, I forgot to take a photo of Union while I was there.

Union Street Diner sits on a hill close to the heart of the university and is immediately inviting to those that pass it. Union is not trying to win you over with its fashion. It’s trying to win you over with its heart. The place has warm lighting, comfortable booths and is kept clean. It’s a small location, having only two relatively small rooms available to sit in. This creates a sense of community among its patrons, even if they’re all total strangers. It’s not uncommon to strike up a little small talk with the people sitting next to you, particularly when those people are college students absolutely sloshed and eating breakfast food at 4:00 in the morning.

There’s a sweet melancholy whenever you leave the diner. On the one hand, you feel great having just eaten enough biscuits and gravy to satisfy a Kentucky Colonel. On the other hand, you’re left with a little feeling of emptiness in the pit of your stomach because you don’t know exactly when you’ll be back again.

The Service: This place has probably the best service ever. I’ve had the same waitress every time I’ve gone for the past year and, whoever you are, you’ve done a great job every time. The staff are all incredibly friendly, always ready to help and never seem like they’re just there to just clock-in and clock-out. The man working the register was so nice that he gave me about three cups worth of coffee to go, free of charge.

If you’re not drinking four cups of coffee in the middle of the night, you have no chance of being goat fire.

The food is always prepared swiftly and perfectly every single time. I’d be shocked if you had to wait more than 15-20 minutes to receive your food. They’ve never once messed up any aspect of my order and it’s honestly impressive how quality their service is given how inexpensive it is to eat there.

Overall: If you ever find yourself travelling through Southeastern Ohio, swept up in its Appalachian charm and craving some comfort food, make the trip to Union Street Diner. Likewise, if you ever find yourself closing one eye to stop the spins, stumbling through Ohio University on a Saturday night, try to find your way to Union. You won’t be disappointed.

Until Union finds it way back up through your throat in the morning.

Quit drinking so much.

FOOD: 10

COST: 10

ATMOSPHERE: 9

SERVICE: 10

OVERALL: GOAT FIRE FLAME

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