In Athens, Georgia, famous vegetarian restaurant The Grit closes after 30 years

The Grit, Athens, Georgia's famous vegetarian restaurant, has closed after 30 years. Lea Shearer, writing for the Flagpoleexplains:

The Prince Avenue restaurant announced the imminent closing Sept. 22 in a social media post addressed to its customers, noting accurately that The Grit has been "the cornerstone for vegan/vegetarian food in Athens" for more than 30 years. "Unfortunately things have changed due to the pandemic and we've had to reevaluate our business goals. So, it is with heavy hearts but with a hopeful eye on the future that we announce that we are closing our doors at the end of the evening service on Friday, October 7th, 2022," read the post in part.

Shearer also provides some history of the beloved restaurant:

In 1990, the restaurant moved to Prince Avenue, run off from the station by frat boy violence emanating from a bar that was also a station tenant, said former part-owner Jenna Schuh. Schuh bought into the business in 1988 after the founders decided to move on, leaving it in the hands of first Brenda Mills, who subsequently sold her half to Schuh, and Jessica Greene, the sole owner since 1995, when Schuh fell in love, got married and moved away (but is now back in Athens). R.E.M. frontman and Grit patron Michael Stipe agreed to rent them a building he owned on Prince Avenue at that time, when "we decided to make it a full-scale restaurant," Schuh said.

And here's a glimpse at some of the reasons it was so well-loved:

The Grit's fame rests first on its excellent, often simple but also often ground-breaking edibles, like its Grit Staple—pinto beans, onions and cheese served over brown rice, seasoned and topped with sauteed vegetables—and Schuh's invention, the Golden Bowl. The dish won an award from Vegetarian Times when someone there tasted the revolutionary recipe combining tofu, soy sauce, vegetable oil and nutritional yeast with other ingredients, topped with yeast gravy or cheese and sauteed vegetables. Those two remain among the most popular dishes, along with others, such as the delectable black bean chili and a case always full of cakes and pies, all baked in-house, said Grit server Riley Obert.

When I lived in Athens in the late 1990s, I lived right down the street from The Grit, and could walk there easily. I've had countless meals there, and I'm sad I'll never get to eat another Grit-made Golden Bowl—a yummy dish of rice and veggies, topped with the most amazing nutritional yeast-encrusted tofu and yeast gravy—which was my favorite dish on the menu. I was also lucky enough to have been gifted a Grit cookbook (which are currently sold out, but hopefully more will be printed soon) when I departed Athens, and I used it for years. I recently gave it to a young friend who was experimenting with vegetarian and vegan cooking, and was trying to figure out how to make tofu taste delicious. I said to her, please, take this cookbook—it teaches all the secrets to making the best crispy, flavorful tofu. And she did, and she's reported since that she's perfected the art of delicious tofu. I'm happy I got to share a little piece of The Grit with her!

Read the rest of Shearer's article here, and read more about The Grit and its tumultuous final days in this article by Nava Rawls, in The University of Georgia's student newspaper, The Red and Black.