Smack dab in the middle of Downtown Athens, Georgia -- at the corner of Washington and Hull -- you’ll stumble across a bar/restaurant/music venue epicenter. This burgeoning area is known as Hot Corner. Rich in history, the aptly-named Hot Corner once served as a backdrop and hub for the city’s African-American commerce and culture. Today the Corner’s legacy lives on as ground zero for kibitzing, band-watching and bar-hopping. That’s where you’ll find Athens’ own The World Famous. This kitschy watering hole opened up in 2013 and is now a stomping ground for locals and tourists to watch live music. It’s also a fave place for Cindy Wilson, an Athens’ native and one of the founding members of the universe’s favorite party band, The B-52s.
“I like this place a lot. I love the atmosphere,” said Wilson while sitting with her squad at TWF bar. “It’s not too young or too old. It’s retained a lot of history.”
Wilson knows a thing or two about what the city of Athens brings to the table. She grew up here and has seen the evolution from sleepy college town to New Wave Mecca and beyond. In fact, Hot Corner holds such a fond place in The B’s hearts, they even penned an eponymous song for their 2008 album, “Funplex”.
In addition to the hand-crafted cocktails and frenetic “food-cart” style menu (read that: no utensils needed), The World Famous is also famed for the wild myriad of entertainers who perform there. VisitAthensGa.com said it best when they described the venue as “an intimate listening room that allows an up-close, personal and cozy experience for both the performer and the audience”.
Wilson agrees. Her solo band have held court on TWF stage several times – and each performance was magically delicious. “We were about to do our SXSW run and held a surprise show here,” said Wilson. “It was so exciting – a kick-off to our first tour.” Wilson released her first solo album “Change” in mid-2017 to critical fanfare.
The well-received, esoteric, groove-lounge music was a big departure from The B-52’s harmonious riffs. The motley crew at The World Famous were thrilled when Wilson and her band turned up and turned it out before they hit the road. "Cindy Wilson is rock-n-roll royalty. In our wildest dreams we never expected to get an opportunity to work with her in any capacity. Then that luck kicked in,” said David Eduardo, Den Mother at The World Famous. “Obviously, The B-52s are amazing, but Cindy's new solo stuff is definitely worth exploring."
For the last five years, The World Famous has worked hard to build up street cred in an area rife with similar-esque offerings. Fortunately, impromptu concerts and rockin’ bands unleashing unexpected sets have brought in plenty of patrons off the street. Luck, nostalgia and ravenous tourists have also helped along the way. “When Wilson’s Soul Food decided to close its doors after thirty years of serving delicious foods in the Hot Corner -- the obvious option was to attempt to carry a similar torch,” said Morgan O’Kelley, Bar Manager. “The late-night food component sets us apart from many downtown options. We boast creative mason jar cocktails with fresh squeezed juices. And our tiny space -- capacity 88 -- draws a diverse crowd that, at times, can feel familial.”
From apps to entrees, the food at The World Famous has certainly become their calling card … one-part bistro, one-part Southern-fried bar food, one-part inspired finger food.
“I’ve tried everything on the menu,” said Cindy’s drummer Lemuel Hayes. “The Chicken and Waffle Club has evolved from its first incarnation. I have to not let myself order it every time,” Diner Liesl Dano chimed in: “Look at this menu! It’s comfort food to the Nth degree – in a dive bar.” (Vegetarians take note – there are plenty of nosh options for you non-carnivores.)
How did The World Famous stumble across its moniker? Well, of course, there’s a story. "There's a restaurant on Tybee Island called The Breakfast Club,” said Eduardo. “Before a gust of wind unhinged it from the building and sent it crashing onto (the) street, there was a great old sign out front that said ‘The World Famous Breakfast Club’. We thought ‘The World Famous’ was a great name, with or without the Breakfast Club."
As it turns out, The World Famous is getting more famous by the day thanks to the sheer randomness of entertainers who appear on stage … everyone from comedian Hannibal Buress doing a DJ set to Margaret Cho to various hip-hop performer collaborations on the first Tuesday of every month. Even the Arctic Monkeys have gotten in on the gig … albeit not to perform, but to watch the Seattle defeat Denver in 2014’s SuperBowl.
Ready to immerse yourself in all things Hot Corner? Well, better get those tickets booked! “We’re looking forward to the Hot Corner Festival the second weekend in June,” said O’Kelley. “We’ll be a host venue of the official after party. The block will be filled with food trucks, live entertainment, fellowship and family fun.”
And who knows? You may spy Cindy Wilson in all her hometown glory. She’s been known to make an appearance or two. She even celebrated her birthday there, according to Dano. “It’s easy to have a good time here,” said Wilson. “I love the vibe … the party atmosphere.”
And if there’s one person who knows how to bring a party to a crowd … it’s Cindy Wilson. She’s world famous for it.
Other local Fave Places:
Located just a hop, skip and shimmy from Hot Corner, this eclectic bar offers up plenty of nosh and nibbles – including small plate offerings and an extensive selection of cheeses. PS. You haven’t lived until you’ve had their Pimento Cheese appetizer. PPS. You’re welcome in advance. Lots of long tables scattered throughout the restaurant means the potential for communal dining. Get to know your neighbor! It’s the South after all! Plenty of vegetarian and vegan options too.
Jittery Joes Coffee
We’re not sure who Joe is … nor do we care. What we do know is that Joe’s roasts their coffee beans daily and have ample locations in Athens’ metro to keep you properly caffeinated at all times. Pair up their java with a Fruity Pebble donut from nearby Zombie Donut and you have just found the quintessential hangover cure. Rise and grind, people!