February 26, 1997

Athens offers plenty of cheap gastronomic diversions that satisfy not only tight student budgets, but demanding taste buds as well. The compact, pedestrian-friendly town makes it easy to sample gargantuan burritos at the popular Taco Stand, then stroll (or roll) to The Grill, a classic 24-hour diner famed for its velvety-rich milkshakes and Southern delicacies such as deep-fried okra.

The Grit is another hip eatery that lets you fill up without emptying your pockets. It offers tempting vegetarian fare that even the most devout carnivores come to crave. Athens' greatest culinary bargain may well be Hodgson's Pharmacy, which scoops out premium ice cream for just 25 cents a cone.

Weaver D's soul food has earned a reputation not only for its fried chicken and peach cobbler, but as the inspiration for the title of R.E.M.'s 1992 album "Automatic for the People." Restaurant owner Dexter Weaver assures customers that satisfaction from his savory fare is "automatic." At about five bucks for a solid, home-style meal, Weaver D's keeps 'em coming back for more.

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