University of Georgia Students Wouldn’t Let This Soul Food Spot Die
It's the favorite of both Athens, Georgia and celebrities.
Our series on America's favorite college haunts spotlights the best diners, delis and bars at institutions of higher education all over the country.
The phrase “Automatic for the people,” might not make any sense; unless, that is, you are a University of Georgia student. It’s the slogan for the campus’ most beloved spot, a tiny, lime-green soul food shack called Weaver D’s. The restaurant is best known for its stick-to-your-ribs comfort fare, like squash casserole, fried corn, and collard greens (the menu hasn’t changed in years). But perhaps even more famous than the food are some Weaver-D’s regulars, the B-52s and R.E.M., whose members all happen to be Athens-born. R.E.M. even named one of its albums (yeah, that one that makes lists of the best albums of all time) for the restaurant’s iconic slogan, in homage to the band’s favorite spot to eat. And when Al Gore campaigned at UGA in 1992, he pledged that he and running mate Bill Clinton’s administration would be “automatic for the people.”
The restaurant was opened in 1986 by Dexter Weaver, an Athens native who started out running a catering business out of his mother’s kitchen. His fresh soul food and loveable personality brought in legions of hungry students, making Weaver-D’s a must-stop for the UGA community. The place caught the eye of the James Beard Foundation, and in 2009, the prestigious culinary organization named it as one of America’s Classics—a designation bestowed on the best of the best in categories many don’t associate with the Foundation like diners, delis and barbecue joints. JBF praised Weaver for serving “quality food that reflects the character of [the] community.”
But in 2012, Weaver announced that the restaurant would be closing due to insufficient funds, prompting a campus-wide outcry. One entrepreneurial student took it upon himself to organize “Automatic Saturdays,” a weekly event at Weaver-D’s where, for eight bucks, you could get a platter of meat, two sides, and cornbread — in order to build support for the restaurant. The fundraiser raised an overwhelming amount of money, and the restaurant narrowly avoided closure. But like many long-run establishments, Weaver-D’s is still fighting to keep up with the rising cost of living, especially as many other, more contemporary spots open up in Athens. For Weaver-D’s most loyal student fans, though, the place remains the only spot for genuine soul food in Athens. And after fighting its way back the food and sweet tea at Weaver-D’s is, once again, automatic.