“You get to see it every day,” says George Claussen, one of the owners of Southbound Smokehouse, as he gestures towards the Savannah River. The view from their newest location at SRP Park in North Augusta overlooks stunning views of the Savannah River. “I was by the river everyday in Augusta but never really saw it because of the levee.”
What is exciting about Southbound’s newest location is the energy and vibrancy of the area, as well as their “next level” surroundings. The restaurant is literally attached to the SRP Park, with expansive, sweeping views of the ballpark and river and new development and walking distance to the growing Riverside Village development.
The original Southbound Smokehouse charm, located on Central Avenue in Augusta, is infused in their newest location. “Downstairs is like you stepped into Southbound 2.0. You still have that wood feel, the pictures of the concerts and the posters and stuff. And you see that [here] and you get a great view of the big Rec Tecs, the river, and the patio beer garden,” Claussen describes.
“Then you jump into this elevator and you come upstairs and it’s like this is some modern new bar feel that’s up here that it’s completely different. When they were doing it I thought it was going to be plain, there’s too much glass. You couldn’t give it the character that I thought. Just the ittle bitty stuff we did do in here went a long way.”
The rectangular room is glass walls on three sides, an enormous horseshoe-shaped bar juts out into most of the space. It’s modern, rustic style boast two completely different vibes depending on the time of day. In the daylight, the gorgeous river and the surrounding development is on full display. It is difficult not to focus one’s attention to the surrounding vista. At night it is completely different, the windows blacken, bringing the focus inward to the bar and the guests.
Just off the elevator, on the second floor, and privately distanced from the upstairs bar is a serving porch overlooking the river. This is the spot with, “lots of seating to chill, eat some food, drink some beer,” says Claussen. With the river views, brightly colored outdoor rugs, and comfortable lounge seating, there is an unmistakable coastal hotel rooftop vibe. “Half of my family is originally from Charleston, on grandmother’s side” says Claussen in reference to the unmistakable Charleston feel upstairs. “And I know we are nothing like Charleston, but, at the same time, it really made me realize something.”
The food, well, the food is the real star. Voted Metro’s Best BBQ each year since opening by readers of the Metro Spirit, the kitchen is a testament to the focus on obtaining the perfect balance of smoke and the natural flavors of the top quality meat. Almost all the beef, chicken and pork they serve, in fact, spends quality time in their massive smoker in the kitchen before making their way to tables in the form of appetizers, nachos, quesadillas, tacos, burritos, sliders and platters. Their beloved barbecue sauces are named after music they love.
The bar beverages are tasty, cold, and simple. “We have canned beer, almost like it’s out of a cooler, and we want it to feel like you’re at a cookout,” Brittingham said. “Nothing too crazy, nothing too fancy or crafty.”
Oh, and don’t worry about parking. Claussen explains, “We’ve had valet service off the rip. They are contracted in and they just park everybody’s car. They just park everybody for a tip. We pay them.”
Opening a new venue can be intimidating, especially when the build out takes a little longer than anticipated. Owners once anxious prior to opening, are now receiving some very promising feedback from their neighbors. “A lot of them came up and talked to us in the first couple of days we were open. A lot of it was ‘Thank god y’all are here. We’ll be here everyday. We’ve been waiting for you to open.’ You finally get reassured, especially by people in the neighborhood that they’re gonna be here all the time,’ says Claussen.
Although the newer Southbound feels a bit more upscale, it’s sentiment is unchanged. “It’s an easy atmosphere,” says co-owner Brian Brittingham. “People are coming in here with shorts and flip flops and whatever. We’re a place for everybody and, if you’re jogging down the greenway and want to sit out on the patio and grab a beer and some water afterwards, that’s great. Anyone is welcome.”
Adds Claussen, “This new location has its own little infrastructure and I think the same thing with Southbound One. The original location has matured into its own place with its own vibe. We were thinking that opening weekend was going to pull business away from Central, but we ran out of pork at Southbound One and that hasn’t happened in over a year. For it to be that slammed over there and here, we’re just like, ‘finally, we’ve been waiting for this’.”