The success of Frog Hollow Tavern and Farmhaus Burger have cemented Sean Wight’s reputation in Augusta, and especially downtown, as a great chef able to come up with inventive restaurant concepts. The third in his ever-expanding empire is just as inventive, although the restaurant and the bar have equal value.
“It’s more of a bar than a restaurant — a tapas-style bar,” Wight said of Craft & Vine, which opened nearly two weeks ago next door to Farmhaus Burger. “We definitely are encouraging the cocktail lifestyle. What I really wanted, and I think we got it down, was a nicer bar for people to go to for killer bar food.”
Making Craft & Vine the premier bar in downtown Augusta required a good bit of work, including hiring outside help.
“We brought in a consultant from Atlanta who is nationally known on the cocktail scene: he’s worked in New York and Atlanta and he helped us train and develop our cocktail staff,” Wight explained. “He was a really big help, a really knowledgeable guy. He was one of the forerunners on the scene when the craft cocktails came back in style and he was there in Atlanta the last four years when it kicked of there too.”
As a result, Craft & Vine has some of the best bartenders in the city, ones who have the proper cocktail techniques down pat. Wight is also proud of the fact that many of their ingredients, including the ginger beer featured in their Moscow Mule, are house-made.
The cocktail menu, like the food, will change with the seasons.
“Right now, we’re featuring classic cocktails,” he said of the menu that, now, features a Sidecar, French 75, Sazarac and three different takes on the Manhattan. “We’re doing a lot of the historic cocktails and some of them we have a modern take on. They’re classic Prohibition-era, Great Gatsby-era cocktails.”
Cocktails may be where Craft & Vine shines, but beer and wine are just as important to this new establishment. In fact, Wight said he invested in a sophisticated wine preservation system that allows him to offer 40 wines by the glass.
“We offer everything from affordable, unique varietals to some big Cabs that you would normally not be able to buy by the glass,” he said.
Just because the focus of Craft & Vine has been on the offerings customers can sip, however, doesn’t mean that the food isn’t just as important to Wight and his staff. The menu is relatively small, but the items are carefully chosen and divided into sections that include Bar Snacks, Charcuterie & Cheeses, Garden, Sea, Farm and Wood Fired Pizzas. And though the menu does include pork rinds and pretzels with beer cheese, it also includes kale, Brussels sprouts, sweetbreads, rabbit, beef tongue and duck confit.
“It’s a very diverse menu,” Wight said.
A unique feature of Craft & Vine is how late the kitchen stays open each night so, along with the late-night happy hour cocktail specials, patrons will still have the option of ordering snacks.
“What’s cool is the kitchen stays open until about an hour before we close every night,” he explained. “We stay open till midnight Wednesday and Thursday and then one o’clock Friday and Saturday nights, so you can come in and get a snack or a pizza or whatever you want until an hour before we close.”
Craft & Vine offers a bar almost the length of the space itself, as well as a spectacularly large community table. They also have smaller cocktail tables and booths. They don’t accept reservations but, if there’s a wait, are happy to take your number and text you when your turn is up.
And it’s definitely worth the wait.
“When you walk in and see the bar, see the amount of work that went into it with the wine system, and you watch the bartenders, it’s a show,” Wight said. “They’re putting on a show every time they make a drink. It’s pretty cool.”
Craft & Vine
1204B Broad Street, Augusta
Wednesday-Thursday, 5 p.m.-midnight; Friday-Saturday, 5 p.m.-1 a.m.