When Farmhaus opened its doors on Flowing Wells Road in Columbia County a year ago, it was an instant hit.
Over the past year, the trendy, locally owned hamburger restaurant has worked hard to develop a loyal and deeply devoted fan base.
Clearly, attention to detail has been the key to Farmhaus’ success.
Whether it’s the careful selection of local, organic ingredients for its burgers, hot dogs, salads and sides or the restaurant’s excellent customer service even on its busiest days, Farmhaus has earned an outstanding reputation as one of the best places to grab a bite in Columbia County.
Just this past Saturday, Farmhaus celebrated its one-year anniversary.
Sean Wight, owner of Farmhaus, is extremely proud of his Columbia County location.
“This location is right on the cusp of Richmond and Columbia counties and I just think the location is really good being centrally located near I-20. It is a busy area,” Wight said. “I mean, you have Doctors Hospital out there with all of the medical offices and there are a bunch of neighborhoods down Flowing Wells Road. I just see a lot of future growth in it.”
Wight, who also owns Craft & Vine and Frog Hollow Tavern in downtown Augusta, said he had always received a lot of requests over the years to open a second Farmhaus in Columbia County.
One of the main reasons for Wight’s success in both Columbia County and downtown Augusta is the fact that he has put a great deal of time and thought into developing the menu, the concept and the entire look of Farmhaus.
Prior to opening the first Farmhaus in downtown Augusta in 2012, Wight spent four months carefully choosing small, family farms for the restaurant’s local beef and organic ingredients.
Wight took the restaurant’s slogan, “Beef Up Your Local Economy,” seriously in order to help support this region and provide his patrons with a quality product.
“I’ll be the first to admit, there is really nothing healthy about a burger,” Wight said, laughing. “But our burgers are about as healthy as you can get. We use quality local angus beef, our chicken is hormone and antibiotic free and all of our hotdogs are 100 percent beef with no antibiotics, hormones or preservatives. Our buns are from H&F Bread Company in Atlanta, so everything is locally sourced in the Southeast.”
The food is also always fresh and made to order, Wight said.
And Farmhaus doesn’t just offer a “typical” burger.
The restaurant’s menu features dry-aged double patty beef burgers with a variety of toppings. Choices on the menu include burgers such as “The Haus” burger with smoked gouda cheese, grilled onions and whole grain mustard or the “Farmstyle” with a sunny side up local farm egg, heirloom smoked bacon, smoked gouda cheese and Duke’s mayo.
“We make everything in-house,” he said. “All of our sauces, our french fries are twice fried and cut in house, our sweet potato tater tots are house-made and even our milkshakes are all organic.”
Those milkshakes have become a very popular item on Farmhaus’ menu, Wight said.
“The milkshakes are incredible and the boozy milkshakes have been a huge hit,” Wright said, explaining that Farmhaus offers an adult version of the regular milkshakes using liquor.
As a result of Wight’s attention to detail and quality food, fans of Farmhaus keep coming back for more.
“The demand for a locally sourced burger place was obviously there and we were very well received,” Wight said. “Farmhaus has been successful because we keep our quality up better than chain restaurants. People know when they come into Farmhaus that it is going to be clean, the ingredients will be fresh and the food is going to be really good.”
Decades ago, Columbia County residents mostly got to choose between fast food chains such as The Waffle House, McDonald’s or Burger King to grab a quick bite.
If residents wanted a nice meal, they used to have to drive to Augusta.
But that has definitely changed over the past several years.
As Columbia County continues to grow, so has its wide range of food choices and, fortunately, many of the new restaurants are locally owned.
After the success of its original location on Washington Road in Evans, these two local guys decided they would “twist” things up on Jimmie Dyess Parkway as well.
Needless to say, Twisted Burrito doesn’t offer your average burrito.
These are handcrafted burritos made with fresh ingredients and the owners aren’t afraid to mix things up.
For example, The Jackie Chan is filled with smoked chicken, Asian slaw, crispy wontons, chow mein noodles and a sweet sesame Asian dressing.
Then there is The Raging Bull, filled with blackened steak, sweet Georgia fries, bleu cheese, crispy onion straws, black beans, fire roasted corn salsa, roasted garlic aioli and twisted cheese in sauce in a flour tortilla.
To make things even more unique, all burritos are served with a side of sweet Georgia fries.
One of the co-owners explained that Twisted Burrito’s seasoning, which is dusted on the battered fries, includes not one, but two kinds of sugar, as well as spices like chili powder.
“We wanted to do something a little different,” he said.
But Twisted 2 isn’t the only new local restaurant in Columbia County.
Far from it.
Diablo’s Southwest Grill owners Carl Wallace and brothers Brandon and Brad Wall are all from the Augusta area and wanted to bring a unique fast-casual, southwestern style restaurant to their hometown.
These “three amigos” have a passion for freshness and flavor and great customer service.
Diablo’s now offers eight locations, including its new Grovetown restaurant on Gateway Boulevard that opened about three months ago.
“Grovetown is just really growing and, so far, it has been a great location for us,” Brandon Wall said. “Right now, we have eight locations and our most recent location that opened is in North Augusta. It has been open for about a month and a half. So we are just really excited about Diablo’s future.”
And if you are looking for fresh ingredients, Diablo’s is the place to be.
It offers everything from ghost pepper cheese to spicy sour cream and fresh jalapenos.
“We only have fresh ingredients. There are no freezers in-house and we get two or three deliveries a week of fresh ingredients,” Wall said. “We are constantly rotating our product in and out, so that we are delivering the freshest product possible to all of our customers in the Augusta area. We absolutely do not believe in all of those preservatives and chemicals that some restaurants use to make products last longer. It’s not our style.”
For instance, Diablo’s fresh guacamole is made in-house.
“We take ripe avocados and we deseed them and we hand-mash those avocados for guacamole that day,” Wall said. “We don’t use a pre-made pulp product that a lot of other people might use.”
In fact, Wall said the Diablo’s owners really had to work hard to keep their product fresh.
“It was actually really hard for us early on because these food reps kept pushing all these prepackaged, precooked items that were not authentic to our process and were not part of our game plan,” Wall said. “But we knew fresh ingredients was the key to our food and we weren’t going to compromise.”
Now with eight locations, Wall said some patrons don’t realize that Diablo’s is locally owned.
“I think people don’t realize that we are locally run and operated,” Wall said, chuckling. “But we are all three born and raised right here in the Augusta area and we are very proud of that fact.”
Over the past few decades, Columbia County has really grown up.
Back in 2005, Pizza Joint owner Mike Schepis was one of the first downtown restaurant owners to open a new location in neighboring Columbia County.
Schepis chose the former Fat Man’s West store located at 4301 Washington Road in Evans to recreate Pizza Joint’s casual and eclectic atmosphere.
The downtown Augusta restaurant, which originally opened in 1996, quickly became popular for its pizzas, strombolis, calzones and sandwiches cooked on a traditional brick oven.
As a result of Pizza Joint’s success, Schepis opened two more locations in Aiken and Columbia, S.C.
The same year that Pizza Joint branched out into Columbia County, so did another long-time local favorite: Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar.
First opened back in 1983, Rhinehart’s rapidly became known throughout the Garden City for its “beyond casual” atmosphere that resembles more of a beach shack on Washington Road than a seafood restaurant in Augusta.
But by 2005, owners Amy and Craig Bailey brought their famous raw oysters on the half shell, spicy boiled shrimp, Alaskan snow crab legs and jambalaya to its second location at 305 North Belair Road.
As more and more residents began moving into Columbia County, other restaurants began to take notice.
Kevin Goldsmith, owner of Takosushi, opened a new location in Columbia County at 1202 Town Park Lane next to the Marshall Family YMCA in 2008.
Takosushi began in Surrey Center more than 10 years ago featuring Goldsmith’s unique blend of southwestern and contemporary Asian dishes.
The restaurant also has popular locations in Columbia, Greenville and Aiken, S.C.
That same year, in 2008, Mellow Mushroom local franchise owner Shawn Ledford opened up his second restaurant at 4348 Washington Road following the booming success of his Broad Street location.
In 1974, Mellow Mushroom was created by three college students in Atlanta interested in starting a restaurant featuring “classic southern pizza.” These days, the franchise exists in 18 states with more than 140 stores.
“We are a franchise, but we are not your cookie-cutter franchise,” Ledford told the Metro Spirit. “We still have personality and take on the local community.”
While both of his Mellow Mushroom restaurants in downtown Augusta and Evans have similar menus, they definitely have different decor styles honoring both communities.
One aspect that the two restaurants have in common is Ledford has been able to duplicate his success at both locations. In fact, Ledford opened his third Mellow Mushroom in Aiken just a few years ago.
“I know my business has grown every single year since we opened in 2003,” Ledford said. “So that’s saying a lot.”
Photo credit: Joe White