The spies have been given a mission: Check out the very best that Augusta has to offer, according to the readers of the Metro Spirit.
While their antics are almost as funny as the CIA’s, these spies are dead serious when it comes to determining why our readers selected these restaurants and bars as the best places to spend their dime and their time.
Over the next few weeks, the spies will also explore and introduce Augusta to all of the Metro’s Best winners, but this issue will focus on our F&B categories.
Congratulations to all of the Metro’s Best 2018 winners!
It didn’t take long for our secret spies to crack the code and pinpoint exactly why these restaurants and bars are the bomb!
Best Restaurant (Overall)
Whiskey Bar (Kitchen)
First observation: There’s always a smiling crowd outside of Whiskey Bar. It’s proof that everything inside is absolutely worth the wait. And the staff at Whiskey Bar are so friendly and efficient, the wait is never long. Whiskey Bar offers an incredibly relaxed atmosphere and a menu with everything from craft burgers to Japanese cuisine like the Tokyo beef bowl. The full bar also showcases more than 200 hard-to-find whiskeys from around the world. If Augustans are looking for an incredible meal in a true downtown destination, mission accomplished with Whiskey Bar.
Best Bar (Overall)
The Indian Queen
One of the first intriguing aspects of this bar that the spies immediately noticed is it doesn’t really have a sign out front. There is no need for a sign. Anybody who’s anybody in Augusta already knows about The Indian Queen. It’s the perfect place to hang out near the Hill. Offering signature cocktails and sudsy brews, The Indian Queen has become the neighborhood, go-to drinking hole. Whether you’re from this neck of the woods or involved in espionage around the world, The Indian Queen is an asset for any agent.
Best Wine List
Best Craft Cocktails
Craft & Vine
The spies immediately felt as if they had been transported to a much larger metropolitan city like London or Budapest when they walked into Craft & Vine in downtown Augusta because this Prohibition-era themed bar has made a real art out of crafting the perfect cocktail. The bartenders are highly knowledgeable and understand exactly how to turn classic cocktails into modern drinks with quality spirits and mixers that are freshly squeezed and homemade. Craft & Vine also easily has the best wine selection on Broad Street. Cheers!
Best Beer Selection
Best Draft Beer Selection
World of Beer
The spies headed out with the mission to try every beer available this week at World of Beer. Needless to say, with 50 rotating craft beers on tap and about 500 beers in the cooler from — you guessed it — all over the world, the spies weren’t up to the task. But they enjoyed trying. Whether you are looking for Belzebuth, a Belgian pale ale from France, or Belhaven Black Scottish Stout from Scotland, WOB has a diverse menu that will make any spy happy.
When searching for the best burger and lunch in the Augusta area, it didn’t take the spies long to find their destination: Farmhaus Burger. One spy visited the trendy Broad Street location and couldn’t help but guzzle down a rich, boozy shake made with organic ice cream. The other spy explored the Columbia County location on Flowing Wells Road and quickly scarfed down the “Farmstyle” burger with a sunny side up local farm egg, heirloom smoked bacon and smoked gouda cheese. Their final report: Excellent.
Best Date Night
Frog Hollow Tavern
The spies had already read the extensive reports and positive reviews from all across the country about this locally owned restaurant. Their verdict: Frog Hollow is one of the very best restaurants in the entire South. Known for its regionally grown ingredients, meticulous service and exceptionally prepared dishes, Frog Hollow’s owner and chef Sean Wight has changed the way all of Augusta views downtown dining. Frog Hollow is absolutely date night at its very best, not only in Augusta, but around the country.
Best Happy Hour
The spies have chosen their next secret hideout. This laid-back bar has such a great atmosphere with its rocking chairs out front, hardwood floors and live music (which frequently features some of the best local and regional Americana and bluegrass acts around), the spies know it is a perfect place in downtown Augusta to simply chill. Featuring more than 20 beers and ciders on tap with incredible happy hour prices, Stillwater is music to any spies’ ears after a long, hard day.
Best Restaurant to Chill on Sunday Night
Best Nightly Live Music
Wild Wing Café
Sure, the spies knew Wild Wing Café has some of the best wings in town — bone-in and boneless — but let’s face it, when it comes to live music and a great place to relax on a Sunday night, this restaurant surpasses all of the rest. Whether you are simply craving that tender chicken and sticky marinated, saucy goodness or you are looking for an awesome place to watch the game, listen to some local music or just hang with family and friends, Wild Wing is your final destination.
Best New Restaurant
Ever since the Metro Diner on Washington Road opened its doors last year, folks have been lining out the door waiting to devour the restaurant’s dishes such as fried chicken and waffles, eggs Benedict, huevos rancheros, chicken pot pie and the Charleston shrimp and grits. But the spies are the first to say, the food is worth the wait. Metro Diner offers big portions and serves comfort food with flair. All the spies can say is, “Yum!”
If you love pizza, you can’t help but worship Mellow Mushroom. This restaurant’s specialty pies are literally mind-blowing. Pizzas like the Funky Q. Chicken featuring barbecue chicken, mozzarella, cheddar and caramelized onions is to die for (just ask the spies), but the Holy Shiitake Pie with mushrooms, caramelized onions, a ton of cheese, garlic aioli and black truffle oil brought tears to the spies’ eyes. These funky restaurants have three area locations in downtown Augusta, Evans and Aiken, and they each have their own wonderful character.
More than two decades ago, when Nacho Mama’s opened its doors on Broad Street in downtown Augusta, the restaurant immediately began to feed the city’s future. Known for serving up gigantic burritos and wonderfully strong, top-shelf margaritas in a friendly atmosphere, Nacho Mama’s has been providing guests exactly what they’ve been craving for the past two decades. And any place whose slogan is “We roll ‘em fat,” will always be a clear favorite with our spies.
The spies were blown away to hear that other local restaurant owners and chefs openly acknowledge that Abel Brown is one of the best restaurants in town. Owner and chef Todd Schafer is obviously doing something right. This Southern kitchen and oyster bar nestled in Surrey Center has been serving a daily rotating selection of East Coast oysters since 2014, and locals simply can’t get enough. Whether guests are looking for Hammer Island oysters from Massachusetts or Indian Point oysters from Prince Edward Island, Abel Brown delivers.
The Bee’s Knees
When The Bee’s Knees first opened its doors in downtown Augusta back in 2002, it didn’t take long for the restaurant to become known for its eclectic menu of fresh and culturally diverse tapas. The spies are hooked. Whether you’re a hardcore vegan or would just rather not include any meat in your meal, The Bee’s Knees offers incredible dishes such as the coconut curry panang featuring tofu covered in a spicy Thai coconut curry sauce or how about the tempura tacos with tempeh soy-cake and Sriracha aioli? Yes, please.
Since 1986, TBonz has been treating locals to enormous steaks that are hand cut in-house. While this steakhouse may have been born in Athens, its two Augusta area locations are beloved dining destinations. Both the Augusta and Evans locations consider themselves neighborhood steakhouses, with fun atmospheres and food that is always good. The spies recommend that visitors order Tommy’s Texas Cheese Fries to go with their steak.
Laziza Mediterranean Grill
Located in Evans, this cheerful café offers authentic Mediterranean cuisine including chicken shawarma, Greek salads, falafel platters and hummus. But the spies found it is the place to go for a gyro. The gyros at Laziza (which means “delicious” in Arabic) are wrapped in a thin pita that is lightly toasted. The gyro wraps are stuffed with a seasoned blend of beef and lamb, garlic sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, onion and tzatziki sauce that is out of this world.
When Southbound Smokehouse owners George Claussen and Brian Brittingham opened this Central Avenue restaurant a few years ago, they wanted to create a casual barbecue joint that was community driven. Well, the community has decided it is the best stop for tender pulled pork topped with Southbound’s homemade sauces that are actually named after the songs of the bands the owners love. The spies rocked the Red Hot Mama (Widespread Panic) sauce and No Diablo (Umphrey’s McGee) red sauce with their pulled pork and a side of sweet potato fries.
Best Southern Food
Founded in 1965, WifeSaver has become an Augusta tradition serving up some of the best fried chicken, Southern side dishes and sweet tea for more than 50 years.
WifeSaver also offers bite-size shrimp, fried fish fillets, steak sandwiches and pork chops. After a full meal, if you still have room for dessert, WifeSaver’s menu includes Southern classics like pecan pie, hot apple turnover, red velvet cake and chocolate cream pie. But, of course, the spies couldn’t leave without trying the ‘nana puddin’!
The Boll Weevil
The Boll Weevil is known for making cakes — really, really big and beautiful cakes often served with giant swirls of whipped cream that guests dream about at night. In fact, the spies refused to leave Augusta without tasting Boll Weevil’s famous multi-layered cake, the 7th Heaven Cake. It has two layers of dark chocolate cake, creamy buttercream icing and a layer of white chocolate cheese cake topped with chocolate ganache. The spies agreed this cake is absolutely to die for.
Best Outdoor Dining
While the spies quickly discovered that the sushi specials and craft cocktails at Solé are fantastic, what really made this downtown restaurant the place to go is its spacious patio that frequently offers live music, a pool table and fun tailgating games alongside a fire pit, tables and other outdoor seating. It’s just a wonderful place to spend time with friends and family and soak up the downtown atmosphere.
With two locations in Martinez and North Augusta, Sunrise Grill is the place to get your breakfast fix in the Augusta area. Locals keep going back for their unique menu offering dishes such as sweet potato pancakes served with cinnamon cream syrup and the Patty O’Sullivan omelet with grilled corned beef hash. The spies agree that Sunrise Grill serves the best breakfast that’s absolutely worth waking up for.
Finch & Fifth
This laid-back neighborhood hangout in Surrey Center is adored by locals for offering an array of artisanal cheeses and charcuterie platters, as well as incredibly hearty Southern dishes for brunch such as chicken and waffles and biscuits and gravy. It’s the best of both worlds. But the spies insist Augustans can’t leave without trying one of Finch & Fifth’s inventive craft cocktail such as the “Rosemary Grapefruit Paloma,” which mixes Crop Meyer lemon vodka, fresh ginger, lemon, honey and club soda until it sings.
Best Coffee Shop
Metro Coffeehouse & Pub
Since opening its doors in 1999, Metro Coffeehouse serves as both a trendy downtown spot for coffee, but also a great place to hang out, listen to some live music and have a few drinks at its full bar. Over the past year, Metro has done extensive renovations and has become a charming coffeehouse that isn’t simply a place to stop by for a strong cup of joe. The spies found it to be a great place to hang out after they enjoyed dinner at the owners’ restaurant next door, Whiskey Bar (Kitchen).
Savannah River Brewery Company
Opened in early 2017, Savannah River Brewing Company was founded by two brothers who started a craft brewery in Augusta because they fell in love with the city’s rich history and friendly atmosphere. Today, Savannah River Brewing Company is a 30-barrel craft brewery located at 813 Fifth St., which houses a state-of-the-art brewhouse, an expansive taproom, patio and beer garden.
Best Place to Dance
The Country Club Dance Hall & Saloon
Sadly, The Country Club Dance Hall & Saloon has officially closed its doors. The Country Club, which first opened on St. Patrick’s Day back in 2006 on Washington Road, was originally known for bringing mainly national country singers to the area, but in recent years offered a variety of live music including a whole lineup of national artists such as Bret Michaels, Lil Jon, Nelly and Snoop Dogg. It will be missed.
This locally owned restaurant, which first began on Broad Street back in 1996, now boasts locations in downtown Augusta, Evans, Aiken and Columbia, S.C. While the Pizza Joint is known as a fun, relaxed place to enjoy a hot slice of pizza and a cold beer, it also offers the best trivia in town. The spies headed to the Evans location with a group of their friends for trivia on Wednesday night. Not only did they blow the bar away with their vast international knowledge, but they thoroughly enjoyed Miller Lite Night. A win-win situation.
Tucked away off Washington Road on Shartom Drive in west Augusta, Shannon’s is an old-school, neighborhood bar and Augusta institution that offers inexpensive drinks and hearty food like the restaurant’s gargantuan hamburger. But the spies quickly learned that the word on the street was that Shannon’s is also home to the best karaoke in town. “The DJ has quality equipment and knows how to use it,” one longtime patron said. The spies can confirm, if you want to “get down tonight,” head over to Shannon’s for some kickin’ karaoke.
Best Place to Buy Wine
Toast Wine & Beverage
Toast Wine & Beverage, located off Fury’s Ferry Road next to Publix, is a true beverage shopping experience. Toast offers row upon row of wine bottles from all around the world, but the friendly staff is more than happy to help guide customers in the right direction. There is even a climate-controlled room in the back of the wine department for bottles perfect to top off any special occasion. Our spies couldn’t help but take home a California cabernet called Ravage. Let’s just say, they fought over the last glass.
Good Earth Produce & Garden Center
Located off Davis Road, Good Earth is more than a store. It’s basically an indoor farmer’s market and greenhouse offering fresh produce, unique local products and seasonal plants all year long. Good Earth owner Rick Catts grew up with the farmers who now fill his stands. He works directly with these local farmers to provide the highest quality products, and it makes all the difference in the world. What did the spies fall in love with? The cantaloupe. Each bite was as sweet as sugar.
Metro’s Best 2018 is sponsored by Windsor Jewelers