Steakhouses have been popular gathering places for hearty carnivores since the mid-19th century, and nowadays comprise a healthy percentage of our local dining options. For a meat lover, the possible relationship is a long-term love affair with the right steakhouse; one that is hospitable and friendly without being overbearing or intrusive. One where the service is friendly and responsive, the atmosphere just this side of intimate and the steak is cooked exactly how you want it.
TBonz has become exactly this for many Augustans.
The TBonz concept was born in Athens to a couple of friends who wanted to open a restaurant just so they could cook some good food, and take care of their friends and families. They were successful and over time the restaurant locations grew — eventually, founders Jerry Scheer and Mark Cumins created TBonz-Liberty Restaurant Group to cover the Carolinas and Georgia.
Continuing the same culture established by his brother, Henry Scheer oversees the development of Augusta’s original TBonz on Washington Road, and maintains the TBonz way of life. From the brand image to the internal operations, Scheer is available to guide and instruct TBonz team members on how to foster, care for and grow the TBonz tradition.
“The TBonz philosophy includes helping people out,” Scheer explains. “The steakhouse’s mission is reflected in its people, our values, traditions, iconography and more. From the very beginning, their goal — besides making money — has been to give back to the community.”
The four guys that keep TBonz in Augusta and Evans going — Scheer, Tom Jastrom, Chris Wilson and Tyler Wiley — function as the core management team. They know it’s the TBonz culture that makes it thrive, just as it has done since their inception 30 years ago.
The interior is like a familiar jacket that you love for its smell and comfort. Dark, wooden, pop culture décor throughout, and cozy dining areas provide the best setting for devouring a cow. Everyone appears to be totally devoted to the tasks at hand — from cleaning to prepping, the prospect of a long day of serving others doesn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits. By the time I left, the staff had the place ready to open and were standing in the kitchen, waiting to eat breakfast together.
“We all eat together before our shift starts,” Wilson explained. “It brings everyone together and it’s taking care of our people — we don’t want anyone to be hungry while they are serving others.”
Togetherness, tradition, community, teamwork — all are recurring themes in the stories behind TBonz, past and present. Even the management team were Augusta born and raised, and two of the managers grew up together.
Evans TBonz is the newest of the CSRA locations. Managed by Tyler Wiley, the new location offers everything its parent does, but is certainly more convenient for the Columbia County crowd.
As a 15-year-old in high school, Wiley was first hired to work as a busboy at the Augusta location during Master’s week in 1998. From there, he moved on to other positions within the restaurant, including server and cook. Although Wiley left TBonz to try his hand at other styles of cooking, he later returned to learn to manage and eventually moved into the position of GM at the Evans location.
“I’m still learning every day, though; I don’t know everything,” Wiley admits. “And every day presents a challenge, but it’s a good thing — we thrive on that.”
Chris Wilson was a childhood friend of Tyler — the two lived in the same neighborhood as kids — and joined the TBonz team in 2000. Also experienced in a range of roles, Wilson worked his way through as cook, kitchen manager, bar manager and front of house manager. Sixteen years on, and Wilson is now the GM of the Augusta TBonz, which is especially fitting since it was a regular family tradition for him before it became his career.
“For my family, we always came here to eat on Sundays. It was in high school that I looked at it as a possible job,” explains Wilson. “I got here a year or two after Tyler did — he got me my job here — and the manager at the time told me I probably wasn’t going to be there a week.”
“That’s been my motivation since then. This has been my baby for a long time,” Wilson said. And, he says, the experience has helped him out during one of the most crucial weeks of the year — Masters.
“Sixteen years of Masters weeks. It’s kinda all in here,” Wilson says, pointing to his head, “but everyone pulls together, absolutely. I love working here — I love the people.”
Tom Jastrom insists the GMs are still underselling themselves. According to Jastrom, the two managers are at the core of operations in every possible way. “They are the backbone of our restaurants. They make sure we provide great food, great customer service, sure. But, they also show compassion, which is part of who we are. They understand the business, and on top of that, they’re great guys.”
“Could we do Master’s week on Washington Road without Chris?” Jastrom asks as he turns to Scheer. “I don’t think so.”
“We probably could, but I wouldn’t want to,” Scheer replied.
A neighborhood steakhouse, TBonz is definitely focused on serving its customers the right food, the right way. The steaks are simply and perfectly seasoned, cooked to order and delivered straight to the customer without making them wait forever in a day. The servers know how to smile, when to appear and when to leave you alone to devour your food like the monster you are.
The menu contains a plethora of steak dishes, all of which are cooked using Certified Angus Beef — the best in the industry — and the quality shows. It really is possible to effortlessly cut through the steak with a fork — made all the more notable by the fact TBonz has been voted “Best Steak in Augusta” for 29 years in a row.
Other popular menu items include the Tommy Cheese Fries — a truly guilty pleasure concocted by an employee — ribs, chicken, salads, sandwiches and sides. Prices range from a few bucks on up, and entrees sit at around $10 a plate for lunch, and a bit more for dinner.
Diners who have a sweet tooth can enjoy some fantastic dessert dishes, too, such as Delightful Bites, a yellow cake bar that features a pecan crust with cream, brown sugar, and vanilla, and served with vanilla bean ice cream. Sweet, Southern and amazing.
Above all, though, diners should go home feeling like they are making a difference to the lives of those in the community. Because they are.
By supporting TBonz, the CSRA is making it possible for others to have a better quality of life. That’s because every Thanksgiving Day, the restaurant staff feed hundreds of children in need for free, and donates what it can to Golden Harvest and other food banks. The kids also get to select books for free — a gift from the restaurant that Scheer says is loved by the children.
Being involved in making the community a better place is at the core of everything the restaurant does. It’s a value that is instilled within every team member, to include management.
“We love what we do, and I can’t even tell you how it feels to feed those children each year,” Wilson said. “Everyone goes all in and throws themselves into making that day all about those kids. You won’t find a more dedicated, caring team and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”