As residents of any good southern town, we love visitors. Even more, we love letting guests in on the secrets of our town.
So if you’ve just arrived and are on the lookout for some great places to eat, drink and relax, look no further. From coffee to cocktails, breakfast to late-night noshing, this list has everything you need.
Chef Todd Schafer upset everyone in Augusta, and Masters guests from around the world, when he shuttered Bistro 491, an institution when it came to fine dining in Augusta. Lightning usually doesn’t strike twice in the same place, but it has for Schafer. His Abel Brown, a take on modern southern cuisine and oyster bars, is a revelation from start to finish. Getting a table here during the week will be iffy, but if you can squeeze in at the bar, do it. Whatever else you decide on (and it’s all good), be sure to try the broiled oysters with roasted jalapeno lime butter.
Call 706-738-6491 or visit abelbrownaugusta.com
If you’re longing to get away from the crowds at all the usual Masters Week hot spots, give Bar West a try. This low-key lounge focuses on specialty drinks like their Spicy Dirty Martini with a Bloody Mary kick. They have a fantastic drink menus, great happy hour specials (2 for 1 house wines and well drinks) and plenty of comfortable seating indoors and out.
Call 706-736-0021 or visit barwestaugusta.com
Locals and visitors alike have loved the Bee’s Knees ever since it opened almost 14 years ago, and there’s plenty of reasons why. Their small plates menu has given guests favorites like the Avocado Chop Chop and the Buffalo Tempeh, and their large plate meals are still shareable, although we’ve yet to encounter someone willing to give up a bite of their coconut curry panang. Whether sitting at an outside table enjoying their famous sangria one evening or indulging in weekend brunch or Happy Sunday drink specials, you’ll want to visit downtown’s original upscale eatery.
Call 706-828-3600 or visit beeskneestapas.com
Big Daddy’s specializes in barbecue, but they offer a little bit of everything. Salads, chicken wings, burgers, steaks and seafood — they’re all present and accounted for at Big Daddy’s. We’ll stick with the Triple Combo BBQ Platter: a half-rack of ribs with pulled pork and chicken and served with hash and rice and a side. And even if we don’t finish it we’ll be sure to save room for some homemade peach cobbler.
Call 706-869-2388 or visit bigdaddysaugusta.com
Columbia County’s Bird Dog Grille offers two things: great food and live music. Neither disappoints. The outside patio is the place to be on Friday and Saturday nights for live music and Bird Dog offers trivia on Thursdays. As for the food? Well, their fried pickles are legendary in this area, and you can’t go wrong with the Peri Peri Chicken Bowl, one of their many sandwiches or a salad.
Call 706-814-5007 or visit birddoggrille.com
Freshly roasted in-house, coffee is the prime attraction at this cheerful and welcoming café on Central. But Buona also offers fabulous teas, pastries, sweet treats, sandwiches and even its own Happily Caffeinated swag. Go for the delicious pimiento cheese and bacon panini, and a cup or two of the best coffee in town.
Call 706-869-4074 or visit buonacaffe.com
Self-described “white tablecloth restaurant with a casual atmosphere,” Cadwallader’s is the epitome of a grand night out, replete with stellar service and a wine selection that will meet the needs of any oenophile. The restaurant takes pride in serving fresh, local ingredients and inspired dishes that go beyond typical Augusta fare, including veal, pheasant and bison strip loin steak. Call ahead for reservations.
Call 706-860-7444 or visit cadwalladerscafe.com
Calvert’s is the epitome of fine dining in Augusta, and an institution where many of the city’s chefs have gotten their start. Open 38 years, most locals keep Calvert’s sacred by only visiting on special occasions. This quietly elegant spot will liven up considerably this week with an influx of visitors eager to once again taste the traditional continental cuisine Calvert’s offers. Pray they can fit you in if you haven’t already made reservations.
Call 706-738-4514 or visit calvertsrestaurant.com
Chef Sean Wight added Craft & Vine to his Frog Hollow Hospitality Group two years ago, unsure if Augusta was ready for a Prohibition-era themed cocktail bar that served upscale food. Turns out, the city and its visitors have embraced the knowledgeable bartenders and impressive menu. Could it be because it’s one of the few places downtown where you can indulge in a little late-night noshing with your drinks? It probably has something to do with it.
Call 706-496-8442 or visit craftandvine.com
You’ll have to use your GPS to get to North Augusta’s De Novo, but once you find Chef Jeremy Collins’ pretty little restaurant you’ll want to return again and again and again. Collins’ take on modern southern cuisine using local and seasonal ingredients is available at lunch and dinner as well as Sunday brunch. Everything here is lovingly presented and tastes fantastic. Try the slow-cooked pork shoulder and don’t forget dessert!
Call 803-426-1077 or visit eatatdenovo.com
Newly open near the Augusta Common downtown, Dr. Unk’s is the perfect place to pregame before all the events at the Common this week. Open six days a week from 4 p.m. until, this is a great place to party because they specialize in $3 Fireball, Jaeger and Cuervo shots every day, and serve Fat Tuesday frozen daiquiris. Yum!
Call 706-426-7071 or visit facebook.com/drunks.divebar/
The motto at Edgar’s Grille is “come hungry, leave fulfilled” and diners will do just that. Not only is the new American cuisine they offer delicious and served in an upscale and serene atmosphere, a portion of the restaurant’s proceeds support Goodwill and Helms College. In fact, the restaurant is named after Edgar Helms, founder of Goodwill.
Call 706-854-4700 or visit edgarsgrille.com
The New Orleans vibe that Bryan Mitchell cultivated at his former restaurant, the Cotton Patch, is alive and well at Eli’s American Grille, his new dining spot in Columbia County. It may be new, but the shrimp and pimento cheese grits is already a menu favorite, as is the deep-fried southern pecan pie with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. If you can resist those two, try a burger. The Dixie Burger, with fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese and buffalo cream sauce, is especially good.
Call 706-524-7152 or visit elisamerican.com
Farmhaus is a counter-service burger and milkshake spot, but it’s so much more than that. Since opening in 2012, there’s almost always a (quickly moving) line and Chef Sean Wight is set to open a Columbia County outpost of the restaurant in May. The Haus Burgers, especially the Farmstyle with bacon and a sunny side up egg, are enormously popular, but we suggest you build your own. Better yet, check the special board for the burger of the month. And don’t forget a boozy shake or craft cocktail to complete your meal. (Photo by Lauren Carnes Photography: laurencarnesphotography.com)
Call 706-496-8771 or visit farmhausburger.com
Fat Man’s has been in the Usry family since the 1940s and has been a lunch tradition for Augustans pretty much ever since. Miss Pearl is still serving up her famous real meals, but sandwiches, soups, salads and specials, or “speshuls” as they call them, are also available. And how about this as a bonus: you can eat out by the canal or take a stroll afterwards.
Call 706-733-1740 or visit fatmans.com
Finch & Fifth aims to serve creative dishes and craft cocktails in a laid-back environment, and they’ve earned a reputation as a neighborhood hangout on the strength of both their food and drinks. Serving lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, this Surrey Center spot is known for its charcuterie and cheese plates, boiled peanut hummus and its Brussels sprouts slaw. Try anything you order with a Gin Jitszu (their take on a gin and tonic) and you can’t go wrong.
Call 706-364-5300 or visit finchandfifth.com
Whether or not you live in Augusta, everybody knows French Market Grille. Right in the center (well, almost) of the Masters Week action, this is the place to see and be seen. Don’t forget to eat while you’re schmoozing. The food here is too good to miss. The barbecue shrimp is a super spicy favorite and they make a mean Bloody Mary.
Call 706-737-4865 or visit thefrenchmarketgrille.com
Chef Sean Wight began his downtown takeover with Frog Hollow Tavern, a fine-dining restaurant that’s sure to be packed this Masters Week. The upscale spot relies on local products as much as they can, changes its menu almost daily and barrel ages cocktails to give its guests and experience they won’t soon forget. (Photo by Lauren Carnes Photography: laurencarnesphotography.com)
Call 706-364-6906 or visit froghollowtavern.com
Don’t go to Helga’s expecting fancy or upscale. Do go to Helga’s if you want to drink some great beer, meet some interesting people and test your wits in a game of trivia. And don’t forget to eat, although with the menu items written on construction paper and taped to the walls behind the bar, we don’t think you’ll be able to.
Call 706-736-2880 or visit helgaspubandgrill.com
The food is great at Hive, that’s a given. But what Eric and Kristi Kinlaw have done for craft beer in Augusta is other-worldly. They strive to bring beers you just can’t find without traveling. Regional and limited-release offerings dominate their extensive menu, so you’ll always surprised when you stop in. Our current favorite is the Orpheus Transmigration of Souls double IPA. It’s big beer to say the least, at 10 percent ABV, but it’s also eminently drinkable with layers of hops and tropical citrus notes.
Call 706-836-3661 or visit hivegrowlerbar.com
Since opening in a former gun store at the corner of Monte Sano and Wrightsboro roads, The Indian Queen has become the place to hang out on the Hill. Specializing in classic cocktails featuring house-made syrups and juices, this is a great place to have a nice drink and settle in for a conversation with a friend or two.
Call 706-303-8723 or visit theindianqueen.com
Laziza is a popular hot spot for lunch or dinner. Located in Evans, the bright and cheerful café offers authentic Mediterranean and middle-eastern fare including baklava, baba gannoush, tabbouleh salad and stuffed grape leaves. The food is made fresh and the service is fast and friendly — this staff pick has to be the succulent chicken shawarma.
Call 706-504-4303 or visit lazizagrill.com
You can’t go wrong with the pizza, pretzels, salads and even the hummus at this laid-back, hippie-inspired restaurant with three area locations. All three are owned by restaurateur Shawn Ledford, but each has its own personality. They all share an impressive beer collection and a welcoming atmosphere, however.
Call 706-828-5578 (Augusta), 706-364-6756 (Evans) or 803-474-8454 (Aiken), or visit mellowmushroom.com
This is a restaurant that is near and dear to many a local’s heart. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Nacho Mama’s serves up gigantic burritos and strong (really strong) margaritas in a friendly atmosphere with an eclectic, downtown vibe. Order at the counter and the staff will yell out your name when your food is ready. Or just sit at the bar and relax. One other tip: Get anything that has the mango habanero salsa on it (and ask for extra) and go ahead and splurge for the top-shelf margarita. Both are worth it.
Call 706-724-0501 or visit nachomamasaugusta.com
Inspired by Italian cuisine, Oliviana’s menu runs the gamut of traditional fare; fresh seafood, pasta and pizza cooked to order. The restaurant offers light and airy spaces and yields a relaxing atmosphere — it’s a lovely place to eat simple, well-prepared, fresh Italian food. Big tip too big to ignore: Oliviana’s juicy homemade meatballs are incredible. And so is their Tiramisu. Just do it.
Call 706-723-1242 or visit olivianaitaliano.com
Chef Robert Plouffe has transformed the P.I. Grill at the Partridge Inn into a divine reflection of the surrounding Southern culture. Already a beloved landmark, and known for its magnificent verandah, the bar and grill provide diners and guests with an elegant but comfortable place to dine or just hang out. Featuring local ingredients and locally inspired dishes, the P.I. Grill’s menu is worth exploring upside and down — just be sure to check out anything accompanied by the bacon jam. Their Pi in the Sky rooftop bar affords fantastic views of the city.
Call 706-737-8888 or visit curiocollection3.hilton.com
A locally owned restaurant with three area locations (four if you count Columbia, S.C.), the Pizza Joint is a great place to hit if you just want a slice and a beer. Of course, you may change your mind once you see their sandwiches (the Billy Club is a personal favorite), calzones and even the salads (get the Greek or the Sicilian chef’s), but the Tree Hugger is an incredibly good slice of pizza even if it doesn’t have meat on it.
Call 706-774-0037 (Augusta), 706-447-4992 (Evans) or 803-648-9074 (Aiken), or visit thepizzajoint.net
Augusta is nowhere near the ocean, but you’ll feel like you are when you visit this restaurant, an institution for locals and out-of-town guests alike. Seafood, of course, is the name of the game here and their buffalo grilled shrimp are pretty tasty. Not in the mood for seafood? They have a damn good burger on the menu as well.
Call 706-860-2337 (Augusta) or 706-868-6850 (Evans), or visit rhineharts.com
Shannon’s is an old-school bar and lounge that has undergone a facelift in recent years. Here, the drinks are inexpensive, the food is incredibly good and they have one of the best bartenders in town on staff. So if you encounter Aaron Brock, tip him well and tell him the Metro Spirit sent you. He’ll give us our cut later.
Call 706-814-7760 or visit facebook.com/shannonsbargrill/
The Soul Bar’s younger sister, Sky City is a live music venue and bar next to Mellow Mushroom on Broad Street. Thanks to a digital PA, the sound for live music is amazing and has attracted some impressive talent, from Vintage Trouble and Drivin’ n Cryin’ to Cage the Elephant. Upcoming shows include the Major Rager After Party featuring TAUK and TAUKing McGee.
Call 706-945-1270 or visit skycityaugusta.com
We are the home of James Brown, and nobody honors the Godfather of Soul like the Soul Bar. The finest combination of dirty beats, a variety of great beers and some amazing live music, the Soul Bar has a vibe like no other bar downtown. Extremely laid back, this place has been keeping downtown Augusta funky since 1995 — check out the bar’s impressive collection of James Brown era memorabilia and the local art.
Call 706-724-8880 or visit facebook.com/SoulBarAugusta
Music promoter George Claussen, the subject of this week’s feature story, opened this restaurant with business partner Brian Brittingham last year. Since then, it has garnered rave reviews for its barbecue, homemade sauces (named after the songs of the bands they love so much) and anti-craft cocktail thinking. This, they believe, is food and drinks you serve at a backyard barbecue and the restaurant has that vibe as well. Insider tip: Many declare Southbound’s Almost Famous wings to be the best chicken wings they’ve ever had.
Call 706-733-5464 or visit southboundsmokehouse.com
There’s no place like Stillwater anywhere in Augusta. From the moment you see the rocking chairs out front, you know this is a place to relax with a good beer. Featuring 24 beers and ciders on tap, Stillwater offers them all for $3.50 on Tuesday pint nights. The selections are listed on a chalkboard opposite the bar; that chalkboard makes an appearance on their Facebook page, if you want to check out the rotating selection before you head over. Make a point to visit on the nights when they have live music; Stillwater books some of the best local and regional Americana and bluegrass acts around.
Call 706-826-9857 or visit facebook.com/stillwatertaproomaugusta/
A coffee spot that also serves pastries, salads, sandwiches and hot dogs, That Place also offers an outlet to local creators with Cushions & Caffeine featuring local songwriters.
Call 706-339-7011 or visit thatplacecoffee.com
If you’re looking for some beer to take home with you and a six pack just won’t do, this is your place. A growler store featuring 20 beers of all kinds on tap, Tip Top Taps has knowledgeable employees who love to talk beer and will even give you a sample or two before filling up your howler or growler.
Call 706-860-2320 or tiptoptaps.com
It may look like the girls in orange decided to go to the mountains, but Twin Peaks is a whole lot more than owls and chicken wings. Here you’ll find excellent food (try the trout), great service and an impressive selection of bourbon.
Call 706-426-4934 or visit twinpeaksrestaurant.com
Yes, it’s a grocery store. But it’s also a great place for takeout pizza, picking up a dessert or hors d’oeuvres on the way to a party or just hanging out at their outside putting green with a burger and a beer while listening to live music. This week will feature a wine tasting on Friday, April 8, a beer tasting on April 2, Sunday brunch from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., a mechanical bull in the store April 2, 7, 8 and 9 from 5-8 p.m. and a children’s bounce house April 7-10.
Call 762-333-0260 or visit wholefoodsmarket.com
Wild Wing is the place to party with live music during Masters Week, so much so that they have two stages of live music each night: one outside and one inside. Great chicken wings, live music, lots of beer: what could be better?
Call 706-364-9453 or visit wildwingcafe.com