AUGUSTA — If you’re jumping on the Masters golf cart and linking over to Augusta for this year’s tournament, that little golf contest down Georgia way, know that there’s more to eat than egg salad and pimento cheese sandwiches, the iconic treats served at the iconic golf course along those iconic azalea-lined fairways.
In the past year or two, some great new restaurants have opened around the Garden City — a nickname given because of Augusta’s profuseness of public and private gardens — but you won’t need a green jacket to try the newest culinary samplings around the city. Just bring a hearty appetite, employ your sense of gastronomic adventure and have plenty of time to enjoy a range of Southern staples and international bites, as well as more traditional fare of steak and burgers.
Almost every time I go to Augusta, I find myself at a restaurant owned by Frog Hollow Group. The newest offering, Tacocat, follows Frog Hollow Tavern, Craft & Vine, Farmhaus Burger, Frog and the Hen, and Pho Ramen-l for excellence along Augusta’s creative food and drink avenues. Tacocat, open since summer 2022, is simple fare and more casual than its counterparts of Frog Hollow Tavern and Craft & Vine, and is housed in a fun, brightly-hued former carwash complete with its original garage doors. While you can get good tacos practically anywhere, these are great tasting with much more thought and flavor put into them besides meat, cheese and lettuce to make them stand out in a town brimming of standout restaurants. Take your tacos beyond the ordinary and try the shrimp diablo with fried shrmp mixed with jicama and hominy slaw or the tangy chicken highlighted with jalapeno and pineapple salsa.
Tacos from $4.50 each; brunch from $14. Full bar. 208 10th St., Augusta. 706-842-7800. Visit www.tacocataugusta.com.
Pineapple Ink Tavern
Probably one of the last things you imagine you would find in Augusta, Southern to the core with its barbecue, meat-and-threes and grits on every menu, is authentic Cuban food reminiscent of Havana and Miami. Owner Allan Soto hails from South Florida, so with his Cuban background came the inspiration for the restaurant. Think: Cuban sandwiches, amazing pulled pork in the lechon asada and delicious empanadas. Finish up with Cuban-inspired desserts of flan or helado, plus strong Cuban coffee and a cigar, although they originate in the Dominican Republic, Honduras or Nicaragua, as Cuban stogies are still illegal in the United States. Before you ask, yes. You’ll certainly find a mojito on the drinks menu.
Entrees from $12. Brunch entrees from $12. Full bar. 1002 Broad St., Augusta. 706-842-4401. Visit www.pineappleinktavern.com.
Soca Vegan Kitchen
Soca Vegan Kitchen, a Trinidadian-style vegan restaurant whose food is also heavily influenced by Indian cuisine, consistently gets five-star ratings on online review sites including Yelp and HappyCow. Owned by mother-daughter team Georgia Alexander and Diane Francis, it’s become an Augusta staple for vegans and vegetarians. Few true vegan options are available in Augusta, and Soca Vegan Kitchen has filled the niche remarkably well. A favorite appetizer is pholourie, a fritter made with flour, split peas, herbs and curry spices, a dish that’s popular in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname. Plenty of chickpeas, vegetables, beans and rice in a variety of flavorful options are found at Soca Vegan Kitchen and are usually locally-sourced.
Platters from $10.95. Curry, potato, rice and soup from $4.95 each. Beer and wine available. 630 Crane Creek Drive, Suite 103, Augusta. 706-432-9327. Visit www.socavegankitchen.com.
Munchies Lab opened only in 2022, but it’s already created buzz with its different take on everyday dishes. Rather than explain in more detail, it’s easier to give you a few samples of what the cuisine is like, although the menu changes about once a month to coincide with what’s available seasonally. Past bites have included the Mexican Crazy Potato doctored up with steak strips, onions, avocado, cheese and cilantro and the Flaming Roll Sushi-Rito, a real treat with fried chicken, cream cheese, buffalo ranch and dusted with Hot Cheetos. For the hearty appetite, try the DTF Dog, an angus beef hot dog layered with grilled garlic baby shrimp, grilled garlic steak and grilled garlic chicken smothered and covered in buffalo sauce, cheese and onions. The bottom line is Munchies Lab serves regular ol’ comfort food dressed to the adventurous, delicious nines.
Entrees from $10.50. 1102 Walton Way, Suite A, Augusta. 706-496-3310. https://www.facebook.com/munchieslabaugusta/
Vance’s Bakery Bar
Is your next indulgence in a bakery? A bar? Why not a bakery bar? Vance’s Bakery Bar, in the heart of downtown on James Brown Boulevard, features sweet libations created with top-shelf spirits. You have to love the tagline: The proof is in the sweets. (Get it?) The desserts, alcohol-infused and prepared fresh daily in-house, include specialties such as the Boozy Banana Pudding, infused with Rumchata and Giffard banana liqueur and then filled with house-made vanilla wafers and fresh bananas; or Payton’s Pecan Cobbler, a concoction of freshly baked, warm pecan cobbler infused with Backwoods Pecan Pie Liqueur and served with a small scoop of butter pecan ice cream plopped right on top of the drink. The décor is simple but elegant, perfect for a bakery and cocktail lounge combo. Charcuterie boards and cheese plates round out the menu for those who prefer savory bites.
Dessert drinks from $6.50; craft cocktails from $13. 123 James Brown Blvd., Augusta. 706-250-3936. Visit www.vancesbakerybar.com.
Manny’s Sports Off Broad
Manny’s Sports Off Broad is another new entry in Augusta’s thriving international food scene, but let’s just say it’s not your typical sports bar or international restaurant. Want Greek? Check. Try the Greek burger, a burger-gyro amalgamation with pickled red onions, tomatoes and mustard tzatziki on a pillowy potato bun with fries. Greek-Cuban? Check. This one’s made with roasted mojito pork, strips of Greek pork souvlaki, feta, pickled cucumbers and tzatziki mustard on pressed Gambino’s bread with fries. Southern? Yes, ma’am. The smoked pimento meatloaf consists of house-smoked beef with pimento cheese and served with jalapeño mashed potatoes and house-pickled slaw. German? Yes, sir. The Bavarian pretzel is served up with spicy grain mustard and beer cheese. Scrumptious? All of it, yes.
Entrees, burgers and gyros from $11. Sports bar atmosphere with sports bar amenities. 215 10th St., Augusta. 404-216-2264. Visit www.mannyssportsoffbroad.com.
Brinkley’s Chop House
For more upscale, dressier dining during the Masters, take a very short drive across the Savannah River to North Augusta, just over the state line in South Carolina. Not open for even a year, Brinkley’s Chop House has getting rave reviews on its steaks and seafood from the very beginning. For an appetizer, try the scallops, as the saltiness of the accompanying prosciutto was perfect as a complementing flavor. I’m a fool for a caprese salad and wasn’t disappointed at all with my selection with its fresh mozzarella. From the farm, fish and fowl menu, choose quack, oink or cock-a-doodle-do with duck, chops or chicken. But Brinkley’s is at its heart a definite moo, a steak house, so do try the beef, whether it’s a Delmonico, ribeye, porterhouse or filet. Can’t decide? Try a butcher board with options that include both land and sea creatures. Great desserts are on the menue, including chocolate torte and Basque cheesecake.
Entrees $21-107; butcher board $195-325. 1033 Center St, North Augusta, S.C. 29841. 803-599-5097; Visit www.brinkleyschophouse.com
Six South Rooftop Bar at the Partridge Inn
The Partridge Inn, an historic hotel in the beautiful, leafy Summerhill neighborhood in Augusta, has always been highly touted as one of the most popular destinations in Augusta during the Masters. The hotel’s beloved rooftop, offering unparalleled views of the Garden City accompanied by clouds of spring-blossoming trees, has been newly named Six South and just opened to the public in the fall of 2022. As you dine and gaze across the colorful city, you might also rub elbows with some of the golfers who are playing at Augusta National. The focus at Six South is on seafood, with several seafood towers available with a selection of scallop, oyster, crab and shrimp. How to start? With the gumbo, made with shrimp and crab or the oyster soup, and then for the main course, try the seared scallops or blackened seafood pasta. With the added incentive of a full bar, it’s just the place for seafood and cocktails with a view.
Entrees from $22; seafood towers from $55. Full bar. 2110 Walton Way, Augusta. 706-737-8888. Visit www.partridgeinn.com.
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com