Frog Hollow Tavern's Chef Sean Wright
The diminuitive front porches in Augusta’s now extinct Frog Hollow neighborhood once served as a vital spot for residents to catch up on the day’s news. Considerably more upscale than its namesake, Frog Hollow Tavern downtown conveys much of the same close-knit community feel. It’s a place where patrons mingle easily, comfortable in what owners Sean and Krista Wight call the new American tavern experience. To Chef Wight, his restaurant transforms the dark rooms and mediocre dining encounters associated with traditional taverns into a pleasurable retreat where diners can expect exceptional food in an artfully-lit atmosphere.
Indeed, customers are visually indulged in Frog Hollow’s earth-toned, informal elegance from the moment they enter. In the main dining room, where a mix of booths, high-top counters and white linen-covered tables are arranged on wide-planked wood floors, a rough brick wall stands opposite a sculpted, copper-painted piece running the length of the parallel wall. Two adjacent rooms, one bordered in chocolate leather sofas for relaxed lounging and another more subdued wine room, allow guests of all ages to effortlessly blend.
Given the crowd on a recent Friday night, one has the feeling Frog Hollow is a local secret that has gotten out. Using fresh, locally-grown produce, Wight creates Southern-inspired fare with welcome twists. What is to be expected at Frog Hollow is the unexpected. Especially when it comes to the menu. Updated every few weeks according to seasonally available ingredients, offerings presently range from Vidalia-laced wild caught shrimp and grits to sugar-and-spice rubbed duck breast with sun-dried cranberry garlic spinach. Wight adheres to a farm-to-table concept, popular in many large urban areas, resulting in meals that pop with succulence of the newly-picked.
Each dish, from the “small plates” favorite of crispy, sugar-dusted eggplant with basil aioli to desserts including Southern-style baked peaches, raises downtown dining to a provocative level. Main course highlights in early fall included a grilled steak filet resting in a lightly sweet and tangy sauce augmented by flavorful multi-layer potato au gratin and crisp asparagus. Also on the menu, a roasted North Carolina grouper was deliciously complemented by white acre peas with black-eyed house smoked bacon, fall squash and roasted cherry tomatoes.
Wight’s team reflects the restaurant’s vibe with casual but skilled attention from the wait staff to the wine sommelier. The subtle Florida-born Wight himself seems unpressured, saying he has no plans to expand his hours. “The challenges are strictly economic. If you listen to the news, people are still hurting. Augusta is fortunate in that we’re kind of insulated...” he muses. “People still want to go out. I think if you serve a good product and you’re consistent and you do a good job and you care about what you’re doing, they’re going to come.”
The weekend bustle at Frog Hollow thrums as a testimony his words are true.