I spent most of my early adult life living off Greene Street in Olde Town, hopping from apartment to apartment made from the converted and beautiful old Southern homes just past 4th Street. I loved it there, especially the sense of community. And seeing that Broad Street was just two blocks over, I spent a lot of time there as a young man as well. I’ve seen Downtown Augusta grow over the past few decades from a few scatterings of bars, banks, and pawnshops into the thriving metro area it currently is — one that is on par with any other cultural hotspot anywhere in the country. I’ve also been able to bear witness to the birth of my hometown — at least the one my generation knows — and watched that scattering of dives and tattoo parlors evolve and become host to some of the finest establishments in the South.
We have some of the best live music and performance venues with The Miller and Imperial theaters. We have high-end cocktail and whiskey bars like Solé and, well, the Whiskey Bar Kitchen. We’ve become home to restaurants ranging from the locally sourced fine dining of Frog Hollow and Farmhaus all the way to the button-down casual of Sports Center, home of the best cheeseburger south of the Mason-Dixon line. But one thing all the above-mentioned places have in common is that they all occupy space along our main drag, Broad Street. And although I love that beautiful stretch of blacktop, there is a lot more going on downtown if you dig a little deeper. But not to worry, we’ve done the digging for you, so you don’t have to.
We explored the well-lit side streets — and walked the roads less traveled — to find and point out some of the best undiscovered gems our town has to offer. So let this article serve as a guide for anyone looking to go beyond the obvious. What follows is a tour of some of Augusta’s staples, legends, and hidden hotspots that have withstood the test of time for a reason. The people who live here love them and they are distinctly Augusta.
THE WHISTLE STOP CAFÉ
This legendary little — and I do mean little — café has been chugging along since I was a teenager, serving breakfast and lunch to the locals for decades under a few different owners and a few different names. The Whistle Stop has recently returned to its original name and roots under new owners, Angelo Paulos and John Pannell. Both Augusta natives saw the opportunity, jumped in and took the place over with a passion. Their approach was a simple one. They combined their idea of culinary art with the already present feel of an old school diner. And, man, does it work. The cafe is adorned in a rich railroad and train motif, which makes sense, considering the sleek eatery sits right next to the train tracks that run right down 6th Street. Pannell, a culinary graduate, spent time as the sous chef at Jones Creek, and it’s fair to say his menu is unique yet familiar.
My wife and I were ready to order one of everything, but I settled for the fried chicken and pancake hushpuppies, which I highly recommend. The café isn’t just for breakfast either. There is also a full lunch menu where you can find things like another one of my favorites, the Grilled Horseradish Blue Cheese Sandwich served with coleslaw I could eat by the bowlful. The food and atmosphere at the Whistle Stop Cafe is outstanding, affordable, and most importantly fun. As soon as you walk in you know you’re among friends. It’s the perfect way to start a day downtown.
The Whistle Stop proudly serves breakfast and lunch seven days a week.
Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m. & Saturday-Sunday from 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
706-426-8775 | www.whistlestopcafe573.com
THE FOX’S LAIR
Once you’ve been to the very top of the city, it’s time to let loose underneath it at the legendary Fox’s Lair attached to the Olde Town Inn. Brand new owners, Chuck Hardin and Melinda Jones took over the 122-year-old building just recently and revamped the underground bar with entertainment almost every night of the week. Tuesdays feature live Irish music, Thursdays are open mic night hosted by Brandy Douglas showing off all the stellar talent Augusta has to offer, and the weekends are jam packed with everything from traveling solo acoustic acts to full-on rock-and-roll shows. The little hall appeals musically to the most eclectic of tastes and if you drink too much? No worries. The Bar — dubbed the “coolest place you’ll never find” — is right underneath the Olde Town Inn, where there may just be an open room for you to stay the night. The rooms are beautifully renovated and serve perfectly for romantic getaways. It’s not your typical B&B. It’s a Bed & Bar. And since I already told you where you could get breakfast only a few blocks away, it’s a perfect fit. The Fox’s Lair & The Olde Town Inn are both in a building steeped with history and filled with music from all over the Southeast. In such close quarters, it’s hard not to feel right at home from the minute you walk in.
The Fox’s Lair serves from 6 p.m. until — Tuesday-Saturday
And the Olde Town Inn is always taking reservations at 706-833-9463 | www.oldetowninnaugusta.com
After you get a little shopping in or a morning meeting or two out of the way, lunch becomes the next order of business on everyone’s agenda. And there’s no reason to crank the car or go anywhere else than Hildebrandt’s on the corner of 6th and Ellis. Ever since I can remember, Hildebrandt’s has been voted best sandwich in Augusta and there’s a good reason for that — because this downtown mainstay really is that good. The deli has been owner-operated and in business since 1879, specializing in mainly German and Southern based food (the Sweet Heat Louis is one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten). They even offer vegetarian versions of the classics so there’s something for everyone. The vegetarian Rueben is surprisingly good. The atmosphere is warm, well lit, distinctly Southern and always inviting. The food is amazing and consistent, and the best part is you can walk there from anywhere downtown. Boom, it’s a done deal.
Open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-3 p.m. | 706-722-7756 | www.dasdeli.us
THE EAGLE’S NEST
I know that The Ramada is on Broad Street and technically doesn’t qualify for this list, but the penthouse bar known as the Eagle’s Nest may well be one of the most well kept secrets in Augusta, so I decided to sneak it in. The Eagle’s Nest bar selection and modest décor may not be the reason to take the elevator to the top floor of one of Augusta’s landmark hotels, but the view — wow, the view. Here, 12 stories high, you can sip bourbon neat and look out at the entire city below you. It’s breathtaking, especially at dusk. The bartender, Rose, will keep a drink in your hand as you unwind and gaze over the lights of home. Of all the places on this list, the Eagle’s Nest is unique in the fact that it’s the only place in Augusta a group of friends can meet and take in this kind of view without a membership. It’s also been there since the ‘70s and I can guarantee a lot of people don’t even know it’s there. It doesn’t come up on any GPS and its very existence has been nothing but word of mouth since first opening. The bar really has to be seen to be appreciated. So take a load off, order a cold beer from Rose, and tell her I sent you.
The Eagle’s Nest serves from 6 p.m.-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday | 706-722-5541
THE HIVE (KITCHEN + BAR + GROWLERS)
Let’s talk about dinner. Anyone who lives in Augusta is familiar with Eric and Kristi Kinlaw’s insanely popular restaurant and lounge, The Bee’s Knees. What some of you may not know is if you keep walking down 10th, right next door to TBK is a another wonderful treasure of a restaurant owned by the same folks called The Hive. For the longest time, I believed The Hive to be a growler bar — and it is. In fact, it’s the only growler bar to be found in all of downtown. Other than their exceptional rotating selection of craft beers and hand-kegged cocktails, The Hive also offers a full menu of some of the best date-night food in Augusta. “Kitchen” — it’s right there on the logo — and their approach to running one is pretty interesting. Most restaurants have a head chef calling all the shots. At The Hive, a team runs the kitchen. Kai Jorgensen, Marcus Rogers, Kris Tahop, and Josh Murzynski all collaborate on the menu and the outcome is incredible. I had the house-made pretzels with piping hot gouda fondue, a killer Cuban plate, and hands down, the best Bloody Mary I’ve ever drank in the state of Georgia. I found out later that the bar manager, Samantha Rockwood, infuses the vodka with pickles herself. The Hive is simply amazing, and again just a few steps away from Broad.
The Hive serves Monday-Thursday 11:30 a.m-2:30 p.m. & 5 p.m.-11 p.m.
Friday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-midnight with the bar open until— 706-836-3661 | www.hiveaugusta.com
Article appears in the January 2019 issue of Augusta Magazine.