Photograph by John Antaki
EAT – Deep South Cheese and Grill
Tucked into a corner of quaint, downtown Dearing you’ll find one of the most unique and special grills in the area. Gino Doucet was born in Quebec, Canada and grew up on cheese curds and poutine. After a career in the military that took them all over the world, he and his wife, Tammy, ended up in the area because of her job. Gino tried retirement for a little while, taking time for passions like wood-working and learning to make his favorite home comfort food. Though a few restaurants in the area offered a version of poutine and cheese curds, nothing quite lived up to his standards from back home. Eventually he decided he needed a bigger project and turned his passion into a business.
Deep South Cheese and Grill opened in October 2018 with a menu ranging from traditional poutine to burgers and sandwiches, smoked sausage dogs, and other creative selections. Many of them feature his classic fresh cheese curds, or “squeaky cheese,” a tradition that started in his home province of Quebec before making its way to the American mid-west. Classic poutine is of course on the menu: curds on a bed of fries, all covered in the customary thick, beef-based gravy. It just gets better from there with Southern-inspired additions like smoked sausage, grilled onions, and bacon.
But as good as the poutine is, their lineup of burgers also stands on its own. The Deep South Burger has two 6-oz patties with a pile of cheese curds stuffed between them, barbecue sauce, and all the fixings. Tammy also has her own outstanding burger topped with Southern pimento cheese and bacon. Absolutely everything is made as fresh as possible, including the cheese. Each batch is made the old fashioned way with Hickory Hill Milk from Edgefield and is started early in the morning, as it takes seven-and-a-half to nine hours to make the 30-40 pounds needed every day. Not only is it a part of much of the menu, but the curds can also be purchased in small or large containers to go. Deep South Cheese and Grill already has a list of regulars – both transplants who missed the same home comfort food as Gino, and local natives who have quickly come to love this “squeaky cheese” and the warm, welcoming staff of the newest addition to downtown Dearing.
SIP – 2nd City Distilling Co
It’s a poorly kept secret that starting in 1920, with a nation-wide ban on the production and sale of alcohol, people just found other ways to quench that thirst with backwoods moonshine. Prohibition was eventually repealed but moonshining continued. Craft distilling continued to be a rarity and really didn’t manage to regain recognition until recently. David Long, Cal Bowie, and Bill Hatch, the brains behind 2nd City Distilling Co., are doing their part to put it back on the map.
They started with a tiny, prohibition-style, 10-gallon still, just to see if they could do it. And with a lot of practice and some savvy business sense, they eventually opened their first distillery in Edgefield. Soon they expanded to vodka, whiskey, bourbon, and other spirits, aiming at top-shelf quality with every bottle. Their success of their first little shot-gun style tasting room gave them the confidence they needed to set their sights on Augusta. What started off as a fun experiment has brought us Augusta’s first small batch distillery. With years of experience and a perfect location in the beautifully renovated building that was the old cotton exchange downtown, 2nd City Distilling is primed and ready to be the newest place to get an aperitif, after dinner cocktail, or bottle of bourbon to take to your next dinner party.
The historical building has retained so much of its character as it’s been perfectly renovated to suit the needs of the distillery. Visitors can participate in tastings, order a cocktail, take a tour, or buy a bottle. Sit down with friends or stand at the rustic, copper bar. Even the flights are served on a handmade wooden holder crafted from recycled barrel staves. All of the cocktails are made from 2nd City spirits and all of the spirits are made from local corn. Ingredients are sourced from the area as often as possible, turning your Saturday evening drink with friends into a contribution to the community. Whether your preference is whiskey, rum, or good, old-fashioned moonshine, the staff at the distillery have put passion into a craft that hasn’t been available to the Augusta public in almost 100 years.
Artisan – Sheila’s Baking C0mpany
There may be nothing better on the planet than the perfect donut – deep fried dough covered in sugar. But if I’m going to eat a donut, I want it to be actually perfect, hand-made, not mass-produced. Needless to say I was ecstatic when I found out that there was a new donut and bakery option in the CSRA – Sheila’s Baking Company. All it took was one try (which of course was followed by a few more) and I can honestly say it is the number 1, best donut I have ever had in my life.
Sheila Martin, owner, baker, and inspiration behind Sheila’s Baking Company, grew up in Texas in a large family with big appetites and a mom who loved to bake for them. As a child she wasn’t afraid to jump into a sticky, floury mess with her mother as they made tray after tray of cinnamon rolls or 100 plus batches of donuts. “It’s almost magical how yeast changes the flour and sugar into something different,” she tells me as I bite into the soft, thick, melt-in-your-mouth donut. She began perfecting her recipes as a high schooler and, after living in several different states, landed in Georgia because she had the opportunity to learn from a local baker. Luckily for us, that means that when she decided to buy a food truck and and start her own bakery, Augusta was the logical place to be.
Unlike most bakeries though, Sheila operates entirely out of an adorable white-and-mint bus. All of the baking and frying is done on board in the wee hours of the morning and then she can drive to wherever she needs to be. On Thursdays she can be found at the Evans Farmers Market. On Friday and Saturday a portion of her menu is available at Rooted Coffee House and Sugar Booger. Saturdays she can be found parked behind the Waffle House on Old Evans Road in Evans. She works at other special events as well and frequently updates her locations on Facebook and Instagram pages so donut-lovers know where to go.
Article appears in the May 2019 issue of Augusta Magazine.