Savor Georgia’s Second City.
Our Eat & Burn series showcases destinations through their cuisine and inviting ways to burn calories.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Augusta is Georgia’s second largest city (after Atlanta) and the state’s second oldest city (after Savannah).
Add another red ribbon to the lineup: Augusta is also Georgia’s second-best food city (after Atlanta). Meal after meal, visit after visit, year after year, Augusta’s food scene impresses. It’s your best bet on where to dine in the state if your goal is to avoid Atlanta traffic, as well as the state capital city’s higher prices and even celebrity chef egos. (We live in Atlanta and we love you, but you know who you are.)
Nestled alongside the Savannah River in the east central region of the state, Augusta is approximately 145 miles from Atlanta and faces South Carolina across the river. The walkable city, river and historic canal offer lots of fun ways to counter-balance indulgent eating.
Augusta restaurants range from sophisticated to down-home and it’s not necessary to compromise on quality—even better, menu prices are typically lower than Atlanta.
211 10th St.; 706.828.3600
This tapas restaurant and lounge has a vibrant ambiance courtesy of its enthusiastic fans. Locals are regulars and, odds are, after one meal here it will be a must-stop on all your future itineraries to Augusta. Regional, seasonal ingredients are on the menu that showcases a global range of dishes, with Southern, Latin and Asian influences dominating. For brunch or dinner you may have to wait for a table, but you won’t regret that time once you’re served.
Boll Weevil Café & Sweetery
10 9th St.; 706.722.7772
The dessert menu at this casual café boasts 30 homemade desserts, so making a decision about what to order can be a challenge. Choosing more than one treat wouldn’t be a mistake, since you could take whatever you can’t finish to go. Though in our experience even three adults were unable to finish one slice of cake—serving sizes are that generous!
Craft & Vine
1204 Broad St.; 706.496.8442
This upscale cocktail bar focuses on old-timey cocktails shaken and stirred to perfection. Between sips, nibble on treats like wood-fired salted pretzel bites, deviled eggs, and sweet pickled peppadew peppers. Upscale and welcoming, cozy and adults-oriented, quirky and polite, this is a bar you’ll wish was around the corner from wherever you live.
Frog Hollow Tavern
1282 Broad St.; 706.364.6906
If you’re a chef follower, dining here will make you a fan of Chef Sean A. Wight. If you’ve never paid attention to chefs before, dining here will make you sit up and take notice. This club-y restaurant has a modern-city meets rural-farm approach. Expect a vibrant yet comfortable atmosphere, attentive service, and exquisite cuisine at prices that are lower than you’d expect to pay for such high quality. The dinner menu features local and regional seasonal ingredients. The wine list showcases more than 100 labels with a focus on sustainable, organic and biodynamic. The bar showcases whiskeys from around the world and several barrel-aged cocktails.
Hive Growler Bar
215 10th St.; 706.836.3661
If you’ve just turned 21, the high-tech menu at this place—which can be accessed via cell phone—will seem easy and straightforward to you. So feel free to lean across the back of your booth to help an older tableside neighbor who may be struggling to figure it out. Fortunately, staff members are fluent in translating how to order any of the sips or bites on this menu. With 78 taps that rotate frequently, including eight wines, five house craft cocktails, four sodas, kombucha, in-house cold press coffee and 59 brews, that’s a lot to keep straight. Cold, tasty quality will keep you coming back, as well as the desire to master the challenge of the tech.
Whiskey Bar Kitchen
1048 Broad St.; 706.814.6159
This casual eatery is reputed to serve the “best burgers in town.” The menu offers 11 different hamburgers in creative combinations like “Cali” with avocado, cucumber, tomato, bacon, jalapeno and cheese; “Devil’s Peak” with hot salsa, jalapeno, bacon, ghost pepper jack, sriracha sauce and wasabi mayo; and “Elway” with onion rings, BBQ sauce, bacon and cheddar. You can also get the burger toppings on top of veggie patties or chicken breasts or try other options like wings or tacos.
@21plusTravel Tip: Taste local flavor while in Augusta, and order a cocktail made with Fruitland Augusta Vodka. Look for the smooth spirit on bar menus across the city.
Eat enough and the temptation to nap may seem overwhelming, but resist the urge or miss time to explore Augusta’s streets, parks, waterways and notable sites. Here are some of our favorites among the many reasons to stay awake and get active in Augusta, in descending order of their calorie-consuming benefit…
Kayak the Augusta Canal for an experience that’s sure to be a highlight of your visit. Drive to Savannah Rapids Park in Columbia County, leave your car, rent a kayak at the pavilion, strap on a life jacket, and step into the kayak on the shores without even getting your feet wet. Friendly staffers will push you into the water and offer tips and directions before waving good-bye. The current makes paddling easy at some points along the route, but at others you’ll definitely need to exert energy to keep moving. There’s no tour guide floating and chatting alongside you the entire way, so it feels more like ‘real’ kayaking than most similar experiences. Enjoy nature and time with your traveling companions. An hour or two down the canal you’ll get picked up at Lake Olmstead and ride in a van back to the park.
If you prefer walking or cycling to kayaking or canoeing, you can still explore the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area while getting a workout. The Augusta Canal, Georgia’s first designated National Heritage Area, was built in 1845 to harness the water and power of the Savannah River. Today, the 8.5-mile canal is a popular draw for locals and tourists. Read more about walking the Augusta Canal Historic Trail.
Another great place to walk is Artists Row in downtown Augusta (between 7th and 12th streets). Stroll from boutique shop to art gallery to studio. Don’t miss Tire City Potters, Gallery on the Row and Art on Broad.
Keep moving and walk through any of Augusta’s museums to learn while you move.
The Morris Museum of Art showcases the art and artists of the American South with a collection of nearly 3,000 works from the Antebellum through contemporary periods. The rather small art museum does an impressive job of organizing and displaying artworks in a way that allows for maximum appreciation of each piece as well as facilitates understanding of distinct artistic periods.
Explore 12,000 years of local history at the Augusta Museum of History. Collection highlights include a 10,000-year-old projectile point, a 1914 locomotive, a 1920s trolley car, an exhibition on the history of healthcare in Augusta and much more.
Discover the influence of African-Americans on education, banking, the arts and more at the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History.
Glimpse Georgia life during the Civil War and Reconstruction at the boyhood home of President Woodrow Wilson. The 28th President’s family home has been restored to its 1860’s appearance with original paint colors, period furnishings including 13 original pieces used by the Wilson family, period accessories and replica floor coverings and window treatments.
Walk through the Saturday Market on the Augusta Riverwalk and the caloric temptations may negate the benefits of the walk, but shop smart to minimize that risk. Vendors sell a range of seasonal produce from fresh fruits and vegetables to boiled peanuts and honey. Other foodstuffs included cheese straws, pastries, cantaloupe pies and hot sauces; there are also plants and craft items available.
More To Do…
Feeling lazy? Take a seat and tour Augusta.
Aboard the Historic Trolley Tour you’ll see historic homes including the boyhood home of President Woodrow Wilson (from the exterior only), see the Augusta Canal, and hear some legends about bones in the basement of the Medical College of Georgia and the Haunted Pillar.
Aboard a Petersburg Boat Tour you’ll see the Augusta Canal shores from the water, pass under bridges and near 19th Century textile mills, the Confederate Powder Works and two of Georgia’s only remaining 18th Century houses. Open-air tours operate day and evening. Daytime cruises can focus on local heritage or the Civil War; music and sunset evening cruises allow guests to bring refreshments aboard (including wine).
2 10th St.
Augusta, GA 30901
The city’s best hotel option if you want to park your car and then enjoy your getaway exploring Augusta by foot, this hotel is nestled in the heart of the downtown business district and adjacent to the Augusta Riverwalk. Guestrooms have a contemporary upscale vibe. Staff members are friendly. Beds are comfortable. We’d definitely stay here again.
- Located in the heart of the downtown business district on the banks of the Savannah River and within walking distance of most everything featured in this article
- Free Wi-Fi
- Non-smoking property
- On-site self-parking $7/day; valet parking $18/day
- Airport shuttle
- Fitness center
- Mini refrigerators in guestrooms
- Rates from $129/night
- Odds of Encountering Children: Varies, but generally lower than the hotels located near the interstates.
– Photos © HSP Media LLC
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