Garden City Reaches Writer’s Heart Through his Stomach
By Witt Wells
I came to visit as an outsider: the boyfriend of one of the bride’s former college roommates. I didn’t yet know that in mere weeks I’d have the chance to move here for good.
We were running late on our two-hour and 15-minute drive from Atlanta, and the frantic search for food began as soon as we arrived in Augusta. Yes, the wedding reception would probably, like every reception in the history of weddings, provide us with plenty of opportunities to overindulge. But Lindsey and I had skipped lunch. We weren’t about to sit through a ceremony in that state.
We rolled into downtown, turned onto 10th Street, parked the car, and walked into the restaurant that Lindsey had picked out. We wanted to sit outside, so a hostess led us back out to a table not far from my car. We only had about half an hour before the wedding started, so we had to make quick decisions. Fortunately, we’re both tenacious eaters.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say we take 15-minute breaks from our relationship during meals, each of us freefalling wholeheartedly into “the zone.” Both of us are aware of this. I obliterated my Cuban, I assume she probably did the same to whatever she got, and we were off. The Hive had not disappointed. Yes, the wedding reception ended up having a solid spread. I snacked modestly, and I wasn’t mad about it.
Later that night, after the wedding, word went around that some people were taking the party to a bar called Indian Queen. But when Lindsey and I arrived, we didn’t recognize anyone. We ordered a couple of beers, but the place was so packed that we couldn’t find a place to sit. Lindsey suggested we head upstairs, and we were rewarded. A couple of roomy, comfortable chairs faced the railing of a loft that was perfectly tucked away from the crowded scene below. Only two more people from our group showed up that night. Up there, that number was just fine.
When we woke up late the next morning, Lindsey and I only had a few hours before driving back to Atlanta. Our group of four decided on a well-reviewed downtown brunch spot called Fuze. We feasted on strawberry shortcake, lamb sausage hash and spicy chicken quesadillas. I tried a Bloody Mary for the first time (yes, I know). Once again, the Augusta eats had come through … note to self. Not that I’d be coming back anytime soon, I thought.
After parting ways with her friends, Lindsey and I spent the remainder of our time in Augusta wandering around downtown. We walked east on Broad Street, peeking into the windows of odd shops and antique stores to see what, if anything, was open. Few places were. Coming from a big city, it seemed a bit strange.
We sat down in some chairs near the Imperial Theatre to decide our next move. There was one obvious Augusta “thing” we hadn’t done yet: the Riverwalk. We got up and began making our way back up Broad Street.
When you’ve spent a year in the major metropolis of the Southeast, Augusta’s main drag doesn’t seem like much. It’s funny to think that, at the time, I had no idea I’d be working for the company just inside that “NEWS BLDG.” sign that became smaller and smaller as we walked back up the sidewalk. It’s also funny to think that the less-than-thrilling section of Broad Street I was walking through on a lazy Sunday afternoon probably didn’t have an open parking spot the night before. Because that’s just how downtown Augusta rolls these days.
Every day I’m here, I get a better idea of why that is. To put it simply, it’s business. It’s thousands of cybersecurity jobs pouring into the CSRA. It’s a burgeoning craft-brewing industry that might be about to explode. It’s a medical industry that boasts what was just named the third-best hospital in Georgia. You can read about all of those in this issue, and we’re only going to dive deeper in the future. I promise. It’s my first column. Cut me some slack.
And yes, it’s about the food. To those who are surprised that I managed to reach the end of a “business news” column without providing a single anecdote outside the food tourism genre, allow me to counter with … yes, yes I know. But as someone who was merely a causal tourist of Augusta until last month, let me remind you that it’s as important a business as any.
As one woman I met outside Nacho Mama’s put it, when you’re downtown, “you get a taste of what Augusta really is.”
For a native of Memphis – a river town so swiftly characterized by the flavor of its dry rub ribs – eating one’s way to the heart of a city is simply an instinct. Then again, I don’t really think I have to remind you of that at all. From what I’ve heard (and tasted), I’m in pretty good company.
Witt Wells is a Memphis-born writer with a love for comedy, the written word and the outdoors. He lives in Augusta, where he reports on business news in the CSRA. Contact him at (901) 319-8877 or firstname.lastname@example.org.