On Washington Road, folks are very big on tradition. A few miles down the road, in Augusta’s growing downtown district, it’s more of a revolution.
But unlike most revolutions, this one didn’t start with passionate speeches, waving banners or fist-pumping marches.
It began with drinks.
Today, much of the talk surrounding the downtown revitalization centers on shifting demographics, recognition of historical importance, the motivation of millennials and new industry attracted to an old town – all of which is true. But none of those lofty plans and deep discussions would have ever occurred had not a few pioneers – attracted by cheap properties and a certain centrality – decided to build some bars. Today, there is art and retail and food, but in the beginning, downtown Augusta’s very real revolution began with cold beer.
And so, to our thirsty comrades both foreign and domestic, we offer this quick, but not all-inclusive, guide to downtown drinking spots.
Viva la revolucion.
Soul Bar (984 Broad St.) – When people look for a downtown revitalization starting point, they usually point to this narrow storefront in the middle of Broad Street. Opened when downtown was all but forgotten, it specializes in cheap beer, stiff cocktails and rock and roll – all while honoring the Godfather – and once-upon-a-time-occasional patron – James Brown.
Sky City (1157 Broad St.) – Modeled, in many ways, on the legendary 40 Watt in Athens, Ga., Sky City hits that sweet spot where local bar and high-functioning music venue converge. An attractor of not only local acts, but touring talent as well, Sky City is known for presenting everything from punk rock to dance nights and is a true destination for music fans.
Hive Growler Bar (215 10th St.) – An expansive and constantly rotating selection of wines, beers, cocktails and gourmet sodas make the 78-tap Hive a natural stop for those feeling fairly thirsty. That said, it would be a crime to stop by and not order some from the kitchen. My recommendation – a plate of poutine, a Cuban sandwich and perhaps a pretzel.
Craft &Vine (1204 Broad St.) – Fashioned after the speakeasies of old, this bar and restaurant takes a decidedly artistic approach to cocktail construction. Even something as simple as spirits and soda become an event in the hands of the Craft staff, but check the menu of specialty drinks for something truly spectacular.
The Eagle’s Nest (640 Broad St.) – While most hotel bars, particularly those perched high above the fray, are marked by conspicuous opulence, the Nest feels more like a neighborhood bar – albeit one with an incredible view. While you won’t be able to see any golf action from it’s windows, they do offer expansive views of the city, river and developing town of North Augusta, S.C.
The Sports Center (594 Broad St.) – A true dive and rightfully proud of it, the Sports Center is not the place you go for a quiet cocktail. It is not, in fact, the place you go for any cocktail. You go for beer. Beer served in large frosted fishbowl goblets the likes of which have not regularly been seen in decades. And while you are there, try one of the burgers many locals consider the very best in town.
StillWater Taproom (974 Broad St.) – So you say you want a conversation? Unless one of the Americana music acts Stillwater regularly books is on stage, there is no better place than this warm-and-welcoming bar. Over the past several years it has become a destination for locals looking to meet and greet one another. It doesn’t hurt that the taps are plentiful, rotate regularly and are tended by an authentically friendly staff.
Firehouse Bar (1145 Broad St.) – Breakdown a good bar mathematically and it probably ends up something looking something like Firehouse’s algebraic equation of great music divided by drinks, darts and a diverse crowd that always seems welcoming. Long a staple of the downtown nightlife scene and with good reason.
Metro Pub & Coffeehouse (1054 Broad St.) – Perk up in the morning and wind down at night. Opened in 2000, this favorite spends its days serving cups of joe to the bleary eyed and evenings dishing out drinks that ensure those same customers will return for more coffee the next day. That, my friends, is called the circle of life. Metro has also, in recent years, become a regular stop for loose sets by some of Augusta’s finest musicians.
Joe’s Underground (144 Eighth St.) – While many point to the aforementioned Soul Bar as the original downtown drinking spot, that honor actually belongs to this basement bar. A great place to hear local acoustic and rock acts, as well as soak up some subterranean history, Joe’s is an if-walls-could-talk spot that has been a local hang for what now probably adds up to generations.