I’ve been fascinated by Pauley’s Steakhouse in downtown Augusta for a while. You didn’t know there was a steakhouse downtown, you say? Well, that’s part of the reason for my fascination.
Since the restaurant opened a couple of years ago, I’ve kept an eye on it, and I’ve rarely seen patrons there, even on Friday and Saturday nights. “How can they stay open?” I wondered. “And, is the food any good?”
We’d planned a dinner out with our friend Annette, a photographer, motorcyclist, IT specialist and former instructor in the use of metal detectors in Afghanistan (yes, she is super cool), and I gave her a few restaurant options. (In case you’re wondering, because of my job, yes, my friends always want me to come up with food choices!)
Among my offerings of Southwestern, good ol’ American ribs and Indian, Annette chose Pauley’s.
“I was just in the mood for a steak,” she told me later.
My husband, Sean, and I arrived early enough that Tuesday night to scope out the menu posted on the window. Pauley’s is not only open for dinner, but also offers lunch (a nice variety of sandwich choices, but what stuck out to me the most is the fact that they offer loaded potato skins as a side during lunch! That’s one of the foods – along with cheese dip and sushi – that I just cannot resist). (Note: I went back on Friday at noon to doublecheck the lunch menu, and Pauley’s was not open. Call before you go.)
The funny thing is, we almost missed finding the restaurant. I was sure it was on the 10th block of Broad, but several of those storefronts were covered in brown paper.
“Did it close?” Sean exclaimed. But we spotted the sign on the ninth block just a few doors down from New Moon Café – and I later learned that the restaurant had moved from its previous location.
We arrived at about 7:30 p.m., and were the only customers in the restaurant our entire meal (another couple arrived at about 9 p.m.). But the restaurant itself is charming: wood floors, gray plaster walls and exposed brick. There’s a long bar in the back, and long tables and rounded booths in the front, where I could envision both groups of friends laughing or couples having a romantic dinner.
We chose one of the booths, which appeared to be custom built and were comfortable, if a little narrow, and backed by mirrors. The well-edited menu featured six appetizer options (several seafood, one chicken and one vegetarian); three salads; and seven entrees, served with a house salad and one vegetable (mashed potatoes, green beans, loaded baked potato or steamed broccoli).
Fish, chicken and pork were all represented, but at a steakhouse, you’ve gotta order steak.
Sean and Annette both chose the 8-ounce filet mignon with a side of green beans, while I went for the big boy: the 16-ounce ribeye with garlic mashed potatoes. And as a “light” appetizer, the crab cake.
Our waitress was delightfully sweet and awkward, but we could tell she wanted to do a good job as she hustled to get us lemons for our drinks and doublechecked our orders.
Our salads came out almost immediately: romaine lettuce topped with a couple slices of cucumber, tomato, red onion, mushrooms and a sprinkling of grated cheese and freshly ground black pepper. Was it the best or the most inspired salad? No, but it was good and fresh and the ranch dressing was fine and tangy.
I think our waitress was a little shocked that the three of us wanted to split one crab cake, but there was enough for us to each sample a couple of bites, plus I got the grilled shrimp that came along with it. The shrimp was peppery and a touch chewy, but the crab cake was good: moist shreds of real crab meat without much extra breading (if at all) inside, with a crunchy brown pan-fried exterior. With the heavily-mayo-based sauce served with it, it was sweet and tangy and a bit salty, all at the same time.
Our waitress cleared our table beautifully between courses. She noticed we were taking photos of each plate “because they were so pretty,” we explained. “Just wait until you see the entrees,” she said. And she was right.
Both Sean and I cut into ours immediately. “Perfectly cooked,” we said, which in our experience is rare with steaks.
The filet mignon was billed as being topped with gremolata – an Italian blend of garlic, lemon and parsley. This wasn’t – instead, there was a sprig of rosemary, thyme and capers, along with an au jus. The bite Sean shared was peppery, earthy and fragrant, perfectly tender as a filet mignon should be. His green beans were definitely freshly prepared, a deep green and similarly earthy in flavor.
My big ol’ ribeye was beautifully marbled with fat and a lovely bright pink in the center, tender and flavorful, with just a simple salt and pepper crust.
The first half was fantastic – the second had just a bit too much salt (but it worked well when I sliced and reheated it the next day as a sandwich with plain tomatoes and mayo and white bread). My garlic mash actually needed a little salt, but the garlic flavor was bright and strong.
Overall, Pauley’s was a great surprise. With the quality of the steaks, it should be filled with customers. The portions are good, and the prices are reasonable. So stop wondering about the steakhouse in downtown Augusta – it’s still there and it’s worth a try.
ON THE MENU
WHERE: Pauley’s Steakhouse, 952 Broad St.
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
ENTRéE COST: $13 to $25; lunch, $7.50 to $10
SECOND HELPING: (706) 364-3512, pauleyssteakhouse.com