Our friend Todd just moved back to Augusta after several years away. We made plans for dinner one night, and as usual were playing the indecision game on where to go when Todd electrified me by saying he had never been to Sconyers.
Never? In his five-plus years of living in Augusta? How could he have missed out on an Augusta institution? So he good-naturedly went along when I insisted that he had to try it.
I was curious about how he would like it. Todd is from North Carolina, which he explained is divided along a barbecue line: vinegar-based (east) and ketchup-based (west and central). I thought he might have some pretty strong opinions about the kind of barbecue that would pass muster.
Sconyers, which is in south Augusta, can be a bit hard to find. From Peach Orchard, you take Windsor Spring Road, then turn as though you’re heading toward a shopping center. Then, wind your way around the appropriately named Sconyers Way (look for the cartoon pig posing seductively on an oak log). Crunch your way to a space among all the cars in the gravel lot, then walk across a short bridge (the kids will love the fish, but watch out for the cats … some of them scratch!) to enter the log-cabin-esque restaurant.
Seating is available on two levels, staffed by waitresses and waiters in old-timey garb – something new since the last time we’d eaten there. The hostess immediately pointed us upstairs, where we were led to a small table tucked under the eaves, with a good view of numerous farm implements (just like Cracker Barrel, but well before it) hanging from the roof beams.
The menu is straightforward – meat, and plenty of it, available on platters with sides of hash over rice, cole slaw or potato salad; a la carte; or in sandwiches. You can even get an extra order of sliced pickles or pork skins by the ounce, when available.
Each wooden table has a selection of sauces to douse over your classic oak- and hickory-smoked Southern ’cue – mild red, hot red and a peppery vinegar-based sauce. Next to that was a basket with a sliced loaf of squeezy-soft white bread, still in its yellow cellophane bag.
Our waiter brought us sweet tea and a pitcher along with it.
Sean wanted ribs and I wanted pork and hash, so after a quick scan of the menu, we decided to split the Plantation Platter – the $20 house specialty plate loaded with your choice of chicken or turkey, ribs, barbecued beef and barbecue pork, plus sides.
We chose potato salad and hash and ordered an extra side of potato salad. And I had a special request: Instead of the chicken or turkey, could we just get extra hash?
“I’ve never done that before,” our waiter said dubiously, but he wrote it down.
Todd followed suit with the Sampler Plantation Platter, offering smaller portions of the same.
Our meals were out in a matter of moments. Todd’s portion looked positively petite next to our gargantuan plate, more than half full of hash with the meats jostling for a place.
We sampled each of the sauces with our pork. Both the reds had a raspiness to them, but my favorite by far was the vinegar-based sauce, which added just the right amount of perkiness to the pork.
I was a little disappointed at first with the hash, which I had been so excited to order. It was a little flat this time, but the vinegar sauce also livened it up so I shook it on thoroughly.
Though his hometown’s in ketchup country, Todd apparently felt the same as I, keeping the vinegar close.
Sean offered me a delicious bite of a succulent rib, coated in a layer of red sauce. And we were pleasantly surprised at the barbecue beef, which neither of us had ordered before. The dark shredded beef needed no other accompaniment besides its own heady sauce, which was sweet and almost teriyaki-like.
With the creamy, mayo-heavy potato salad, the full-on comfort fest required three to-go containers for all the leftovers. Sconyers is still the only place I know where three people can leave with enough left over to fit inside a full-size brown paper grocery bag (which the staff also very kindly provides).
As we left, Todd kicked himself for not seeing the beer available (another thing I didn’t know about Sconyers). And like the tourists we were, we took one of the little pig calendars to put on our fridge at home.
Our final verdict? Pretty good barbecue. And I surprised myself. Even though I thought I was showing a place I knew well to a friend, I ended up learning a lot about an old Augusta favorite.
ON THE MENU
WHERE: Sconyers Bar-B-Que, 2250 Sconyers Way
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
SECOND HELPING: (706) 790-5411, sconyersbar-b-que.com