Augusta’s Masters week food made simple

The center of the golf universe will be in Augusta, Georgia, next week, and all the foodie talk concerns pimento cheese vs. egg salad with Georgia Peach ice cream sandwiches to complete the on-site must-haves.

But what do folks do when they depart the Augusta National Golf Club grounds looking for similar, simple fare that will keep their Masters Tournament spirits going? You don’t have to wait in long lines, shoulder-to-shoulder at Washington Road establishments or other fine-dining choices around the area that will put quite the dent in your wallet.

Freeman’s BBQ from the outside. :: Photo: Joe Mustian

Maybe 2010 Masters champion Phil Mickelson and 2014 champion Bubba Watson had the right idea. Mickelson, in full green jacket mode and driving his courtesy Mercedes, took his daughters through the nearby Krispy Kreme drive-in after his third Masters victory. Watson had a similar notion when his family and posse had a late-night venture on Sunday night/Monday morning at an area Waffle House following his second Masters win. 

With that in mind, here’s a sampling of places to visit during Masters week that may still be crowded, but offer less of a wait time and a simpler fare: 

> SPORTS CENTER [594 Broad Street, Augusta]. No frills. No credit cards. Billiard tables. They serve the biggest, juiciest burgers around, complimented by big onion rings. Located next to Luigi’s, the Italian restaurant that has catered and hosted numerous Masters champions’ shindigs, including Jack Nicklaus and Ben Crenshaw.

> WHISKEY BAR (KITCHEN), [1048 Broad Street, Augusta]. A combination of Japanese cuisine, craft burgers and 200 whiskeys. Plus, the curious palate will try the chili pimento cheese (on a burger).

> NACHO MAMA’S, [976 Broad Street, Augusta]. Just a block from Whiskey is a 28-year-old burrito joint that will get you rocking, particularly The Godfather. That’s a perfect name since just two doors down is the Soul Bar, the tribute to the Godfather of Soul, the late James Brown from Augusta.

> FREEMAN’S BAR-B-QUE [1060 Sand Bar Ferry Road, Beech Island, South Carolina]. This is literally a barbecue shack (painted red now), located on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River. The ’cue sandwich is particularly tasty, matching the hospitality of James Freeman III who took over the 50-year-old business from his father. Only open Thursday-Sunday.

From a food perspective, there's more to Masters week than pimento cheese and ice cream sandwiches. Here are some local eateries worthy of a visit.
Walter Clay, left, owner of Rae’s Coastal Cafe, and his son Shadrick. :: Photo: Raes Coastal Cafe

> RAE’S COASTAL CAFE [3208 W. Wimbledon Drive, Augusta]. The location is in the midst of a condo-tennis community off Walton Way, requires a zigzag to get there and cell service can be spotty on site. And yes, a much thinner Rae’s Creek flows by out back. The establishment is famous for its welcoming atmosphere, led by longtime owner Walter Clay, and the Caribbean fare is highlighted by jerk wings and Red Stripe beer. Clay, a longtime Augusta restauranter, also owns the French Market Grille in Surrey Center near Augusta National, offering New Orleans-style food.

> TAKOSUSHI [437 Highland Avenue, Augusta]. Far East Meets Southwest is the calling card for the establishment with three Augusta-area locations, anchored by the smallish restaurant at Surrey Center just up the road from Augusta National. Sushi meets tacos with a favorite order being the starter tempura asparagus.

> WIFE SAVER, [3316 Washington Road, Augusta]. Home to one of the original pimento cheese sandwich recipes, the multiple locations are sure to meet your grease quotient and urge for a meat and three.

> RHINEHART’S OYSTER BAR, [3051 Washington Road, Augusta]. Beyond casual seafood is the trademark for this eatery which offers outdoor seating and plenty of napkins. The original location is on the northern side of I-20 when departing Augusta National.