Photograph by Wier Stewart
EAT – Laziza Mediterranean
One of the great things about Augusta is the balance of classic Southern culture and the outside influence from people who move to the area because of Fort Gordon.
Many are drawn to the local charm and decide to stay, helping to bring a wider variety of cultures and businesses to the area. We have Air Force veteran Nader Khatib to thank for Laziza Mediterranean Grill. Originally from Michigan, he decided to settle his family here in the Augusta area and, seeing a void in the industry, decided to open Laziza in 2011. With few Mediterranean options locally, he knew it had potential to be successful.
And success he has had! In the last eight years the restaurant has doubled the size of its Evans location, expanded its menu, added a selection of market items, and is currently in the process of renovating a new location in historic downtown, with plans of opening in the fall. Its name, “laziza”, means “delicious” in Arabic – an apt name for a restaurant serving Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-inspired food that has been well received by the locals.
Some of the menu favorites include the classic gyro and the chicken shawarma. Marinated, spit-roasted, and shaved, the shawarma can be served as part of a platter, salad, or wrap. My personal favorite is the tabuleh salad, one of many vegetarian options. Everything is fresh and cooked to order. Even the sauces are house-made and as a bonus are available as part of the market, along with their amazing hummus and imported Mediterranean dry goods like olive oil and date cookies.
They’ve made ordering extra easy with an user-friendly online system for those who might be on a tight lunch break. If you’re not in a rush the recently expanded and remodeled interior is bright and refreshing and a great place to catch up with friends. They’ve added a bar with a selection of wine and local beers as well plus a rotating list of gelato. If you’re unable to get there yourself, you can even order through Augusta To Go and have it delivered to you. Event catering is available as well with an easy-to-use online system or by calling (706) 504-4303.
SIP – Sno-Cap
There’s something about a drive-in diner that everybody loves and the Sno-Cap in North Augusta is no different. When Havird Usry saw that it was up for sale a few months ago, he knew that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put a personal touch on a legacy. It opened in 1964 and has been an area treasure ever since. One of the regular patrons I spoke with recalled stopping at the Sno-Cap many times with his buddies as they drove up and down West Avenue to help decorate for the high school prom.
It’s hard to pass up a good burger, especially one with locally ground beef and buns freshly baked just outside of Atlanta. But what the Sno-Cap is particularly famous for are their root beer floats. The combination of vanilla soft serve ice cream and Georgia-made Red Hare root beer create a thick, foamy top that rises above the chilled glass mug, giving it the name “sno-cap.” And though Red Hare makes a great root beer, the drive-in is currently collaborating with Riverwatch Brewing to create their own based on the original list of ingredients that the Sno-Cap made years ago.
If you’d rather get something other than soda from your soda jerk, try one of their shakes. It doesn’t get more classic than that combination of milk blended up with soft serve ice cream in vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry. They also have featured monthly shakes such as banana pudding or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
I remember my husband taking me to a drive-in on our first date nine years ago. So perhaps I’m a little biased, but there’s something about the environment and nostalgia that brings people together, something that Usry has taken extra care to preserve. “We’ve enjoyed recreating that for folks,” he says. So whether you’ve been coming to the Sno-Cap for more than 50 years or are new to the area, stop by and treat yourself to a float or a shake on a hot summer day.
Artisan – Blue House Farm
If you grew up in the South you have likely tried ripe muscadines from the store, sipped wine made from the juice, or spread jelly on your toast. These wild grapes are native to the Americas and have been cultivated by European settlers for centuries and native peoples long before that. The sweet fruit has a thick skin and large seeds, both of which are said to have impressive antioxidant properties. The “Mother Vine” in North Carolina is fabled to have been around for more than 400 years; it is the origin of many of the newer varieties of muscadines that are grown today.
This includes the many different varieties at the Blue House Farm in Harlem, Ga. The u-pick farm opened up about seven years ago, but years of work have gone into making the farm what it is today. Louis and Janice Newsome have owned the land for decades. The “blue house” at the edge of the property was built for Louis’ grandparents around 1940.
When he and Janice both retired from careers as teachers they decided to plant the family farm with fruit and vegetables and started off by selling their produce on the spot. It took a few years for their first few rows of muscadine vines to reach maturity but both the vines and the farm have been growing steadily ever since. They now have 150 plants and are nurturing another 75, of different varieties. Months of work go into pruning the vines during the winter, tons of water for irrigation during the summer, and by late August through September each year the farm is ready for visitors. Many people have their favorite varieties of muscadines, which vary in color and sweetness and boast names like Summit and Darlene. The u-pick system allows for visitors to pick as many as they want to purchase and provides an opportunity to learn about the work that goes into the produce that we eat. Located at 279 Old Blythe Rd. in Harlem, the family-friendly environment of the Blue House Farm makes it a great place to pick muscadines this season.
Article appears in the May 2021 issue of Augusta Magazine.