EAT – Taj Aiken Indian Cuisine
By Griffin Nelson | Photography by John Antaki
As Alok Kumar Akse, owner of Taj Aiken Indian Cuisine puts it, “India is known for two things – tourism and food.” Since he can’t bring the amazing tourism, he works hard to bring the amazing food to the area. There has never been a more passionate group of people as the team consisting of Alok Kumar Akse, Chef Pranab, and Chef Herdeep and their staff. All were born in India but have traveled and lived and cooked in countries all over the world. Akse, studied medicine in Russia but for lack of a cook, learned to do it himself and made the dishes he’d grown up with, while Chef Pranab has a background in French and Italian cooking in addition to his skills with his native dishes.
Whether you’ve had Indian food a million times or have never given it a try, Taj Aiken is the perfect place to get a flavorful meal. India is a huge country with a variety of different dishes to meet the variety of different cultures. The team at Taj Aiken aim to serve dishes that provide the most authentic experience possible. They’re happy to answer questions about anything on the menu and though they spend hours prepping ingredients, they don’t actually start cooking each dish until the order has come in each customer gets a tailored experience.
The impressive array of spices that are involved in Indian cooking can be combined endlessly to create dishes that are packed with flavor but with a spice level that is variable. If you’ve been to India and know you can handle it, you can certainly order any dish “Indian spicy”, but there’s no shame in ordering it mild or anywhere in between.
Akse’s favorite dishes are the Butter Chicken and the Biryani, but the Tikka Masala is also a crowd favorite. There are plenty of vegetarian and gluten free options as well. With a little something for everyone, customers are bound to leave happy and full.
ARTISAN – Haute Doughnuts
Photo by John Antaki
I’m such a sucker for doughnuts. Sure, I like a plain-glazed as much as the next person, and I truly believe its the standard by which any doughnut shop should be held, but when my husband and I travel, we’re always on the lookout for the craziest, yummiest, most interesting doughnut that is unlike anything we’ve ever tried. Needless to say I was so excited when we discovered that Haute Doughnuts had opened right here in Augusta!
Founders Jeremy and Cara Miller are both vegan and have been for about six years. Though their love for healthy food does not negate their love for sweet things. Jeremy attended culinary school at the Art Institute of Atlanta and then proceeded to create a name for himself in the restaurant industry working at 5-star, 5-diamond establishments in big cities like Atlanta, New York City, and even went as far as working at his dream restaurant – the acclaimed French Laundry in California.
The local couple eventually ended up back in Augusta several years ago, bringing with them their personal recipe for vegan doughnuts that they’d often make at home as a family for a fun treat. Jeremy has perfected this vegan recipe for light, fluffy doughnuts with different kinds of icings or fillings that can be combined in endless variations. The doughnuts were so good in fact that they lead taste-tester Cara, and the rest of his family, encouraged him to start a side business.
Not for long would it remain a side business however. The demand for Haute Doughnuts increased so quickly that it was soon not only his full-time job but a family affair with even their kids helping with things like folding boxes and calling out order numbers. The Millers want to be a good example for their children showing them what hard work and passion can bring to the table.
Impressively, Haute Doughnuts has exploded in popularity despite not having a storefront. The easy ordering system can be found on their website: haute-doughnuts.com. Weekly specials can be found on their Instagram and Facebook at @hautedoughnuts. Previously included creations like Fruity Pebbles, Key Lime Pie, Chocolate and Peanut Butter Mousse, Birthday Cake, and on and on, typically ranging in price from $2-5. There’s always at least one new creative doughnut available each week but even the staples are memorable. Their Blueberry Cake doughnut is quite literally the best I have ever had anywhere ever and their Haute Tarts I get every single time I order, no matter what flavor is available that week. Try one or try them all! Depending on what day you order your pickup may be at various locations around town so pay attention. Haute Doughnuts has pickups at places like Ubora Coffee, Field, and Rooted Coffee House and you can find them each Saturday at the downtown market.
SIP – Draft Society Taproom
Photo by John Antaki
If you’ve ever been to the Alley Taproom in Aiken you know that Draft Society Taproom, opening downtown soon, is going to be the perfect place to grab a pint of something unique as the temperatures rise. The renovated, historic building at 825 Broad Street is spacious for those who want to attend live events, simply sit and study or hang out with friends.
The system is similar to the Alley in Aiken but with new and improved technology thanks to software engineer Chris Morgan.
When you walk in the door you’ll stop at the counter to check in. They’ll need your drivers license and credit card to set up your account and then give you a bracelet with a little chip in it to keep track of your drinks or you can even scan in your fingerprint! You can then take the bracelet (or your finger) and scan it on the screen above the beverage you want and start pouring. The beauty of this taproom system is that if you just want to try a beer, you can pour yourself a taste and then decide if you want more.
In addition to beer, there are plenty of options for everyone. The new software behind the tap system has a feature that accesses age so that those under 21 only have access to the non-alcoholic beverages. So whether you can’t or don’t want to drink, no worries – there are still plenty of options! “We have kombucha on tap. We have root beer. So you can still get that feel of going out and having a good time, without having to drink,” says owner Alley Kneece.
The Draft Society Taproom is open to everyone. Families with kids, singles with dogs, couples wanting a quick drink before a show, or a group of friends ready for a night out. Kneece has really focused on the community aspect with cozy spots towards the front, an area for live music and other events, and even an outdoor space. She’s also plans to incorporate activities to attract the yoga, running, and biking, communities.
If you prefer your beer to-go the Draft Society has growlers so you can try any of the unique beers from all over the country that are in rotation throughout the year. So whether your drink is a good ol’ fashioned pint of bitter, a selection of different craft styles or you prefer your drink sans-alcohol, the Draft Society Taproom is the place to be this summer!
Previous feature Vance’s Bakery Bar has been doing nonstop pop-ups and catering. They have already made a name for themselves in our community with their boozy-filled baked goods and sweet treats. Their brick and mortar location is officially open for business and features a beautiful modern design with desserts that incorporate alcohol and inspiration from places like 2nd City Bourbon and Savannah River Brewing Co. But you don’t need me to tell you. After all, “The proof is in the sweets!”
Appears in the May 2021 issue of Augusta Magazine.