A Sporting Good Time
By Griffin Nelson | Photography by John Antaki
Come for the food, stay for the sports! Manny’s Sports Off Broad is centrally located, has bar food with a creative twist and features all the sporting events you could watch! Located in the old Hive building, it’s easy to find and is within walking distance for those who live and work downtown. The cozy interior features sturdy picnic tables for family seating, more than 15 TVs (including a projector outside for fair-weather days) and rustic, industrial vibes that leave pretension at the door.
Owner and head chef Manny Hatzis has worked with his team to merge his Greek heritage into classic menu options that sports bar food patrons typically expect. “That Greek Chef”, as he’s known, grew up in Florida until he joined the military at 18. Eventually, he found himself visiting Augusta for work with a restaurant chain and fell in love with the city, making it his home.
After more than a decade of working in restaurants around the Savannah River Region, Hatzis ended in the ICU fighting for his life during the peak of the pandemic in 2021. Two-and-a-half weeks later he was depleted, in need of a job. Friends at Savannah River Brewing Company were looking for someone to provide food regularly at the brewery and they asked if he’d be interested. It ended up being the perfect match. Hatzis was able to work on his menu, building his following and connections as he regained strength. He went from cooking one day a week at the brewery to almost every day during the next year.
When the old Hive building became available, it was time for Hatzis to make his dreams of owning a restaurant come true. With a brick-and-mortar, he’s been able to expand his menu favorites. There are more than 25 beers on tap, making Manny’s the ultimate pub experience.
Yes, of course, the cupcakes are good! But what brings everyone to Dolce Darlin’ — the huge pink house bakery in Olde Town — is community. Owner Cat Musgrove, known to everyone as Ms. Darlin’, has a smile to light up the room and has never met a stranger. Her heart for her two children, employees and everyone who walks through the front door is evident in everything she does.
Like other artisans, Musgrove’s love of baking grew out of necessity and passion. While living in Italy, she and her friends found it difficult to find cupcakes and many typical American sweets that they missed from back home. Making cupcakes for a friend was the catalyst that pushed her into the world of baking. “I think if you work for free for a long time and you still love it, that has some value,” she acknowledges.
When she returned to the U.S., the Tennessee native settled in Augusta where she started to grow her business. “Dolly” (Parton) — her namesake food truck — was set up once a week to serve customers in addition to regular orders. But at the end of 2019, her world and her business would be put to the test when everything she’d known came crashing down.
After the Darlins had lost everything, the community rallied around them as they renovated the 168-year-old, abandoned house, making it both a residence upstairs and new bakery downstairs. Locals invested in Dolce Darlin’ from the start, not just because the baked goods are melt-in-your-mouth delicious, but because the Darlin’ family loves their community in return. Patrons come back time and again for the spirit of the place as well as regular treats like pimento cheese, blueberry scones and banana pudding. There are always six cupcake flavors that rotate each week plus sweets like cookies, tiramisu and macarons.
Dolce Darlin’ also features themed weeks celebrating holidays and fun events such as, baking camp during the summer, story hours, live music and more. Many of the events are free, providing a place to get a fantastic cookie, cupcake of the week or whatever new item is in the case.
Wild For Boba
If you’ve ever tried boba tea, a.k.a. bubble tea, you know it’s a unique treat. Originally from Vietnam, there are only a few places in the Savannah River Region that make it. The new favorite is Lily Coffee, Tea & Bread on Laney Walker Boulevard, just a short walk from the medical district. Owned by Lily Nguyen, the location has been perfect for people needing a quick lunch, snack or refreshing drink.
In addition to authentic, handmade sandwiches, steamed pork buns and spring rolls, the coffee and tea are out of this world! With beans imported from Vietnam, Lily makes sure her staff brews it with the same quality and precision she remembers from her home country. The coconut ube coffee sweetened with condensed milk is a perfect pick-me-up or jolt of caffeine after a long shift. The white coffee is a lighter version that retains a nice flavor with a lower dose of caffeine.
There are endless variations, and you’re sure to find a favorite boba combination. With leaves imported from places as far away as Taiwan, the syrups are made in-house from real fruit and toppings include boba (chewy tapioca balls), fruit jelly, popping pearls, aloe vera and crystal boba. Everything can be made to order, even to the level of sweetness or quantity of ice in each drink.
The drinks and treats at Lily Coffee, Tea & Bread are a local sensation. The shop opened in August after more than a year of selling from a food truck, which still travels to various locations around Augusta, and they’re looking to expand even further. It’s hard to beat an authentic Vietnamese drink whether you’re looking for a strong dose of coffee or a sweet fruity tea!
Appears in the November/December 2022 issue of Augusta Magazine.