Augusta: Une Saveur Créole
Three miles off of interstate 80 lies Oxford, Iowa. On Sunday mornings the main street is quiet. A few cars drive by, and a few others sit parked, contently, near the curb.
But as you approach the restaurant Augusta, aromas of hot pepper and smoky grill float into your nostrils. The door opens to a full, store front dining space with a bar near the back. Tables and chairs are arranged in rows. The burgundy walls are warm and still feel freshly painted.
Augusta opened in January after friends from New Orleans joined forces with an Iowa native and collectively started the business. Their motto: Creole comfort food. They blend the seafood and spice of the Bayou with Iowa's pork tenderloins and prime rib.
The restaurant offers full lunch and dinner menus Wednesday through Saturday, but the Sunday brunch is what I've found exceptional.
Coffee is quickly served in home-style ceramic mugs. It is hot and rich with a nutty, buttery finish. Brunch entrées include the aforementioned prime rib, eggs Benedict, biscuits and gravy, omelets, pancakes and French toast. All come with a choice of three, yes three, of the following: home fries, fried cheesy grits, sweet potato hash, bacon, house made sausage, house made Canadian bacon, one biscuit with sausage gravy, and one pancake.
The brunch is, needless to say, filling. But it's also delicious.
Head chef Ben Halperin trained with famed chef Susan Spicer at her much acclaimed New Orlean's restaurant Bayona. The guy knows Creole flavor. But what's more, the restaurant deals in quality. Augusta owners insist on making everything they possibly can in-house. They bake their own bread, whip their own mayonnaise, and pickle their own pickles.
Which is to say, I'll soon be going back for brunch...and dinner as well.