Wes Hennings never met a meal he walked away from and is an opinionated eater! Each Thursday, he shares the results of a business lunch he’s had with a colleague as a way to advise our business community on the good, bad, and the tasty across the CSRA. He doesn’t let ABD or the restaurant know where he is going and his opinions are his own. He grades the restaurants he visits on a 1-5 scale with “5” being outstanding. We call this our “Real Business Lunch Review”.
Food Quality: 5
Business Meeting: 4
Average Score: 4.25 of 5
When you’re searching for lunch options in Augusta, there’s one spot that always pops up that has intrigued me, and that’s Hildebrandt’s Delicatessen on the, shall we say, more storied side of downtown Augusta.
I drove past the strip clubs and liquor stores that dot the landscape near 6th and Broad to find a lunch spot with plenty of character and undeniably good food that I hope will be around for as long as it clearly already has been. Make sure you walk up to the store from the Green Street side so you can take in the side wall mural proclaiming that Hildebrandt’s is “Part German. Part South. All Welcome.”
I walked in and found a joint that clearly hasn’t changed much since downtown’s heyday any number of decades ago. Honestly, it was a bit off-putting at first. I figured that this place had lived past its prime and survived on customers and memories from the past. I wondered if the awards from the past five years, awarding them the ‘Best Sandwich in Augusta” was just a consolation prize from a storied past.
That past includes the location opening as a grocery in 1879, nearly 150 years ago! By the time the third generation of the family took over, it was time to innovate and add a deli counter. Louis brought the sandwiches in, and many of them now bear his name.
The experience started a little rough as the clerk took the order of the customers in front of me and then disappeared. I waited more than 5 minutes for anyone to show back up to the counter and was wondering if anyone ever would. But I was finally able to place my order, grab a bottle of Dr. Pepper from a cooler, and pick a table.
The dining room makes me feel like I’ve entered a bygone era, and the tables feel like a scattering of tables you’d find at your grandma’s house, complete with rubber placemats and quaint napkin holders. I sat there and looked around and peeling paint from walls and old extension cords that led to nowhere, and realized that this is exactly what the trendy restaurants are now trying to replicate. It was retro, but only because nothing has changed since retro was modern.
Then, my corned beef Reuben sandwich arrived with a side of warm German potato salad. And let me tell you – the awards, the restaurant’s longevity, and the customers who have returned for years all made sense. It’s as if I could taste all of the nostalgia of the place in one bite. It was a flavorful and generous helping of corned beef with a perfect slice of melted cheese and excellently portioned slaw and dressing. It was as if this was the original corned beef sandwich that all others try to imitate. And if you’re not into amazing sandwiches, the potato salad was reason enough to visit. I was basically licking the last bite from the small styrofoam container.
As cheesy as it sounds, I feel like I saw the place in a whole new light after the meal. It’s as if the parts which are a little rough around the edges just mixed in with the flavor of the entire experience. And it was a warm and filling meal without that super heavy feeling you get after many of the comfort food experiences you have around town. I was a convert in just one bite. And they’re only open for lunch, from 11 to 3, so don’t think you can slip in for a late meal.
I know it can feel like a slog to cross over that invisible barrier downtown around 8th Street, but a visit to an Augusta landmark is worth the trip. Since all are welcome, I suggest all should visit.
226 6th St. #1416, Augusta, GA