by Jana Riley
There is a fabulous new recipe for greens in downtown Augusta these days. To make it, one starts with a man whose huge heart, charm, and love for his hometown have made him practically a household name. To that, add the business savvy, movie-star looks and Iron Man stamina of an Augusta-born chef and Food Network star. Then, sprinkle liberally with the seasoning of a native son known for his vegan expertise, whose creative culinary gifts have graced some of the best-known restaurants in the country.
Toss together to make The Southern Salad, a new and innovative restaurant on Broad Street that has Augusta turning over a new leaf.
The restaurant is the brain-child of Brad and Havird Usry, the father and son of a family long known for community involvement, and of late for the delicious Southern-style dishes of Fat Man’s Mill Café. Also on deck is Chef Jeremy Miller, a professional chef with hands-on experience at New York’s prestigious Jean-Georges Restaurant and California’s renowned French Laundry. Their venture has put “clean eating” into the minds and onto the plates of Augusta diners since its late summer opening.
The seeds of their idea for the business model began germinating in the minds of the Usrys over a year ago, but the concept began to literally take root when they purchased a hydroponic greenhouse in Bartow, GA, and partnered with Hancock Farms to produce their very own hydroponic lettuces for a new kind of farm-to-table restaurant. Hydroponic farming is a technique used for growing plants without soil, using a water and nutrition system delivered in a sterile growing environment. Certified hydroponic organic, and environmentally friendly, the practice offers clean, fast, and efficient year-round agricultural production, and maximizes growing space for the Tuscan Kale, Buttercrunch, and Red Leaf lettuces the pair envisioned at the center of their restaurant’s dishes.
The addition of Chef Miller to the team was the final, flavorful ingredient needed for the culinary magic to begin. Miller, who has long favored a plant-based diet, drew on his experience in the Napa area, where his time in the kitchen of The French Laundry offered daily access to a plethora of fresh, seasonal, ingredients. He brings to the endeavor a passion for creating flavors that are guaranteed to entice even those with deep-fried Southern culinary roots to explore healthier food choices.
Menu selections include a wide range of tasty options in each of its salad, grain bowl, smoothie and toast categories. Among the favorites, The Bartow Caesar, named for the location of their greenhouse, features Tuscan kale, sunflower seeds, parmesan cheese, bacon, cornbread croutons and a vegan Caesar dressing.
To fresh greens, the Mediterranean Grain Bowl adds quinoa, marinated artichokes, roasted local peppers and green beans, mixed olives, cucumbers, feta and champagne vinaigrette, while those looking to top a slice of tasty Hancock Farms sourdough toast may want to add the house-cured salmon with whipped cream cheese, cucumber, red onion and fresh dill. Miller notes that vegan options are also available in each category.
The three partners agree that Augusta is extraordinarily blessed with culinary talent for a city its size, and are delighted to bring The Southern Salad into such good company. They hope that it is just the first of their healthy ventures into the landscape. “It’s a pretty simple concept,” says Havird, “One that we hope we can duplicate. We hope we can bring new taste perspectives and a new way of eating to those who haven’t had access before.”
Drop into The Southern Salad at 1008 Broad Street for a taste of their self-proclaimed “clean greens in the dirty South.” Dressing is optional!