by Susan Frampton
It’s Saturday down on the Plaza, and Augustans have good reason to be waking up and heading to the river. It is market day, and on the brick-lined walk at 8th Street at Reynolds, the dew clings to fresh, ripe berries, and sunflowers turn their happy yellow faces to the morning.
Runners congregate, bending and stretching in anticipation of their scenic weekly trek. It’s an exercise of immense self-control given the flavors that waft through the air. The line has already formed at the tent over the Mennonite Dutch House Restaurant and Bakery, where the sticky buns packed full of caramel and pecans are legendary, and according to one resident with a bit of frosting on her chin, “Worth every penny.”
Looking out over the Savannah River at Augusta’s historic Riverwalk, The Augusta Market has been a weekend tradition since 2003, when it began as a farmer’s market. Over the years, it has evolved into a weekly celebration of all things local.
Though the fresh, locally grown produce still steals the scene with the colors and textures of collard greens, peppers, tomatoes, and fresh eggs, you’ll find a delightful assortment of wares by local and regional artisans. Among the offerings, aromatic soaps and lotions, elegant jewelry, and finely turned cutting boards vie for the senses of the morning shoppers.
In the casual, relaxed lane, the sound of a lone saxophone provides the soundtrack for families with wide-eyed youngsters clutching balloons, couples strolling hand-in-hand, and well-behaved, leashed four-legged explorers to peruse stalls of doggie treats, hand-thrown pottery, garden plants, and accessories.
It’s also a foodie’s paradise. Cooking for her six children inspired Colleen Hall’s mouth-watering baked goods, which you’ll find spread out in all their delicious glory on the table of The Pie Hole. Though peanut butter pie is the favorite of son Chris, sweet and savory are given equal time in the oven, with the golden crusts of chicken pot pie, apple pie, tomato pie, blueberry pie and taco pie all packaged up and ready to take home.
For those looking to spice up the day, the aromas of world cuisines may lead discerning noses to the simmering pots of Mi Panama, where Viela, better known as “Chi Chi from Panama,” prepares the stuffed yucca root, fried plantains, and souse, a tangy, traditional Panamanian dish of pork, pickled onions, cucumbers and peppers. All afford adventurous epicureans the unique and intriguing flavors of Central America.
Nearby, at The Crazy Empanada, Cuban and Puerto Rican dishes await visitors in search of freshly made beef, chicken, or spinach empanadas, tacos, and horchata, the creamy, cinnamon sugar drink that has the perfect blend of flavors sure to get the morning off to a smooth start. Cuban sandwiches of roasted pork, pickles, ham, and cheese are the toasted taste of the island.
Held each Saturday from 8 AM to 2 PM, March through November, ample parking makes it easy to stop in and enjoy all that The Augusta Market has to offer, which in warm months includes live music and a refreshing splash fountain for the kids. While you’re there, explore the multi-level walkways along the Riverwalk leading to museums, parks and gardens. Historic markers lead the way to playgrounds, fountains, picnic areas and the Heroes Overlook Memorial. You find it’s a great starting point for a day spent exploring nearby shops and restaurants. Start your Saturdays with The Augusta Market at the River, for a fun, exciting and delicious Saturday morning stroll.