Augusta Magazine article, November 2018, Photography by John Antaki
In the full spirit of passion and collaboration, Cork and Flame is the River Region’s newest and most unique spot for fine dining, perfectly coming together under the guidance of Vineyard Wine Market’s Robert Strohl and Katerworks Chef Justin Hayes. Helping to fill the void in the Evans area, the menu pulls from many aspects of Hayes’s training and travels to create an international medley of flavor and style. After studying under award-winning and master chefs in the United States and Germany and apprenticing at French restaurants, Hayes was inspired to elevate French classics by incorporating unique flavors and innovative cooking techniques from around the world. Emphasizing seasonal and sustainably-sourced ingredients in the true spirit of progressive American cuisine, the menu at Cork and Flame rotates to offer the highest quality dishes possible.
The restaurant’s crowning glory is a stunning, open Argentinian hearth. Most of the menu is cooked over the oak or hickory wood flames with a crank that lowers or raises the grill to achieve everything from a perfect char to a smoky finish. Using renowned Brasstown beef from North Carolina and being the only place in the area serving Wagyu, they’ve quickly set themselves apart as one of the best places in the area to savor a quality steak. And there’s no need for fancy seasonings. Hayes promises a bit of salt and pepper and the perfect sear are all it needs. The pork chop is thick and hearty and the brick-pressed chicken cooked beautifully. My personal favorite will always be any part of the rotating selection of seafood, including fish, Nigerian prawns, lobster, and diver scallops. Always inventive, the menu also features singular meats like ostrich, game sausage, water buffalo, and lamb – Hayes’s current favorite. Many dishes come with grilled baguette; greens, vegetables, and fruits are grilled for unique side dishes and salads, including this summer’s hearth-dried pineapple salad.
The creativity of the dishes allows for a versatile menu format as well. There are a number of entrees and small plates that can be ordered separately, noteworthy nightly specials, and a tapas menu that’s available at the bar and in the wine shop next door during wine tastings. With a 72-hour notice, a four-course tasting menu and eight-course chef’s table experience can be paired with wine for the ultimate special occasion. The chic environment, specialty disheware made by Augusta’s own Hickman Pottery, and the distinctive cuisine make Cork and Flame the place to eat in the River Region. Whether it’s a weeknight date, dinner party, or a corporate event, you’ll discover the consummate dining experience at Cork and Flame.