Just off the winding road into Oxford, population 800, is a bar, a post office and a Cajun eatery named Augusta Restaurant. Here, in the middle of the heartland, this restaurant is a unique dining destination. Transplanted from New Orleans, Jeri and Ben Halperin moved to Iowa after Hurricane Katrina and decided to share the delicious cuisine of the bayou with us.
I’d hoped to make my first trip to Augusta last Fat Tuesday to gorge myself on the bevy of celebratory food and drinks they offer that night. Hurricanes, a full buffet and King Cake, oh my! But my adventure was delayed. Instead I made it to Oxford on a nice fall day. As we were seated, Jeri Halperin, one half of the husband-wife duo, introduced herself and asked us if we had ever eaten at Augusta before. After a warm welcome and brief explanation of the restaurant, she dove right into a quick rundown of the locally sourced food they serve.
- Augusta Restaurant
- 101 S. Augusta Ave., Oxford, IA
- 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday
- (319) 828-2252
We sifted through the menu trying to select items that would give us an idea of the true authenticity of their Cajun cuisine. We decided to start with the chicken and andouille sausage gumbo. It was a wise choice. The thick broth was full of beef flavor that can only result from stewing for hours.
For our main course, we skipped over the “Voted Best in Iowa!” pork tenderloin, although hand cut, hand breaded with homemade breading (what was I thinking?), and selected something we deemed “more authentic” — the shrimp Po-Boy. The Po-Boy was served, as promised, on freshly baked bread with lightly seasoned shrimp and accompanied by a side of hand-cut fries. It was a good sandwich, but I think we played it too safe.
Next, we chose the Country Fried Buttermilk Chicken served with cream corn and fried cheesy grits. The chicken was delicious. Crispy without grease on your fingers and seasoned but not so much that you walked away feeling as if you’d just had your way with a salt lick. I normally don’t eat fried chicken, but this was one place where I would be willing to make an exception again. The cheesy grit cake, as good as it might sound (how can you go wrong with cheesy and cake in the name?) was not what I imagined, and I would probably choose something else on my next visit.
It was the chocolate pecan pie with bourbon chocolate sauce that capped off the night perfectly. It is just plain awesome. Like the center of a chocolate chip cookie that has just come out of the oven, this pie instantly melted in my mouth after a subtle crunch on the first bite. The slight saltiness from the pecans was not enough to scare away the “I don’t like mixing salty and sweet” people, but did round out the flavor nicely. It was a dessert rich enough that two bites suffice, but you can’t stop eating until it’s finished.
We downed the last sips of the Absolut Pepper Cranberry cocktail, a Jeri Halperin original, and said goodbye to our chef and host for the evening.
Augusta is worth the trip, even in the upcoming icy months. I’ll be back for a second visit with that pie.
Did you know…
During the holiday season Augusta makes turducken for takeout orders.
The turducken — turkey stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a deboned chicken — is brined, smoked, layered with andouille sausage and cornbread stuffing and sewn together. Augusta also offers sides, such as sweet potatoes with praline topping, green bean casserole, cranberry with grand marnier sauce, amaretto and cherry bread putting and chocolate pecan pie.
Augusta hosts a jazz brunch each Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The brunch is served a la carte with Bloody Marys and mimosas.