*****THIS RESTAURANT IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED*****
Located in a shopping center on the south side of Aiken, Auten’s is a town café with a couple of airy dining rooms and big menu of hearty breakfast (served all day) and hot lunch of meat and threes (or meat and twos). It closes every day at 2pm, except Sunday, when a big dinner is served until 3pm.
Compelling attractions on a full breakfast menu that includes creamy grits, pancakes, and sweet-bread French Toast are two specialty items: the Bowl and the ABC. The former is grits mixed with egg and bacon or sausage topped with melting cheddar cheese. The latter is a baked potato that gets hollowed out, toasted on the grill, and filled with egg, cheese, and a breakfast meat of choice. It comes as a half potato or a halved whole. Pancakes are fluffy and immense — a single one is a full breakfast entree — available plain, stuffed with blueberries or, in the fall, infused with pumpkin.
While lunch can be a burger or a sandwich, hot meals are what earn Auten’s a loyal midday clientele. Every day Monday through Saturday, there is a choice of four entrees from a repertoire that includes country-fried steak, pot roast, chicken pot pie, shepherd’s pie, fried chicken, salmon patties, etc.
I recommend Friday’s meat loaf, which is moist and beefy, dotted with tender bits of green pepper, and topped with ketchupy sauce. A rotating selection of side dishes includes broccoli casserole, blackeye peas, steamed cabbage, fried squash, collard greens, and fried okra. Every day you can count on mashed potatoes (nice and lumpy), macaroni ‘n’ cheese, cole slaw, and potato salad.
Auten’s is a curious theme restaurant, the theme being back to school for adults, and the logic of that being that such a theme provides a fun place for adults to remember their childhood. According to the restaurant website, “No matter who you are, what your religious or political beliefs or your nationality, we all went to school. Everyone has memories of that, some are good and some are bad, that’s why we have the paddle. So if someone thinks that the theme is a bad idea then don’t look at it on a child’s level, look at it on a childish level and have some fun. So if you need a stress reliever, visit us.”
While it is not at cuisine’s cutting edge (nor is it trying to be), Auten’s is indeed a stress-free place to sit and have an eminently satisfying square meal.