It is easy not to notice The Grill Reign when you drive past it on the old two-lane to Augusta. It’s set back from the road, signage is minimal, and the building itself is plain. But if you seek a good hamburger, crisp-edged and gravy-smothered pork chops, or fried chicken made to order and served with extraordinary hospitality, this is a place you want to find.
One step in the door and the forlorn location is forgotten in a large room arrayed with six well-kept pool tables, a long bar (for eats, not drinks), and table napery suited for a posh wedding. You have entered a restaurant with a unique personality and a menu full of promise.
Full of promise? Yes, consider French fry opportunities. The fries themselves are good ones — irregular cuts that vary from crisp to creamy. There are umpteen ways to get them: topped with chili, chili & cheese, cheese & bacon, shrimp & cheese, Philly steak, jalapeno peppers, or bacon, lettuce & tomato. Loaded fries come smothered with some of everything, including clumps of hamburger and a scattering of sauteed peppers and onions.
Likewise, hamburger options are an epic roster that includes a dozen different cheeses, grilled vegetables, eggs, BBQ sauce, and even pancakes. The shrimpburger is a tour de force in which texture is as provocative as as flavor, the svelte shrimp contrasting so dramatically with rugged beef, the two separated by silky cheese and slippery caramelized onions. Bun choices include white, wheat, a French roll, and a taco (hard or soft).
The burgers themselves are thick, hand-pattied rounds cooked through but still juice-oozing — excellent even without any of the outlandish toppings. When you ask for one all the way, it comes with a virtual salad of crisp lettuce, tomato, and onion, plus mustard and mayo. On a bun that’s impeccably fresh, it’s a winning package.
The Grill Reign’s stretch of road is not a merry one, but chef and proprietor Pam Hall infuses her restaurant with charm that makes coming here and eating here the highlight of a day. “I know we’re a hole in the wall,” she tells me. “That’s why I do what I can to make it special. A clean business, a friendly smile, and good food are what really matter.”