When it comes to barbecue, Augusta, Georgia, is hard to beat; but not everything good to eat in James Brown’s home town used to oink. In fact, some of the worthy eats weren’t ever animals or even animal byproducts. Yes, I am talking about vegan food, which — along with cold-pressed juice — is Humanitree House’s raison d’être. After a binge on ribs, pork hash, cracklin’s, and streak o’ lean, I actually enjoy stepping into this temple of culinary virtuousness for Sunshine Gingerade or Hempnotic Smoothie and a Soul Slaw salad or an avocado sandwich on sprouted bread.
I must admit to being skeptical about some of the salubrious shots available. Pain Eliminator of ginger, lime, turmeric, and raw honey tastes great but does nothing to assuage an injured hand. And I’m not sure that a Brain-On shot of wild-harvested blue-green algae really does elevate my mood and sharpen my focus as the menu promises. On the other hand, the Bee Alive Smoothie of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, raw cacao, berries, and bee pollen really does put spring in my step, if only because it is so darn yummy. And that agave-sweetened Sunshine Gingerade, electrified not only by fresh ginger but also by a shot of cayenne pepper, is a stunning eye-opener.
Aside from juices, smoothies, shots, and smoothie bowls, the food menu (available from 11am to 3pm) includes vegan soups and salads and a handful of sandwiches on onion buns, sprouted bread, wraps, or gluten-free bread. Among these are a vegan burger made of beets, black beans, and rice. The burger also is gluten-free, and although it tastes perhaps too much of starchy beans and not quite enough of earthy beets, it does provide heavyweight satisfaction vaguely similar to (but tasting nothing like) a hamburger made of beef. There are pseudo chicken and pseudo tuna salads, and right-textured pseudo sausage, available mild or (very) spicy that stars in a sandwich called Mofo along with a great spill of sun-dried tomato paste.
Of course, none of this will scratch the itch of carnivory, but it would be silly to expect that. By vegan standards, this juice bar / restaurant delivers the goods with expertise, style, and a savvy sense of taste. And it delivers them in a surreal environment of expressive paintings created by hand — hand, not brush — by proprietor Baruti Tucker, who founded the place and designed the menu along with his wife, Denise. For a refreshing change from the stereotypical gout de terroir of the Central Savannah River Area, Humanitree is in a class by itself.
Note: Humanitree House is open from 8:30am to 6pm (to 3:30 on Saturday), but serves lunch only from 11 to 3. It is closed Sunday and Monday.