Augie’s Mussel House

No need to go any further than 1106 King St. if you want delicious mussels. Mason Social latest offering with Chef Eric Reid (formerly at the Reserve) at the helm is cooking up feasts nightly at Augie’s Mussel House. Barely opened two weeks, the patio and upper level is filling up every night. Chef Eric is showing off his multiple personalities when it comes to cooking up mussels and other delights. Drag along your reluctant friend who always says they don’t like mussels. Chef Eric may change their mind. If not, there are plenty of other choices on the menu.

Let’s start with appetizers or starters. You must try the chilled White Asparagus Soup. This creamy soup is rich with black garlic cream and asparagus. Cool and refreshing, it is perfect for these hot summer nights. The Angler’s salad is full of a variety of seafood including shrimp, crab, lobster, and mussels nestled in frisee with a lemon vinaigrette. Frisee for a salad instead of as a garnish – a great idea. Meat eaters? Try the Steak Tartar. It comes garnished with onions and a fresh quail’s egg with lots of crispy crostini. It’s another winner. Those preferring veggies can enjoy the fabulous Watermelon Salad loaded with chopped tomatoes, halloumi cheese, basil, and mint in a roasted garlic vinaigrette.

Mussels are the star of the menu and are served as half pound servings. We tried four varieties out of the six possible and each of our tablemates had different favorites. The Provencal is a traditional broth of tomatoes, garlic, butter, and white wine. It’s delicious. Chef Eric provides delicious homemade bread to sop up the broth. The Augie’s House mussels are to die for. Served in a bowl of garlic-herb butter, lardons of bacon, and beer, they are hard to resist. Thanks to the bread, you won’t miss a single drop of that amazing broth.

Moving into a more non-traditional mode, Augie’s serves up Buffalo Style mussels in a sauce of Crystal butter, shaved celery, panko, and blue cheese. The mussels are steamed first and then added to the sauce. Who knew mussels and Buffalo sauce were so simpatico. My guest allowed me to taste one mussel before she devoured the entire bowl. I was okay with that because I was busy with the Thai Green Curry mussels with purple eggplant, Thai green curry, and coconut. Served with a large scoop of rice, it’s all you can do to not lick the bowl when you run out of rice.

As I mentioned earlier, there are some people who are just not into mussels. If they are from the Midwest, they will love that you brought them along. They must have the Fried Bologna sandwich. The sandwich starts with Texas sized toast filled with shredded lettuce, spicy Augie’s sauce, American cheese, mayo, and really high-quality bologna. Offered with a side of house made potato chips or frites, it is a sloppy handful of wonderfulness. This is not your afterschool sandwich made by mom or grandma – this is too good to pass up. I have been known to drive to Old Town in the rain for this sandwich!

There is something for everyone. Augie’s offers a wonderful dry aged beef burger served with aged cheddar, crispy onion straws, and Augie’s sauce served on a house made bun. Did I mention that the fries are served with house made smoked tomato catsup? Chef Eric has won awards for his hot chicken. Try this sandwich loaded with a crispy chicken thigh, chopped onions, and tomatoes on a waffle bun. The Steak Frites features a char-grilled hanger steak served with more of those delicious frites and a pepper chutney. For those who wanted seafood but not mussels, try the Short Smoke Salmon. It’s served with a cauliflower puree, haricot verts, and lemon dill. Another do-not-miss is the Roasted Amish Chicken. Reminiscent of Peruvian rotisserie chicken with a lovely smoky flavor, it comes with a side of fried yuca, garlic aioli, and green sauce. Mix the two sauces together and dip the chicken and yucca to your heart’s content.

We tried two of the currently available desserts. Chocolate pecan pie is served with a large dollop of whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. I got one bite of that as it was inhaled by the rest of the table. It was delish. Why everyone was busy eating pie, I devoured the crème brulee. It was one of the best I have had in a long time.

The bar menu features many excellent small brewery cans and bottles and European selections. They have multiple drafts from around the country and Belgium and a Virginia hard cider. They also offer a wide variety of mixed drinks to suit your tastes.

As for now, the upper level and patio are open for dinner. The patio is home to comfortable tables and a huge smoker which bodes well for whole hog cooking. On hot nights, an industrial size fan provides some comfort. Chef Eric says he’s already sourcing meats to cook on it. The second floor is a comfortable assortment of chairs and stools at bar height tables. Sound levels fluctuate but we found it was fairly easy to conduct a conversation.

Sometime this fall, the restaurant will close so that renovations can continue on the lower level. Let’s hope they figure out a way to keep the other dining areas open so we can continue to Augie’s offerings.