Editor’s note: This is the first in a series the Aiken Standard will run periodically on locally-owned restaurants around Aiken County. To have your restaurant included, email Stephanie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was a rainy day when Paul and Denise Musick first stepped in Auten’s Family Restaurant, and they have been regulars ever since.
For them, it’s a place of good service and good “comfort” food.
“We eat breakfast for lunch,” Paul Musick said.
Denise simply put, “We like the environment.”
And they like the fact that two locals own the place.
July will mark the four-year anniversary since Sharon and Frankie Auten opened up the place. Since that day, the two have served up homemade, country-style food to many people like the Musicks.
However, the couple wanted to provide people a little off-beat service.
“We have decided that there is too much stress in life, so when we opened Auten’s, we said it was going to be a fun place for adults to remember their childhood. … And what (better) place than school,” Frankie wrote on the restaurant’s website.
To this day, people can walk in and find lunch boxes streaming down from the ceiling. Old photos of classes and educational posters are taped along the walls. Desks linger by the entrance. There is even a globe and chalkboard to be found.
However, within the last few weeks, the couple decided to change up their decor a bit. This means, some of the school items have been coming down, and more neutral artwork has been going up.
The reason – the Autens decided to it was time to make the atmosphere a bit more grown up.
“Plus you have to change up your decor every now and then to spruce the place back up,” Sharon said.
But that feeling of a schoolhouse day can’t seem to completely lose its grip.
“Kids love the playroom,” Sharon said. “We have some that come straight out of the car to play.”
The playroom at Auten’s is a mini version of a daycare center. A chalkboard sits on the wall, toys lie around and various reading and activity books rest on the bookshelf.
It’s a place that children can play while adults eat, Sharon said.
But Auten’s has even a bit more than just its unique decorations and family attitude. Large groups often come to the restaurant to play bridge or for a Bible study.
Once a year, the restaurant hosts a Pancake Challenge. Ten people face the challenge to see who can scarf the most pancakes in 10 minutes. The winner receives a trophy and gift certificates to Auten’s and Hole-in-One. Sometimes, a gift bag with Tums or Pepto-Bismol is thrown in, too, to “make it fun,” Sharon said. Pictures and articles of past challenges can be found in the playroom. The next challenge is on July 27.
The menu changes every day. Omelets, french toast, biscuits and gravy and the ABC special can be found on the breakfast menu; breakfast is served all day on Sunday. Each day, except for Sunday, has its own lunch menu that includes four different meats and sides. On Sundays, customers might have to call ahead of time or check out the restaurant’s Facebook or Twitter to see what’s cooking for the day.
Sharon and Frankie have been working together for 24 years. Before they came to Aiken, they lived in Calhoun Falls, where they owned K&A Favorite Food and Country Cooking.
This weekend, they will have been in Aiken for four years.
Auten’s is open Mondays through Thursdays from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is located at 969 Pine Log Road, behind KFC.
For more information, visit www.autensofaiken.com.
Staff photo by Stephanie Turner This group of ladies comes every other week to play bridge in Auten’s dining room. Pictured, from left clockwise, are Nancy Prendergast, Jewel Napier, Pinki Jacobs and Marilyn Schanhals.×
Aiken Standard File Photo Sharon and Frankie Auten around four years ago, first getting started.×
Staff photo by Stephanie Turner This globe and desk placed by the dining room add to the schoolroom atmosphere.×
Staff photo by Stephanie Turner The playroom is a popular place for the children who come.×
Staff photo by Stephanie Turner Sharon Auten stands beside a memorabilia wall acquired from customers over the last four years in the dining room at Auten’s.×