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Best of SAV: Food 


Best Overall Restaurant
Best Pub Food
Best Wait Staff
Best Gourmet Burger
Best Veggie Burger

Green Truck Neighborhood Pub

While their signature green ’65 Chevy is certainly iconic, the most important part of their name is probably the word “neighborhood.” What began as a niche, quasi-hipster spot in a still up-and-coming area just south of the Victorian District has become one of the hottest tables in Savannah, in an area that is more than coming into its own. Chef/burgermeister Josh Yates believes in the farm-to-table philosophy, with all his meat coming from Hunter Cattle combined with an attention to craft brews on their rotating bar menu.
Runner-up, Overall/Wait Olde Pink House
Runner-up, Pub Food: Molly MacPherson’s
Runner-up, Gourmet & Veggie: B&D Burgers

Best New Restaurant
Best Mexican
Best Margarita

Tequila's Town

From the looks at the line of margarita swillers waiting along Whitaker Street for a table, it’s clear that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill cantina.

Tequila’s Town has been packed since it opened last summer, offering a take on Mexican comida that branches beyond burritos: Savannah has become enchanted with chicken enchiladas smothered in chocolatey mole sauce and quesadillas de huitlacoche stuffed with a Mexican mushrooms. Facebook and TripAdvisor spark with raves for TT’s sopa Azteca, and the tableside guacamole service draws customers from far past the county line.

click to enlarge Say "Ole~!" at Tequila's Town
  • Say "Ole~!" at Tequila's Town

“We’re getting away from the stigma of Mexican food being just rice and beans,” owner Cuauhtemoco “Temo” Ortiz told Connect last year.

The founder of other local Latin-themed restaurants including Rancho Allegre and Hidalgo’s, Ortiz has found sizzling success with this boundary-breaking menu. That may have something to do with the fact that his mother, Señora Ortiz, oversees la cucina to make sure the recipes of Oaxaca, Veracruz and her hometown of Morelia are kept true. For her mole poblano, this abuelita suprema insists upon a specific hot pepper that can only be sourced from Florida.

“If she doesn’t have the right ingredients, she doesn’t want to cook it,” shrugs Temo.

It’s an adherence to tradition that folks don’t seem to mind waiting for, especially on weekends when tables can be scarce. No problema, since Tequila’s Town has a full bar that offers at least 30 types of its namesake, from silver to añejo to the rare Maestro Dobel to mezcal with a worm at the bottom. Try the tuna margarita, which has nothing to do with fish and boasts a deep beet color from juice squeezed from prickly pear cactus fruit. —Jessica Leigh Lebos
Runner-up, New: Chive Sea Bar & Lounge
Runner-up, Mexican & Margarita: Jalapeno’s

Best Coffee
Best Coffeehouse

Foxy Loxy

Situated in Savannah’s SoFo (South of Forsyth) district sits one of the city’s most popular two-story homes, slinging Tex Mex cuisine, brunch and some of the finest coffee in the South. The fine folks at Foxy Loxy Cafe have done it again and won both best coffeehouse and coffee—the latter undoubtedly a nod to their chief supplier and partner PERC Coffee.

Though with their expansive food and drink menu, regular live local music and newly added brunch offerings this win comes as no surprise. Indeed, Jennifer Jenkins’ labor of love has surpassed being solely a coffeehouse and can readily be considered a staple in the Savannah scene.

Featuring various artists’ work and serving as a stop on First Friday’s Art March, Foxy has become an integral proponent of Savannah’s artistic community. From hosting events like Acoustic Tuesdays and Vinyl Appreciation Night to their revolving gallery of local and distant artists SoFo’s famed java joint is truthfully one of the city’s artistic hubs.

So stop on in, snag a taco, a cup of Savannah’s strongest cold brewed coffee and see why Foxy is the favorite of locals and visitors alike. —Sinjin Hilaski
Runner-up, Coffee: PERC
Runner-up, Coffeehouse: The Sentient Bean

click to enlarge Olde Pink House
  • Olde Pink House

Best Fine Dining
Best Downtown Restaurant
Most Romantic

Olde Pink House

Let’s face it: Service is perhaps the weak link in Savannah restaurants. One of a handful of Savannah restaurants equally pleasing to locals and tourists alike, the Olde Pink House keeps things simple by concentrating on good food served professionally. Their recent bar expansion provides patrons with more options to have a cocktail: Facing the sidewalk with a view of Reynolds Square, or downstairs amid the piano music in the old faithful Planter’s Tavern.
Runner-up, Fine: Alligator Soul
Runner-up, Downtown: Zunzi’s
Runner-up, Romantic: Leoci’s

Best Food Event

Savannah Greek Festival

The 63rd edition of this beloved local tradition took place this past October to the usual huge crowds of baklava-and-bouzouki- loving attendees in the Hellenic Center across from historic St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church. Greek Festivals usually do big business all around the country, but what makes Savannah’s nearly unique is that almost all the food is still made from scratch by congregants, who begin volunteer work in the beginning of summer to make sure everything’s ready in time.
Runner-up: Shalom Y’all Jewish Food Festival

Best Tybee Restaurant

Sundae Café

Nestled in an unassuming retail plaza across from The Sugar Shack on Highway 80, Sundae Café is an epicurean success story flanked by a gas station and a beverage mart. The menu boasts hand-cut, certified black angus steaks, sushi nachos, oysters Rockefeller, foie gras, pork belly, seafood cheesecake, crawdads, pistachio-crusted tuna, and signature sides like bleu cheese bread pudding.

It’s mouth-watering strip-mall gourmet; an evolutionary riddle wrapped in a geographic enigma, shrouded in surf and turf.

“It’s a joke at this point—our regulars say, ‘We’re going to eat at the convenience store, we’re going to eat at the liquor store,” owner Kevin Carpenter says.

The real joke is how an ice cream shop with three booths morphed into an upscale dining hot spot in fits and spurts, under the same ownership, and without the benefit of a name change.

This fixer-upper fairy tale is nothing short of miraculous in a business as unforgiving as the food industry.

click to enlarge Sundae Cafe on Tybee Island
  • Sundae Cafe on Tybee Island

“We opened with no money,” Carpenter’s partner, A.J. Baker, remembers. “We just took it over as it was, added a few little deli sandwiches and stuff. We did pretty good in the summertime, not as good in the winter time. Nobody really wants ice cream in the winter.”

Carpenter and Baker met as teens while working at a seafood joint on Tybee and bunked together at culinary arts college in Charleston before taking over Sundae Café in 2001. The transformation began with hot lunches and a blue plate special that garnered some steady guests. When the adjacent video rental store closed, Sundae Café annexed the space, installed a full kitchen and started serving dinner.

“We basically worked by ourselves for the first two years, seven days a week. We used to like each other,” Baker laughs. “I guess we still do.”

Carpenter says the clientele demographic is close to 80 percent local, if not more. Even the bar fills up on reservations for dinner. As the only Tybee restaurant with a strict reservations-only policy, you get the sense that nobody’s crying about the tourists who don’t know enough to call in advance.

“You wouldn’t believe the book,” Carpenter says about the scheduling book. “That thing is a beast to control.”

Baker and Carpenter are in the process of opening a second eatery called “80 East” a few blocks up the street.

It’s also located in a strip mall.

“It’s not going to be a traditional wooden top sports bar. It will have a full dining room and a marble-top bar,” Carpenter adds.

While a high-end gastropub/sports bar bon vivant may sound oxymoronic, so does casual fine dining with gas pumps in the parking lot. —Jenny Dunn
Runner-up: North Beach Bar & Grill

Best Family Restaurant

Carey Hilliard's

Informally claiming the title of “Best Sweet Tea in the South” as well, this longtime local fixture has grown to six locations, all from their beginnings as a drive-up diner in 1960 at their original Skidaway location.
Runner-up: Mrs. Wilkes

Best Tapas

Jazz'd Tapas Bar

It doesn’t overhype itself like some other downtown places one could mention, but Jazz’d has quietly staked its claim on an underserved menu segment, to great acclaim.
Runner-up: bar.food

Best Chef

Roberto Leoci


Best Italian Restaurant

Leoci's Trattoris

What’s up in Roberto’s world these days? The perennial Best Chef winner continues to have a great thing going in the flagship restaurant on Abercorn bearing his name. But he is branching out a bit to the north, set to open Pacci’s Italian Kitchen + Bar inside the new Brice Hotel (formerly the Mulberry Inn).

Earlier this year Roberto received a “Georgia Grown Executive Chef” Award from the Ga. Restaurant Association and the Ga. Dept. of Agriculture, for “incorporating fresh, locally grown products into their menus.”
Runner-up, Chef: Kirk Blaine, Driftaway Café
Runner-up, Italian: Bella’s Italian Cafe

Best Caterer

Joe's Homemade Café, Catering & Bakery

A new winner in this category, Joe’s Homemade operates from a Waters Avenue location and was named Small Business of the Year last year. And Joe is actually Ted “Joe” Paskevich, who works his magic with culinary partner Don Holland.
Runner-up: Chef Nick Mueller & Co.

Best Southside Restaurant

Tangerine Fusion & Sushi Bar

One of the original components of the influential Ele & The Chef consortium of local restaurants that
Runner-up: Spanky’s Southside

Best Islands Restaurant

Ele Fine Fusion

It’s well outside of downtown, but tucked away off Highway 80 is one of Savannah’s best restaurants.
Runner-up: Basil’s Pizza

Best Westside Restaurant

Cheddar's

It was a close race this year, but Cheddar’s came out on top again. As West Chatham continues to grow at a hefty pace, look to see more and more action in this category every year.
Runner-up: Pie Society

Best Take-Out

Zunzi's

This South African comfort food mecca—now with a second location on Drayton Street —continues to impress locals and tourists alike.
Runner-up: Fire Street Food

Best Farmer's Market/Food Co-op

Forsyth Farmer's Market

In one of the great Savannah success stories of recent years, the Forsyth Farmer’s Market not only combined great timing—a market finally ready to sustain a regular farmer’s market and make it worth farmers’ time and effort—but utilizing the full human potential of Savannah’s green and farm-to-table community.
Runner-up: State Farmer’s Market

Best Outdoor Dining

Bonna Bella Yacht Club

Enjoy a new menu at this longtime Savannah staple, with a lively foodie and bar scene and certainly one of the best marsh views in the area.
Runner-up: Blowin’ Smoke

Best Caribbean

Sweet Spice

Chef Donovan Smith has come a long way from making traditional Jamaican meat patties to sell on the streets when he first arrived in Savannah over a decade ago.

Banking on the loyal following for his savory stuffed pastries, the Westmoreland native, former bodyguard and retired U.S. Army soldier expanded his menu to include more island favorites and opened Sweet Spice restaurant on Waters Avenue in 2011. Now Chef Donovan and his family pile plates high with jerk chicken seasoned to make your eyes tear with joy and tender curried goat served with fried plantains and white rice.

“Welcome to Sweet Spice, where everything is nice!” is the inevitable greeting to every customer who comes to feast.

click to enlarge Everything is nice at Sweet Spice
  • Everything is nice at Sweet Spice

A favorite on TripAdvisor and among Memorial hospital employees, the restaurant stays busy at lunch and dinner—though the vibe is always irie, never rushed. Also on the menu are American-influenced comfort foods like dumplings and mac n’ cheese, but hey mon, live a little: this is a destination for authentic Caribbean cuisine like ackee and salt fish, featuring the ackee fruit, one of Jamaica’s largest exports. Fresh squeezed carrot juice and peanut punch as well as tasty roti bread also bring the flavors of the tropics to the deep South.

“I learned to cook in mother’s kitchen, using plenty of spices and fresh ingredients,” Chef Donovan told Connect last year.

Enough of that, pal, you’re Jamaican us hungry! —Jessica Leigh Lebos
Runner-up: Rancho Allegre

Best Late Night Restaurant

Sweet Melissa's

Unlike back in the day, there are actually plenty of places serving late night food now in downtown Savannah. But Sweet Melissa’s seems to really embody the phrase “late night menu” in the sense most people understand it: The place to go when you get hungry during a night of partying and you may want to keep partying afterward.
Runner-up: Betty Bomber’s

Best Deli
Best Bagels

The Midtown Deli & Bagel Shop

You’d think there’d be more great delis in a town with so many Northern transplants. You’d be wrong. But really, Savannah’s a small city and all we need is one really awesome one. Midtown Deli fits the bill, along with having very pleasant and helpful staff—not always a given in service-starved Savannah.
Runner-up, Deli: Al Salaam Deli
Runner-up, Bagels: Panera Bread

Best Vegetarian Restaurant
Best Salad

Kayak Café

One of Broughton Street’s most consistently popular success stories – and also filling an important niche in a town which oddly doesn’t have that many good but inexpensive lunch options—Kayak Café delivers according to a simple formula: Keep it fresh, keep it fast, keep it tasty, keep it healthy.
Runner-up, Veggie: Sentient Bean
Runner-up, Salad: Starland Cafe

Best Farm-to-Table Restaurant

Cha Bella Grill & Patio Bar

Actually one of the first Savannah restaurants to go farm-to-table, Cha Bella continues to provide a short but well-curated menu featuring local delicacies and produce.
Runner-up: Local 11 Ten

Best Place for Steak

Ruth's Chris

A renovation to make it more welcoming to the scenester crowd, combined with the chain’s usual very high quality and attention to beef, make this a perennial winner ever since it arrived to town.
Runner-up: Outback

Best Brunch

B. Matthews Eatery

You know what they say: A good brunch is hard to find. Or something like that. B. Matthews pretty much sets the bar for daytime eats downtown. Now pass that Mimosa!
Runner-up: J. Christopher

Best Pancakes & Best Breakfast

J. Christopher

Downtown Savannah doesn’t have a lot of quality breakfast spots, but this regional chain identified a need early on and has garnered a large and devoted following.
Runner-up, Pancakes: IHOP
Runner-up, Breakfast: The Breakfast Club

Best Shrimp 'n' Grits

The Public Kitchen and Bar

The core recipe concept is simple—it’s shrimp and it’s grits. It’s charmingly iconic; it’s low-country gourmet. It’s decadent down-home comfort food infused with as much regional pride as it is butter, and it’s a Best of Savannah 2014 category handily won by relative newcomer, the Public Kitchen and Bar.

Like fried chicken or barbecue, shrimp and grits is a fierce dish to cast your vote on. There’s a regional sacredness about the bottom-feeder shellfish and ground hominy combo that most Yankees, tourists, and foreigners can’t understand, but still manage to appreciate.

“It’s a rich dish, rooted in the South,” says chef de cuisine Brian Gonet, who’s been with the Public Kitchen since its birth. “You start with sweet, local shrimp, buttery cheddar bacon grits, add in the peppery, smokiness of Mexican chorizo with a hint of paprika and cumin—it really is hard to beat.”

Public’s most popular dish boasts a base of bacon and cheddar grits, accented with chunks of Mexican-style chorizo, balanced with fresh tomatoes and peas and then drenched in a sherry-wine cream-based sauce.

As an added atmospheric perk, you can gnosh your grits in a secluded corner of the Public’s subterranean brick grotto, or perch at the tastefully modern bar and people-watch. It the weather permits, you can also opt to slurp your shrimp street-side at a candlelit café table. Definitely a win-win.

Way to fall in line, Savannahians. You’re in accord with the general populace, the likes of which cast 4 out of 5 stars for the Public on Tripadvisor and 4 out of 5 stars on Yelp. If you haven’t been yet, head down to 1 W. Liberty and find out for yourself what “Contemporary Fresh American” tastes like. —Jenny Dunn
Runner-up: Vic’s on the River

Best Fried Chicken
Best Southern Food

Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room

Seems like everywhere you go people say such-and-such is the best fried chicken in the world. Maybe fried chicken is just that good, period. Then again, when people say it about Mrs. Wilkes’, they’re actually correct.
Runner-up, Both: Sisters of the New South

click to enlarge ANGEL'S BBQ
  • Angel's BBQ

Best Barbecue

Angel's BBQ

Old-school barbecue places are supposed to have very limited hours, close in August, be in a cinderblock building, have a smokehouse out back tended by old men, and have a loaf of white bread on the table. Angel’s has none of these things. But Andy and Aileen’s respectful yet innovative approach to all kinds of Southern barbecue earns them this award year after year.
Runner-up: Wiley’s Championship BBQ

Best Sub Shop

Baldino's

There are tons of corporate sub shops now, but so few of them realize, as Baldino’s does, that the whole point of a sub is fresh ingredients.
Runner-up: Jimmy John’s

Best Wings

Wild Wing Café

Not only awesome wings, but a fun nightlife scene at this City Market staple.
Runner-up: Coach’s Corner

Best Ribs

Wiley's Championship BBQ

Every Southerner knows there’s nothing better than a good slab of ribs with the right sauce on top—gotta have the right sauce. Wiley’s doesn’t just rely on their pulled pork to draw crowds in—their ribs are among the best anywhere.
Runner-up: Blowin’ Smoke

Best Seafood Restaurant

The Crab Shack

People just love being delivered large plates of steaming-fresh seafood. It’s a primal thing. The folks at Crab Shack know this, and refuse to screw things up by gussying stuff up too much. They keep it fresh, keep it simple, and keep it coming.
Runner-up: AJ’s Dockside

Best Place to Get Fresh Seafood

Russo's Seafood

This Midtown maven of maritime mastery has been offering fresh bounty of the sea since 1946, and it remains in the Russo family to this day.
Runner-up: The Crab Shack

Best Pizzeria
Best Delivery Pizza

Vinnie VanGo-Go's

One of Savannah’s first genuine hipster hangouts, Vinnie’s started out as one of City Market’s initial anchor locations back in the day when not every corporate interest in the world wanted to be at or near City Market, back in the day when employees with tattoos weren’t the norm. They have rolled with the changes, but not too much, to adapt to a growing and much-more tourist-friendly Savannah. Can you imagine how differently things could have worked out had they not staked their claim back then, and what chain place might be at that corner spot on Franklin Square instead? God Bless Vinnies.
Runner-up, Pizzeria: Mellow Mushroom
Runner-up, Delivery: Screamin’ Mimi’s

Best Bakery

Back in the Day Bakery

Every town needs a great local bakery, and Back in the Day serves Savannah’s purposes as well, with a copy of their signature cookbook being a required bookshelf item throughout the city. There’s a range of much sought-after sweet treats from cupcakes to three-layer cakes to bourbon bread pudding, but also lunch stuff like artisan breads and awesome sandwiches.
Runner-up: Baker’s Pride

Best Desserts

Lulu's Chocolate Bar

It’s not only the “chocolate” in the name that entices, from its cakes to its dessert spread. It’s also the “bar” part, with signature sweet cocktails and a lively social scene after 10 p.m.
Runner-up: Leopold’s

Best Ice Cream

Leopold's

The lines keep getting longer and longer, but folks continue to stay happy with the luscious offerings at this, one of the real staples of the Savannah foodie scene, resistant to TV trends and internet controversies. Stratton and Mary Leopold continue to oversee things with a very personal touch befitting this decades-old local business with deep roots in the community.
Runner-up: Coldstone Creamery

Best Frozen Yogurt

Lovin' Spoons

The Fro Yo Revolution wasn’t televised, but Lovin’ Spoons led the way, now with three locations from Bluffton to Pooler. The flagship store on the Southside continues to give you the best kind of brain freeze.
Runner-up: La’Berry

Best Sushi Restaurant

Sushi Zen

One of Savannah’s great food traditions, the nearly two-decade-old labor of love of Chef Yoshi has more than survived its move from Whitaker Street to southside and remains one of the city’s most awesomely delicious food experiences.
Runner-up: Wasabi’s

Best Soul Food

Sisters of the New South

Oxtails. Fried okra. Fried chicken. Turkey wings. Sweet potato casserole. Sweet potato pie. Smothered porkchops. Smothered shrimp. Smother it all! Good God y’all!
Runner-up: Sweet Potatoe’s

Best French Restaurant

Papillote

Not prissy French, but real French peasant food in the best sense of the phrase, from a cheese, spinach, tomato pie to a croque monsieur, all in a charming storefront space on bustling Broughton. Vive la France, y’all!
Runner-up: Circa 1875

Best Japanese Restaurant

Miyabi Steakhouse

In addition to an Asian epicurean odyssey, you always have fun here with the personalized tableside service.
Runner-up: TaCa

Best Indian Restaurant

Taste of India

Not Savannah’s only Indian place, but definitely the one that blends excellent flavors —mostly the robust heartiness of Northern Indian cuisine—with a wonderfully exotic ambience to create a real evening experience.
Runner-up: Pakwan

Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

Al Salaam Deli

Every town needs an awesome little falafel and gyro joint, and Al Salaam is Savannah’s. The family project of Mr. and Mrs. Muqbel Salameh serves fresh, cooked-to-order Middle Eastern faves—plus fries! —and has garnered a faithful clientele that spans the gamut of local society, from hipster to housewife, from student to stockbroker.
Runner-up: The Mirage

Best Chinese Restaurant

Wangs II

The ‘90s Chicago Bulls of Savannah restaurants, Wangs II has easily won this category in every year of this poll’s existence.
Runner-up: Peking House

Best Greek Restaurant

Olympia Café

Not content merely to cater to tourists on River Street, Olympia also prides itself on holding its own with any other sit-down restaurant in town and at this point is really one of Savannah’s longest-running epicurean success stories.
Runner-up: Troy Mediterranean Cuisine

Best Thai Restaurant

Ruan Thai

This go-to favorite on Broughton Street offers quality and value for the lunch crowd as well as folks looking for a nice evening out, convenient to downtown nightlife.
Runner-up: Tangerine Fusion/Sushi Bar

Best Vietnamese Restaurant

Saigon Bistro

This Waters Avenue spot is quietly but steadily gaining a great reputation among Savannah diners looking for a tasty exotic food experience not at exotically high prices.
Runner-up: Saigon Flavors.

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Previous Winners

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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