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Best of Savannah 2013: Night Life 

Best New Bar

Best Bottled Beer Selection (bar or restaurant)

Best Beer on Tap

Best Trivia Night

World of Beer

As if taking college classes wasn’t enough, prospective World of Beer employees are required to attend Beer School. “Part of our onboarding process is two weeks of training, and the second week of training is entirely focused on all the beers that we carry in house,” says Chris Geerlings, product manager for the 11-month-old Savannah World of Beer location. “Learning where to find things, the history of the breweries and their locations. There’s a logic to have the 12 coolers organized, by region and style.”

click to enlarge World of Beer: More than 500 bottled brews in 12 massive coolers. What’s not to like?
  • World of Beer: More than 500 bottled brews in 12 massive coolers. What’s not to like?

Of course, the WOB bottled brew list — around 500 at each franchise location, alongside 62 revolving draught taps — goes way, way past crafty boutique-label suds. The deal is, the staff is trained to know which is which, from PBR to fine Belgian ale, and to recommend beers for everyone to the average Joe to the discerning hophead. You get offered a taste before you plunk down for your pint.

The first World of Beer opened in Tampa, Fla. in 2007, the brainchild of two aspiring Pensacola businessmen who’d taken notice of the American explosion in craft beer.

Early on, the two WOB founders were joined by a couple of former Outback Steakhouse executives, who knew more than a little about franchising. Today, there are more than 55 of these little brew beauties all over the country.

On Broughton Street, Greelings and the rest of the staff are kept … well, hopping. “Keeping stuff in stock depends on what on what’s popular from day to day, season to season,” he believes.

“It’s a little bit of an art and a little bit of a science, I guess.”

It’s uncommon, he knows, for an essentially brand-new business to win in four “Best of” categories.

“I think one of the reasons World of Beer Savannah is doing so well is because craft beer has a real foothold in places like Colorado and California and places out west,” Geerlings says. “It hasn’t gained popularity out here until more recently.

“So our role has been to fill a void, so to speak. And meet that untapped demand. Pun intended.”

— Bill DeYoung

Runner-up, New bar: The Sparetime

Runner-up, Bottled beer: The Distillery

Runner-up, Beer on tap: The Distillery

Runner-up, Trivia: Hang Fire

Best Overall Bar

Best Downtown Bar

Best Live Music Bar

Best Happy Hour

Best Hookup Spot

Best Bar Staff

Best Bartender (Tony)

Best Place to Spot a Celebrity

The Jinx

What can we say but “Well done”? Susanne Warnekros and her hard-working team have made the Jinx the center of the downtown universe, winning in nearly all these categories for years and years now. Over in the A&E section, the Jinx was also voted “Best Live Music Club.” All together now … well done!

Runner-up, Overall: Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub

Runner-up, Downtown: World of Beer

Runner-up, Live music: Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub

Runner-up, Happy Hour: Mellow Mushroom

Runner-up, Hookup: The Sparetime

Runner-up, Bar staff: Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub

Runner-up, Bartender: Cody Knowles, World of Beer

Runner-up, Celebrity: McDonough’s

Best Outdoor Bar

Moon River Brewing Co.

First, it’s the only brew pub up in the city, where you can watch the stuff being made. Second, the 5,400-square-foot Beer Garden (outside) opened in March. And third, the menu is “a range of dishes from simple comfort food to eclectic gourmet cuisine.” Yep.

Runner-up: Rocks on the Roof

Best River Street Bar

Best Irish Pub

Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub

Thirty-three years and counting in the same location, Vic Power’s old-school Irish public house, with its unadorned wooden walls and floor and separate rooms for separate stuff, continues to raise the bar. In 2013, Kevin Barry’s is the bar.

Runner-up, River Street: Saddle Bags

Runner-up, Irish: O’Connell’s Pub

Best Southside Bar

Spanky’s

Live Oak Restaurants operates four Spanky’s in the area, and this location — it’s on Mall Boulevard, near the (um) mall, is the family-friendliest of all. Full-service menu.

Runner-up: Tailgate

click to enlarge The deck at Molly's
  • The deck at Molly's

Best Islands Bar

Molly McGuire's

Location, location, location.

Despite its abject, leafy loveliness, there are only a couple of restaurants in Wilmington Island. Whitemarsh is right there on 80, Tybee is flashier and more famous, but Wilmington — accessible only via the detour that is Johnny Mercer Boulevard — is like Chatham County's little out-of-the-way gem.

That's one of the reasons Molly McGuire's, which has been on the island for just over three years, has become the favored local hangout.

"We're not downtown, and we're not on Tybee, so we're not on the beaten path," says the restaurant/bar's manager Kristen Heath. "We do get a few tourists that are recommended by others, or by the other restaurants, but we're definitely a neighborhood place. There's people who'll be in here five, six times a week. If not more."

They come for the food, to be sure, and the frosty drinks, and the family-friendly atmosphere both inside and out.

It's the lavish, pagoda-like outdoor deck that keeps 'em coming back, Heath explains. The deck is like a little island oasis all its own, refreshingly cool in the warmer months, and ideal for chillaxing with live, local music and the ubiquitous burgers 'n' beer.

It's sort of like an outdoor Cheers (albeit with kids, grandparents and the occasional well-behaved dog).

"We're not a touristy place," Heath says. "We're so dependant on our regulars and our locals, so we have to make sure we keep people happy and make sure everything, quality-wise, is on par all of the time."

Part of the Live Oak Restaurants franchise, Molly McGuire's was extensively redesigned after earlier incarnations as Creekside Grill and Driftaway Café.

Set back off Johnny Mercer, it's a little hard to find unless you know what you're looking for.

"It's funny," Heath laughs, "because there are people that live on the island who are like 'We didn't even know you were here!'"

But they always come back. They always come back.

Bill DeYoung

Runner-up: Huc-a-Poos

click to enlarge While the historic building dates back to sometime around 1875, the swank tavern has been classing up the stretch of real estate on Whitaker between Congress and Broughton Streets since 2005.
  • While the historic building dates back to sometime around 1875, the swank tavern has been classing up the stretch of real estate on Whitaker between Congress and Broughton Streets since 2005.

Best Upscale Bar

Circa 1875 Gastro Pub

While the historic building dates back — you guessed it — to sometime around 1875, the swank tavern has been classing up the stretch of real estate on Whitaker between Congress and Broughton Streets since 2005.

A class-act option for a stellar martini, Circa's intimate scene allows patrons to retreat into alcoves or offer themselves up as window dressing atop plush bench seats. Other late-night draws include mobster candlelight and the opportunity to elbow-rub with Savannah's elite.

A serving station at the back of the bar leads to the adjoining restaurant and creates a noise and kinetic excitement; the counter laden with artisan breadcrumbs, the soft clacks of dishes, the harsh clinks of silver on the off-beat.

"We want people to feel like they're in the old days when VIPs would go in through the kitchen, that kind of feel," general manager Tony Rossing says. "The bar feeds off the energy transfer at the back really well."

Rossing says owners Donald Lubowicki and Jeffrey Downey, transplants from points north, have called the South home for more than 30 years now, with maybe 15 of those years in Savannah. It's not unusual to see Downey behind the bar, mixing up cocktails.

"They've got passion. It's their baby. And it creates a wonderful atmosphere," Rossing explains about the owners' dedicated involvement. "They hire people they know and trust, which means no babysitting, zero turnover. It's a dream job."

The city plans to widen the sidewalks on Whitaker, cut traffic down to one vehicular lane and a bike lane in the next few years. Rossing says they envision an awning with café tables outdoors, Circa's expansion into an ever more authentic Parisian feel.

Jenny Dunn

Runner-up: Rocks on the Roof

Best Tybee Bar

Huc-a-Poos

Fun and funky, the 'Poo features the best pizza on Tybee Island. Couple that with a cold one and live local music and whether you jam into an inside booth or stretch out on the porch you're in for a delightfully low-key Tybee experience.

Runner-up: Tybee Island Social Club

Best Westside Bar

Lucky's Tavern

By "westside" we mean Pooler, and Lucky's — featuring killer burgers and other tasty treats — has the town's most fun Karaoke nights, Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Best College Bar

Hang Fire

Yet another muy stupido city noise ordinance has restricted Wes Daniel's presentation of live music, but his Whittaker Street club (described as both "hipster" and "casual" by yelp.com) retains its fun, anything-goes sense of humor. And one of the coolest Trivia Nights in town. Did we mention the $5 Scorpion Tea?

Runner-up: The Jinx

Best Neighborhood Bar

bar.food

A very steady, very close–knit regular clientele means you can pop in Johnny Baker's place most any night and find a good crowd.

Runner-up: The 5 Spot

Best Rooftop Bar

Rocks on the Roof

When they say rooftop, they mean rooftop ... high atop the Bohemian Hotel, you can sit here and go all birds-eye with the Talmadge Bridge or watch boat traffic on the river or goof on the tourists poking along River Street ...

Runner-up:> Churchill's Pub

Best Signature Drink

Rose Zarem at Sparetime

House-infused cucumber vodka, rosewater, lemon juice and seltzer. Order a Rose Zarem, and you'll want to stay at the Sparetime indefinitely to peruse their other alchemic delights.

Runner-up: Scorpion Tea at Hang Fire

Best Margarita

Carlito's

The MLK Mexican restaurant serves up the 'ritas big and cold, with or without the ice and the salt-rimmed glass. Bring on the mariachi band!

Runner-up: Jalapeños

Best Martini

Jen's & Friends

Shaken or stirred: Jen's has 300 variations on the martini – let that sink in for a moment. And 300 beers. And food.

Runner-up: Lulu's Chocolate Bar

Best Sommelier

Jason Restivo

At the Olde Pink House, Restivo — who also happens to be a great guy — professionally manages the historic wine cellar, providing the perfect pairing for the kitchen's seamless blend of New Southern and Classic Southern cuisine.

Runner-up: Christian Depken (Le Chai)

Best Wine Tasting

Savannah Wine Cellar

Tastings are available on demand, and the selection runs to more than 400 wines from all over the world.

Runner-up: World of Beer

Best Wine Selection (retail)

Best Beer Selection (retail)

Habersham Beverage Warehouse

Nearly 30 years in business and still going strong. Cheers! "With a resident sommelier, an accredited beer judge, and over 100 years of cumulative tasting experience, we know how to find the very best products."

Runner-up, Wine: Johnnie Ganem's Package & Wine Shop

Runner-up, Beer: World of Beer

Best Wine Selection (bar or restaurant)

Local 11 Ten

"Killer cocktails in a stylish revamp of a mid-century bank," raved Southern Living. And nearly all of the food is purchased from local, or Georgia, farmers and fisherpeople.

Runner-up: Elizabeth's on 37th

Best British Pub

Churchill's Pub

With a rooftop terrace, "Winston's Wine Bar" in the cellar, and a central bar shipped straight from the U.K., here's where you can authentically fish your chips, pie your kidneys and Yorkshire your pudding. Among other things.

Runner-up: Six Pence Pub

Best Scottish Pub

Molly MacPherson's Scottish Pub

It's right there in the name. From Guinness to fine whiskey, bangers to mash, all wrapped up in fine tartan, Molly's is cozy and comfy and decidedly Scottish. It's the kind of pub that other cities would kilt for ...

Runner-up: Molly McGuire's (which is not a Scottish pub, by the way)

Best Pool Hall

Congress Street Social Club

Since 2008, you can sit inside, outside, upstairs overlooking Congress, hear live music, play video games or smack them billiard balls around ...

Runner-up: Southside Billards Club

Best Dance Club

Best Gay Bar/Club

Club One

Manager Travis Coles and the staff are serious about making sure everyone —straight, gay and anything in between — has a good time at Club One. The cabaret stage, where the infamous Lady Chablis and others ply their particular trades, is the best in the city.

Runner-up, Dance: Club 51 Degrees

Runner-up, Gay: Chuck's Bar

Best Latin Dancing

Club 51 Degrees

Three floors, three vibes ... that's this neon-lit, pulse-pounding club's motto, and the Latin dance floor is the hottest of all (the others are House and Top 40). They've got VIP booths, a sports nights dubbed "Cleats & Cleavage," and a stylish New Year's Eve masquerade ball that's like nothing you've ever seen.

Runner-up: SubZero

Best Sports Bar

Coach's Corner

From the NFL to the World Cup, Coach's 50-plus big TV screens got you covered from every conceivable angle. The food's good, too, and it's family-friendly. Sometimes live bands on the weekend.

Runner-up: Wild Wing Cafe

Best Adult Entertainment

Uncle Harry's Gentleman's Club

Southeast ShowClub's venerable Savannah strip establishment features a full-service restaurant ... and an Amateur Night, and "Foxy Boxing," and ...

Runner-up: Temptations

Best Karaoke

McDonough's

The only place in town that has Karaoke seven nights a week, with a real (sort-of) stage and, of course, a bar within singing distance. McDonough's is where the cool Karaoke kids hang out.

Runner-up: The Jinx

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Previous Winners

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

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