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Best of Savannah 2007: Food 

Best Chef

Robbie Lemmons

Asbury Memorial UMC, Festive Occasions

Five bucks and an “Amen.” Most Wednesday nights, that’s all you need to enjoy a delicious dinner prepared by Robbie Lemmons, the winner of Best Chef and owner of Festive Occasions Catering.

In addition to preparing lunches for Armstrong’s Elderhostel program and hors d’oeuvres for private cocktail parties, Lemmons holds the top kitchen spot at Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church on Waters and Henry.

“I do Wednesday night suppers,” says Lemmons. “I cook for the week of Bible School. I’m sort of like a personal church chef. Some of it is volunteer—it’s my way of giving back to the church.”

Lemmons is a catering chef with 25 years of culinary experience at clubs and hotels across Savannah. His parties are legendary, with his pork tenderloin, carmelized onion tart, and desserts in constant demand.

“My specialty is small cocktail parties in the home. I don’t cook for me; I cook for the people.

“Usually there’s two or three items at every party that I’ve never done before” like the graduation party this week that will offer the graduate’s favorites--tandoori chicken, samosas and other Indian cuisine--along with more traditional Savannah fare.

Tonya Hillis, secretary at Asbury, was introduced to Lemmons’ cooking at work. “Whenever he cooked Wednesday night suppers I’d order a meal to be set aside for my lunch the next day.” Lemmons has catered several parties for Hillis and her friends. “His crab dip is famous, so creamy and hot. He’s done lamb chops for us. And his brownies, I’m sure, are going to be world famous. Just talking about it makes my mouth water.” -- (RG)

Editors’ Pick: Espy Geissler, Hunter House on Tybee

Best New Restaurant

Barbara Jean’s

138 Johnny Mercer Blvd./ 898-44424

Editors’ Pick: Chiriya’s

Best Overall Restaurant

Most Romantic Restaurant

Best Restaurant When Someone Else is Paying

Elizabeth on 37th

105 E. 37th St./ 236-5547

Editors’ Pick, when someone else is paying: Sapphire Grill

Editors’ Pick, most romantic: Hunter House, Tybee

Best Downtown Restaurant

Best Wait Staff

Best Pub Food

Best Late Night Hangout

Loco’s Grill & Pub

301 W. Broughton St./ 236-8711

8108 Abercorn St./ 921-2199

This sweep of several awards categories would seem to indicate that locals have embraced this Broughton St. bar and restaurant like no other — save perhaps the small Athens-based chain’s recently opened Southside location near the Oglethorpe Mall.

The first and most successful pub and eatery of its kind in the downtown area (in that it combines a wide selection of traditional American fare —such as burgers, sandwiches, salads and finger food— a large selection of both liquor and beer, plus design and decor that straddles the line between “sports bar” and “rock club”), it’s usually filled with a varied clientele that seems to be made up of equal parts frat boys, SCAD students and grown folks with small kids.

Recently, the downtown location has invested money in upgrading their in-house PA system, and although the odd layout of the room itself means that many in the crowd won’t have a direct view of the stage, management is pushing to re-brand this popular late-night hangout as more of a serious live music venue. That’s resulted in a series of shows by touring jam and organic rock bands of a higher caliber than this branch previously attracted. -- (JR)

Editors’ Pick, best downtown: Bistro Savannah

Editors’ Pick, best waitstaff: Elizabeth on 37th

Editors’ Pick, best pub food: Murphy’s Law

Editors’ Pick, best late night: Pankake Palace

Best Southside Restaurant

Tangerine Fusion and Sushi Bar

11215 Abercorn St./ 920-5504

While it’s not uncommon in other cities, it’s only of late that Savannah has started to see a marked increase in the number of upscale to downright fancy restaurants located in strip shopping centers.

Tucked away behind an unpretentious door in a relatively nondescript row of Southside businesses across from the Home Depot on Abercorn St., this romantic and subdued eatery specializes in the type of Asian-inspired fusion cuisine that is rapidly becoming a favorite of U.S. diners bored by the traditional flavor combinations and entree choices of most stereotypical Americanized Chinese, Japanese and Thai restaurants.

Muted, vaguely exotic decor, laid-back ultra-mod Euro-Asian chillout music and attention to presentation detail are the hallmarks of this relatively pricey, yet hip and surprising destination. -- (JR)

Editors’ Pick: Rancho Allegre

Best Islands Restaurant

Oyster Bar

444 Johnny Mercer Blvd./ 898-8622

Editors’ Pick: Basil’s

Best Tybee Restaurant

Best Seafood Restaurant

Crab Shack

40 Estill Hammock Rd./ 786-9857

Editors’ Pick: North Beach Grill

Best Weststide Restaurant

Spanky’s

200 Governor Treutlen Rd, Pooler/ 748-8188

308 E Mell St., Pooler/ 355-0285

Editors’ Pick: Spanky’s

Best Brunch

J. Christopher’s

122 E. Liberty St./ 236-7494

Ever since this local branch of a growing Atlanta-based chain of breakfast and lunch joints renovated the decidedly industrial environs of a former garage adjacent to Drayton Tower, it’s done brisk business. Their menu is a wee bit pricier than some folks may be used to ($6 pancakes, anyone?), but the food —based around standard fare such as egg dishes, breakfast meats, fruits, salads and sandwiches— is tasty and their seasonal culinary creations are often inventive (i.e., Fried Green Tomatoes Benedict and waffles made with pralines or Kahlua).

While the presentation could be more consistent, their portions are generously to outrageously sized (I recommend sharing an order of any of their signature pancake variations, for example), and little things such as fresh-squeezed Florida O.J., thick-sliced bacon and Portabella mushrooms are a nice touch. Unless you get up early on Sundays, prepare to wait a long while for a table, as church folk (and the obviously hungover) pack the place. -- (JR)

Editors’ Pick: J. Christopher’s

Best Tapas

Jazz’d Tapas Bar

52 Barnard St./ 236-7777

Editors’ Pick: Jazz’d

Best Caterer

Susan Mason

3109 Habersham St./ 233-2560

Editors’ Pick: Trish McLeod

Best Cheap Meal

McDonald’s

Multiple locations

Editors’ Pick: Sakura

Best Vegetarian Restaurant

Madras Saravana Bhavan

110 Eisenhower Dr./ 356-0344

The restaurant does serve some meats. however, its vegetarian cuisine is a favorite with diners, and is plentiful and inexpensive.

There are two other Madras Saravana Bhavan restaurants, both in Atlanta. “We opened here last year,” says Manager/Chef Saravanan. “We serve Southern Indian food.”

Saravanan trained as a chef in his native India, and has done cooking and catering for a dozen years. He opened a restaurant in Los Angeles before heading east to Georgia. “My specialty is starting restaurants,” he says.

In Savannah, Madras Saravana Bhavan is located at the intersection of Eisenhower and Abercorn, at 110 Eisenhower. The restaurant is open Wednesday through Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and is closed Tuesday.

The restaurants offers a lunch buffet and lunch specials. It also serves a selection of Indian wine and beer.

The restaurant has a large and varied menu, and appetizers include Vegetable Samosa, deep-fried triangular puff pastry stuffed with seasoned potatoes and peas; steamed rice and lentil cakes called Idly; Vadai patties; and Bhajia.

In addition to Rasam, a traditional South Indian lentil soup, there is Mulligawtawny soup. The lunch specials include Mini Lunch Thali, which features a sampling of nine South Indian dishes.

Other specialties include several varieties of Dosa, a savory South Indian crÊpe that is stuffed with goodies. There also are several types of Uthappan, a folded crispy concoction, and, of course, vegetable curries. There is a menu for children, and to finish the meal in style, desserts. -- (LS)

Editors’ Pick: Brighter Day Natural Foods

Best Place for Diehard Meat-Eaters

Best Steak

Outback Steakhouse

7 Drayton St./ 232-1611

11196 Abercorn St./ 920-0555

Editors’ Pick, meat-eaters: Sweet Leaf Smokery

Editors’ Pick, steak: Outback

Best Breakfast

Breakfast Club

1500 Butler Ave., Tybee/ 786-5984

Editors’ Pick: The Breakfast Place

Best Burger

B&D Burgers

13 E. Broughton St./ 231-0986

11108 Abercorn St./ 927-8700

Editors’ Pick: Sweet Melissa’s

Best Pancakes

International House of Pancakes

110 Mall Blvd./ 355-2749

I don’t care if you call ‘em flapjacks, griddle cakes or latkes. I love pancakes. Over the years, I’ve made it a point to try just about as many local examples of this most simple form of breakfast food as I stumble upon, and while my own personal vote for Best Pancakes would have to be a deadheat tie between Larry’s Restaurant on Skidaway Rd. and The State Street Café downtown on —where else?— State Street, our readers have spoken, and they have opted to go with the tried and true chain that includes over 1,300 outlets nationwide.

Unlike many IHOP locations which remain open 24-hours a day virtually year-long, the one on Mall Blvd. only serves food round-the-clock on Wednesdays through Saturdays, closing at 11 pm the rest of the week. That’s still plenty of time to enjoy blintzes, crepes, waffles, french toast, and —of course— pancakes covered with a variety of syrups (including Swedish lingonberry, butter pecan and strawberry).

The iconic blue roof of these establishments is almost as recognizable to baby boomers as the orange roof of Howard Johnson’s restaurants, as are the names of their longstanding signature dishes, such as the banana/blueberry/strawberry/apple and pancake concoction the “Rooty Tooty Fresh & Fruity.” Many Savannahians were bummed a few years back when this IHOP closed for an extended period after a fire, but it’s bounced back in a big way, as this win confirms. -- (JR)

Editors’ Pick Tie: Larry’s Restaurant & State Street Cafe

Best Fried Chicken

KFC

Multiple locations

Editors’ Pick: Sweet Potato’s

Best Sub Sandwich

Subway

Multiple locations

Editors’ Pick: Baldino’s

Best Wings

Wild Wing Cafe

City Market

Editors’ Pick: Wild Wing

Best BBQ

Best Ribs

Sticky Fingers

7921 Abercorn St./ 925-7427

Editors’ Pick, BBQ: Angel’s BBQ

Editors’ Pick, ribs: Sticky Fingers

Best Salad

Jen’s & Friends

32 Bull St./ 238-5367

Myself and a few friends have maintained for years that if there was a decent salad bar downtown, the restaurant savvy enough to take that plunge would have people lined up around the block waiting to get in. Informal research suggests one of my more loquacious acquaintances passed that suggestion along to several local establishments North of Gaston, and lo and behold, one of them finally ran with it.

When I first heard this smaller-than-small alcove of a neighborhood watering hole on the corner of Bull and Congress Sts. was boasting a full-on salad bar in addition to their limited-but-tasty selection of sandwiches, I could not fathom how such a thing would fit inside their narrow, rectangular space. Seems that with a little cagey finagling, they’re able to shoehorn a 20+ item buffet along their back wall, and —as expected— they’re doing gangbuster lunchtime business.

With parking spaces at a premium, it often can take as long to find a spot to stash your vehicle near this part of town as it does to actually order and eat lunch, so the fact that businesspeople working —or students studying— near Johnson Square (not to mention strolling tourists) can grab a healthy meal in a flash within easy walking distance of their jobs or classes makes this one of the most buzzworthy lunch spots in the historic district of late. And, they can wash it down with a cold beer or cocktail! -- (JR)

Editors’ Pick: Ruby Tuesday’s

Best Deli

Best Bagels

Midtown Deli

7805 Abercorn St./ 355-8717

Editors’ Pick: Midtown Deli

Best Japanese

Masato of Japan

7805 Abercorn St./ 355-9800

Editors’ Pick: Sakura

Best Sushi

Sushi Zen

41 Whitaker St./ 233-1188

1100 Eisenhower Dr./ 303-0141

Editors’ Pick: Hirano’s

Best Indian

Taste of India

401 Mall Blvd./ 356-1020

Much like IHOP, this popular local restaurant closed for many months after a debilitating fire, but has recently reopened. Located in a shopping center on the corner of Mall Blvd. and Hodgson Memorial Dr., Taste of India specializes in North Indian cuisine, plus a few items from Bombay. They do a brisk business at lunchtime when they offer a rather extensive buffet — including both vegetarian dishes of cauliflower, chick peas, lentils and potatoes, and those based around curried lamb and chicken, plus soups, flatbreads and salad. If you’re unfamiliar with Indian food, this buffet makes for a great introduction to the various ethnic spices and flavors, as the selections change daily, and it’s easy to try a vast array of delicacies without “ordering blind.”

It’s worth noting that there are at least two other Indian restaurants in town within a short drive of Taste of India, including Curry Corner and Madras Saravana Bhavan. -- (JR)

Editors’ Pick: Taste of India

Best Chinese

Wang’s II

7601 Waters Ave./ 355-0321

Editors’ Pick: Wang’s II

Best Italian

Bella’s Italian Cafe

4420 Habersham St./ 354-4005

Editors’ Pick: DaVinci’s

Best Mexican

Jalapeno’s

107 Charlotte Dr./ 897-8245

7405 Skidaway Rd./ 356-1800

8840 Abercorn St./ 920-00704

Editors’ Pick: Mi Tierrita (Hardeeville)

Best Place to Buy Local Seafood

Russo’s Seafood

201 E. 40th St./ 234-5196

Editors’ Pick: Russo’s

Best Buffet

Lady & Sons

102 W. Congress St./ 233-2600

Editors’ Pick: Chen’s Chinese Restaurant

Best Gourmet Pizza

Vinnie Van Go-Gos

City Market

Editors’ Pick: Basil’s

Best Bakery

Back in the Day Bakery

2403 Bull St./ 495-9292

Editors’ Pick: Back in the Day

Best Ice Cream

Leopold’s Ice Cream

212 E. Broughton St./ 234-4442

Editors’ Pick: Leopold’s

Best Desserts

Cafe Gelatohh!

City Market

Editors’ Pick: Leopold’s

Best Greek

Olympia Cafe

5 E. River St./ 233-3131

Editors’ Pick: Grapevine

Best Thai

King & I

7098 Hodgson Memorial Dr./ 355-2100

Editors’ Pick: Kao

Best Vietnamese

Saigon Restaurant

4 W. Broughton St./ 232-5288

Editors’ Pick: Little Saigon

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

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