Each spring, Connect Savannah sponsors our annual “Best of Savannah” Reader’s Poll (which I suppose would be more accurately called an “election,” since it uses ballots instead of random sampling. But I digress).
After long nights spent counting the thousands of votes we received by snail mail and over the internet, the issue you hold in your hand is our round-up of all the winners. Each winner’s blurb is listed under a heading like so:
Runners-up are then listed in Bold Type after the winner’s blurb.
As part of our ongoing effort to make the poll as fresh as possible, this year we’ve taken out a few tired categories (you know the ones!) and added several new categories, including Best CAT Driver, Best Professor, Best Wi-Fi Spot (short for “wireless fidelity,” i.e., wireless internet access) and Best Clergy.
We were so impressed by the number and diversity of votes in that last category that we decided to list the top three vote-getters. You might also find the results quite interesting.
In addition to the usual thank-yous to our diligent editorial staff, our creative designers, our dynamite sales team and our wicked awesome distributors, I’d like to extend a special individual thanks and fond farewell to our editorial intern, Ashley Jensen of the Savannah Arts Academy, who took most of the newer photos of this year’s winners.
For two semesters Ashley has gleefully taken on her various writing and photography assignments, performing them all with a professionalism far beyond her years. She graduates in a few weeks and she will be sorely missed.
In a development that I for one would like to see become an annual tradition, this year we had a call for entries so local artists could compete to see whose artwork would grace our cover this year.
This year’s winning cover is a photo of Forsyth Park by SCAD senior Adam Kuehl. Honorable mention entries are each given a full-page to lead off each section of this year’s winners.
Anyway, we hope you enjoy this year’s “Best of Savannah” issue. If you didn’t win this time, don’t be a hater -- next year’s competition begins now!
Jim is editor-in-chief of Connect Savannah. E-mail him at email@example.com
Arts & Entertainment
Best Overall Musician &
Best Jazz Artist
Ben is without a doubt one of the busiest working musicians in town. Many of you know his tunes and melodies (such as the indefatigable standard “Comin’ Home Baby”) without necessarily attaching his name to them. After several years of taking home the Best Jazz Artist distinction, conventional wisdom says he would pretty much have to saw the dome off City Hall or kick Pete Liakakis in the jimmy to sufficiently alter his public image enough to allow someone to wrestle this category away from his kung-fu grip.
Best Musician Runner-up: Greg Williams has one of the best sets of pipes in town, and while his songwriting usually overshadows his fretwork, he’s a tasteful and agile guitarist as well.
Best Jazz Artist runner-up: Local thespian Trae Gurley parlayed a love of Sinatra and a flair for swing vocals into a popular nightclub act that finds him emulating the late star’s big band years to pre-recorded backing.
Best Rock Band
Buoyed by the songwriting skills and charismatic stage presence of Keith Kozell as well as a mind-bendingly thick three-lead guitar attack, this garage/retro septet finally appears poised to make the most of their many talents, having just released their first CD in twelve years together. A slight uptick this year in their generally scarce live concert calendar appears to have put them over the top in the reader’s poll for the first time ever.
The very popular and hard-working ensemble Liquid Ginger garnered the top spot the last three years, coming in a solid number two in the vote count this time around.
Best Country Band
The Courtenay Brothers
Though primarily known as a cover act, these siblings from a musical family (their dad is an established local player as well) have begun to slip some twangy originals into their bar and restaurant sets as well. A study in contrasts, younger brother Jason’s outgoing nature complements Chuck’s more reserved manner. They’ve recently begun to perform with a full backing group called The Hazzard County Band.
Regionally-based singer/songwriter Bryan Cleese is starting to turn heads in the Nashville scene, and is often featured as an opener when major stars play our area.
Best Club DJ
Behind the decks locally for 8 years, this D.C.- area native’s name is known to most serious clubgoers in town. Besides being the main turntablist and publicist for Club One, DJ (Matt) Shrapnel – whose day job is as a theater technician – has also provided entertainment for theme party impresario Chris Cook’s soirees, and for the now-defunct Velouria Lounge. Though he specializes in goth and industrial, he’s been known to offer up sets of ‘80s synth-pop and techno.
A mainstay at the popular NV Nightclub, DJ Will 2K plays a mixture of Top 40 hits, techno, industrial and drum & bass.
Best Blues Band/Artist
Easily Savannah’s most recognized blues guitarist and singer, Eric Culberson (sometimes billed as EROK) has been honing his fiery Chicago-style blues for close to two decades now. Several years back he suffered an arm injury which threatened to end his musical career altogether, but he soldiered on, and now plays and sings better than ever. After releasing a
couple of well-received studio CDs on the King Snake label, he’s set to
issue his first-ever live album in the next few months.
The relatively new local quintet Eat Mo’ Music offers upbeat and danceable instrumental funk and soul jazz, featuring trombone, trumpet, bass, guitar and drums.
Best Hip-hop/Rap Artist
DJ Will 2K
A bit of an odd choice, as none of Savannah’s many original and independent rappers made the cut. However, this DJ maintains a high profile in the local dance community.
Best Acoustic/Folk Artist
After more than 20 years of doing his own thing, this singer/songwriter
is a towering presence on our local original music scene. He has released a handful of surprisingly consistent indie CDs, some of which find him performing solo folk and blues on just his acoustic guitar, and some of which find him rocking out with a rotating cast of some of the finer underground musicians in Georgia. These days, he can often be found in Los Angeles or Nashville, where he plays respected showcase rooms like Kanter’s Deli and The Bluebird Café.
Known throughout the state as the host of Georgia Public Radio’s Celtic music program “The Green Island,” sweet-voiced troubadour Harry O’Donoghue specializes in Irish-based folk – traditional and contemporary.
Best Spoken Word Artist
The “thin man” is co-founder of the Spitfire Poetry Group. In addition to his fiery performances, Powell works with area schoolchildren to light a fire under their innate creative abilities. A recent trip with some young charges to a poetry slam in Jacksonville won first, second, fourth and fifth places.
Always keeping it real, runner-up and co-founder of the Spitfire Poetry Group Renazance is a tireless spokesman for the art form, helping to organize the recent first-ever Spoken Word Festival.
The late great Jack Leigh is gone but obviously not forgotten, as this longtime winner -- still open for business at the corner of Abercorn & Oglethorpe -- dominates once again.
Set in the Starland Design District, the unique DeSotoRow Gallery offers cutting edge photography exhibits.
Best Art Gallery
This Barnard Street gallery owned and operated by SCAD features the best in student work.
Red Gallery, SCAD’s fishbowl of a gallery on Broughton brings in a wide range of work.
Best Local Artist
Recently relocated to New York City, this 1996 SCAD graduate is a master of simple but evocative painting techniques, used almost exclusively for self-portraits.
The perennially popular Lowcountry artist Ray Ellis has an illustrious painting career spanning half a century.
Telfair Museum of Art
Diverse and world-class rotating exhibits, a growing in-house collection and an upcoming modern art annex designed by the great Moshe Safdie make this without a doubt of the Southeast’s best art museums.
Amazing ship models portraying aspects of U.S. and Georgia history make for a unique experience for tourist and local alike at the Ships of the Sea Museum.
Best Local Author
Move over, John Berendt. The author of Delirium of the Brave (an adventure involving Savannah’s Irish Catholic community and a hidden treasure) and the follow-up No Enemy But Time (featuring an IRA soldier turned Nazi spy) is the new dearly beloved of Savannah’s literary -- or is that literati? -- community.
Murray Silver’s memories of “the good old days” in Savannah -- which weren’t always so good, but were always very interesting -- rank him a solid second.
Indie Film Venue
Ever since the Reel Savannah Film Group partnered with this beautiful, historic venue to offer semi-regular 35mm screenings of foreign, independent and various other types of critically-acclaimed cinema that would otherwise
bypass Savannah’s multiplexes, they’ve received no small amount of support –
from their their core base of affluent Landings residents to average folks
from all corners of town to Bohemian-leaning SCAD students.
The cozy coffeehouse Sentient Bean off Forsyth Park plays host to The Psychotronic Film Society, Savannah Global Video Theater, and the Third Friday Foreign Films series – all of which screen obscure features on video in a café environment.
Best Theatre Company
Lost in the ‘50s made way for Jukebox Journey, but whichever high-energy musical revue is on the marquee, the historic Savannah Theatre on Chippewa Square has found the formula for ongoing success.
The Lucas Theatre makes for a suitably evocative setting for Jim Holt and Jody Chapin to work their thespian magic with City Lights Theatre Company.
Best Local Actor/Actress
Each year we try to get you to vote for actual local actors who act in actual local productions. And each year you generally seem more inclined to vote for Hollywood types who have houses here. Oh, well. Perhaps we should bring back that tired old “Best Local Celebrity” category. In any case, you picked well this year. Tybee Island resident Sandra Bullock is certainly a good local citizen -- if not an actual local actress -- donating millions of dollars to conservation causes on the Georgia coast.
Sheldon Pinckney, singing star of Jukebox Journey (and Lost in the ‘50s before that) at Savannah Theatre, is one of the brightest lights on the local scene. Not a Hollywood star (yet), but at least he’s a bona fide local actor!
Best Local Heroes
Third Infantry Division
Fort Stewart’s “Rock of the Marne” holds down the fort in Iraq with unparalleled dedication and professionalism, despite continued attacks by Iraqi insurgents and extended tours of duty. To the soldiers and the spouses, children and parents who love them, we offer a grateful salute and a sincere wish for the troops to come home soon. To readers with a “Support the Troops” magnet on their SUVs who are not currently serving and who are at or under the newly raised Guard and Reserve maximum enlistment age of 39 (34 regular Army): Uncle Sam wants you -- NOW!
Members of the Savannah Fire Department and Southside Fire Department put themselves into dangerous situations to keep the rest of us safe.
Jack is back! Dethroned last year in this category, this long-serving Republican is highly-thought of locally, even by many Democrats. Though he was redistricted out of most of Chatham County in 2001, a just-approved redrawing of the district map means Jack might soon represent more of you.
Plain talk from former alderman and SSU dean Mayor Otis Johnson pushed the black community to take more responsibility for fighting crime. Well, they said only Nixon could go to China, right?
Father Patrick O’Brien
Beloved of local Catholics since his arrival here from the Emerald Isle in the ‘70s, this soft-spoken but intensely devoted Irishman -- chaplain of the St. Patrick’s Day parade as well as a Savannah Police chaplain -- is now pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church on the islands.
Second-place finisher Rev. Billy Hester is not only pastor of Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church, but director of the church’s highly regarded theatrical productions.
Third-place Rabbi Arnold Mark Belzer of Congregation Mickve Israel -- the third oldest Jewish congregation in the U.S. -- continues the Savannah Jewish community’s strong tradition of outreach.
Best Local Scandal
Miss Savannah Trial
Although Sharron Nicole Redmond was acquitted, this salacious trial put Savannah in the national spotlight as the Beauty Queen Murder Case. Can a made-for-TV-movie be far behind?
The gradually escalating situation around a potential Board of Education recall kept Savannahians intrigued as, one by one, recall attempts were made -- and failed.
Best Local Columnist
She made her writerly reputation with the Savannah Morning News, but since January of this year she’s been writing for us. Jane’s sometimes bittersweet, always thought-provoking slice-of-life takes on the Savannah scene comprise one of the most unique voices on the American journalism scene today, and we’re proud to host her in our pages.
Connect Music Editor Jim Reed combines an encyclopedic knowledge of music with a willingness to call ‘em like he sees ‘em. Now if only we could get him to meet his frickin’ deadlines....
Best CAT Driver
Chatham Area Transit is one of the best small-market bus systems in the country, and this category is long, long overdue. The inaugural readers’ choice award went to former (and future?) Connect columnist Tom Parrish, a helluva guy and a helluva driver.
Runner-up Jerome Gayle has been a CAT “operator” since 2000 (CAT prefers that term because the drivers have additional responsibilities such as safety and customer service).
Best Local Police Officer
Officer Chris Hinson
A horse patrol cop combines an archetypal image of authority (knight on horseback) with friendly approachability (cute animal). Officer Hinson and the rest of the Metro Police Horse Patrol exemplifies that combination.
Runner-up Herbert Harley serves on Savannah’s thin blue line with pride.
Best Non-Profit Organization
Humane Society of Chatham/Savannah
Since 1952, the Society has been speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves through animal rescue, adoption services and public education about spaying/neutering, vaccinations, and leash laws.
Hospice Savannah is the only local hospice program with a full-time chief medical director, an in-patient facility and bereavement support.
Best Local Website
This massive site, part of the Savannah Morning News empire,
consolidates much printed content, and allows visitors to search much of the paper’s extensive archives with relatively little fuss. It can be a bit slow to respond at times, but when you’re shuffling that much information, some delays are unavoidable.
Refreshingly free of advertising, the fiercely independent Savannahunderground.com is by far the most professional and user-friendly database to ever focus solely on the local music and art scene.
Best Local Radio Station
Owned and operated by the legendary old-school radio man Jerry Rogers, this perennial favorite is one of the few independently-run stations for
miles. Their adult-oriented “quality rock” format covers more ground than
most corporate outfits, and their laid-back announcers are a welcome oasis
of calm in airspace that gets more boisterous and confrontational every
18 years on, the 100,000 watt classic and new rock powerhouse I-95 FM still regularly tops the Savannah ratings charts.
Best Local Newscast
It’s no surprise that this CBS affiliate would take the honors in this category. After all, with six hours of live programming produced daily, they expend more effort, money and energy on electronic news gathering than any other local station.
Longtime anchors and reporters like Tina Tyus-Shaw, Lyndy Brannen and David Williams are part of what makes WSAV-TV (which debuted as a radio station in 1939) a favorite among local viewers.
Best Local Anchor
Tina Tyus Shaw
With her own unique brand of journalistic gravitas and compassionate warmth, WSAV’s go-to girl has worked her way up to become our readers’ consistently most watched local TV newsperson, anchoring both the 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts.
WTOC stalwart Mike Manhatten holds down the 5:30 and 11 p.m. newscasts on the area’s ratings leader.
Best Local Meteorologist
WTOC’s veteran weather guy is no airhead. With a professional -- and professorial! -- air, Mr. Prokop treats meteorology not as a ratings gimmick, but as the hard news that it surely is.
A relatively new face on the scene, Ben Smith watches the weather on WSAV’s 6 & 11 p.m. newscasts.
Best Radio DJ
A veteran Savannah broadcaster (on the air for almost a quarter century) Bolton is known both for her stint as the co-host of The Gator’s (106.9 FM) morning drive show, and as the host of “Debbie’s Diner,” the lunchtime request show that takes place middays on Oldies 98.3 FM. As if that weren’t enough, in 2003, the beguiling announcer was selected as one of the “Top 25 Most Attractive Females In Radio.” Cool, huh?
Smooth-talking veteran broadcaster Jerry Rogers of Q105.3 FM virtually defines Coastal Cool – whatever that means.
Best Reason to Move here
Beauty is one thing that Savannah has in abundance -- in its elegantly restored historic houses, the flower beds of its squares, the beach at Tybee and in the smiling faces of its residents.
If our weather isn’t perfect, just give it five minutes or so and it will change.
Best Reason to Leave town
It’s hard to imagine that such a beautiful city could have such a high violent crime rate, but if Mayor Otis Johnson has his way, that situation might change for the better.
City taxes are inevitable, as the saying goes. But painful, so painful.
Best Sports Team
Savannah Sand Gnats
“Nats” for real, now that they’re the single A affiliate of the brand new Washington Nationals major league club. New owner John Simmons has brought a fresh approach to minor league ball in Savannah, with a helping hand from the city in the form of some much-needed improvements to historic Grayson Stadium. Now just win some games!
The local rugby team the Savannah Shamrocks boast a long tradition of excellence, hosting the annual St. Patrick’s weekend tournament in Daffin Park.
Savannah Music Festival
Under the command of former Jazz at Lincoln Center director Rob Gibson and assistant director Daniel Hope -- a world-class musician in his own right -- the Savannah Music Festival is now one of the leading lights in the world festival scene, bringing over two weeks of the world’s finest performers to Savannah’s beautiful historic venues.
SCAD brainchild Savannah Film Festival now has an international reputation for recognizing and promoting new talent -- as well as honoring old-school stars.
Best WiFi Spot
With their recently expanded digs and the spacious and sunny environs, this full-service coffehouse and gallery seems to do gangbusters business. At any hour of the day, you’re likely to see two fistfuls of folks huddled around their laptops, sending e-mail, surfing the net, or hacking into NORAD for free, while trying not to spill a mocha latté into their Firewire port.
At ten bucks a day, Starbuck’s wireless internet service ain’t free, but it’s there.
Best Private School
Benedictine Military School
Educating young men since 1902, this Catholic high school with its roots in the Benedictine monastic order fills the ranks of Savannah’s business and professional community with its graduates.
Savannah Christian Preparatory School began on the Westside in 1951, and this popular local PreK-12 private school now has a DeRenne Avenue campus.
Best Public School
Savannah Arts Academy
Yes, it’s a public school, and no, it’s not affiliated with SCAD. Despite the baffling array of misconceptions about this fine and performing arts magnet high school -- occupying the historic building that once hosted Savannah High -- SAA boasts one of the most academically and artistically gifted student bodies in the region.
As the district’s engineering magnet, the Jenkins High School Warriors take academics seriously and always finish high in this category.
Mark Kneece helped found SCAD’s sequential art department in 1993. He served as chair of the department twice, and currently gives instruction in writing for comics. Kneece’s first published story was in “Alien Worlds” in 1987; other credits include writing for “Batman” and “Tarzan.”
Biologist Robert Lessnau made his name as an adjuct prof at AASU, as well as for his work at the now-defunct Wildlife Survival Center on St. Catherine’s Island.
Best College & Best Place to Work
The Savannah Film Festival... the Lucas & Trustees Theatres... the Sidewalk Arts Festival... dozens of internationally famous lecturers and visiting artists... the International Festival... countless renovations of formerly moribund historic properties.... The Savannah College of Art & Design has become so much a part of the fabric of local life -- and a main driver of the local economy -- that it almost seems quaint to refer to it as a college.
Best College runner-up: Armstrong Atlantic State University remains one of the all-time great education deals in the U.S., with a top-flight degree available for an inexpensive price.
Best Place to Work runner-up: Savannah/Chatham County Public Schools -- In the words of Acting Superintendent George Bowen, there’s a “kindler, gentler 208 Bull Street.”
SCAD’s 500-bed, brand new building on the westside of old downtown.
The now-legendary O-House remains a central gathering place for SCAD students.
Best Golf Course
Hutchinson Island’s new jewel of a course beckons locals and tourists to its fairway.
A facelift has restored the lost glory of the fine old Wilmington Island Country Club.
Best Weekend Getaway
Savannah’s older and haughtier sister city to the north is always good for a taste of the high life, Southern style.
One of the best stretches of beach in the United States beckons local and tourist alike to Tybee Island.
Best Apartment Complex
Located on Wilmington Island, this elegant complex is a great place to hang your hat at the end of a long, hard day.
The Oaks -- This apartment complex offers comfort and beauty.
Best Cheap Thrill
Whether it be the annual free concerts, ultimate frisbee tournaments, SCAD’s Sidewalk Arts Fest, or Earth Day celebrations, our very own Central Park is in almost constant use during the Spring and Fall. However, that doesn’t even take into consideration the picnics, tennis, basketball, sunbathing, and simple strolling that’s available virtually year-round – and we haven’t even mentioned the world-famous fountain! New construction and renovations on the old fort buildings have some residents worried about encroaching commercialism ruining the folksy vibe, but most hope the pros outweigh the cons...
The Beach -- Sand, water, rocks and sharks. What more could you ask for?
Best New Restaurant &
Torchbearers for a Savannah tradition since 1884, the Gottlieb brothers have taken fine dining in Savannah to the next level, with an assortment of continental entrees and incredible desserts that have instantly put this restaurant in the South’s upper echelon -- indeed, the only local restaurant to boast four diamonds from the American Automobile Association
Best New Restaurant runner-up: Churchill’s isn’t exactly new, but it is in a new place, with a rooftop deck and the same great menu.
Best Chef runner-up: Bryan Richard is cookin’ with gas, people!
Best Dessert runner-up: River House is well-regarded by tourist and local alike.
Jazz’d Tapas Bar
Friendly, fast and knowledgeable, the servers at this popular tapas restaurant near City Market have to keep up with a wide-ranging and diverse menu. Even the barstaff can advise you on what to eat.
A perennial win or place in this category, Elizabeth on 37th is Savannah’s original fine dining titan offering the best of Old World style service.
Best Restaurant in Which to Be Seen
The original anchor of the Broughton Street revitalization remains one of Savannah’s most chic and trendy nightspots, its wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows enhancing its extrovert qualities and beautiful people.
A wide-open space, a long beautiful bar, and great music make Jazz’d a no-brainer for Savannah’s A-list.
Which view? The one from the River Street location or the River Drive location in Thunderbolt? Answer: They’re both beautiful.
A view of Tybee’s serene Back River makes A.J.’s a peaceful interlude from the week’s stress.
Best Seafood &
Best Outdoor Dining
A perennial winner in this category, it’s hard to beat the serene beauty of the Crab Shack’s unique location on the Tybee marsh or the unbelievable variety and taste of its fresh seafood.
Best Seafood runner-up: Tubby’s -- Both the River Street and the Thunderbolt location serve up fine home-cooked marine fare.
Best Outdoor Dining runner-up: Making quite a splash since its recent relocation after a fire, Churchill’s rooftop set-up is already getting rave reviews.
This downtown tapas bar wrote the book on how to make a meal out of nothing but its engaging and inventive appetizers.
Tapas -- This fun City Market location has a diverse menu and outdoor dining.
With two friendly locations to choose from, this is no run-of-the-mill burger joint. With a deceptively laid-back sports bar ambience, B&D offers slabs of high-quality beef that are cooked to order in a number of satisfying versions, all too delicious for mere words.
The recently reopened Savannah landmark Crystal Beer Parlor boasts one of the biggest, juiciest pieces of beef in town.
Lunch in an art gallery? Inexpensive lunch in an art gallery? Inexpensive, awesome-tasting lunch in an art gallery? What could be cooler than that?
Tasty soups, fresh sandwiches and great gourmet coffee set the Twelve Oaks hotspot Atlanta Bread Company apart from the crowd.
Vinnie Van Go-Go’s
Not only the perennial dominator in this category, but one of the first funky, locally-owned businesses to signal the initial renaissance of Savannah’s downtown decades ago. Truly a slice of history -- get it?
The Garcia-tinged outpost of the pizzamaker’s art Mellow Mushroom offers hearty pizzas and calzones.
Still Savannah’s favorite go-to call when you want fresh hot pizza delivered to your door.
You don’t have to go to Liberty Street for the Mellow Mushroom’s best.
N.Y. style bagels, homemade the old-fashioned way. They offer catering too.
The Savannah Bagel Cafe is a little taste of Manhattan on Wilmington Island.
Best Coffee &
Best Coffee House
Striking a blow against crappy corporate coffee, co-owners Kelli Pierson and Kristin Russell are absolutely dedicated to Fair Trade coffee, which guarantees a competitive price for the developing world’s gourmet growers, who now suffer from low prices brought on by a global glut of skunky inferior beans. Not only is buying beans from the Bean the right thing to do -- it’s some of the best-tasting coffee in the world.
Strong runner-up in both categories, Gallery Espresso -- an art gallery as well as a coffeehouse -- now occupies a prime piece of downtown real estate on the corner of Bull and McDonough.
Best Internet Cafe
Upstairs in a roomy corner spot in City Market, Boba offers plenty of access with plenty of space, good eats, and just the right amount of hipster attitude.
Bits, Bytes and Coffee was a hit while it lasted.
Back in the Day
Artisan baked goods made from scratch in the Starland district, with the motto “Slow down and taste the sweet life.” Now serving lunch.
One of downtown’s newest hot spots, B. Matthews on Bay Street has awesome desserts and breads as well as lunch.
Best Sandwich & Best Deli
An outpost of serious, authentic New York style deli food on Liberty Street in the base of the Drayton Tower, very popular with professionals and students alike.
Best Sandwich runner-up: Larry’s is Home of the N.Y. Deli 9” giant sub, y’all.
Best Deli runner-up: The York Street Deli has been a favorite downtown lunch choice for many years.
The sports bar of sports bars, Coach’s Corner -- newly renovated in Thunderbolt -- offers the best wings in town to go with the action on the field.
A relative newcomer to downtown, Loco’s is a hoppin’ sports themed spot with great wings, among other things.
Now with an upscale southside location to compliment the more cozy downtown spot, proud chef Yoshi serves only the freshest, most authentic sushi at both of his places.
Sushi Time Towa is a southside mainstay, an off-the-beaten-path spot with a rave following.
Best Ice Cream
What’s old is new again, as this one-time Savannah legend is lovingly restored to prominence by the original owner’s son. Savannah native/Hollywood producer Stratton Leopold learned how to make ice cream from his father at the old Gwinnett Street store, and now keeps the dream alive on Broughton Street.
Delicious homemade ice cream is at Coldstone Creamery in Twelve Oaks.
This perennial winner with a distinctly Australian flavor, awesome beef and bloomin’ onions proves a chain restaurant can flourish downtown.
Longtime beef experts Longhorn on the Southside came in a strong second.
This Islands-based cookery has been in business for 12 years.
Lady & Sons -- Why wait in line when you can hire ‘em out?
This longtime Tybee Island favorite packs ‘em in for the most intense -- yet charmingly cozy -- breakfast experience of your life.
Though The Book craze is long gone, Clary’s is still a great see-and-be-seen place on historic Jones Street, with a partner shop in Habersham Village.
Best Fast Food
Still the chicken sandwich supreme and master of the mall domain.
Wendy’s, still a “cut” above the rest. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
Best Southeast Asian Cuisine
This Broughton Street hotspot delivers a delicious and spicy blend of both Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, with professional and friendly service.
A newcomer to the local Thai scene, Kao has been packing ‘em in at its Thunderbolt location.
Best Exotic Cuisine
King & I
Thai cuisine is all the rage in Savannah these days, and this Hodgson Memorial restaurant is one of the local originals.
Belly dancing on Broughton Street -- what a great idea! Casbah’s lamb kebob is to die for as well....
Savannahians of all ages still rave about their unique fried chicken recipe.
Fried chicken to die for at Lady & Son’s, y’all. Just ask any tourist from Ohio.
Best American & Best Southern Cuisines & Best Sunday Brunch
Lady & Sons
Savannah celeb, TV star and business impresario Paula Deen has come up with the next Great Savannah Thing to take the place of The Book -- and none too soon, we might add. Though she has moved the original franchise to a more spacious location not far from the old one, the lines of tourists (and a few lucky locals) continue to snake around the block like it was the next Star Wars movie or something.
Best American Food runner-up: Crystal Beer Parlor is one of Savannah’s great dining establishments, now reopened under new ownership.
Best Southern Food runner-up: Mrs. Wilkes herself is gone, but clearly not forgotten.
Best Sunday Brunch runner-up: The Mulberry Inn has quietly and steadily built a great reputation for brunch over the years.
Sweet Leaf Smokery
How can you not like a restaurant with the same name as a Black Sabbath song? Don’t think of Brunswick stew, BBQ sauce and NASCAR here -- think slow-roasted, juicy and savory meats of all kinds, on a diverse menu drawing from many different cuisine traditions. The Cuban Panini defies words.
Wall’s, a favorite of generations of Savannahians, keeps it real, serving up a limited but awesome menu in a downtown lane.
Best Japanese Restaurant
For an all-around Japanese dining experience from sushi to seafood combos, Savannah still prefers this long-time favorite, with a popular anchor location in the Habersham Village.
With locations downtown and southside, there’s no excuse for not enjoying what Sakura has to offer.
Best Mexican Food
This colorful and popular restaurant on the southside offers the full range of South of the Border cuisine.
Juarez is a downtown favorite that never goes out of style (with a Waters Avenue location too).
Best Chinese Food
A very popular southside spot and perennial winner in this category.
Wok Inn is a unique & fun Broughton Street hangout.
Best Greek Food
Greek food on the river covers the spectrum -- from gourmet seafood dishes to hearty gyros, all served with professional flair and an “Opa!”
Wilmington Island hotspot The Grapevine is new to the scene, but getting rave reviews for its Greek cuisine.
Best Vegetarian Restaurant
Vegetarians can be -- shall we say, a littlefussy about their food. But most seem to be very well pleased with this quiet, cozy and delicious cafe on Troup Square.
Sentient Bean offers a wide range of fresh vegetarian goods, from quiches to brownies. Fair Trade java, too.
Most Romantic Restaurant
Elizabeth on 37th
The first fine-dining restaurant to really make a splash in Savannah, this is still your favorite place to take that significant other for a special night out.
Gourmet food, a piano bar and ghosts -- how much more romantic can you get than The Olde Pink House?
Best Italian Restaurant
This simple, cozy and unassuming Habersham Village spot has quietly garnered a huge and faithful following.
Massetti’s offers world-class Italian fine dining downtown.
Best Pub Food
Though being out of circulation for awhile due to fire (and subsequent relocation), this downtown favorite is known far and wide for its hearty Brit-style comfort food, especially fish & chips and shepherd’s pie.
Sixpence Pub either wins or comes in second in this category every year.
Best Tybee Restaurant
A spacious but warm two-level dining room combined with a fun and adventurous menu make this Tybee’s favorite.
The two owners of the same name at Georges’ are a lot of fun, but take their fine dining very seriously indeed.
Best Southside Restaurant
Steve & Nancy Magulias have built one of Savannah’s great restaurant success stories through a flair for design and a fun menu combining Greek and Caribbean food.
Mary’s Seafood & Steaks offers a classy, old-fashioned fine dining experience.
Best Downtown Restaurant
Priding itself on staying on top of the latest trends, this is as close as you’ll come to a San Francisco or NoHo hotspot in downtown Savannah. They often feature cutting edge art on the walls to go with their cutting edge cuisine.
Garibaldi’s is a favorite for several generations of Savannah diners.
Best Overall Restaurant
Located in a historic firehouse building, one of Savannah’s oldest and still most highly regarded names in fine dining offers a diverse seafood menu as well as duck and veal dishes, which you can finish with espresso and a luscious European style dessert.
Elizabeth on 37th is still one of Savannah’s favorite fine dining choices.
Best New Bar & Best Beer Selection
With the addition of a rooftop deck that overlooks Johnson Square, an expanded menu, and with a whopping 25 beers on draught and 35 different varieties of bottled beer, they enjoy a core clientele for whom this is the only place for miles around where they can find their favorite brew. Whether it’s obscure brands like Monty Python’s Holy Grail Ale, or Hobgoblin – both on tap – this is your best bet when you’ve had your fill of Mickey’s Widemouths.
New Bar runner-up: The Irish Times -- This long and narrow watering hole on Whitaker Street near Broughton has been enjoying a strong following almost from the day they opened their doors.
Beer Selection runner-up:Previously known as O’Connell’s Irish Pub, Finnegan’s Wake on Congress Street was one of the first places in town to offer Stella Artois on tap.
Best Live Venue & Best Bar Staff
Though their standard lineup of punk, alternative country, hardcore, indie-rock and underground hip-hop may not appeal to everyone, there’s no denying that this Congress Street venue (formerly The Velvet Elvis) is all about the music. Between the tats, piercings, Willie Nelson pigtails and chain wallets,
this punk and indie-rock club’s bartenders (and bartendresses) are about as site-specific as one could imagine. One question: we know Tony’s
favorite drink is Wild Turkey, but does that mean it always has to be the
Best Live Music runner-up: The classy River Street pub Kevin Barry’s has been presenting live music 7 nights a week for longer than anyone can remember. It’s all cut from the same cloth (i.e., acoustic, Celtic-influenced folk and country), but it fits with the room.
Best Bar Staff runner-up: Churchill’s -- With so many different beers to keep track of, it takes a special breed of barkeep to keep them all straight...
Best Dancing & Best Overall Bar
Some may carp about the unusual assortment of entertainment offered (from pajama parties with famous rappers to Latin-themed salsa nights) and question what the target demographic of this impressively appointed nightspot is. But that’s missing the point. Obviously, their remarkable versatility explains why this venue above Il Pasticcio on Broughton Street won best “Overall” bar.
Overall Bar runner-up: Between the live blues, jazz and rock on their main floor, and the pool tables and internet jukebox in the Mercury Lounge’s cellar bar, most anyone will find something to enjoy.
Dance Club runner-up: Gay, straight, young, old – all flock to Club One, known for its killer sound system and mesmerizing light show.
Best Happy Hour
This national chain restaurant near Oglethorpe Mall has become one of
the busiest eateries on the Southside, and is distinguished by an unusually
wide variety of grilled American fare, their noteworthy takeout party platters, and plenty of “flair.”
With no windows to give you a clue you’re only a few feet from busy Broughton, the cozy eatery Jazz’d Tapas Bar is as cool and calm as you can get.
This no-frills watering hole and eatery on River Street has become the
destination for folks who are interested in spicy food and “colebeers.”
Savannah’s only microbrewery, Moon River Brewing Company, offers a number of their own trademark brews, many of which are beginning to show up at other outlets throughout the area.
With 2 locations (Southside on Abercorn and out in Sandfly), this
eatery has an extremely loyal clientele. They’re also known for their wide variety of tequilas. If you’re exceptionally bold or
of hearty constitution, they offer 2-for-1 on these award-winning drinks at
their weekday Happy Hour...
You’ll find almost as many folks who’ll tell you that it’s Juarez that
offers the finest Mexican cuisine in Savannah, so you’ll just have to try
both and see where your feelings lie.
Best Martini & Best Jazz Venue
Jazz’d Tapas Bar
Located in the basement of the beautiful Kress building on the corner of Barnard and Broughton Streets, Jazz’d offers excellent, fusion-influenced cuisine, as well as a hip, refined vibe they describe as “industrial chic.” Weekends find them showcasing some of the city’s best jazz and blues artists, and there’s never a cover charge.
Runner-up, Best Martini & Best Jazz Venue: With their Rat Pack mural as a fitting backdrop, the Mercury Lounge regularly books most of the better local blues and light jazz acts. Their logo incorporates an olive on a skewer, so that may give you an idea of where they’re coming from...
Ask around long enough and you’re bound to find someone who regularly walks several blocks just to avail themselves of one of these fruity concoctions. Plus, they allow you to blend their stock flavors to create your own libation...
An oasis of quality in a sea of mediocrity, the Southside hotspot Daiquiri Island offers plenty of tasty frozen drinks as well as excellent bar food and outdoor dining.
Best Wine Selection
Venus De Milo
With over 120 wines available by the bottle and over 60 available by the glass, this 2-story establishment on MLK Jr., Boulevard is the first stop for most wine aficionados. They also boast of being the only bar in town to offer half-bottles. On weekend nights the ambience changes a bit with the addition of a live DJ.
Smaller and less high-profile than Venus De Milo, the laid-back, ground-level hideaway Elysium Wine Bar near the Savannah Theater is a great place for a romantic tryst or a cozy place to unwind after a night of loud music or dancing.
Best Alternative Lifestyle Bar
Long at the forefront of Savannah’s GLBT entertainment scene, this multi-level dance club and theater draws crowds year-round, both for their impressive sound and light show, and their classy upstairs cabaret stage – complete with velvet curtains.
While not technically a gay bar, the
accepting environment of Chuck’s on the west end of River Street has made it a favorite hang for late-night partiers of
Best Sports Bar
For almost 15 years, this massive fun-eatery in Thunderbolt has been at the epicenter of local sports culture. Between their numerous big screen
TVs, satellite programming, interactive trivia and arcade games, outdoor
“beach” volleyball, shuffleboard, darts and pool, this is easily one of the premiere destinations in the area for competitive types. Plus, they now have high-speed internet access...
The regional chain Loco’s is the first to successfully bring a sports and fraternity environment to the Historic Downtown. Their Broughton Street location has done solid business from day one.
B & B Billiards
With 6 top-notch tables and several beers on tap (including a few obscure British and European brews for the adventurous), it’s the hall of choice for many serious players. They recently moved into their basement from their previous ground-floor layout, and in the warm weather months are attempting to offer live music in their comfortable outdoor courtyard. Tuesday and Thursday’s are earmarked for free pool.
With 20 tables, a full bar and a kitchen boasting a sandwich-heavy menu, the Abercorn Street Southside Billiard Club offers 30 minutes of free pool with the purchase of lunch.
Known throughout town by diehard karaoke singers as one of the best
places to test your mettle in front of a crowd, this large restaurant has
two separate rooms, so those who prefer to merely watch TV or converse don’t have to struggle over the caterwauling of amateur vocalists. Then again,
you’re just as likely to wander into the back and be startled to find someone simply tearing it up on the mic.
Not a karaoke bar per sé, Chuck’s is a great place to toss back a few, and show everyone else in the room what kind of pipes you have.
Known for their low, stamped ceiling, genuine red British phone booth, cornucopia of draught beers and extensive menu of traditional pub fare
(featuring spot-on Shepherd’s Pie and Bangers & Mash), this Bull Street bistro is a haven for townies and tourists alike.
The beloved British-style pub Churchill’s has successfully relocated after a disastrous fire, and is now bigger and
better than ever.
Best Blues Venue
A comfortable basement room underneath City Market, they offer good sight
lines, a separate game room, local and regional touring artists, and one of
the more unique atmospheres in all of Savannah.
Whether it’s their Tuesday night Open Mic Jam featuring Eric Culberson, or the variety of funk, blues, jazz and rock bands they feature on weekend nights, the Mercury Lounge is a major player.
Best Adult Entertainment
The Gold Club
For those who wish they could live vicariously through Vince Neil, on Friday nights this massive club just across the bridge feature live metal and rock bands who play while the female exotic dancers do the gyration thing.
Although under relatively new ownership, the “International Gentlemen’s Club” Uncle Harry’s has been in business at this Westside location for 35 years.
Best Neighborhood Bar
With Jim Collins Bar and The Office Lounge sadly no more, all that downtown has left to remind us of the glory days of Savannah’s alcohol counterculture is this wonderful throwback. While some may keep this Drayton Street fixture in their hearts for its longstanding connection to Georgia politics, the simple truth is that a trip to Pinkie’s for a PBR and some popcorn is a rite of passage. Plus they’ve got Luna, Pinback and The Sweet on the jukebox.
The friendly Sixpence Pub is a breath of fresh air compared to much of the loud and smoky competition nearby.
Best Tybee Bar
This restaurant on Lazaretto Creek has slowly become one of the most
recognizable nightspots on Tybee. The owner’s a live music fan with strong ties to the Athens, Ga., community, and from time to time he brings in well-known alternative bands for intimate concerts).
Fannie’s On The Beach is a favorite watering hole for locals and tourist alike.
Best Bloody Mary
For that first cocktail of the day -- or some hair of the dog that bit you -- why not overlook bustling River Street and count the ships coming in?
Cotton Exchange on the river offers a great wake-me-up, old school.
This southside spot is a great place to sit and unwind with a stack and a hot cup of joe.
Krispy Kreme offers donuts and coffee for a perfect ending to a late evening.
Drinking and throwing sharp implements -- not a problem at this home of some serious dart players.
Rail Pub is a close second in this competitive category.
Bio: A native Savannahian, Jim has been editor-in-chief of Connect Savannah for ten years. The University of Georgia graduate is also a travel writer, authoring regional guides in the Moon handbook series...A native Savannahian, Jim has been editor-in-chief of Connect Savannah for ten years. The University of Georgia graduate is also a travel writer, authoring regional guides in the Moon handbook series.more