The wait staff at Elizabeth on 37th

The Best of Savannah

Best of Savannah 2008: Food

Best Overall Restaurant, Best Wait Staff, Best Restaurant When Someone Else is Paying

Elizabeth on 37th

105 E. 37th St./ 236-5547

Nestled in an old Southern mansion with its own herb garden out front, Elizabeth on 37th is definitely a special-occasions restaurant.

Reservations are taken up to three months in advance, and office manager Morgen Schaff recommends booking early. “People celebrate quite a few birthdays and anniversaries here,” she says. “We usually recommend people book a couple of weeks in advance to get a certain date.”

Founded in 1981 by Chef Elizabeth Terry and her husband Michael, the restaurant was purchased by brothers Greg and Gary Butch in 1998. They were long-time employees who decided to take over the restaurant when the Terrys retired.

Many diners feel Elizabeth on 37th is one of the most romantic restaurants in Savannah. “We’re in an old mansion, so the atmosphere of the restaurant is very intimate,” Schaff says. “We have four small dining rooms with hardwood floors, oriental rugs and fireplaces in every room.”

Elizabeth on 37th has been given many awards, and is popular with tourists, as well as locals. “We have a great relationship with our concierges at the hotels in the historic district,” Schaff says.

“We’re seasonal,” she says. “Our busy season is in the spring and fall when the tourists are here and the weather is nice.”

After their retirement, the Terrys moved to Portland, Ore., to be close to family. Today, Kelly Yambor is the executive chef. “She and her husband, Jeremy Diehl, run the kitchen,” Schaff says.

“We do have some signature dishes,” she says. “One is the Coastal Grouper Celeste. It has a sesame and almond crust with peanut sauce. Another favorite is the pork tenderloin, made with a honey and ginger marinade and served with Maytag blue cheese cream sauce.” -- LS

Runner-up, Overall: Garibaldi’s

Runner-up, Wait Staff: Il Pasticcio

Runner-up, Someone Else: Il Pasticcio

Best New Restaurant

Local 11 Ten

1110 Bull St./790-9000

Seemingly from the moment in fall 2005 that this chic fine dining establishment opened in a beautifully (and ingeniously) renovated historic Bull Street bank building just off Forsyth Park, it became known as the place to eat and to be seen.

Based around the notion of creating a sophisticated and upscale menu that drew from traditional Southern roots cooking —and which utilized local products whenever possible— Local 11 Ten (a name which both includes the eatery’s actual address, 1110 Bull St., and subtly references the fact that it’s located in the same massive yellow brick structure as American Legion Post 135) it’s busy most nights, drawing a steady stream of sharply dressed twenty, thirty and forty-somethings —as well as refined seniors— to its indoor and outdoor tables.

They offer full bar service in addition to their seasonally-specific fare (which has been known to include Sapelo Island clams, soft-shell crabs from the Georgia coast and figs and other fruits grown only blocks away from the kitchen). The recipes themselves draw on elements of both French and Italian cuisine, and it’s the only restaurant in Savannah that boasts its very own vault. Learn more at: - JR

Runner-up: Blowin’ Smoke

Best Chef

Matt Cohen

New South Cafe

2601 Skidaway Rd./233-7558

Coffee Encrusted Tenderloin of Beef. Truffle Injected Chilean Sea Bass Pappllote. Cast-Iron Skillet Blackened Red Fish with a Coconut-Leek Risotto and a Blood Orange Reduction.

Tuesday through Saturday, Savannah’s Best Chef Matt Cohen collaborates with his longtime friend and business partner Chef Scott Gordon to fulfill these culinary fantasies at the New South Café, their award-winning Eastside restaurant.

“I really have to tell you, I am not the chef of the year by myself,” says Cohen. “Without Scott I wouldn’t be here. He is the chef who created all the presentations of the dishes that we’ve come up with.”

Cohen, a native Savannahian, puts the “south” into the New South Café. He and Gordon, raised in Philadelphia and New Jersey, met in New York as roommates at the Culinary Institute of America 18 years ago.

After going their separate ways they reunited in 2005 to open New South Café in a storefront on Skidaway Road, offering lunch, dinner, and catering. Late last year they launched the Express Kitchen, serving weekday meals for folks on a tight schedule.

Ron Higgins, CEO of Savannah Movie Tours, features New South Café on his Foody Tour.

“We go to seven places. They are stop number three,” says Higgins. He cites “the presentation, the ingredients, the dishes, and Matt and Scott” that make New South a stop worthy of his tour.

Higgins’s favorite New South offerings? “Sushi grade yellow fin tuna, as a tuna burger or as sashimi. The sour cherry flounder. The Vidalia onion soup, prepared like French onion soup.”

Higgins and the readers of Connect are not the only fans of Cohen and Gordon’s work. Earlier this month New South Café received the 2008 Small Business of the Year award from the Small Business Chamber of Commerce. - RWG

Runner-up: Matt Rohen (ChaBella)

Best Downtown Restaurant

Sapphire Grill

110 W. Congress St./443-9962

A little bit of Manhattan (or is it Milan?) near City Market, Sapphire Grill combines big-city cool with an adventurous take on Lowcountry cuisine.

Runner-up: Vic’s on the River

Best Southside Restaurant

Tangerine Fusion and Sushi Bar

11215 Abercorn St./920-5504

The owners of the popular King & I Thai place bring you their hip take on Asian fusion.

Runner-up: Spanky’s

Best Mexican, Best Cheap Meal


Several Locations

My young daughter has a ritual at the always-busy Whitemarsh location of this popular local chain. She orders nachos with chicken and lettuce, queso on the side. She loads up a tortilla chip with chicken and lettuce, then takes another chip — often one from the basket that greets you, with salsa, within seconds of sitting down — and dips it in the queso sauce. Intense look in her eye, she then drips the queso all over the loaded chip, and eats both chips. She’s tried all the nachos at all the other Mexican places in town, but swears by Jalapeno’s. - JM

Runner-up, Best Mexican: Carlito’s

Runner-up, Best Cheap Meal: Taco Bell
Best Pub Food

Six Pence Pub

245 Bull St./233-3151

Just look for the big red phone booth out front.

Runner-up: Churchill’s

Best Westside Restaurant

Cheddar’s Casual Cafe

Benton Blvd., Pooler

This franchise chain just opened and is already getting rave reviews.

Runner-up: Applebees

Best Italian


4420 Habersham St./354-4005

One of the most perennially popular and consistent neighborhood restaurants in all of Savannah, Bella’s has been a reliable stop for both casual and business lunches and moderately upscale dinners for a decade and a half.

Located one mile north of Derenne near both the Red & White Grocery and Habersham Beverage Warehouse, the business expanded about six years ago, effectively doubling its seating capacity. That made it easier for folks to get in on weekend nights, as it was not uncommon back in the day to find long lines waiting for tables to open up. The menu focuses on bountiful pasta dishes and gourmet pizzas, as well as chicken, turkey, veal, steak and seafood specials.

They’re also somewhat famous for their homemade house salad dressing and sinfully good fried breadsticks. Manager Chase Townsend says owners Joyce and Jim Shanks have made a concerted effort to keep their menu consistent over the years, and it has won them a legion of diehard repeat customers, most of which live nearby.

“We want people to know what to expect when they come,” he says. “We also pride ourselves on versatility. Our atmosphere is relaxed, but we’re serious about the food.” Learn more at - JR

Runner-up: Il Pasticcio
Best Tapas


52 Barnard St./236-7777

The tapas here bring a whole new attitude to finger food.

Runner-up: Tapas (City Market)

Best Islands Restaurant

Barbara Jeans

138 Johnny Mercer Blvd./898-4424

Casual atmosphere and a tasty emphasis on seafood make this Wilmington spot continually popular.

Runner-up: Jalapenos

Best Tybee Restaurant

North Beach Grill

41 Meddin Dr./786-9003

George Spriggs, who has recently reopened Georges’, continues to serve up tasty Caribbean fare at this favorite north end spot.

Runner-up: A.J. ‘s

Best Breakfast and Best Brunch

J. Christopher’s

122 E. Liberty St./236-7494

Open for breakfast and lunch, the Savannah branch (a renovated downtown garage in the shadow of the Drayton Tower) of this regional chain offers a wide-ranging menu that’s heavy on traditional staples such as pancakes, eggs, soups, salads and sandwiches — but which also boasts some quirky signature dishes and culinary twists as well.

Its close proximity to both the cathedral of St. John The Baptist (among other houses of worship) as well as many SCAD buildings and dorms and scores of bars and nightclubs has made J. Christopher’s popular with both the church and hangover crowds — which in the South are not always mutually exclusive. - JR

Runner-up, Best Breakfast: Clary’s

Runner-up, Best Brunch: Firefly Cafe

Best Family Restaurant

Carey Hilliard’s

Several locations

Sweet tea, BBQ, fried fish and Brunswick stew -- lordie!

Runner-up: Chili’s

Best Desserts


42 MLK Jr. Blvd./238-2012

This chic, stylish and —most of all— deliciously decadent dessert bar on the corner of MLK, Jr. Blvd. and Congress Sts. (next to Venus Di Milo) celebrates its one-year anniversary this week. Completely unique in our market, it serves a rotating selection of delectable hand-made cakes, tarts, mousses, truffles, brownies and cheesecakes, along with cookies, crème brÛlée, fondue and sorbet.

Proprietors Rebecca Freeman and Janine Finn parlayed their friendship and shared passion for both baking and libations into what many feel is the premiere stop for fresh desserts in all of Savannah. In addition to the aforementioned sweets and, Lulu’s is also known for a most impressive selection of imported and domestic beers, fine wines by the glass, and specialty cocktails — including esoteric dessert liqueurs and several signature martinis.

While their dessert selections are made fresh daily, specific flavors and configurations usually change on a weekly basis. Expect to find between 15 to 20 different varieties of sweets and pastries on hand at all times. Says Freeman, “We’re thrilled so many people know about us, but it’s a small town, so we’re still surprised to learn there are locals who don’t know we exist. We couldn’t be any busier on the weekends, and the weekdays are picking up as well.”

If you go, make sure to peruse their fantastic jukebox stocked with out-of-the-ordinary jazz, exotica and indie-rock. Learn more at: - JR

Runner-up: Back in the Day

Best Chinese

Wangs II

7601 Waters Ave./355-0321

This southside institution is one of the longest-running winners in our Best of Savannah competition.

Runner-up: Yummy House

Best Vietnamese

Saigon Flavors

6604 Waters Ave./352-4182

This modest little place has been one of Savannah’s best-kept secrets for awhile now. Apparently the secret is out!

Runner-up: Little Saigon

Best Bakery

Back in the Day

2403 Bull St./495-9292

The bakery has been featured on MSN, AOL, the Food Network and in magazines as diverse as Adorn, Paula Deen, Chocolatier, Southern Living, Vanity Fair and the Boston Globe magazine. Owners Cheryl and Griffith Day are particularly proud of a mention in the New York Times.

“Our motto is ‘slow down and taste the sweet life,’” Cheryl says. “We make everything from scratch. Both my husband and I are self-taught. We learned from our mothers and grandmothers. We use the best ingredients. Nothing is out of a bucket.”

Cheryl says they use artisan-bread baking, which requires a long fermentation. “All of our breads take up to 24 hours to ferment. It’s kind of an old-world method.”

Everything else is done the way grandma might have done it. “We’re American bakers and proud of it,” Cheryl says.

In addition to luscious desserts, the bakery sells breads and serves soup-and-sandwich lunches. “We do a lot of Southern traditional recipes,” Cheryl says. “My grandmother was from the South. I grew up in California, but I learned to bake in the South.”

Because of the publicity it’s received, Back in the Day is now a tourist destination. Recently, a woman in Los Angeles called to see if she could take food back home on the plane. “She wasn’t even here yet, and she was already planning to take something home,” Cheryl says with a laugh.

Such popularity comes at a price. “We haven’t had a day off in years,” Cheryl says. “We work 12 to 19-hour days during holidays.” - LS

Runner-up: Baker’s Pride

Best Coffeehouse

Sentient Bean

13 E. Park Ave./232-4447

Even though it’s only been open since late 2001, this eclectic Free Trade java outlet and popular vegetarian and organic restaurant has become such an integral part of the local art, culture, political, music and film scenes that it’s actually hard to imagine life in Savannah without it.

Whether serving as a meeting place for local civic activists and spoken word societies (such as the Spitfire Poetry Group and A.W.O.L.), a DIY screening room for little-known, foreign and cult films (it was again named best Indie Film Venue), or one of the only places in town that regularly presents established and rising acoustic singer/songwriters as well as jazz combos, bluegrass and Americana acts —and the kind of underground rock bands which don’t fit the more rigid booking policies of other local bars and clubs, The Bean is the closest thing in town to an all-purpose meeting and entertainment place for all ages. - JR

Runner-up: Starbucks

Best Thai


3017 E. Victory Dr./691-2080

This delightful little place in Thunderbolt serves reasonably priced gourmet Thai in a fun and visually appealing environment.

Runner-up: King & I

Best Greek

Olympia Cafe

5 E. River St./233-3131

Quite simply, one of River Street’s favorite institutions — an experience made all the more fun because it has the same name as the restaurant in the immortal Belushi/Aykroyd/Murray “cheeburger” sketch on SNL.

Runner-up: Grapevine

Best Indian

Taste of India

401 Mall Blvd./356-1020

The popularity of Indian cuisine is on the rise as people realize it doesn’t only taste good — it’s really good for you.

Runner-up: Madras

Best Sushi & Best Late-Night Hangout

Sushi Zen

41 Whitaker St./233-1188

A perennial winner in the sushi category, Sushi Zen is also a great place to get a tasty bite late at night. We’re talking 4 a.m. late.

Runner-up, Best Sushi: Wasabi

Runner-up, Late Night: Waffle House

Best Japanese

Masato of Japan

7805 Abercorn St./355-9800

Sometimes in life you just need to go to a Japanese steakhouse, and that’s all there is to it.

Runner-up: Hirano’s

Best French


225 E. President St./233-1600

Continental cuisine has long been a specialty at one of Savannah’s original fine-dining spots.

Runner-up: 45 South

Best Ice Cream


212 E. Broughton St./234-4442

Stratton Leopold himself can often be found doling out scoops at this downtown institution.

Runner-up: Cold Stone

Best Gourmet Pizza & Best Outdoor Dining

Vinnie Van GoGo’s

317 W. Bryan St./233-6394

What would Savannah be like without Vinnie’s? One of City Market’s original and most popular eating spots is still packin’ ‘em in, local and tourist alike.

Runner-up, Pizza: Mellow Mushroom

Runner-up, Outdoor: Crab Shack

Best Ribs

Sticky Fingers

7921 Abercorn St./925-7427

The Rolling Stones’ zealous staff of lawyers might disapprove of the name — same as a classic Stones album — but truth is an absolute defense. And these ribs will make you lick your digits for sure.

Runner-up: Blowin’ Smoke

Best Barbeque

Angel’s Bar BQ

21 W. Oglethorpe Lane/495-0902

This tiny, funky downtown BBQ joint hidden on quiet Oglethorpe Lane between Bull and Whitaker has been open for almost three years, but its odd location and miniscule seating capacity has kept it off the radar of most folks, save those who endlessly search for great examples of “cue”.

Lately, however, its profile has risen tremendously, thanks to raves in numerous Southern and national travel guides —most of which have singled out Angel’s as one of the most unique and colorful local eateries in a town fairly famous for such things. Co-owner Andrew Trice has a fine dining background (and a degree from the California Culinary Academy). He based his menu on Memphis-style pulled pork and sliced beef brisket sandwiches, but throws in a few quirky curve balls, like tangy mustard-based cole slaw, deep-fried bologna sandwiches, and peanut-infused greens which take most Georgians by pleasant surprise.

They’ve just launched their own line of bottled “Screaming Pickle” hot sauce, made in small batches from Andrew’s recipe. Says Trice, “Thanks to your readers for supporting small, local mom-and-pop businesses.” Learn more at - JR

Runner-up: Blowin’ Smoke

Best Salad

Kayak Kafe

1 E. Broughton St./233-6044

This Broughton Street hotspot is a great place for a quick and tasty lunch.

Runner-up: Ruby’s

Best Buffet & Best Fried Chicken

Lady & Son’s

102 W. Congress St./233-2600

The tourists tell us it’s all well worth the wait.

Runner-up, Buffet: Asian Buffet

Runner-up, Chicken: KFC

Best Place to Buy Local Seafood

Russo’s Seafood

201 E. 40th St./234-5196

The whole restaurant thing may not have worked out quite as smoothly as planned , but Russo’s is certainly where you like to go when you’re going to cook up some fresh seafood at home.

Runner-up: Matthews

Best Seafood Restaurant

Crab Shack

40 Estill Hammock Rd./786-9857

Another perennial winner, the Crab Shack remains one of those Savannah favorites that has strong appeal to locals and tourists.

Runner-up: Love’s

Best Bagels

Panera Bread

1 W. Broughton St./236-0275

8108 Abercorn St./961-0905

With an emphasis on good food delivered quickly, Panera’s two locations in town are ably filling the niche between fast food and gourmet fare.

Runner-up: Midtown Deli

Best Deli

Midtown Deli & Bagel Shop

7805 Abercorn St./355-8717

This popular spot is a southside favorite.

Runner-up: Precinct Deli

Best Steak and Best Place for a Diehard Meat-eater

Outback Steakhouse

7 Drayton St./232-1611

11196 Abercorn St./920-0555

The wait can get long at both locations, but once you’re tasting their uniquely robust and spicy steaks, you won’t mind.

Runner-up, both: Longhorn

Best Wings

Wild Wing Cafe

27 Barnard St./790-9464

Kind of a no-brainer given the name, but the Wild Wing delivers with a wide variety of the tasty snacks, in a fun environment.

Runner-up: Locos

Best Sub Shop

Larry’s Giant Subs

Six locations in the area

This popular franchise chain is a definite cut above the usual mass market sub places.

Runner-up: Subway

Best Burger

B&D Burgers

13 E. Broughton St./231-0986

11108 Abercorn St./927-8700

No need to mess with fast-food joints when you can stop in a B&D downtown or on the southside.

Runner-up: Loco’s

Best Pancakes


110 Mall Blvd./355-2749

A Savannah institution, IHOP continues to pack ‘em in morning, noon and late night.

Runner-up: Cracker Barrel

Best Vegetarian Restaurant

Ruan Thai

17 W. Broughton St./231-6667

This delightful Broughton spot is another in Savannah’s growing portfolio of really good Asian places.

Runner-up: Firefly Cafe

Most Romantic Restaurant

Il Pasticcio

2 E. Broughton St./231-8888

Savannah’s first truly hip eating spot remains one of the swankiest, sexiest in town.

Runner-up: Pink House

Best Caterer

Susan Mason

3109 Habersham St./233-2560

This local culinary legend recently released a coffeetable book, Susan Mason’s Silver Service: Elegant Savannah Cuisine.

Runner-up: Creative Catering

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