The Best of Savannah

Best of Savannah 2012: Food

Best Overall Restaurant

Best Gourmet Burger

Best Veggie Burger

Best Locavore Dining

Green Truck Pub

See that line outside the humble building in a humble area on Habersham Street just south of Victory Drive? The line that moves but more or less stays long for most of the time the place is open?

That’s the line of folks who appreciate — and apparently vote for! — the deceptively simple offerings of the Green Truck Pub.

Call it comfort food mania, call it a Southern love affair with a good burger, call it a hip, cozy place to hang out and enjoy craft beers — you’d be correct on all points.

But clearly the most significant draw of Green Truck from a culinary perspective is the heavy reliance on locally sourced fresh ingredients.

The amazing burgers are made of grassfed beef from Hunter Cattle Company of Brooklet. The free–range chicken comes from Springer Mountain Farms in Mount Airy, GA. Produce comes from Clark and Sona in Portal, Walker Farms in Sylvania, and Bethesda Academy here in town.

Oh, yeah, and even the coffee’s locally roasted, by Philip Brown at PERC, who makes his deliveries on bicycle.

And while the cute little bar is excellently equipped with seasonal artisan beers, I just have two words for you: Mexican Coke. — JM

Runner–up, Overall: The Olde Pink House

Runner–up, Gourmet:  B&D Burgers

Runner–up, Veggie: B&D Burgers

Runner–up, Locavore: Cha–Bella

Best New Restaurant

Fire Street Food

From the dialed–in people who brought us The King and I (see Best Thai Restaurant) and Ele Fine Fusion (see Best Islands Restaurant) comes another delicious hit for Savannah diners.

Fire Street Food is the latest dreamchild of restaurateurs Ele and Sean Tran, who also own the Thai fusion gem Tangerine on the southside. Echoing their signature Asian influence, Fire is a casual take on the dynamic success of their other establishments– simple teriyaki bowls, creative sushi rolls, grilled meat–on–a–stick and tasty curries, plus a handful of stand–out sandwiches (Wagyo Kobe Burger nomnomnom...) It’s like snacking in Bangkok, only without the open sewers.

Fire serves a selection of wine, domestic and Asian beers, plus something called a sake daiquiri, which sounds delicious but potentially disastrous when consumed in large quantities. Teetotalers can choose between the regular array of soft drinks as well as fresh–squeezed lemonade, fresh smoothies and bubble tea.

Giving much needed glow to Savannah’s late evening eating options, Fire stays open late on weekends for the bar hoppers and night owls. The vibrant orange and blue interior matches the bright flavors of the food, a splash of color on the historic corridor of Perry Street on Chippewa Square.  — JLL

Runner-up: Green Truck Pub

Best Fine Dining

Best Downtown Restaurant

Best Wait Staff

Most Romantic Restaurant

The Olde Pink House

Here’s how dedicated to mission the staff of The Olde Pink House is: When a gunman on the run holed up in the restaurant briefly last week — galvanizing a giant crapstorm of attention from not only local law enforcement and every single person living and working downtown but from the national media as well — the Pink House opened for business as usual that same day.

Like it was nothin’. All in a day’s work.

99 problems but a dirtbag ain’t one.

Indeed, social media updates indicated that they relished the opportunity to thumb their nose at anything that might impede with their mission to serve locals and tourists alike with not only the most finely crafted cuisine available in the city, but the most “Savannah” experience they can possibly give.

Best Sommelier Jason Restivo manages the historic wine cellar, providing the perfect pairing for the kitchen’s seamless blend of New Southern and Classic Southern cuisine. — JM

Runner–up, Fine, Romantic, & Restaurant Wine Selection: Elizabeth on 37th

Runner–up, Wait & Downtown: Kayak Kafe

Best Family Restaurant

Carey Hilliard’s

Several down–home locations all across town serve up their variety of home–cookin’.

Runner–up: Cheddars

Best Chef

Roberto Leoci

Best Italian Food


Savannah’s not really known as a great Italian food town. Roberto Leoci has done his best to change that perception and so far his efforts have been an enormous success.  While the restaurant bearing his name has only been in business for three years, Roberto himself has years of experience in Sicily and Florence as well as a stint at the prestigious Ritz Carlton property in South Florida and as personal chef to various high–profile clients.

Runner–up, Chef: Nick Mueller

Runner–up, Italian: Bella’s

Best Southside Restaurant


Home of the first and still best Chicken Fingers in town.

Runner–up: Tangerine Fusion and Sushi Bar

Best Islands Restaurant


Back in the day folks on the islands had to drive in town to get a decent meal. Not anymore, thanks to the Tran family and their efforts to upscale Savannah cuisine.

Runner–up: Molly McGuire’s

Best Tybee Restaurant

Sundae Café

Ice cream sure sounds nice at a day on the beach, but the upscale-ish Sundae Café actually offers a full menu of enticing lunch and dinner items too, such as fish tacos and lump crab cakes.

Runner–up: Tybee Island Social Club

Best Westside Restaurant


A cut above the usual fare on the Westside, Cheddar’s is proof that Pooler really is cooler.

Runner–up: Sam Snead’s

Best Pub Food

Molly MacPherson’s Scottish Pub & Grill

In the UK, people go to pubs not just to drink but for a complete evening out, including a good meal. Molly’s brings that tradition to Savannah.

Runner–up: Six Pence

Best Tapas

Jazz’d Tapas Bar

The Curries were ahead of their time, and their labor of love, Jazz’d, was actually one of the first truly hip, swank places to hang out in Savannah.

Runner–up: Sparetime

Best Wrap

Roly Poly

When only a delicious piece of breadless wonderment will do.

Runner-up: Kayak Kafe

Best Sub

Jimmy John’s

Whether cool & traditional or hot & toasty, these perfectly formed sandwiches are the bomb.

Runner-up: Baldino’s Subs

Best Lunch

Best Takeout

Best Meal under $10

Best Local Sandwich


The line for rich and delicious South African comfort cuisine at Zunzi’s is part of the experience.

Runner–up, Lunch: Kao

Runner–up, Takeout: Carey Hilliard’s

Runner–up, Under $10: Five Guys

Best Caterer

Susan Mason

Susan is not only Savannah’s most sought–after caterer, she is quite the cookbook author as well.

Runner–up: Nick Mueller

Best Farmer’s Market/Co–op

Forsyth Farmer’s Market

Between 2000–3000 people check out the Forsyth Farmer’s Market on a typical Saturday morning. Get there by 11 or so or you’ll be pretty much out of luck.

Runner–up: Savannah Food Co–op

Best Outdoor Dining


An underrated but impressive part of the revitalization effort on Habersham Street. Tasty food and friendly bar too!

Runner–up: Leoci’s

Best Late Night Restaurant

Sweet Melissa’s

One day there will be a VH1 Behind the Music about the late–night scene at Sweet Melissa’s.

Runner–up: Sushi Zen

Best Vegetarian Restaurant

Best Coffeehouse

Sentient Bean

Not just the place for java and leisurely web surfing, they have a rockin’ menu of fresh toasty natural meat–free stuff in there as well.

Runner–up, Veggie: Kayak Kafe

Runner–up, Coffeehouse: Gallery Espresso

Best Organic Restaurant


Matt Roher’s no longer there, but the new exec chef team of Vikram Bhonsle and Amie Linton is keepin’ it real.

Runner–up: Green Truck Pub

Best Soul Food

Best Meat ‘n’ Three

Sisters of the New South

This sumptuous spot with the giant painted peach may have only been open for two and a half years, but the sisters who keep the kitchen bustling have been cooking a whole lot longer than that.

“We’ve been doing this all our lives, feeding people,” says Vicky Brown, who owns the restaurant at Skidaway and Victory with her husband, Kenneth.

It is indeed a family affair: Brown and her seven sisters share the duties of keeping folks fed with breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week. Betty Miller and Dorothy Bing are the “main characters,” with the others filling in.

The recipes come from their mama, 85 year–old Johnnie Mae Bing, who still puts in time behind the stove most days.
The sisters also have one brother, Albert Bing. When asked what his part is in keeping the place running, he replied, “Whatever they tell me it is.”

At the counter, customers choose sides from an array of steaming trays brimming with soul food goodness: Savory yellow rice, seasoned lima beans and candied yams that melt in your mouth. Diners must decide between succulent oxtails, smothered pork chops, hamburger steak and legendary fried chicken. Also on the menu are other Southern classics like fried shrimp, barbecue sandwiches and desserts including key lime pie and some fine red velvet cake.

The kitchen is constantly stocked to keep up with the crowds, but Brown believes the most important ingredient can only be sourced from the heart.

“It comes from the love our family and our faith,” she says. “Love is what makes it soul food.” — JLL

Runner–up, Soul: Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room

Runner–up, Meat + 3: Sweet Potatoes

Best Place for Steak

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

The Savannah location is the only Georgia location outside of Metro Atlanta.

Runner–up: Outback

Best Breakfast

Best Brunch

J. Christopher’s

Tasty and affordable food & fun for the whole family.

Runner–up, Breakfast: Clary’s

Runner–up, Brunch: B. Matthew’s

Best Burger Under $6

Best French Fries

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

They haven’t been in town that long, but with several busy locations already the Guys have staged an invasion of never–frozen burgers and fresh–cut fries made to order.

Runner–up, Burger: B&D Burgers

Runner–up, Fries: Green Truck Pub

Best Wings

Wild Wing Cafe

The first Wild Wing was actually in Hilton Head, but it’s become one of the South’s most popular wings/sports bar/family restaurant hangouts.

Runner-up: Coach’s Corner

Best Pancakes


How many people remember that it stands for International House of Pancakes?

Runner–up: The Original Pancake House

Best Barbecue

Angel’s BBQ

Recent high–profile appearances on Man vs. Food Nation haven’t dampened Andy and Aileen’s enthusiasm for dishin’ up the righteous ‘cue with killer sides.

Runner–up: Wiley’s Championship BBQ

Best Ribs

Wiley’s Championship BBQ

We can taste ‘em now. Holy smokes.

Runner–up: Blowin’ Smoke

Best Shrimp & Grits

Vic’s on the River

A prestigious inaugural win in this new category.

Runner–up: Olde Pink House

Best Seafood Restaurant

The Crab Shack

Fresh, hot, and with a great view of the Tybee marsh, there’s nowhere else like the Crab Shack.

Runner–up: Tubby’s

Best Place to Buy Local Seafood

Russo Seafood

When it’s time to throw something fresh in the pan at home, folks like to make a stop at Russo’s.

Runner–up:  Teeple’s

Best Buffet

The Lady and Sons

Paula Deen’s still got it, y’all!

Runner–up: Golden Corral

Best Gourmet Pizza

Best Pizzeria

Best Delivery Pizza

Vinnie Van Go–Go’s

One of City Market’s first and still most premier and popular properties, Vinnie’s continues to serve up a near–perfect combination of taste, fun, and laidback funky atmosphere in a historic setting.

Runner–up, Gourmet: Mellow Mushroom

Runner–up, Pizzeria & Delivery: Screamin’ Mimi’s

Best Salad

Kayak Kafe

Who says all Southern food has to be unhealthy?

Runner–up: River House Regency Salad

Best Bakery

Back in the Day Bakery

Quickly garnering a national reputation, and a best–selling cookbook to boot!

Runner–up: Baker’s Pride

Best Desserts

Lulu’s Chocolate Bar

Combine chocolate, signature drinks, some live music, and great company and you have a recipe for heaven.

Runner–up: Back in the Day Bakery

Best Ice Cream

Leopold’s Ice Cream

Stratton and Mary’s labor of love will include a Victorian District location soon.

Runner–up: Cold Stone Creamery

Best Frozen Yogurt

Lovin’ Spoons

The most popular of a burgeoning invasion of downtown fro–yo places. What’s in that stuff that people can’t resist, anyway?

Runner–up: La Berry

Best Cup of Coffee


You always know what you’re gonna get, and what you’re gonna get is really good.

Runner–up: Gallery Espresso

Best Southern Food

Best Fried Chicken

Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room

From locals to tourists to presidents, Mrs. Wilkes’ provides what may be the quintessential Savannah eating experience.

Runner–up: Sweet Potatoes

Best French Food


This storefront location on Broughton is dishin’ up an amazing variety of authentic Continental dishes with a minimum of fuss.

Runner–up: Circa 1875

Best Japanese Food


The staple Teriyaki dinners are a Savannah tradition.

Runner–up: Ta Ca Sushi & Japanese Fusion

Best Sushi

Sushi Zen

Stylish service, great food, late hours, and a certain hip cachet combine for a Savannah classic.

Runner–up: Ta Ca Sushi & Japanese Fusion

Best Indian Food

A Taste of India

Savannah has quietly gained a reputation as a place with several really good Indian restaurants, and A Taste of India tops the list.

Runner–up: Pakwan

Best Middle Eastern Food

Al Salaam

Mr. Salameh’s one–of–a–kind storefront location isn’t only where you’ll find the best gyros and falafel within many many miles, it’s a real community center as well.

Runner–up: Casbah

Best Chinese Food

Wangs II

Again a win for this perennial victor in this category. We don’t think anyone else has even come close in over a decade of these contests.

Runner–up: Egg Roll King

Best Mexican Food


An empire of south of the border taste and style.

Runner–up: Carlito’s

Best Greek Restaurant

Olympia Café

In this Olympics year, consider a trip to River Street to rediscover this Savannah favorite that’s not just for tourists.

Runner–up: Troy

Best Caribbean Food

Rancho Alegre

Some of the most sublime pork and beef dishes in town at this authentic Cuban place. Don’t forget the plantains!

Runner–up: John’s Jamaican BBQ Jerk City

Best Thai Food

The King and I

Thai food is of the healthiest and most powerful addictions known to man.

Runner–up: Saigon

Best Vietnamese Food


A recent remodel has made this Broughton hotspot even more of a favorite.

Runner–up: Saigon Bistro  

Best Bagel

Best Deli

To borrow a phrase, a good bagel is hard to find.

Sure, there are plenty of subpar imposters out there in the freezer aisle, but the right shape does not a decent bagel make. It should have a glossy sheen on the outside and be perfectly chewy on the inside. A good bagel is never crumby, and it can’t be acquired next to the frozen peas.

Thankfully, Sergey Boyarin has basically dedicated his life to bringing Savannah the finest bagels possible. The owner of Midtown Deli & Bagel Shop in Chatham Plaza spends six nights a week in the kitchen, letting the dough rise and boiling the rounds the old–fashioned way, then letting them cool. On Sundays, he bakes up batches for his wholesale customers, including the Sentient Bean and Cutters Point Coffee in Sandfly. The results rival what comes out of New York City, as Midtown’s many loyal customers will attest.

Boyarin also makes everything else in the deli from scratch, from the muffins and croissants to the potato salad and coleslaw, all in the wee hours of the morning. His wife, Lana, says he rarely lets her help.

“He says ‘different hands, different tastes,’” laughs Lana. “He’s a perfectionist.”

She and Sergey acquired the business from its original owners seven years ago and have continued the bagel–baking traditions as well as its traditional deli offerings. Lana takes care of the front of the house, running the sandwich counter with a smile and managing the friendly staff (a big difference from NYC, where the deli folks are notoriously snarky.)

Lunch hours are busy with regulars munching down fat sandwiches named after NYC landmarks under a glorious mural of the Manhattan skyline by local artist Adolfo Hernandez.

The Boyarins’ dedication to their craft and to their customers has made them a shoe–in for these categories almost every year, but Lana doesn’t take Midtown’s reign for granted.

“We’re here every day,” she says. “We appreciate the people who vote for us because we work really hard.” — JLL

Runner–up, Deli: Al Salaam

Runner–up, Bagels: Panera Bread

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