Best of Savannah 2009: Food

Best Overall Restaurant, Best Downtown Restaurant: Cha Bella

102 E Broad St

(912) 790-7888



Executive Chef Matt Roher’s steadfast devotion to fresh, local ingredients makes eating here a pleasurable adventure. But, as Roher is quick to say, "the key is consistency." With their own three-acre vegetable farm, Roher’s built-in fan base from his stint at the Landings Club, and an awesome location bookending the Historic District, Cha Bella is a big hit with locals and tourists alike.



Runner-up, Best Overall: The Crab Shack


Runner-up, Best Downtown: Olde Pink House



 Best Family Restaurant: Carey Hilliard's

Various locations

Longtime local favorites, complete with curb service on Skidaway Avenue.

Runner-up: Mrs. Wilkes' Boarding House


Best New Restaurant, Best Steak, Best Place for Diehard Meat-Eaters: Ruth's Chris Steakhouse

111 W Bay St

(912) 721-4800

Topflight steakhouse has been getting raves since the minute it opened.

Runner-up, New Restaurant: EOS

Runner-up, Best Steak and Meat-Eaters: Outback


Best Chef: Jeff Crumpton, B. Matthews, Blowin' Smoke



His win shouldn’t be a surprise — Jeff Crumpton is in the enviable position of being executive chef of two of Savannah’s most happening restaurants, B. Matthews Eatery and Blowin’ Smoke BBQ.

With the former for three years and with the latter since it opened a year and a half ago, Crumpton views the heavy responsibility as a pleasure rather than a problem, with each place providing a different type of culinary enjoyment.

"At B. Matthews, I’m not tied down to anything – I can do whatever I want," he says of the primarily French–influenced cuisine of the Bay Street restaurant, which unveils a brand–new dinner menu this week.

B. Matthews was primarily a bakery when Crumpton and his partner bought it. But that soon changed "when we saw how many 75–cent cookies we would have to sell to make any money," he jokes.

Now a full–service restaurant with a full bar, it hews to the partnership’s motto of "good food for good people."

On the far side of the historic district at Blowin’ Smoke, Crumpton raves about his newest toy, a top–of–the–line barbecue smoker.

"I like to have fun just hanging out and playing with it," he laughs, joking that the smoker is "one of the best employees I’ve ever had – it just keeps on working!"

While hardcore BBQ purists might balk at the fact that Blowin’ Smoke isn’t set in a windowless cinderblock building and isn’t only open on weekends, Crumpton says the BBQ joint on MLK "stays with the basics," adding that it’s a painstaking four–day process from raw pork shoulder to the finished product on your plate.

Interestingly, Crumpton is frank that Blowin’ Smoke’s remarkable early success in such a competitive restaurant town has less to do with a master plan than with the physical space itself.

"We’ve been able to do so much because we have so much space there," he says. "There’s a lot of room inside, the beer garden will fit fifty or sixty people, and the kitchen’s plenty big enough to handle those numbers." 

 -- JM



Runner-up: Christina Johnson


Best Wait Staff, Best Tapas: Jazz'd Tapas Bar

52 Barnard St

(912) 236-7777

What seemed like a crazy idea at the time - a tapas bar in the basement of the old Kress building - has become a downtown institution and a perennial reader favorite, with a friendly staff in a laidback, relaxing room.

Runner-up, Wait Staff: Cha Bella

Runner-up, Tapas: Tapas in City Market


Best Southside Restaurant: Tangerine Fusion & Sushi Bar

11215 Abercorn St

(912) 920-5504

Who says nothing cool happens on the Southside? Great Pac Rim cuisine and great sushi.

Runner-up: Spanky's


Best Islands Restaurant: Oyster Bar

444 Johnny Mercer Blvd

(912) 898-8622

Hearty food and a happenin' bar make this a perennial favorite.

Runner-up: Basil's


Best Westside Restaurant: Cheddar's Casual Café

1425 Benton Blvd

(912) 330-9177

Regional chain eschews cheesy ad campaigns for cheesy menu - and we mean that in the best way.

Runner-up: Spanky's


Best Takeout: Zunzi's

108 E York St

(912) 443-9555

This unassuming little storefront on York Street has garnered quite a following for their South African-themed menu.

Runner-up: Spanky's


Best Pub Food: Six Pence Pub

245 Bull St

(912) 233-3151

A great stop for comfort food, especially on a rainy day that reminds you of Old Blighty. (That's England for the youngsters.)

Runner-up: Churchill's


Best Brunch, Best Breakfast: J. Christopher

122 E Liberty St

(912) 236-7494

This regional chain in a former auto repair shop has become the go-to place on Sunday late mornings, as well as for breakfast any day.

Runner-up, Brunch: Firefly Café

Runner-up, Breakfast: The Breakfast Club


Best Caterer, Susan Mason

She's a native Alabaman, but that hasn't stopped Susan Mason from becoming a culinary fixture on the Georgia coast, catering to stars and regular folk alike.

Runner-up: Robbie Lemmons


Best Barbecue, Best Outdoor Dining: Blowin' Smoke

514 MLK Jr Blvd

(912) 231-2385

The tented area has breathed new life in the southern portion of the MLK Corridor with a mixture of entertainment, cultural events - and of course rockin' ‘cue in big portions.

Runner-up, BBQ: Sticky Fingers

Runner-up, Outdoor: Vinnie Van Go-Go's


Most Romantic Restaurant, The Olde Pink House

23 Abercorn St

(912) 232-4286

Perennial winner in this category is hard to beat for its combination of ambience, affability, and history.

Runner-up: Elizabeth on 37th


Best Mexican, Best Cheap Meal: Jalapenos

Various locations.

Mexican food is indeed up there with gas and liquor stores as the most recession-proof businesses.

Runner-up, Mexican: Juarez

Runner-up, Cheap: Vinnie Van Go-Go's


Best Late Night Hangout: Sweet Melissa's

35 Whitaker St.

(912) 443-1622

Open ‘til 4 a.m. on the weekends.

Runner-up: Sushi Zen


Best Vegetarian: Sentient Bean

13 E Park Ave

(912) 232-4447

Veggie paninis, quiches, and other veggie goodies to go with your java and tea.

Runner-up: Saigon


Best Burger: B&D Burgers

Various locations

With locations downtown and on the Southside, this restaurant is an impressive repeat winner in this category.

Runner-up: Five Guys


Best Fried Chicken: Mrs. Wilkes's Boarding House

107 W Jones St

(912) 232-5997

The original "lady and sons" still cannot be beat on the fried chicken front.

Runner-up: KFC


Best Sub: Larry's Giant Subs

Various locations.

Several locations of this franchise provide great subs in a fun environment.

Runner-up: Subway


Best Wings: Wild Wing Cafe

27 Barnard St

(912) 790-9464

Many different flavors on the menu, including lemon pepper!

Runner-up: Coach's Corner


Best Ribs: Sticky Fingers

7921 Abercorn Street

(912) 925-7427

A Southside spot which has flourished with a consistent presentation of hickory-smoked, Memphis-style ribs.

Runner-up: Blowin' Smoke


Best Deli: Midtown Deli & Bagel Shop

7805 Abercorn St


The key with bagels is freshness, and that's the prime focus at Midtown.

Runner-up: Publix


Best Seafood, Best Tybee Restaurant: The Crab Shack

40 Estill Hammock Rd

(912) 786-9857

Hard to beat this perennial favorite for location, freshness, and typically Tybee atmosphere.

Runner-up, Seafood: The Oyster Bar

Runner-up, Tybee: Sundae Cafe


Best Place to Buy Local Seafood: Russo Seafood

201 E 40th St

(912) 341-8848

Friendly, convenient location with a long history of service.

Runner-up: Matthews Seafood


Best Buffet: The Lady and Sons

102 W Congress St

(912) 233-2600

Savannah's new tourist claim to fame continues to pack ‘em in on Congress Street, though the eponymous Lady herself doesn't really have so much to do with the place these days.

Runner-up: The Fairmont


Best Salad: Kayak Kafe

1 E Broughton St

(912) 233-6044

This Broughton Street spot has been a big hit from the day it opened.

Runner-up: Ruby Tuesday's


Best Gourmet Pizza: Vinnie Van Go-Go's

317 W Bryan St

(912) 233-6394

One of downtown's first hip dining spots remains the city's favorite pizza joint.

Runner-up: Mellow Mushroom


Best Bakery: Back in the Day Bakery

2403 Bull St.

(912) 495-9292

A humble location in the Starland Design District has a devoted following of sweet-tooth fans.

Runner-up: Baker's Pride


Best Ice Cream: Leopold's

212 E Broughton St

(912) 234-4442

Stratton and Mary Leopold's revitalized incarnation of the old family business is a mainstay of the downtown theatre district.

Runner-up: Coldstone Creamery


Best Desserts: Lulu's Chocolate Bar

42 MLK Jr Blvd

(912) 238-2012

No, there's not a chick there named Lulu, but Janine and Rebecca do their best to make this a fun, eclectic place to enjoy sweet treats and flavored drinks.

Runner-up: Back in the Day


Best Coffeehouse: Gallery Espresso

234 Bull St

(912) 233-5348

The perfect downtown location combines with great coffee, eclectic art exhibits, and an inviting floor plan for a Savannah institution.

Runner-up: Sentient Bean


Best French: Papillotte

218 W Broughton St

(912) 232-1881

Wow - this French gourmet takeout spot downtown basically just opened and is already a reader fave. Pretty impressive.

Runner-up: Bistro Savannah


Best Japanese: Hirano's

4426 Habersham St

(912) 353-8337

Fast, friendly, tasty, inexpensive, and great sushi to boot.

Runner-up: Masato's


Best Sushi: Sushi Zen

30 MLK Blvd.

(912) 233-1187

Hip hangout downtown - moved from Whitaker Street to MLK - is complimented by a roomier location on the Southside. Awesome sushi at both places, however.


Best Chinese: Wang's II

7601 Waters Ave

(912) 355-0321

Has any other Chinese place ever won this category?

Runner-up: Green Tea


Best Indian: Taste of India

401 Mall Blvd

(912) 356-1020

Surprisingly luxurious little spot with a wide range of Indian culinary treats.

Runner-up: Madras


Best Italian: Bella's Italian Cafe

4420 Habersham Street

(912) 354-4005

A Habersham Village institution and a great neighborhood place.

Runner-up: Il Pasticcio


Best Greek: Olympia Café

5 E River St

(912) 233-3131

Easily one of the best restaurants on River Street, and your pick for best Greek food.

Runner-up: Grapevine


Best Thai: Saigon

4 W Broughton St

(912) 232-5288

This Vietnamese place downtown features an extensive Thai menu as well.

Runner-up: Kao


Best Vietnamese: Saigon Flavors

6604 Waters Ave

(912) 352-4182

Truly one of the best-kept culinary secrets in Savannah, a real gem with a real following.

Runner-up: Saigon