Best Overall Restaurant, Best Downtown Restaurant: Cha Bella
102 E Broad St
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
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
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."
Runner-up: Christina Johnson
Best Wait Staff, Best Tapas: Jazz'd Tapas Bar
52 Barnard St
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
Who says nothing cool happens on the Southside? Great Pac Rim cuisine and great sushi.
Best Islands Restaurant: Oyster Bar
444 Johnny Mercer Blvd
Hearty food and a happenin' bar make this a perennial favorite.
Best Westside Restaurant: Cheddar's Casual Café
1425 Benton Blvd
Regional chain eschews cheesy ad campaigns for cheesy menu - and we mean that in the best way.
Best Takeout: Zunzi's
108 E York St
This unassuming little storefront on York Street has garnered quite a following for their South African-themed menu.
Best Pub Food: Six Pence Pub
245 Bull St
A great stop for comfort food, especially on a rainy day that reminds you of Old Blighty. (That's England for the youngsters.)
Best Brunch, Best Breakfast: J. Christopher
122 E Liberty St
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
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
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
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.
Open ‘til 4 a.m. on the weekends.
Runner-up: Sushi Zen
Best Vegetarian: Sentient Bean
13 E Park Ave
Veggie paninis, quiches, and other veggie goodies to go with your java and tea.
Best Burger: B&D Burgers
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
The original "lady and sons" still cannot be beat on the fried chicken front.
Best Sub: Larry's Giant Subs
Several locations of this franchise provide great subs in a fun environment.
Best Wings: Wild Wing Cafe
27 Barnard St
Many different flavors on the menu, including lemon pepper!
Runner-up: Coach's Corner
Best Ribs: Sticky Fingers
7921 Abercorn Street
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.
Best Seafood, Best Tybee Restaurant: The Crab Shack
40 Estill Hammock Rd
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
Friendly, convenient location with a long history of service.
Runner-up: Matthews Seafood
Best Buffet: The Lady and Sons
102 W Congress St
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Fast, friendly, tasty, inexpensive, and great sushi to boot.
Best Sushi: Sushi Zen
30 MLK Blvd.
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
Has any other Chinese place ever won this category?
Runner-up: Green Tea
Best Indian: Taste of India
401 Mall Blvd
Surprisingly luxurious little spot with a wide range of Indian culinary treats.
Best Italian: Bella's Italian Cafe
4420 Habersham Street
A Habersham Village institution and a great neighborhood place.
Runner-up: Il Pasticcio
Best Greek: Olympia Café
5 E River St
Easily one of the best restaurants on River Street, and your pick for best Greek food.
Best Thai: Saigon
4 W Broughton St
This Vietnamese place downtown features an extensive Thai menu as well.
Best Vietnamese: Saigon Flavors
6604 Waters Ave
Truly one of the best-kept culinary secrets in Savannah, a real gem with a real following.