Chef at the restaurant which bears his name, Roberto Leoci brings a genuine trattoria feel to a city not known for its wealth of real Italian offerings. His pasta carbonara - complete with perfect poached egg on top - is spoken of in hushed tones, and is the true testament to his seriousness - yet ever-so-light touch - as an evangelist of real Italian trattoria cuisine.
Runner-up: Matt Roher, Cha Bella
Best New Restaurant
Best Gourmet Burger
Best Veggie Burger
Green Truck Neighborhood Pub
It's hard to believe that it's only been seven months since Green Truck seismically altered the dining options of Baldwin Park and Thomas Square residents, but it's true.
Taking over a location that hadn't seen a restaurant last more than a few months in a neighborhood that was off the beaten path for tourists, Green Truck owner Josh Yates thought his venture would be a cozy, quiet respite with a slow, but steady stream of residents wandering in for the occasional burger or beer.
But as soon as the doors opened, folks were lining up to get a taste of things in the self-proclaimed "home of homemade."
"It definitely took us by surprise and anyone who came in the first few weeks will tell you that. We weren't prepared staffing wise or layout wise," says Yates. "We didn't think so many people would be waiting to eat here. I had to hire a lot more people."
The "green" in Green Truck isn't just the color of the old pickup parked out front either. Although the basics of locally sourced burgers, fries and salads won't be changing any time soon, Yates says that there are plans for more seasonal specials in conjunction with what local farmers are growing, as well as a behind the scenes push to reduce energy consumption and reduce the restaurant's carbon footprint.
"When someone opens a restaurant it's very much a reflection of themselves, so we brought a lot of those values into our restaurant as well," Yates says. "It's worked out for us." -- Patrick Rodgers
Best Family Restaurant
This perennial winner with several locations in the area has the fried & tasty formula all figured out.
Best Southside Restaurant
Tangerine's Fusion & Sushi Bar
Don't dis south of DeRenne -- the southside has many of Savannah's tastiest joint, including this Pac Rim-style bistro from the same folks that gave you Ele Fine Fusion.
Best Island Restaurant
Ele Fine Fusion
Recognizing a market opportunity when they saw one -- i.e., the lack of fine dining east of the Wilmington River -- Ele is not only filling a niche but filling it well.
Best Tybee Restaurant
Best Outdoor Dining
The Crab Shack
In a world where chefs just try to do too much with seafood, the Crab Shack knows that keeping it fresh and simple is the real key to success.
Runner-up, Tybee: Sundae Café
Runner-up, Outdoor: Leoci's
Best Westside Restaurant
Cheddar's Casual Cafe
This southeastern chain -- with five locations in Georgia -- prospers because of a large menu that caters to just about every taste.
Runner-up: Bit's Pizzeria
Best Meal Under $10
It's small but it packs a hell of a punch, South African style, wrapping up three categories this year. Rich traditional cuisine combines with friendly service for a unique Savannah experience.
Runner-up, Lunch: Kayak Kafe
Runner-up, Takeout: Hirano's
Runner-up, under $10: Sammy Green's
Best Pub Food
Molly MacPherson's Scottish Pub
Molly's - part of the active and growing pub nexus on the City Market periphery - not only offers a crazy-huge variety of quality Scotches. They give you something to sink your teeth into, literally, with a full menu of apps, salads, and tasty entrees like fish ‘n' chips, shepherd's pie, steak ‘n' Guinness stew, salmon, NY strip, and more.
Jazz'd Tapas Bar
Seems like just yesterday that the Currys set up shop with what was then a craaaazy idea for a downstairs tapas bar. Looks like they knew what they were doing!
Runner-up: Sugar Daddy's
Not only a caterer but an author - Susan Mason's Silver Service is a hit.
Runner-up: Nick Mueller
Best Late Night Restaurant
When you absolutely, positively, have to have a slice before you keep partying into the wee hours.
Runner-up: Sushi Zen
Best Vegetarian Restaurant
Handmade Paninis, quiches, and dairy-free sweet treats. Not to mention Fair Trade java...
Runner-up: Cha Bella
Best Organic Restaurant
Chef Matt Roher, fresh off his standout gig as host chef for the Georgia Organics conference "Farmer's Feast," continues to craft a rotating seasonal menu from locally sources growers and farms.
Runner-up: Sentient Bean
Best Place for Steak
High-end steak with a steady calendar of special cuisine and wine events to boot.
Still one of the tastiest and best bargains around.
Runner-up: Pancake House
This regional chain - housed in a former auto garage - is wheeling out the tasty deals, in a bustling and friendly setting. Especially on Sundays!
Runner-up, Breakfast: The Breakfast Club
Runner-up, Brunch: B. Matthews
Best Burger Under $5
Best French Fries
In years past, Burger King or McDonald's would win this category of "under $5." No offense to BK or Mickey D's, but we're certainly glad Five Guys staked out a high profile spot downtown in order to dish out their signature tasty patties and bag full o' fries. Not to mention the free peanuts!
Runner-up, under $5: McDonald's
Runner-up, Fries: Green Truck
Best Fried Chicken
Best Southern Food
Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room
This beloved Savannah institution continues a tradition of community, excellence, hospitality, and taste! Too bad the tourists have discovered it, eh?
Runner-up, Chicken: KFC
Runner-up: Southern: The Lady & Sons
Best Sub Shop
Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches
Nothin' like a real sub, and Jimmy John's is raising the bar in this Southern town not known for great subs.
Runner-up: Larry's Giant Subs
Wiley's Championship BBQ
Wiley's hasn't been in town - or more accurately, on the islands - for long, but in that time they have absolutely taken the local BBQ scene by storm. Get their early to avoid the rush, which is basically the whole time they're open!
Runner-up, BBQ & Ribs: Blowin' Smoke
Midtown Deli & Bagel Shop
Let's face it, y'all: Savannah ain't a deli or bagel type of town. That said, Midtown Deli is the place to go when you need that fix. The prices are pretty much unbeatable for the hearty food you'll get.
Runner-up, Deli: Publix
Runner-up, Bagel: Panera
Best Place to Buy Local Seafood
A beloved local institution continues to bring the best in fresh seafood to midtown.
Runner-up: Matthews Seafood
The Lady & Sons
Still one of Savannah's number one tourist draws.
Runner-up: Golden Corral
One of Broughton's best lunch spots specializes in killer, fresh salads.
Runner-up: Ruby Tuesdays
Best Gourmet Pizza
Big hearty pies and calzones in a boisterous setting.
Runner-up: Vinnie Van Go-Go's
Best Delivery Pizza
Vinnie Van Go-Go's
Vinnie's has been holding down the west end of City Market since before it was a huge tourist hangout, serving a tasty thin crust pie with a hefty side of cool. Their delivery bikes are a common and welcome sight downtown.
Runner-up, Pizzeria: Mellow Mushroom
Runner-up, Delivery: Screamin' Mimi's
Back in the Day
This anchor corner store in Starland delivers the goods, both sweet and savory. Just had a blueberry cheesecake from there that defied description.
Runner-up: Baker's Pride
Lulu's Chocolate Bar
Not only a fantastic place to get a signature martini, but let's not forget they deal in an especially wicked variety of chocolatey goodness.
Runner-up: Gigi's Cupcakes
Best Ice Cream
No surprise here. Native Savannahian and Hollywood produce Stratton Leopold hasn't forgotten his family roots in Savannah small business, much to the delight of local and tourist alike.
Runner-up: Cold Stone Creamery
Best Frozen Yogurt
Despite the massive influx of fro-yo places on Broughton Street downtown, this Southside locale - there's also one in Pooler - took the top spot.
Runner-up: La Berry
The Sentient Bean
Sofas to chill on, cool tuneage, wi-fi, good java, tasty food, film screenings, everyone you know... what's not to like?
Runner-up: Gallery Espresso
Best Cup of Coffee
Everyone's secret guilty pleasure.
Runner-up: The Sentient Bean
Best Overall Restaurant
Best Fine Dining
Best Downtown Restaurant
Best Wait Staff
Most Romantic Restaurant
The Olde Pink House
Not only one of Savannah's favorite restaurants but one of our favorite institutions of any type, the Olde Pink House combines enormous history (the first place the Declaration of Independence was read aloud in Savannah) with architectural beauty (the pink color's actually an accident - paint bleeding through the stucco) and of course excellent New and Classic Southern cuisine in an excellent atmosphere, delightful to tourists and locals alike.
The Pink House has stepped its game up lately with an extensive remodeling throughout, including a gorgeous and swank street-level bar area on the south façade.
Runner-up, Overall: Leoci's
Runner-up, Fine: Elizabeth on 37th
Runner-up, Wait Staff: Elizabeth on 37th
Runner-up, Downtown: Garibaldi's
Runner-up, Romantic: Elizabeth on 37th
Best Soul Food
Sisters of the New South
Taking over from the "New South Café" - since relocated to the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum - the good Sisters dole out a diverse menu of upgraded Southern/Soul Food hits.
Runner-up: Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room
Don't be fooled by the whole "takeout" thing - this is bona fide gourmet French food. The cassoulet is ce' magnifique.
Runner-up: Brasserie 529
Miyabi Japanese Steak House
First time win for this extremely popular Southside spot, which also has great sushi to boot.
Perennial winner in this category, courtesy of Chef Yoshi at the helm.
Taste of India
Quite simply one of the best bargains in Savannah, and one of the tastiest as well.
Best Middle Eastern
Though set in a humble storefront next to a laundromat in a quiet midtown neighborhood, Al Salaam Deli and Middle Eastern Restaurant has one of the most distinctive interiors of any Savannah establishment.
Owner Meqbe Salameh has wallpapered his restaurant with dozens of National Geographic covers, spanning decades of the magazine's existence.
It's a unique look that fits in perfectly with Mr. Salameh's vision, which he has built over the course of 11 years of running the restaurant with his wife Rosita, a Savannah native.
"It takes many cultures coming together to make a world," he says, pointing to the magazine covers. "Our restaurant is like that too -- we have international people coming here, neighborhood people, everybody."
While many people in town know about the famous National Geographic wallpaper, the real reason people keep coming to Al Salaam is the food. Everything is grilled to order, from falafel to gyros to kebabs.
Other Middle Eastern goodies on the menu include hummus, babaganoush, and baklava.
Whatever you get, it's going to be fresh, zesty, and just the right temperature -- and reasonably priced.
Many gyro places just cut the meat right off the rotisserie and plop it into a pita. Not so at Al Salaam.
"We put it on the grill after we cut it," says Rosita Salameh. "We put the pita on the grill for a few minutes too."
While the Salamehs don't take it on themselves to stuff their pitas with French fries -- a cost-cutting move you see often these days in Europe -- they will do it if you ask them to.
"We get people from other countries, and they ask us to put fries in their gyros," says Rosita. "They expect it that way, so we do it if they ask."
While occasionally Mr. Salameh contemplates moving the restaurant to take advantage of the traffic downtown, he's happy he doesn't have to pay the exorbitant rents downtown which have been the end of many an overeager restaurateur.
Here on Habersham Street, Al Salaam does a steady neighborhood business, whether at rush hour or in between usual meal times.
A native of Jordan, Mr. Salameh worked for awhile in restaurants at Harbour Town on Hilton Head before moving to Savannah and opening Al Salaam.
"I've always liked to cook, even as a kid," he laughs.
Has anyone else ever won this category? The very model of consistency Wang II made everyone forget Wangs I ever existed. Did it?
Runner-up: Green Tea
Bella's Italian Café
Habersham Village hosts this very popular neighborhood trattoria.
Hearty food and lots of it, washed down with Margaritas from the full bar.
Now one of River Street's most venerable institutions, great for a quick bite or a nice sitdown dinner.
This popular Southside spot combines casual cuisine with a quality sit-down dining experience.
Runner-up: Rancho Allegre
This place on Broughton doesn't only deal in Vietnamese - it has a very solid Thai menu as well.
Runner-up: The King and I
Go to Stephenson and Waters for the best Vietnamese food in town, from pho to perfect pork lunch sandwiches.
Runner-up: Saigon Bistro
Wild Wing Cafe
Any way you want 'em, in a fun and lively atmosphere at City Market.