It’s our favorite issue of the year! Whether your new to Augusta or a long-time resident, the Best of Augusta has something for everyone. We invite you to discover the area’s top stores, restaurants, recreation spots and much more as chosen by you, our readers.
Academic types endlessly debate the donuts versus doughnuts issue that is tearing our nation apart (not to mention chitlins vs chitterlings). Purists, meanwhile, simply walk in to Belair Donuts and place their order. It’s not complicated. Kim’s Donuts takes second; Krispy Kreme scores third.
Trying to function without coffee is like trying to drive without texting. It ain’t happening, people. So fill ‘er up at Buona Caffe, suggest fellow readers. Get the gallon-to-go and you’ll hopefully have enough to last until lunch. The interesting thing about The Coffee Geek (in second place) is the element of mystery. Where is he today? And if you like bundling, Belair Donuts adds a bronze medal in coffee to its donuts gold.
Sticking with the Breakfast of Champions theme, folks say the best bakery is Shortstack Sweets. Granted, their specialty is cookies, not sweet rolls, muffins, cupcakes, etc., but let’s face it: cookies are good any time of day. The trouble with these cookies: they’re works of art. Temporary art, though. Very temporary. Grovetown’s Sweet Suite Bakeshop is first runner-up, and A Piece of Cake rounds out—wink, wink—the top three.
As you may have noticed, sunrise and breakfast are not exactly distant cousins. They go together like bacon and eggs, like pancakes and syrup, like biscuits and gravy. Like scrambled eggs and ketchup? Let’s not get carried away. Even so, it’s all of which are awaiting you at Sunrise Grill, your top choice for breakfast. Ruth’s Restaurant and New Moon Café place second and third.
All of the above — bacon, eggs, donuts, coffee, pancakes, cookies, etc. — might last you ‘til maybe 10:30 a.m., tops. Then it’s time to make your way to Edgar’s Grille, home of the best brunch offered in our fine city, according to the balloteers. Augustino’s also placed well, offering the top alternate, followed by Bonefish Grill.
Voters say you can’t get much better than Fat Man’s Café. Soak up the old mill ambience while you use your cornbread to soak up the gravy. It’s soul good! For a slightly more upscale experience, the silver medal goes to Edgar’s Grille, while downtown’s Whiskey Bar Kitchen is kind of a tweener, atmosphere-wise, in third. Worthy options, all three.
Craft & Vine is not the kind of place to go if you’re looking for a platter laden with enough food to feed a Third World village. “Small plates” reads a major Craft & Vine menu heading. Yes, appetizers is a C&V specialty. Special enough for first place. The Bee’s Knees is your next favorite, and as their menu reminds one and all, “No bees were harmed in the production of this food.” The eclectic small bites of Solé score the bronze medal.
With more than 60 years of slow-cooking under their belts, when the folks at Sconyers Bar-B-Que say, “Come taste the legend for yourself,” it isn’t hype. It’s a promise. Turns out, legends are delicious. Relative newcomer Southbound Smokehouse, aside from being a decent live music venue, offers an array of mouth-watering dishes with music-themed names. Willie Jewell’s Old School Bar-B-Q offers a free side of Southern hospitality with every order.
When barbecue gets specific, ribs sometimes happen. The best, say the ballots, are served up at Southbound Smokehouse. Remember what we said about their musical names for dishes? Well, their name for their ribs is “Ribs.” See what we mean? Second-place ribs: Sconyers Bar-B-Que. Third-place but still awesome ribs: Shane’s Rib Shack.
With more than 70 percent of Earth covered by water, Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar has millions of acres of potential farmland. No wonder voters say they serve so much good stuff. T’s Restaurant—they should have named it “C-Food”—wins second and Abel Brown Southern Kitchen a most seaworthy third.
Voters say all the certified cat lovers go to T’s Restaurant. Another delegation of cool cats says Old McDonald’s Fish Camp makes them purr, and Rhinehart’s Oyster (and Catfish) Bar rounds out the top three.
Is it true that kids who play with their food grow up to be sushi chefs? If so, the art of play has been perfected at Takosushi, says the voice of the people. Solé gets the silver medal and Kinja Sushi the bronze.
Circular food is by definition natural, healthy and holistic. Pizza, for example, is the same shape as our Earth. In the great celestial pizza pie chart, the biggest slice goes to Mellow Mushroom, but readers say they earned it. Next biggest is Pizza Joint, followed by Pizza Central.
Other than a few vegetarians, we’ve all got a stake in this. So who is it going to be this year? It’s going to be TBonz, riding a winning steak streak dating back to ancient times, like the Reagan administration or something. A tip of the A-1 in your direction! Frog Hollow is sizzling in second; The Chop House is doing the chop over their third-place finish.
In competition known as The Soup Bowl, Sunshine Bakery has been famous for its soup for years. But would new owners earlier this year squander the legacy, or build upon it? According to the ballots, the news is good: Sunshine is still the place to get your soup on. Panera Bread gets the runner-up trophy, and voters gave the late Walton Way Deli a place on the medal stand in memoriam.
The ancient wisdom, ”Man cannot live on bread alone,” is still true. We have to put stuff on it: Peanut butter and jelly. Salami. Lettuce. Ham and Swiss. All on separate sandwiches, of course. To avoid unintended combinations like peanut butter and ham, or mayonnaise and jelly, leave it to the experts at Hildebrandt’s. Or go for something new and different: Arsenal Tap Room + Kitchen. They don’t open ‘til 4 p.m., but it’s legal to eat a sandwich any time of day. Jason’s Deli gets the bronze medal.
Hot dog! It’s the only food that is an exclamation of happiness and pleasant surprise. No one finds a 20-dollar bill on the sidewalk and says, “Lasagna!” or “Broccoli casserole!” But people do go to Farmhaus, peruse the menu and then say “Hot dog!” And presto! They bring you one. Sam’s Hot Dog Stand is first runner-up, and Bird Dog Grille is second.
Straight up: Twisted Burrito is your favorite burrito builder in the CSRA, which officially encompasses 13 counties in Georgia and eight in South Carolina. So it’s a huge honor to be the best. Or second, as in Diablo’s. Or even third, as in Nacho Mama’s.
If hamburger ever needed a helper, it has it in Farmhaus, elevating the lowly burger to dizzying new heights of flavor and presentation. Try one and you may never go back to fast food burgers again. Another worthy option recommended by readers is Whiskey Bar Kitchen, with emphasis in this case on the kitchen portion of their name. Eli’s American scores third.
Some people hear the word bread and they get weak in the knees. They could go on a diet successfully—except for bread. In particular, Manuel’s Bread Café is a mecca for bread lovers. It’s definitely upper crust. Panera Bread wins second place and Sunshine Bakery wins third.
Dessert is the best way to end a meal, unless you subscribe to the eat-dessert-first faction, in which case a hot fudge sundae is the ultimate appetizer. In either case, voters recommend The Boll Weevil. If a restaurant offers just two dessert choices and they win second place, you can bet those are two stellar. Judge for yourself at Eli’s American. Voters award third place to Edgar’s Grille.
Victory is always sweet, but perhaps nowhere is it sweeter than at Cold Stone Creamery, your top choice. Evans is the location of the world’s only Yotopia Frozen Sweets & Treats, so it is a global destination for connoisseurs of chill. Bruster’s scoops up third.
Ever try ordering iced tea up north? You might get this: tea bag, a teacup, a kettle of hot water and a tall glass filled with ice. What you do with all that is up to you. Or you can visit the nearest Wife Saver as your fellow readers suggest. Rounding out the top three: Chick-fil-A and Sunshine Bakery.
For the perfect complement to a perfect meal, for starters you’ve got to have the perfect meal. Readers direct us to Craft & Vine. Check. The wine list is a good as the food, maybe better. Frog Hollow also gets high marks for its offerings from the vineyard. Solé has a nice finish in third.
Readers are swarming to The Hive for the best selection of brewskis to go along with meals. They get the amber-colored medal with the head of foam. Arsenal Tap Room + Kitchen gets the silver, and the votes add up to third for World of Beer.
Take Home Beer Selection
As in a package store or other non-restauranty setting. For that, the voters toast Toast Wine & Beverage, offering all the big brew brands and the unknown small-batch craft brews that you buy just because the name or the label is cool. Tip Top Taps places second and The Hive double-dips for a bronze medal here.
Signature cocktails are a mixture of art and chemistry. Who does that bundle best? With a name like Craft & Vine, they had better win this category, and they do. The Indian Queen raises the bar – see what they did there? – for a second place win, and Solé Augusta adds another medal to their mantle for third.
At most watering holes there is too much happy to fit into one hour, and Solé Augusta is no exception. They’re just kidding about the hour part, so lighten up, loosen up and enjoy. The ampersand twins, Craft & Vine and Finch & Fifth (no relation), take second and third, respectively.
Whether it’s bottle or box, cork or screw-off cap, red, white or rosé, they’ve got you covered at Toast Wine & Beverage. Voters next recommend The White Horse Wine & Spirits, followed by Wine World. Cheers, y’all.
What matters here is not whether the floors are concrete or oak, nor if the tableware is plastic or silver. Even sporks are irrelevant. It’s all about the service, and this coveted win goes to the team at Chick-fil-A. Congratulations! This is the spot where we normally add the second and third finishers, but everyone in this paragraph is a winner, so Coffee Geek and Honey From the Rock, congrats to you too.
Some people say we shouldn’t eat anything we can’t pronounce. Well, can you say meatloaf? How about cornbread? If you can, you should also say Honey From the Rock, Goolsby’s and Fat Man’s Café, in that order. Note: the word “artisanal” will not appear on any of their menus.
Your favorite place north of the border happens to be right here in Augusta: Taqueria El Rey. Which, when translated, means that not only does this establishment offer tacos for purchase and onsite consumption, but they also have a butcher shop for the convenience of their patrons, and that in their dual endeavors they rule; they are the king. Spanish is a very economical language; English not so much. Second and third: Poblano’s and Salsa’s.
Now that it’s fall, this is an actual option, not just a theoretical possibility. Thanks to the conveniently empty lot next door, Solé Augusta scores a win here. Manuel’s Bread Café offers the French bistro sidewalk café/ballpark-adjacent experience in the runner-up spot. Edgar’s Grille takes third.
As the old saying goes, “everyone loves the hometown chicken.” which is why WifeSaver is once again the top pick. Maryland Fried Chicken, which is said to have considered changing its’ name to MFC, comes in second with Honey From the Rock taking the third spot.
Not that you wouldn’t be welcomed at any of the above in a suit and tie, but when you make the million-dollar sale and want to celebrate in style, spring for Augustino’s, say your fellow shakers and movers. Edgar’s Grille would also do nicely, and the Pinnacle Club offers a third lofty option.
What you’re looking for here is authenticity, and when “authentic” is in its name it’s a slam dunk, as in Sawasdee Authentic Thai & Noodle House. Pho Bac doesn’t say it’s authentic, but we’re pretty sure they are. Ditto for Thai Kitchen.
Asia is a pretty big place, so let’s get specific. What about Japan? Toki Japanese Steakhouse is number one. Miyabi Augusta is awarded the silver medal, Miyako Sushi and Steakhouse gets the bronze.
Taj of India gets the taj (definition: a crown worn by an Indian prince of high rank) from readers. More savory Indian dishes are available at India Café, your first alternate, followed by even more deliciousness at Curry Hut.
You might think an Italian restaurant that spells its name in Italian is just a not-so-clever gimmick, but in the case of DiVino Ristorante Italiano, the owners just moved here from Italy a little over a year ago. It’s the classic buon cibo, buon vino, buoni amici right here in good old North Augusta. Oliviana scores a first runner-up, and Cucina 503 is the third medalist.
With so many worthy downtown dining options the voting was fast and furious, but when the dust settled, Frog Hollow Tavern (they who spawned Craft & Vine) earned the five-star ranking. Whiskey Bar Kitchen is your next fave, and Solé Augusta also made the elite top three.
Looking for a place without a parking issue, in fact within walking distance? That might well describe Sheehan’s Irish Pub. Ironically enough, the ballots say it’s a neighborhood restaurant worth driving to. Another neighborhood option is Southbound Smokehouse. No smoking is permitted there; they’ll do the smoking for you. Village Deli is always a great option, in third.
Readers bestow the ultimate best-of among all dining categories to—drum roll please—Frog Hollow Tavern. Our congratulations to the whole team there, including the frog. The silver and bronze medals go to Solé Augusta and Abel Brown Southern Kitchen. Kudos to all three!
We could say Best Hidden Gem, but that would be redundant. A gem is a gem is a Rae’s Coastal Café. It’s not really all that hidden, but if you’ve never been before, definitely use navigation. Taqueria El Rey, on the other hand, is hiding in plain sight. A great eatery in a shopping center is always a bit of a surprise. Arsenal Tap Room + Kitchen isn’t exactly hidden either, but it’s new enough to be unknown by many. Stop by and introduce yourself.
Special Occasion Restaurant
The handsome setting of Frog Hollow Tavern, coupled with its enticing menu, makes it the perfect choice for a special occasion. Well done, readers. Calvert’s, a classic destination that has proven itself over many years, is your next option. Craft & Vine completes three superb options.
Beck’s offers its sterling New Orleans-infused menu and readers say welcome—and thank you. It’s your number one newcomer choice. Westtown’s Taqueria Y Carniceria El Rey may be king, but it will have to settle for throne-adjacent in this category, still a fine honor. Hammond Ferry’s DiVino Ristorante Italiano scoops up third.
Local soul and R&B phenom Eric Mayweather KOs the competition here, followed by Phillip Lee Jr of Ed Turner and Number 9 and the Phillip Lee Band. Third place goes to Harlem’s #1 country star of the future, Ray Fulcher.
Your top pick, Donna Jo, is further proof that Augusta is fertile ground for first-class talent. Support live local music before it moves to Nashville or LA! Speaking of which, Funmilayo Ngozi gets gigs the world over, but the hometown crowd still cares enough to keep her in the local spotlight. Third place goes to Tara Scheyer. Remember her band Snapdragon? Best local band name ever.
Funmilayo Ngozi—just so you don’t get your categories mixed up, takes home the Grammy locally. Chris Dneti, often seen and heard at Iron Horse Bar & Grill in Beech Island, comes in second. Finally, Picture Perfect is, as its name suggests, picture perfect and knows how to rock the house.
Jazz is said to be the only strictly American contribution to the world of music, so it’s fitting that The American Jazz Combo gets the recording contract with readers. But they’re local. In fact, so is Garden City Jazz, your second choice. The seemingly omnipresent Bill Karp earns third.
The Kenny George Band will carry on despite the loss in July of their drummer, Bucky Brown, who was part of the Augusta music scene for the majority of his all too short life. County Line and Delta Cane are your other two top choices for the ultimate country concert.
This time Delta Cane takes the coveted Golden Banjo. It’s not easy to play, but it looks great in a trophy case. Perennial fave Eryn Eubanks and The Family Fold score second, and Doug and The Henrys are fiddling around in third place.
Dayz to Come… what it sometimes seems like we’re all waiting for, right? Better days. Well, we already have Dayz to Come right here in Augusta, and they are your top choice. Funmilayo Ngozi belts out some musical preaching from her second-place spot, and Ryan Abel regularly performs on Saturday nights. And Sunday mornings.
Local favorite, Ed Turner and the No. 9 takes the top spot, and Scarlett Begonias and False Flag are the warm-up acts in second and third, respectively.
Performing Arts Group
Remember that studio crawl a couple years ago? We got to watch artists in the act of painting or sculpting. But it never caught on, and performing arts are generally still acting and making music. As a matter of fact, the Augusta Choral Society is your top pick, followed by Symphony Orchestra Augusta, then The Augusta Players.
Late Night Spot
Waffle House has won in years past, but this year the trophy goes to The Indian Queen, although there are Waffle House locations nearby (a statement we could accurately make no matter who won). Solé Augusta gets the silver medal, and Joe’s Underground is the last of your top three places to welcome in a new day.
If you can’t drive (or even focus on your phone enough to call for a ride) you can always walk home if you’ve chosen your bar wisely. Readers recommend The Indian Queen. If that isn’t in your neighborhood, we know some great realtors. Metro wins second; Southbound Smokehouse nabs another bronze medal.
Live Music Bar
You know the local act The Henrys, right? In some circles HENRY is an acronym meaning “High Earner, Not Rich Yet.” Seriously. You can look it up. Of course, that acronym depends upon the support we give to live local music at places like Sky City, Metro Coffeehouse, and Southbound Smokehouse, your first, second and third choices. Let’s do this.
And by sports we mean watching TV while sports are being televised. Not pole vaulting, Greco-Roman wrestling, playing lacrosse, etc. You’re on your own there. But for standard sports bars, the people have voted, and they have voted for Robbie’s Sports Bar. And for Wild Wing Café. And for Buffalo Wild Wings.
Bar to People Watch
Conversely, here we do not mean on television, but in person people. So who assembles the most interesting collection of specimens and speciwomens for your viewing pleasure? That distinction belongs to Stillwater Taproom. Tap into that and see if you agree. Solé Augusta and The Indian Queen also offer highly viewable barstoolians. And yes, that is a word.
Bar to watch people
One of the great indoor sports, the best arena in these parts for people watching is downtown’s Soul Bar, in the considered opinion of the electorate. The Country Club takes second, and offers a good acre and a half of humanity to watch. Wild Wing Café takes third, perhaps in part due to its smokin’ new patio.
Grab some tens and twenties, enough to have a good time, and go to the singles spot, which readers have conveniently identified as Solé Augusta. Another place to mingle is The Indian Queen. You might very well meet Pocahontas, you never know. In third, Stillwater Taproom.
Local TV News Anchor: Male
The reader—and therefore viewer—favorite is Richard Rogers of WRDW. Congratulations, sir! Brad Means takes second, so he’ll audition as co-anchor if this magazine ever starts BOB (“Best Of” Broadcast). Destiny Chance’s sidekick Jake Rakoci comes in third.
Local TV news Anchor: Female
If you aren’t a morning person you may not know the lovely and talented Destiny Chance of WFXG News Now, but plenty of your fellow readers do, enough for her to be Augusta’s best. Laura Warren, international social media figure and WRDW co-anchor, takes second, and Jennie Montgomery of WJBF wins third.
Local TV news Anchor: Weather
Way to go WFXG! With his win in this category, Jay Jefferies completes a sweep for the WFXG morning crew, all of whom were in the top three. The coveted (but imaginary) silver thermometer goes to Tim Strong of WRDW, and George Myers of WJBF gets the bronze rain gauge.
Local TV Station
Back in the day there were only a few TV stations. Can you believe that, kids? Now there are 300 and there’s still nothing worth watching—except on the Top Three. Yes, we’ve come full circle. Your number one source for news is WJBF NewsChannel 6, which officially stands for Where Journalism Bears Fruit (unofficially it’s Where Jennie and Brad are First). WRDW— 12,.that is—is 2, while 54 (WFXG) equals three. New math.
Local News Story
The major headline named by readers is Augusta’s cyber revolution. The National Security Agency’s (NSA) growing presence here, the Army Cyber Command’s move to Augusta, and a growing private sector cyber-security presence says this is a huge deal. Another big story: Janell Carwell’s disappearance. The 16-year-old Augustan vanished on her birthday back in April, and her mother and stepfather, both in jail, aren’t talking. Headline #3: Pam Tucker’s resignation came as a shock to many people in Columbia County and the CSRA as a whole. Now she’s campaigning for a job supervising her former overlords.
Yes, people still do read things longer than tweets. Take The Augusta Chronicle’s Bill Kirby, for example. Does he even tweet? We think he just blogs. And does the newspaper thing, online and on paper. He is your favorite. Austin Rhodes somehow takes second place. What could he possibly write about? The man has no opinions on anything. And if you think politics is dry and boring, you obviously haven’t read Sylvia Cooper’s Chronicle articles.
Local Radio Morning show
The Kicks 99 Wake Up Crew gets the gold—and they should. There are fewer and fewer local radio shows, but we get to listen to one here instead of a syndicated show originating who knows where. Thanks, Kicks! Elsewhere, WGAC’s informative morning team of Harley Drew and Mary Liz Nolan takes second, and another local crew, John & Cleve in the Morning, hold down the 6 to 9 am weekday slot on WAFJ.
Local Radio Station
Kicks99’s “new country” format carries the day. Why? Because they can carry a tune too. But when you get totally twanged out—hey, it happens to the best of us—and want an alternative, the next best place to turn is WGAC AM/FM. There you can find out what’s going on in the world and get that low blood pressure back up where it belongs. WAFJ wins third.
Local TV Morning News Anchor
Why is gender important? Plain and simple, who’s best in the morning? That honor goes to WJBF’s Barclay Bishop, who landed on her feet after some recent station shuffling in the Augusta TV market. Remember all that a little over a year ago? Destiny Chance shows up again for a repeat performance here, this time winning silver. Meredith Anderson of WRDW wins third.
Local Sports Reporter
First across the goal line is veteran left-hander Kevin Faigle, back for another season with WRDW. You’ve got to hand it to WJBF’s Nathan Palm (6’2” 190 lbs), who won second place. The Augusta Chronicle’s Scott Michaux (throws right, types ambidextrously) is a triple threat, covering football, golf and baseball—and every other sport. And if you’re wondering, yeah, we just made up the stats.
Local TV Reporter
Fans of Alissa Holmes of WFXG have installed her in the top spot. That is certainly newsworthy. Investigative/consumer reporter Liz Owens of WRDW puts the teeth into 12 On Your Side, and Ashley Campbell, WJBF anchor, reporter, producer and new mom completes the Top 3.
Local Talk Radio Personality
If you have any doubt that Austin Rhodes isn’t the rightful champion of this category, feel free to ask Austin himself. He’ll set you straight. The man always has ammunition. And even though this is a radio category, The CW wins second place; you know, Cleve Walker of family friendly WAFJ. The Handsome One at WAGC, Harley Drew, wins third.
Men’s Clothing store
The Boardroom suggests nothing but silk ties, wing tips and 3-piece suits, and they definitely have the usual elements of the standard corporate uniform, but they also have all the accompanying goodies for conducting business elsewhere. On the golf course, for example. Second place goes to Low Country Clothier; third to Rivers & Glen Trading Co.
First, rule #1: Always buy purses. Never snatch them—ever. And when you buy them, readers recommend going to The Swank Company. Shoes at Surrey? Oh yeah, they sell purses too. Purses that match their shoes, no less. Cudos2U scores third.
Yes, The Swank Company (2 locations) has shoes. Yes, they are the reader favorite. Shoes at Surrey wins Best Descriptively Self-Explanatory store name and second place in women’s shoes. Third goes to Designer Shoe Warehouse, aka DSW.
Talk about your descriptive names! The only thing missing in Posh Tots is the location, but it’s no secret it’s in Surrey Center. And it’s the best place to transform ordinary tots into posh tots. Carter’s is your next favorite option, followed by Kid to Kid.
Readers went outside the box — well actually, just plain outside — to hand the victory to Half Moon Outfitters. Escape Outdoors wins second, and Fleet Feet pants up to the finish line for a strong third.
Furniture Consignment Shop
No one wants broke furniture, but furniture that’s broken in, that’s another matter altogether. The cushions are comfier and the patina is patinier. And the price is right too. Readers steer you to Consign Design to take advantage of all these benefits, with The Savvy Shopper and Designed for Change rounding out the top three choices.
Clothing Consignment Shop
We recycle glass, aluminum and newspaper, so why not clothing? Hence the whole point of Uptown Cheapskate, the top reader choice for eco-shopping. Second Time Around (in second, appropriately enough) has no objection if it’s the third or fourth time around. The more the merrier. Just don’t get dizzy. Kid to Kid wins third.
A man’s gotta eat, right? So get thee to Publix already, says the voice (and stomach) of the people. “Let’s go Krogering!” is the battle cry of the alt-bite crowd. Fresh Market is your third-favorite.
As their t-shirts put it, “you had me at Swank.” Yes, The Swank Company comes out on top in the alliterative Best Boutique category. Surrey’s Palm Village and SOHO claim second and third, respectively.
Nursery Garden Shop
Since Augusta no longer has a green thumb, perhaps the reader recommendations here can help us get our collective mojo back. We’ll definitely give it a try. For starters, readers dig Sanderlin Green Houses in Appling. Slightly closer in (or way farther if you live in Appling), Good Earth Produce & Garden will help you celebrate plant life. In third, readers plant a kiss on Bedford Greenhouses.
They say the depreciation on a new couch the minute it leaves the lot is insane. Let someone else pay that and then we can swoop in for the savings later. Really, if Mema Had One, why shouldn’t we? The ballots also recommend Merry’s Trash & Treasures in 2nd, even though they haven’t carried antiques for years, you still love them. Romantic Farmhouse comes in third.
This might seem like a very seasonal category, but remember: every neighborhood has at least one house where the decorations are still up in April or May. So for year-round decorations, readers say it’s Cudos2U. Southern Landscaping Garden & Gifts and Communigraphics will also help you get in the holiday mood, even if it’s 80° outside.
It’s not natural how unnatural some food is, but readers say the fare at Earth Fare is the real thing. Fresh Market rules Aisle #2, if you catch our drift, while the semi-new and definitely improved Good Earth Produce & Garden is the hometown pick in third place.
Whether the emphasis is on “fine” or on “jewelry,” add “Windsor” and both suddenly seem a lot finer. The real question here isn’t who will win. It’s who will finish second to Windsor Fine Jewelers. That distinction this year goes to the Estate Jewelry Center. Across the river, Stan Johnson Jewelers takes third place.
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it is apparently the motto for voters, giving another gold to The Swank Company. Your recipients will consider you a gold-medal friend too. Cudos2U claims another silver, and Charleston Street gets the bronze medal, and you don’t even have to go to Charleston to shop there.
Best Place to Shop for Wives
Gentlemen, let’s admit here and now we’re often a little shopping-challenged. We need all the help we can get, and here it is: The Swank Company. That comes from countless (but counted) voters across the fruited plain. Another helpful tip readers offer: Palm Village. And another: Cudos2U. Our own suggestion: make sure you know her sizes.
Transform your abode from a house to a home at Merry’s Trash & Treasures, says the electorate. They also install Weinberger’s as first runner-up, and Andrews Gallery in third. Now go forth and furnish.
Baubles, bangles, bright shiny beads are offered in abundance at The Swank Company, according to our sources. They also again suggest Cudos2U and the mall’s Charming Charlie.
Place to Shop for Husbands
Ladies, the votes say your best bet for a gift he’ll love is Southeastern Armory. There’s really no place quite like it, and that’s a good thing in the world of gift giving. Rivers & Glen Trading Co. is a worthy first alternative, and readers also suggest Cabella’s.
Best Place to Ride a Bike
Whether it’s a trike, bike or unicycle, the clear favorite for human-powered locomotion is at the Augusta Canal. Since it’s paved, the #2 option—North Augusta’s Greeneway—offers an advantage over the canal if you’re using training wheels (or stabilizers, if you prefer). F.A.T.S., the Forks Area Trail System, is no place for stabilizers, but it is your third-fave.
If you really want to feel the burn, readers suggest the club you should join is Burn Boot Camp. The theory is, the more burn you feel the hotter you’ll be. Speaking of which, the motto of second place Orangetheory Fitness is “keep burning.” Your third choice: the good old Family Y.
Number one on your list is Cucumber & Mint. We feel slightly refreshed already, just typing the name. Look for it behind the green door in Surrey Center. Not green green…more cucumber…or maybe it’s kind of mint. Balanced Body Spa earns second place and Tuscany: A Classic Italian Spa places third.
Place to Swim
If you’ve come here looking for the best place to play pool, that’s another category. Keep reading. This one involves recreation in a huge container of water such as the one at the Family Y. Or at your second choice: the Augusta Aquatic Center. Or your third: the Kroc Center. So go already. But no running!
As did Bobby Jones himself in decades past, we like Forest Hills Golf Club. Excellent top choice, Augusta. The lush green of Jones Creek wins runner-up, and the riverside jewel called River Club ranks third.
As it was last year, the beautiful 3 Bridges Run is your #1, and it’s no wonder, with its beautiful natural riverside scenery and complete absence of road traffic. The Color Run repeats in second and Jingle Jam in third.
The city’s Newman Tennis Center is a great and inexpensive place to play or learn the game of tennis, and its 18 courts comprise the reader favorite. Second and third place, Forest Hills Racquet Club and West Lake Country Club, are private, so be sure to wear a Members Only jacket if you go.
Place to Work Out
A fitness club suggests toning, stretching, cardio, maybe help with weight loss… but when someone wants to work out, it’s about power. Bulking up. Snapping 2x4s in half. Lifting twice your weight in pencil-necked geeks. That sort of thing. Thankfully, they don’t subscribe to that theory at your top choice, the Family Y, nor at CrossFit Augusta, or Gold’s Gym. We can all breathe easier.
Best-Kept Recreational Secret
How can Augusta Canal bike trails win both best place to ride and best-kept secret? Let’s just say you won’t find any traffic jams along the canal. With many months of moderate weather stretching before us, we should all try to jam it up a little. Ditto for the Greeneway. Third place: Pendleton King Park.
Tied for the crown are Space Yoga Studio and hOMe Downtown Yoga, where “OM” shows up in the most unexpected places. Surrey Center’s Oxygen Fitness Studio gets the silver medal.
We know people who are obsessed with their job every waking moment, 7 days a week. They call or text the office multiple times a day even when they’re on vacation. People, please. Step away from the phone. Unplug and unwind.
Ah, but where? The votes are in: your personal trip advisors say Charleston is the place to go. Worthy destination #2: Asheville, with plenty of stuff to see and do, including Biltmore Estate. Hilton Head is your #3 destination. Now get out of town!
Place to play pool
If you’ve come here looking for the best place to swim, that’s another category. This category usually involves no water (although beer is a distinct possibility). The winner is Robbie’s Sports Bar. In second is Rack & Grill, and the legendary Sports Center downtown racks up third place.
Place to Walk Your Dog
The obvious answer is your own neighborhood, but that’s like eating every meal at your own kitchen table 24/7/365. A little variety once in a while would be nice, so take Fido (that is your dog’s name, right?) to the place most readers recommend: the Augusta Canal. Trust us, you will earn major points with Fido. The rest of the Top 3: the North Augusta Greeneway and the Evans Towne Center Dog Park.
The big kahuna of area festivals is Arts in the Heart of Augusta. Back in the day, it was held in the yard next to the Old Medical College on Telfair. It was that tiny. My, it has grown. Papa Joe’s Banjo-B-Que, soon to celebrate its 9th year, rules Memorial Day weekends. Westobou cracks the top three. That’s good.
Place to Get Back to Nature
Forget the box. Just think outside. The ballots say when you do that, you think Phinizy Swamp. But don’t just think. Go. And make it snappy: we keep hearing that someone wants to drain the swamp. The Augusta Canal is your next favorite. Clarks Hill Lake (because it’s not PC in some quarters to utter the name Strom Thurmond anymore) wins third.
People say their most-liked event is Lights for Lydia. Next, the Augusta Chapter of the American Red Cross has hosted the Boot Scootin Boogie Bash for more than 20 years. Third will be here before we know it: the Jingle Jam 10K benefiting Safe Homes is run in December.
The Place You Wish Was Still Here
The winner is the Haunted Pil…wait, wait, hold up. Let’s start over. The winner is actually Fat Man’s Forest. Ah yes. Oh! Here we go! The Haunted Pillar takes second place. And third among the gone but not forgotten is the late great Duke Restaurant.
Our charitable readers donated enough ballots with “The Lydia Project” on them to make it the CSRA’s favorite charity. The American Red Cross and everything it does in so many ways earns it second place. Golden Harvest Food Bank and its important work put it into third. Thank you one and all, including those charities not among the Top Three.
Special Event Facility
The key word here is special, and that’s all it took to get The Barn at Sanderlin’s Horse Farm installed at the top. It’s one cool place, all right. Another one-of-a-kind venue is Enterprise Mill (2nd), a description that is equally true of Sacred Heart (3rd).
Christmas Light Display
Lights of the South was riding high last Christmas. Its Facebook page has more than 35,000 likes, but a lot has happened since then. Maybe your second choice, Downtown Augusta’s light, will move up. Or Hopeland Gardens in Aiken will. Or maybe Lights of the South will keep its crown next year.
It may not be exactly ancient, but the James Brown statue certainly highlights a keynote element of Augusta’s rich history. It’s your top choice. Sacred Heart Cultural Center comes next. Third place: Woodrow Wilson Home.
New Civic Project
Two titans battled this one out. There really are no losers here, but there is a winner. When the construction dust settled, the winner was the long-awaited Miller Theater, almost ready for its curtain to rise again after more than a 30-year intermission. That will be an awesome day for Augusta. The other candidate in the field is just as stellar: Project Jackson, rising just across the river. If just half of the project’s goals become reality it will be an amazing place.
The winner is the Haunted Pil…wait, wait, hold up. Let’s start over. The winner is the SouthStar Trolley Tour. Ok. Now we’re straight. Another cool thing: Augusta Canal Tours. And although it has been transformed from a cool and leafy glade to a stark, sun-baked setting, James Brown Plaza and its life-sized statue still ranks in the top three.
The local film industry…cyber…hair…everything seems to be growing around here. But managed growth is a good thing, which is why we periodically consult barbers. The ballots start with Durden’s Barber Shop. It’s old school but not old fashioned. There is a difference. Yankee Clippers gets second, which shows we have forgiven the Northern aggressors. We’re moving on. The Bobbi Pin Salon is probably not the first place you think of when you think barber; it’s third, actually.
You’ve got out-of-town company coming to visit. Looking for ideas on where to take them? Readers generously suggest the James Brown Statue, honoring the memory of our own hometown international superstar. Another winning idea: Augusta Canal boat tours. Finally, take a stroll along Riverwalk and the beautiful Savannah River.
The local carwash landscape has changed a lot in the past year thanks to mergers, closings and renovations. The current king of the hill is Sparkle Express, while LuLu’s Express Car Wash wins the silver (or as some people call it, the chrome). TopNotch Carwash—now known as Tidal Wave Auto Spa—rounds out the Top 3.
Article appears in the October 2017 issue of Augusta Magazine.