Best of Augusta Dining
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Daddy O's Steak Subs and More • Photo By John Harping
How’s this for a Far East far out: Two of the top three are locally owned. Sandwiched in second is a non-local franchise: the most excellent P.F. Chang’s China Bistro (Augusta Mall). Shangri-La Asian Cuisine (2933 Washington Rd.) takes the victory and Sho Chin’s Asian Kitchen (4466 Washington Rd.) wins third. Congratulations to all.
If you’re looking for a great place to savor the delicacies of Japan, we have a capital idea: Miyabi Kyoto Japanese Steak House (1315 Augusta West Pkwy.). Kyoto means “capital,” after all. We’re not sure if Kurama (Japanese Seafood, 2834 Washington Rd.) means “second place” in Japanese, but that’s what it means to readers. Matsu Sige Japanese Cuisine (3836 Washington Rd.) rounds out the top three.
Readers suggest the best place to “thai” one on is Mai Thai in Evans (4272 Washington Rd.). Another worthy option is Thai Jong (2810 Washington Rd.). Heck, their first name is Thai, which ought to tell you something right there. Ditto for Thai Kitchen (4357 Washington Rd.). For the record, they have a dining room too.
Some may favor the more politically correct “Hispanic Restaurant,” but we’re traditionalists around these parts. All finalists are long-time faves, beginning with Poblano’s Mexican Grill (663 N. Belair Rd., 341 Baston Rd.), then Monterrey (multiple locations), followed by Vallarta (multiple locations) in third place. All are experts in south of the border cuisine, including that classic Mexican dish that defines the genre, number 15.
There’s nothing quite like a savory dish with a subcontinental flair prepared by your number one Indian restaurant, Bombay Central (3112 Washington Rd.). Taj of India (502 Furys Ferry Rd.) and India Café (503 Shartom Dr.) round out your top three choices.
It’s weird that certain countries have exported their cuisine all over the world, while others apparently don’t have anything to offer. Italy may be atop the exporters list (and Norwegian cooking at the bottom). Their top local export is Carrabba’s Italian Grill (2832 Washington Rd.), say people like the one holding the magazine in your hands. Downtown’s venerable Luigi’s (590 Broad St.) holds second place and relative newcomer Macaroni Grill (275 Robert C. Daniel Pkwy.) takes the bronze.
As long as we’re downtown already, we might as well drop off Luigi’s gold medal for its reader poll win as number one downtown restaurant. Blue Sky Kitchen (990 Broad St.) can get away with serving dinner one night a month (First Friday) and still score a silver medal. But who sees blue skies at night anyway? It’s a lunch place, hence the name. That’s the story we’re going with. Nacho Mama’s (976 Broad St.) is not your mama’s, true, but you still like it enough for third place.
Ideally, the winner will be in your neighborhood. If not, call a cab and head to Village Deli (2803 Wrightsboro Rd.). Somewhere there’s a village missing its deli and we’ve got it. Nearby, Sheehan’s Irish Pub (2571 Central Ave.) takes the overflow from the Village, saving people a trip to Ireland. French Market Grille West (368 Furys Ferry Rd.) serves the western front in style.
Assuming it’s autumn, winter or spring, head for Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar (3051 Washington Rd., 305 N. Belair Rd.). Readers also like Manuel’s Bread Café (505 Railroad Ave.) in North Augusta and downtown’s Cotton Patch (816 Cotton Ln.). Order a certain soft drink as your beverage and you can dine al fresca.
Obviously, Chick-Fil-A is disqualified right off the bat. That leaves the Partridge Inn (2110 Walton Way) all alone in the catbird seat, uh, pew. Crums on Central (1855 Central Ave.) does more than sweep up the crumbs of Partridge; it places second, and the Doubletree Hotel (2651 Perimeter Pkwy.) wins the bronze.
They’re anything but uptown at Goolsby’s (4460 Washington Rd.). Rumor has it they actually prepare the food at their home for that authentic down-home flavor, then whisk it to the restaurant for diners. If that’s true, it’s pure genius. Honey From the Rock Café (2621 Washington Rd.) and Willie Sue’s (500 Oxbow Dr.) complete the down-homiest eateries.
Would you eat liver and onions 365 nights a year? Possibly. But a plethora of persons do eat the same breakfast every morning year-round. All the more reason to seek out the best breakfast, which the ballots say is offered by Sunrise Grill (3830 Washington Rd., 404 E. Martintown Rd., North Augusta). This is not the most ruthless category, as evidenced by Ruth’s Family Restaurant’s (3843 Washington Rd.) second-place finish. Waffle House (492 CSRA locations) takes third.
The Pinnacle Club (699 Broad St.) is only a private dining club if you’re not a member. So join already and start enjoying its amenities. The economy will thank you. California Dreaming (3241 Washington Rd.) gets the silver medal, which is only fair: The winner of Best of Los Angeles in this category is Georgia On My Mind. In third: Manuel’s Bread Café.
If you’re all about getting a fine meal started right, get thee to the somewhat eponymously named (Bee’s Knees 211 10th St.). California Dreaming also has excellent appetite whetters, with Bonefish Grill (2911 Washington Rd.) rounding out the top three.
Winning this category here in the South is like being named best mush maker in Alaska. Aren’t you glad you live in the South? We have no mush, but we do have Sconyers Bar-B-Que (2250 Sconyers Way). Nuff said. Edmunds Bar-B-Que (3935 Washington Rd.) is our Second Swine, if you will. And if you won’t, well, there’s still Shane’s Rib Shack (4446 Washington Rd.) in third.
A friend of ours won’t eat any meat that comes from a part of the animal’s anatomy he can recognize. Sadly, he’s missing out on Sconyers Bar-B-Que ribs. Dude! At Shane’s Rib Shack, rib is practically their middle name, so a silver medal is no surprise. Sticky Fingers (277 Robert C. Daniel Pkwy.) takes home third from the Augusta Magazine drive-up window.
Thankfully, Red Robin did not win this category. Somehow that would just be wrong. Instead, the aptly named Wild Wing Café (3035 Washington Rd.) takes the honors. Wing Stop (multiple locations) and Wife Saver (multiple locations) also get high-flying reader rankings.
For all those who believe in evolution, this category includes the fish before they developed wings. (For after, see previous category.) Of course, fish is just the tip of the iceberg in great seafood. Just ask your server at T’s Restaurant (3416 Mike Padgett Hwy.), the reader fave. Bonefish Grill has the silver medal. Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar? Beyond second. Third, in fact.
All the little kids who liked to play with their food grew up to be great sushi chefs, like those at Takosushi (437 Highland Ave., Surrey Center), your top choice. Matsu Sige and Miyabi Kyoto also employ some real cut ups, say your votes.
Other than bacon, no meat says manly quite like a perfectly grilled steak. Of course, in these days of gender equality, steak is an equal opportunity satisfier, just like T-Bonz Steakhouse of Augusta (2856 Washington Rd., 1654 Gordon Hwy.) is. Yes, they won again, which for them isn’t exactly rare. Well done! Logan’s Roadhouse (269 Robert C. Daniel Pkwy.) will also do this food group proud. Outback Steakhouse (2949 Washington Rd.) wins third.
If you love catfish—and seriously, who doesn’t?—take your craving to T’s Restaurant, where readers award them an “A” in catfish. Old McDonald Fish Camp (355 Currytown Rd., North Augusta) also has many cat fanciers in its camp. Wife Saver completes your top three choices.
Trying to cut down on fried food? Sure you are and good luck with that. When you’re ready to throw in the towel (like maybe later today?), Wife Saver gets the recommendation of a majority of readers, at least in the chicken category. Café 209 (4 Eighth St.) will also fry one up just right for you. Maryland Fried Chicken (12 Broad St.)—or MFC if they follow the example of KFC —takes third.
Rapidly say soup a few dozen times (preferably in private) and you’ll realize just what a silly word it is, but it’s serious business at California Dreaming. Sunshine Bakery ((1209 Broad St.) and Panera Bread (254 Robert C. Daniel Pkwy., 4237 Washington Rd., Evans) take second and third, respectively, as places where serving a bunch of stuff thrown into a bowl of hot water is genuinely delicious.
The incumbent, Yo Pizza (2803 Wrightsboro Rd.), has fended off all challengers to keep its crown for another year. Mellow Mushroom (1167 Broad St., 4348 Washington Rd., Evans) is first runner-up if for any reason Yo Pizza cannot complete its reign. Pizza Joint (multiple locations) wins a well-deserved next runner-up.
Pizza Delivery/Take Out
It’s not DiGiorno, it’s Pizza Hut, and it’s mmm gooood in first place, say most readers. Third place goes to, correction, comes from Little Caesar’s. Locally owned Pizza Central muscles in between the big guys in second for a pizza sandwich.
The gourmand in you may sniff at the humble hot dog. The solution? Order a frankfurter. In fact, order it from Village Deli, the local nirvana for finicky frankfurter aficionados. Papa N Sons-A Bite of Chicago (4446 Washington Rd., 500 Furys Ferry Rd.) and its related incarnations takes second. Third place goes to a brand name: Nathan’s (served at Bruster’s, multiple locations).
The word means “little donkey,” but don’t think about that when they’re rolling up a fat one for you at Moe’s Southwest Grill (4239 Washington Rd., 2745 Washington Rd.), your numero uno burrito builder. Nacho Mama’s and Vallarta Mexican Restaurant take dose and trace. (Obviously we don’t speak Mexican too well.)
What do you want, Earl? Pastrami? PB&J? Steak? Club? Reuben? Dagwood? Cheesesteak? Open face? Hot? Cold? Submarine? A melt? French Dip? Cuban? BLT? Sandwiches offer incredible variety, so if you’re good at making them—like your votes say My Friend’s Place (353 Highland Ave., Surrey Center) is—then you’re good indeed. Panera Bread is also upper crust, while Village Deli takes third place.
Sold by the billions, these little numbers may well be the most-scarfed food item of all time. Five Guys Burgers and Fries (2805 Washington Rd.) is the local epicurean epicenter in Burger World, at least according to the ballots we saw. Village Deli grabs another medal, this one a silver. In a burger battle royale, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (4241 Washington Rd.) and downtown’s Sports Center (594 Broad St.) tie for third.
Like Adam’s rib, bread is the bare bones upon which sandwiches—and many other tasty delights—are built. Grab a loaf or three at Panera, where their employees are quite literally the staff of life. Manuel’s Bread Café gets the first runner-up, and we have another tie in third, this one between Atlanta Bread Co. (255 Robert C. Daniel Pkwy.) and Publix (multiple locations).
Back in the old days, salads were the stuff of small side dishes and skimpy calorie counts. Today, a simple salad can pack more punch than three banana splits and a four-gallon chocolate fudge sundae. That is the very definition of progress. Of course, there are side dish salads and then there are entrée salads. Both are the best at California Dreaming, say the people. Rae’s Coastal Café (3208 West Wimbledon Dr.) and Fatz Café (464 N. Belair Rd.) also win green. Well, silver and bronze technically.
It doesn’t matter what you’ve just eaten. Rule number one: Save room for dessert, preferably at Boll Weevil (10 Ninth St.). They serve appetizers, entrees and desserts, but Boll Weevil has built its reputation on the principle that what is eaten last is remembered first. Hence their Best Dessert victory. Sweet. French Market Grille (425 Highland Ave., Surrey Center) has a legendary dessert reputation too. Theirs is built on the peanut butter pie principle. In third, the Pinnacle Club, built on the 16 stories up principle.
Pastries & Cookies
These are the items that are placed artistically around your main dessert, and if they’re from A Piece of Cake (4115 Washington Rd.), they are worthy additions indeed to the final chapter of your meal. Publix Bakery gets high marks as well, with Sunshine Bakery and Edible Artistry (103 Maple Dr., 193 Baston Rd.) all battered up for a third-place tie.
This is the item alongside your main dessert and artfully arranged pastries and cookies. Or inside your waffle cone. Or spilling over the top of the bowl, dripping chocolate, butterscotch, caramel, fruit toppings or perhaps all three. Obviously we’re talking Bruster’s Old-Fashioned Ice Cream. Yay-ya. Honey From the Rock also gets a big scoop of votes; Cold Stone Creamery (210 Robert C. Daniel Pkwy.) wins third-place honors.
It’s usually a two-horse race here and this year is no exception. The ballots basically say all donuts are good donuts (well, except anchovy-carrot donuts), but there can be only one winner (unless there’s a tie, which there isn’t). And so without further ado, because there has been plenty of ado already, it’s Krispy Kreme (multiple locations), the official donut of Masters Tournament champions in first, Dunkin’ Donuts (3024 Washington Rd.) in second.
Kind of like donuts on a health food diet, bagels are best at Einstein Bros. Bagels (2807 Washington Rd.), which probably sounds like a no-brainer to Einstein fans. Panera Bread also offers splendid bagels, say the ballots. And in third, Dunkin’ Donuts sells great bagels too.
If there’s anything better than a good restaurant, it’s an extra good deal at a good restaurant. Your fellow readers say such a combo platter is on the bill of fare at Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar. Something’s on special every day. Calvert’s (475 Highland Ave., Surrey Center) offers its legendary sunset dinners for two. Third place: French Market Grille West.
Sheehan’s John Beck takes the golden toque, no small honor. Have outstanding food will travel, and travel well. Vera Stewart of Very Vera takes second place and Jennifer Shuford’s Tastefully Yours wins the coveted bronze.
What a crucially important category this is and what an honor for Villa Europa (3044 Deans Bridge Rd.) to take home the biggest tip. Your votes say Calvert’s restaurant gets the silver medal and none other than Moe’s Southwest Grill takes third. Yes, friendly service is vital whether the lighting is flickering fluorescents or flickering candles.
Place To Go When Someone Else Is Paying
Is there a bad place to go when someone else is paying? No. But there are great places. The reader choice is Calvert’s restaurant. Enjoy and please order anything you wish. Bistro 491 (491 Highland Ave., Surrey Center) is a worthy alternate choice. La Maison on Telfair (404 Telfair St.) completes your fantasy trio.
The results here are a virtual carbon copy (for those of you who may remember carbon paper) of the previous category: Calvert’s, Bistro 491 and La Maison on Telfair. Long live romance.
Special Occasion Restaurant
Not every special occasion involves romance. Or the other guy picking up the tab. For all those, your votes shake out as follows: the most votes go in Calvert’s restaurant column, which makes them the specialest restaurant in town. Congrats! La Maison on Telfair and Bistro 491 finish two and three. They’re all special. Just don’t let them be occasional.
A lot goes into crafting something as ethereal as atmosphere: lighting, seating comfort, music, temperature and, yes, the palette (of foods and the colors chosen to decorate). The award for this achievement as done best goes to Calvert’s restaurant. Good job. La Maison on Telfair and Cadwallader’s Cafe (106 Davis Rd.), worthy choices both, are silver and bronze.
Possibly new, possibly simply overlooked. Maybe swanky, maybe not, but worth discovering. May we have the menu please? In third place, downtown’s Rooster’s Beak (215 Tenth St.) shouldn’t be too hard to find. First runner-up: the venerable Villa Europa. Remember them next time it’s the old, “I don’t know, where do you want to go?” And in first place: Daddy O’s Steak Subs (3336 Wrightsboro Rd.). Seek and ye shall be rewarded, say the ballots.
Get your gourmet tacos on and feed the beak at Rooster’s Beak. Among new restaurant in Augusta, your peers say it’s peerless. Also downtown, Soy Noodle House (1032 Broad St.) takes the silver soy sauce and its Broad Street neighbor Du Jour Fine Foods (1128 Broad St.), home to awesome sandwich builds as well as soups and salads, completes a downtown sweep for this category.
This one’s the big kahuna, or more specifically, the big shrimp po’ boy. That’s your first clue to who won. The second clue: Its initials are French Market Grille. They’ve got an entire mantel crammed with these RO trophies. Calvert’s elevates Surrey Center’s status a bit higher still with its second-place finish and Villa Europa completes the top three.
It’s way too tempting to say readers toasted Toast Wine and Beverage (417 Furys Ferry Rd.), but we’ll resist the urge to go there. Lame puns are simply not our style, in case you hadn’t noticed. Let us simply announce Toast as the winner, followed by Vineyard Wine Market (not the church) at 4414 Evans to Locks Rd. and Harvard Wine & Beverage (110 Old Evans Rd.).
The perfect accompaniment to a fine meal, a wine list is your chance to elevate a simply good meal to a superb meal. No pressure there, so choose well. For starters, choose Villa Europa, the place your fellow readers anoint as holder of the best wine menu in town. Quite the battle for second place, where Calvert’s and Cadwallader’s duel mano-a-mano (which means “cork to cork”) to a tie. We would expect nothing less. In third place all by itself: French Market Grille West.
Wine by the Glass
Splitting hairs? Wine menu versus wine by the glass? Perhaps, but let us not quibble. After all, in vino veritas, and these days we need all the veritas we can get (not to mention vino). French Market Grille wins this competition and its scion, French Market Grille West, takes third. In between is another FMG offshoot, Calvert’s. Cheers to all.
Beer Selection/Take Home
Repeat: take home. Not for drinking in the parking lot. People frown on such behavior. Toast has the endorsement of the greatest preponderance of readers, then Harvard Wine & Beverage, followed by Publix Supermarket, Aisle 14.
Strap on the olde thinking cap and you’ll get this one: If we give you “blank & beer,” most people will fill in the blank with pizza. We know: It was on Family Feud one time. Pizza Joint wins this category. Go there and order a round. And a round. They go together. Second place: Somewhere in Augusta (2820 Washington Rd.). Third place: Still Water Taproom (974 Broad St.).
If you want to be a bartender, you’d better know how to mix a few hundred different libations. But here we single out margaritas and martinis (see next). Why? Because they’re tops in popularity. And Monterrey is tops on your list in margarita-making. Vallarta and Poblano’s battle for second and third, respectively.
Nothing says urbane sophistication quite like a martini. Even if you don’t like them, you can fake it nicely with an olive swimming in a martini glass of water. But readers suggest you imbibe the real thing (responsibly, of course) at French Market Grille. Bonefish has a martini-worthy mixologist or two on staff as well. The Bee’s Knees and the Partridge Inn mix it up in a third-place tie.
We are the Saudi Arabia of iced tea. If we could just figure out some way to pour it into our gas tanks… For the time being, we’re left to pouring the stuff down our throats, which isn’t such a bad deal, especially if you’re getting it from Wife Saver. They’re your favorite brewers. Sunshine Bakery and McAlister’s Deli (Augusta Mall) complete the top three.
Here’s a famous quote: “Coffee is to wake up, coffee is to work with, coffee is to live with, coffee is life.” That is probably the corporate slogan at Starbucks (multiple locations), your top coffee purveyor. Surrey Center’s Aroma (379 Highland Ave., Surrey Center) perks up in second place; Earth Fare (368 Furys Ferry Rd.) takes third.