Best of Augusta 2011 - Best Dining
Your selection of this category’s best is synonymous with Utopia, but in this case the earthly paradise is in taste only; the physical location of your culinary Shangri-La
Asian Cuisine is in Augusta, Ga. How convenient. Look for signs that read, “Shangri-La.” P.F. Chang’s Chinese Bistro and Formosa’s II take second and third.
Visit Shangri-La's website.
Miyabi Kyoto Japanese Steak House doesn’t just bring the food to you; they bring the kitchen right to your table. For best results, always wear flame-retardant clothing. Kyoto Japanese Cuisine (no relation to Miyabi Kyoto) takes second and Matsu Sige Japanese Cuisine third.
Readers say their favorite Thai is Mai Thai. Well, not mine technically. Their Thai. Actually, Your Thai if you’re reading this. And if you aren’t, that’s just plain creepy. How do you do that? Thai Kitchen and Thai Jong round out the top three.
You know how we add an “s” to everything in these parts? Kroger’s? Bi-Lo’s? Well, Poblano’s Mexican Grill beat us to the punch, unless we want to go with “Poblanoses.” In any case, they take El Taco de Oro, the Golden Taco. Vallarta Mexican Restaurant and Mi Rancho Mexican Restaurant complete the category in second and third.
Think of India and what comes to mind? The Taj Mahal. Think of great Indian cuisine and what comes to mind? Taj of India, that’s what. The silver belongs to Punjab Grill. And the third-place bronze is awarded to India Café.
New-fangled comes and goes, but classic is forever. Like Luigi’s, a reader favorite since, like we said, forever. Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Olive Garden have to take second and third to the local guys.
Frog Hollow Tavern sounds like some backwoods café, but this particular Frog Hollow has that urban sophistication readers liked enough to install as number one. The Bee’s Knees and Nacho Mama’s get the remaining spots on downtown’s short list.
Don’t let the category fool you. We’re not looking for subdivisions; we’re looking for neighborhood eateries, the kind of place where everybody knows your name. A place like Daniel Village’s Village Deli. It’s so good, say the ballots, that you don’t care what they call you, as long as they call you for supper. Or lunch. We just made that joke up on the spot, by the way. Nearby, Sheehan’s Irish Pub and Crums on Central in second and third place make this one good-eatin’ neighborhood.
Special Occasion Restaurant
Celebrate special occasions—days that end in Y, for instance—at Calvert’s
. But don’t wait for one of those; go anytime. La Maison on Telfair and Bistro 491 (second and third) have both provided clues to their locations in their names, so you have no excuses.
Visit Calvert's website.
Elegant Dining Restaurant
Elegant Dining doesn’t mean you need a Vera Wang or a Dior tux to make a reservation. You don’t have to be elegant; the restaurant is what’s elegant. Remember that. Oh, and also no shirt, no shoes, no service. La Maison
wins with style. Calvert’s and Bistro 491 in second and third place also put on the Ritz so you don’t have to.
Visit La Maison's website.
Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar scores over 100 on reader ballots, at least during the summer. And usually in the 70s and 80s this time of year. That’s just the way we like it. If you want to make it To Go— but not too far—try Pizza Joint or Teresa’s Mexican Restaurant, suggest your fellow readers in second and third.
What’s the perfect appetizer for a belt-busting Sunday dinner with all the fixings? Why, Sunday Brunch, of course. Support your local Partridge Inn
, say your fellow brunchees. Help the cause. There are no alternate days, but there are alternate locations: second place Crums on Central and Doubletree Hotel in third.
In this microwave era, there are still a few keeping the not-quite lost art of home cooking alive, with Goolsby’s at the top of the list crafted by our readers. Café 209 (second) and the Chef’s House (third) are also denizens of down home.
When it comes to getting your day started off right, don’t lay an egg—eat one. Add pancakes and a couple strips of bacon and a good cup of coffee and you’re all set. The ballots recommend Sunrise Grill for this wake-up call. Waffle House and Cracker Barrel also score high marks from readers.
It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere. Central Avenue at Kings Way is one such place. Readers say the 5 O’Clock Bistro at that location is the very best new dining destination within the sound of this magazine. Check it out! Readers also point you toward Carolina Ale House and Vietnamese specialists Pho Bac in Evans.
Romance should be celebrated and there’s no better place to celebrate than Calvert’s, say the ballots. La Maison on Telfair (second place) and Cadwallader’s Café (third) also dish equal parts fine food and romantic atmosphere.
Perhaps the most coveted of all bests, this one remains the property of Chuck Baldwin and his staff at French Market Grille
. Why? Dine there and chances are good that your host and proprietor will seat you himself, if not stop by your table to see how things are. That’s hands-on. It works. Calvert’s and Villa Europa win second and third.
Visit the French Martet Grille's website.
If our readers have anything to say about it, 5 O’Clock Bistro will not remain undiscovered for long. They give high fives to 5 O’Clock. The secret is also officially out on DiChicko’s (inside New Life Natural Foods) and the Chop House. They’re not newbies; readers just feel they’re undiscovered.
Vote totals for the Pinnacle Club are practically stratospheric. It’s absolutely the top restaurant in Augusta. We kid you not. Other places to impress the clients and get this pesky economy moving again: French Market Grille (in second) and Augustino’s Italian Eatery and Fine Steaks (third place).
Efficient yet perky are the operative words here, and Village Deli fits that description well enough to score a victory in this all-important category. Readers also say the tips are well-deserved at Villa Europa (second place) and FMG scion French Market Grille West (third place).
Best Place To Go When Someone Else Is Paying
Your wife, for example. Or your boss. Suggest Calvert’s and everyone will be happy, or double your money back. Since none of your money is involved…get it? Bonefish Grill and Bistro 491, respectively, also can make a moderate yet delicious dent in the wallet of your host.
Fill the tank without draining the tank: That’s what dinner specials are all about and Calvert’s
offers an excellent combo platter. Premium food for less than premium prices. Sweet. Check out the daily deals at Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar too and TBonz, suggest readers.
Visit Calvert's website.
Crums on Central will bring the Crums to you and readers say that’s a good thing. It’s no ruse to say Roux’s Gourmet Catering takes secets the bronze medal.
If you make a meal of the appetizers at the Bee’s Knees
, the appetizers become entrées. It’s magic! Bonefish Grill and Calvert’s (in second and third) will also get your gastronomic experience off to a tasty start.
Visit the Bee's Knees' website.
Now we begin to navigate the four major food groups, starting with Number One: barbecue. As always, Sconyers Bar-B-Que is, if not the top dog, certainly the top pig. No offense, Larry. Readers also pig out at Shane’s BBQ (third place).
Normally, stick-to-the-ribs is a positive term, but here we’re looking for falling-off-the-ribs tenderness, a quality found at the aptly named Sticky Fingers. Take your fingers to Sconyers Bar-B-Que (second place) and Shane’s Rib Shack too, suggest readers.
Whether they’re from chickens, buffalo or some other creature entirely, your favorite wing purveyor is Wild Wing Café. Fly in for some today. WifeSaver and TBonz win runner-up status. Obviously. After all, they can’t win flyer-up status anymore, now can they?
If you had T’s Restaurant
in the pool, you win. Ditto for the pond, the lake and the ocean. Helpful readers also dropped us a line to say you can get some nice liquid-borne vittles at Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar and Bonefish Grill in second and third place.
Visit the T's Restaurant website.
If fresh fish is your bag, you can’t get much fresher than sushi. Dive in at Takosushi. Their ginsu knives can cut through nails, industrial hoses, tin cans and can still slice tuna so thin you can read a ginsu knife ad through it. Matsu Sige Japanese Cuisine (second place) and Miyabi Kyoto Japanese Steak House round out the top three.
Listen carefully next time you’re in TBonz
. It’s not uncommon to hear a diner take one bite and exclaim to the waitress, and we quote, “A-1!” Their steaks are just that good. The Chop House and LongHorn Steakhouse also got a herd of votes as second and third place winners.
Click here to visit TBonz website.
At T’s Restaurant it’s a slightly different story: You may well utter “Hot dog!” after the first taste of one of their celebrated catfish. This is not recommended. Cats and dogs are not best buddies. Old McDonald Fish Camp and WifeSaver take second and third.
Every now and then we all need a fried chicken fix. WifeSaver
is the best place to yield to this addiction, according to our poll. The people have spoken, and they say buuuuck-buck-buck. That’s WifeSaver in Chickenese. Maryland Fried Chicken and KFC also occupy the medals stand.
Visit WifeSaver's website.
Is it soup yet? Yes it is. Soup can describe about a thousand different tastes, but there’s only one winner: It’s the venerable Sunshine Bakery. Panera Bread and Walton Way Deli also make a mean bowl of soup.
Picture the classic pizzeria: red and white checkered tablecloth. A candle melting down the side of an old Chianti bottle. That unmistakable pizza oven aroma. Why would anyone get a pizza delivered? Especially when we have places like Mellow Mushroom
, the reader fave. Pizza Joint and Roma’s Pizza complete the top three.
Visit Mellow Mushroom's website.
Picture the cozy comfort of your own home. Your favorite chair. A great movie playing on the big screen. A chilled beverage sitting at arm’s reach and a superb custom-made pizza coming your way special delivery. Why would anyone eat out? Especially when there’s Pizza Hut
around, the reader fave. The only other delivered pizza that ranked: Papa John’s.
Visit Pizza Hut's website.
You might be tempted to sink your teeth into a Sonic hot dog and exclaim “Catfish!” We suggest nothing more than “Mmmmm.” That works. Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters takes second. Translation: probably Bruster’s. Riverdog is the eponymous bronze medalist.
Your winner: a Georgia-born chain that barely existed a scant 10 years ago. Got any guesses? It’s Moe’s Southwest Grill
in first place, so we say a big welcome to Moe’s. Nacho Mama’s and Vallarta Mexican Restaurant are also burrito builders of distinction.
Visit Moe's Southwest Grill website.
The humble sandwich is high art at Village Deli. What they can do with two pieces of bread is absolutely vote-worthy, say the ballots. High marks also for Firehouse Subs and My Friend’s Place.
From a home base on Washington Road, your number one burger maker—Five Guys Burgers and Fries—is expanding to Windsor Spring Road and Evans. Guess that would make Fifteen Guys. In second, One Guy: Gary’s Hamburgers. Downtown’s Sports Center in third.
Butter it, crumble it, toast it, slice it, dice it, croutonize it if you want to. No matter, it’s going to be Panera Bread as the upper crust for this year. The Publix
bakers and Manuel’s Bread Café take second and third, respectively.
Visit the Publix website.
There’s no reason your salad days have to be behind you. Every day is a salad day at California Dreaming
. Trust us on this one. We had an expert panel make this determination. The same panel also says Rae’s Coastal Café and French Market Grille are great places to go green.
Visit California Dreaming's website.
It’s a dessert desert out there, but in the vast wasteland an oasis exists, and it’s called Boll Weevil Cafe
. That’s what readers say. We believe them. Also check out the happy endings at French Market Grille and the Pinnacle Club.
Visit Boll Weevil Cafe's website.
We like those cookies that are the size of a large pizza, but for everyday cookies and pastries, nothing beats Lil’ Dutch Bakery. Theirs are waaay better than computer cookies. Readers also like the goodies at Fresh Market and Piece of Cake in second and third place.
Special occasion cakes
At Publix, you can have your cake and eat it too. Sure, it will look too good to eat, but go ahead. Piece of Cake, right? That’s the second place cakery. Very Vera takes third.
You may buy one cake for special occasions, but for something you get by the dozen, it better be good. Readers say that’s Krispy Kreme all over. Heck, get two dozen—one for you and one to share. Dunkin’ Donuts takes second.
Maybe your waistline wars don’t permit donuts by the dozen. That’s OK. You could always opt for a bagel. It’s round. It has a hole in the middle. Tell yourself it’s a donut and you’ll do just fine. Be smart and get the goods at Einstein Bros. Bagels. Panera Bread and the New Moon Café “round out” the top three.
If “wine merchant” conjures up images of a caravan of camels led by a bearded man trading casks of wine for old gold coins, you were born way too early. The modern method is to swing by Toast Wine and Beverage. They’re said to have the best selection, service and knowledge. Harvard Wine & Beverage and Vineyard Wine Market also rank in second and third place.
Now we’re talking restaurants and in this category Calvert’s wins. Maybe they get their stock at Toast Wine and Beverage. Cadwalladers and the Bee’s Knees are also known for their excellent wine selection.
Wine by the Glass
Hopefully we’re talking about a 64-ounce Big Gulp cup, but Villa Europa probably won’t be the place. Readers say they have a little more class than that. Calvert’s gets second, the Bee’s Knees third.
It’s no mistake that first and second are both pizza parlors. Pizza and beer are a classic combination, kind of like Pizza Joint and Mellow Mushroom. In third, Stillwater Tap Room. Bottoms up!
Toast has beer from all over the world and votes from all over Augusta. With Publix and Harvard Wine & Beverage we’ve got half a six-pack of choices.
If you want a beverage served in a glass large enough to later convert to a home aquarium, the margarita is your drink. Go with Vallarta Mexican Restaurant, say the ballots. Poblano’s Mexican Grill and Teresa’s Mexican Restaurant complete the winning triumvirate.
A bowl of martini, on the other hand, will induce a significant decrease in your level of consciousness for the foreseeable future. Hence the smaller serving size. Ask your French Market Grille mixologist, recommend your peers. Bonefish, along with Veritas, a.k.a. La Maison on Telfair, get major reader libation votations.
The iced tea at WifeSaver is so popular some people keep it in their hip flask. At least that’s what they told us was in there. People are also partial to Sunshine Bakery and Villa Europa tea. Let’s see… what time is it? Oh, look at that. It’s tea time.
Augusta’s caffeine delivery system of choice is the same as most of the rest of the known world’s: Starbucks. The local kids of the New Moon Café score second; Aroma Coffee & Cafe is second runner-up.