Best of Augusta 2015



If we announce Sunrise Grill as number one on reader ballots, there had better be some bacon in it for us. Which, in part, is probably why they won, come to think of it. We also see bacon and eggs in our future at Ruth’s Family Restaurant (runner up) and New Moon Cafe (in third). That and pancakes, sausage, croissants, coffee…all the good stuff.


Everybody thinks fast food is taking over the world, but barbecue is the undisputed king and you can’t get much slower than barbecue. Barbecue will not be rushed. It refuses. Just ask the folks at your favorite slo-cooker, Sconyers Bar-B-Que. Or Shane’s Rib Shack. Or North Augusta’s BBQ Barn (just look for the neon pig). They’ll tell you.


And on the sixth day, God took a rib and said, “My, this looks tasty.” And so it was—and still is. Readers say the ribs are absolutely divine at Shane’s Rib Shack. Sconyers, meanwhile, settles for second rib this time and BBQ Barn advertises itself as “second rib adjacent.”


Well, Wild Wing wins wings. Easy for us to say. Technically it’s Wild Wing Café, but all we’re really concerned with here is their middle name. Buffalo Wild Wing scores second and Wing Stop third.


There is something very fishy about T’s, the reader choice. They’re also oystery, shrimpy and scallopy. And hush puppy. Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar trawls in the next-best vote totals, followed by French Market Grille.


You know the old saying, “Sushi sells seashells by the…” That’s odd; we’re drawing a blank. How does it end again? Oh right, sushi sells seashells by the southwest. Takosushi, the winner, reminded us. Readers also advise plugging in your GPS system (Great Platter of Sushi) to locate Izumi Japanese Buffet in Evans. They say it’s worth it. Toki (Martinez and Evans) wins the bronze.


The catfish at T’s Restaurant is so good even dog lovers order it. Old McDonald Fish Camp takes second. And be prepared: There will be no clown in a yellow outfit with red hair and shoes anywhere on the premises. And in third place? The Village Deli.

Fried Chicken

Don’t let that first word scare you away. It’s not like you’re eating fried food every day. Fried is just the occasional treat for celebrating weekends, special midweek lunches, end-of-the-week dinners, holidays of various kinds, days of the week ending in “day” and so on. Hence the success of WifeSaver. With their string of victories, we should probably start saying it’s artisanal fried chicken. Readers also put Maryland Fried Chicken and Café 209 on the medals stand in second and third, respectively.


Soup is what people are referring to when they use the term “liquid refreshment,” especially when they further describe it as “chunky-style” liquid refreshment. If you’re of legal age and you’d like to try the best, belly up to the bar at Sunshine Bakery and order the special. You can thank us later. Other top places that specialize in soupy sales: New Moon Café and Boll Weevil in second and third.

Pizza, Delivery

For those evenings when your hair is up in curlers and your wife’s makeup isn’t just perfect, there’s always delivery and readers say Pizza Hut makes that a great choice. We’re told Pizza Central also does the whole pizza on wheels thing rather well and Marco’s Pizza rounds out the top three.

Hot Dog

The hot dogs at BirdDog Grille are, like, totally tubular, man, as we used to say back in the ’60s. Here we are in 2015 and the ballots still say the same thing. Bruster’s Real Ice Cream may not be the alpha dog, but they’re alpha-adjacent. Farmhaus takes third.


Let’s say you’re hungry enough to eat a burro, but you know you’d hate yourself in the morning. A burrito is always a prudent compromise. Enough, but not too much. Make the burrito choice and Nacho Mama’s will serve you right. We have your word on it. Moe’s Southwest Grill (in second place) also does Tex-Mex well and, in third, Diablo’s Southwest Grill is location number one for this aspiring franchise.


Legend has it that The Earl himself—you know which earl we’re talking about—used to frequent Hildebrandt’s back in the day. Hildebrandt’s continues its reign as the area’s preeminent sandwich builder. Village Deli is the silver medalist and for the bronze we award half a medal to Broad Street’s New Moon Café and half to newcomer Knuckle Sandwiches (tied for third).


There are beef burgers, turkey burgers, bacon burgers, salmon burgers, veggie burgers, but oddly enough, no ham burgers. You may explore this mystery further at Farmhaus, the most reader-recommended option. Maybe you can figure it out. If not, head down the street to Whiskey Bar Kitchen. If further investigation is needed (it will be), keep going up Broad Street until you get to Sports Center. Go in. Order a burger. And onion rings.


Need bread? Manuel’s Bread Café is the bread-winner, if you know what we’re saying. Sunshine Bakery and Panera Bread also score. Specifically, second and third.


Before we talk openly about donuts, let’s discuss their more health-conscious cousins. Bagels—sometimes called super-ultra-mega-plain donuts—evolved over billions of years, shedding impediments to survival like icing and sprinkles along the way. They are thus in no danger of extinction, although they are regularly threatened by predators like bear claws. Try some at Panera, New Moon Café or Atlanta Bread  (in that order, the ballots say).


As mentioned, donuts are coming up just a few categories from now, so it might be a good idea to fill up on salad. Ah, but where? If you believe your fellow readers (and we do), the place to go is California Dreaming. Another farm-fresh option would
be Raes Coastal Café, nestled along the coast of Raes Creek. The Bee’s Knees completes this green trio.


Here’s an idea: Start with something primo from the appetizer menu and then order dessert. Skip the entrée step entirely, thus ensuring a semi-guilt-free dessert experience. Readers recommend Boll Weevil for dessert, although there is nothing to prevent you from sampling their appetizers too. French Market Grille is legendary for its desserts (in second) and Edgar’s Grille completes the elite dessertiers.


You can’t go wrong with Two Moms Cookies. Trust us on that. That goes for their brownies and lemon squares too. Lil’ Dutch Bakery is another sweet option and readers also say you can get your cookie on at Delightful Bites in third place.

Special Occasion Cakes

You know what would be cruel? If their name was Delightful Bite. But thankfully “Bites” is plural. Good thing too. In second place we have a tie between Lil’ Dutch Bakery and Publix. We should challenge them to a bake-off to settle this thing, with all entries becoming the property of Augusta Magazine (temporarily…very temporarily). In third: Piece of Cake. Mmm mmm.

Ice Cream

All hail the Chinese for inventing ice cream way back in 200 B.C., and Bruster’s for serving what readers say is the best in town all these many centuries later. Yotopia takes the cake (not literally) in second and Cold Stone Creamery wins third.

Iced Tea

WifeSaver savors a sweet victory yet again. Sconyers and Honey From the Rock take second and third. Bottoms up, y’all!


Do you prefer your coffee as a breakfast beverage? An after-dinner/dessert accompaniment? Or an all-day companion? No matter, Buona Caffe should be your source, say voters. Some prefer the hunt and if you’re one of those, readers suggest the percolator on wheels known as the Coffee Geek. Check Facebook or the web to see where the mobile baristas are now. Hire Grounds takes third, pouring Goodwill a cup at a time. See what we did there?

Wine Menu

And this is for the people who serve you the finest wines to accompany your meals. In this category the winner is downtown’s almost legendary Craft & Vine. Edgar’s Grille claims a well-deserved second place; Cadwalladers Café earns the bronze medal.

Wine by the Glass

Surrey Center’s reputation as a dining mecca seems to improve with each passing year. In this category, Finch & Fifth takes the gold medal. We’re back downtown again at Craft & Vine for second place and for the Bee’s Knees in third.

Beer Menu

As its name might suggest, Still Water Taproom is as advertised and there is often stellar musical accompaniment to the fine brewskis. The Pizza Joint enjoys first runner-up status; Mellow Mushroom can also help keep your pizza company in fine style.


Here is a cocktail so unique that bars and restaurants are judged by their preparation of it alone. You don’t see a category for Best Manhattan, do you? Anyway, Salsa’s will no doubt savor this victory, as do many of its customers. Takosushi’s mixologists earn the silver and Tin Lizzy and Vallarta battle to a third-place tie.

Craft Cocktail

For their encyclopedic knowledge of whatever you feel like drinking today, the votes add up to a win for the Indian Queen, “a good place to have a good drink.” The ampersand brothers (no relation), Craft & Vine and Finch & Fifth, take second and third.

Happy Hour

After a long day in the cubicle, wouldn’t it be nice to kick back at some cabin in the woods? Dream on—unless you’ve discovered the Indian Queen. It’s your urban wilderness experience, replete with bartenders no less. Craft & Vine wins another runner-up medal. French Market Grille scoops up the bronze.

Bar Food

We’re talking considerably more than just complementary nuts here. That’s why the full name of Whiskey Bar is Whiskey Bar Kitchen. Stop in; you’ll see why for yourself. Readers give next-best status to Wild Wing Café; Tbonz’s follows in third.

Down-Home Cooking

Before we get too far away from that cabin in the woods image, best down-home groceries on any plates in town are found at Honey From the Rock, says our panel of experts. WifeSaver gets second, for collard greens just like grandma used to make. Goolsby’s is another unsophisticated place, just the way we like it.


Jennifer Shuford of Tastefully Yours takes the cake—or rather, she serves it, along with an entire buffet of additional goodies. Manuel Verney-Carron, he of Manuel’s Bread Café, also will take his show on the road for you. Edward Mendoza likes numbers: Kitchen 1454 and Cucina 503. He gets third for his movable feast capabilities.


Has that Best Breakfast from Sunrise Grill worn off yet? Why not head over to French Market Grille West? It has the endorsement of a majority of readers. If you’re not on the west side, try Fat Man’s, say the ballots, in its historic old mill digs. Café 209 gets your vote for third place.

Business Lunch

Your fellow readers say Augustino’s offers the ambiance suitable for signing that million-dollar deal. Be sure to leave an appropriate tip. Edgar’s Grille and the Pinnacle Club complete the Big Three of business lunches.

Outdoor Dining

At Manuel’s Bread Café, you can be forgiven for thinking you’re in some village in the South of France. Drink it in. And you don’t even need a passport. Edgar’s Grille also has that whole the-sky-is-the-ceiling thing down too. The Pizza Joint also scores.

Asian Restaurant

Let’s begin the world tour that is dining in the Far East (Thailand, specifically), where Thai Kitchen wins the category. Congratulations! Fuji Asian is kind of pan-Asian, offering Chinese, Japanese and Thai entrees. P. F. Chang’s China Bistro earns readers’ third place honors.

Japanese Restaurant

Take two Toki Hibachi and Sushi eateries and you have your winner. Myabi Kyoto is next up and Miyako Sushi & Steakhouse (next to Kroger on Washington Road) rounds out the Japanese leg of our world tour.

Mexican Restaurant

Let’s swing back to the Americas briefly for a South of the Border culinary tour beginning with Poblanos, named for a flavorful pepper. Sounds tasty. Salsa’s Bar and Grill and Monterrey battle to a draw for “el segundo lugar,” as we sometimes say. Meanwhile, we have yet another Mexican standoff in third, where Vallarta and Teresa’s are deadlocked. ¿You’ve got plenty of options, si?

Indian Restaurant

If you’re in the mood for pemmican, you’ve got the wrong Indians. These are of the Taj Mahal variety, as in your favorite Indian eatery Taj of India. They deserve the gold medal. India Café is worth searching for, especially since it’s right under our noses. For third, voters give Curry Hut the award.

Italian Restaurant

Giving Surrey Center a run for its money, your number one Italian restaurant is next door to Taj of India, Cucina 503 is tops in its category. Giuseppe’s takes second place and downtown’s venerable Luigi’s, serving guests since 1949, wins third.

Downtown Restaurant

Downtown has a growing and well-deserved reputation as the fine dining capital of our fair city. If you’ve read this far you know your top three choices illustrate merely the appetizers. And they are in first place: Frog Hollow. Second Place: Whiskey Bar Kitchen. And in third but not least: Luigi’s.

Neighborhood Restaurant

What follows are the kind of places where, if you can’t finish your dessert (In what world does that happen? But bear with us.) you can ask for a to-go box and have it home before it melts. They’re also the kind of places you’ll drive across town to get to—and then eventually you’ll call a Realtor. These winners are: in first place, Sheehan’s Irish Pub. Second place, Villa Europa. And in third, but not least, French Market Grille West.

Place To Eat After Church

Rumor has it that on an average Sunday, WifeSaver feeds 5,000 men, besides women and children. You can choose to believe it or not, but after all, it was your choice for number one, so… In second place, 5 O’Clock Bistro. Believe the sign: They open at 5 O’Clock, except for Sunday brunch. In third: The Bee’s Knees, offering a fresh and filling brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.

Friendly Service

French Market Grille takes the gold in this all-important category. Frog Hollow scores an impressive second-place finish and Tbonz takes third. It’s not easy to be so good at dealing with the hungry and sometimes cranky masses that voters will single you out for recognition, so to all three honorees, good job!

Elegant Dining

Your nominees begin with Calvert’s, a place that has obviously discovered a formula for success. The late great Chef Heinz of La Maison on Telfair would have loved that his house placed second. One look at the building and you know he created a memorable experience for his guests. Frog Hollow makes a well-deserved third-place appearance in the top tier too.

Romantic Restaurant

Romantic and elegant are two entirely different words. For starters, you’ll notice one starts with an R, the other with an E. Even so, Calvert’s wins this category too. And La Maison on Telfair follows in second. But in third the winner is Cadwalladers. See? We told you these are two completely different concepts.

Special Occasion Restaurant

Since we sometimes (but not always) think of elegance and romance for special occasions with special someones, it is perhaps no surprise that Calvert’s takes home yet another gold medal. Frog Hollow scores the silver;
5 O’Clock Bistro the bronze.

Craft Cocktail

YUM! The Indian Queen mixed it up and landed on our cover‚. Not only did they win for Best Craft Cocktail, they won Best Happy Hour, Best Late Night Spot, Best Neighborhood Bar. For one of their great recipes, see page 82 in Good Taste.


Step aside, tofu eaters. Steak has arrived. It’s on a Texas-sized platter served by Tbonz, the kind of place that people enjoy, sure, but that even cattle aspire to. For them it’s kind of like the ultimate afterlife
experience. Augustino’s sends steaks to their eternal reward in grand style too, say the ballots, followed in third by Frog Hollow. Well done to all (except for those who like rare and medium well).


They will flat out craft you up some superb appetizers at Craft & Vine. People have been known to make a complete meal of their appetizers, which has to be confusing for the stomachs involved. They’re all set for the main course and then—boom—dessert. Weird. Finch & Fifth takes fifth, you might be thinking. No! Second! The Bee’s Knees in third.


You will notice that “Breakfast of Champions” and Krispy Kreme both contain the letter K. We don’t believe in coincidences. Kim’sDonuts (in second place) agrees. Belair Donuts takes third without the benefit of a single K, so you know they’re good too.

Pizza, Dine-In

Remember when gas prices were nearly $5 a gallon? Pizza parlors felt the hit and Washington’s über-powerful pizza lobby got to work. Thanks to their efforts we can now drive to places like the Pizza Joint (first place winner) and enjoy a piece of pizza in peace. Or to Giuseppe’s, suggest ballots. Or to Mellow Mushroom in third.

Wine Merchant

This is for the stuff you take home by the bottle. Or for non-purists, where you buy a box of wine.And the winner is: Toast. Cheers! Wine World finishes clean and bright with fruity after tones in second; Vineyard completes the medalists.

Beer Selection/Take Home

What is a growler, you ask? If we, in turn, asked the winning proprietors in this category—that would be Gravity Growlers, by the way—they would explain that a growler is a jug used to carry take-out craft beer home. When the growler is empty, take it back and fill it up again. Toast gets second place; Beverage Outlet takes third.

Hidden Gem Restaurant

If your car has GPS (Gem Positioning System), you’re good to go. First stop, Raes Coastal Café, carefully concealed like the grand prize in a culinary scavenger hunt. You elected De Novoto the lofty position of Vice-Best. They have been around since early 2015, so you should know them by now. Spoiler alert: They’re in North Augusta. Inner Bean is another place you really should get in touch with, even if it requires a search.

Restaurant Overall

This category is the granddaddy of them all and at the head of this elite class readers have given the honor to Frog Hollow. That is quite an honor, indeed. Congratulations to kitchen staff, wait staff, bar staff, everybody. Frog Hollow’s co-celebrants are Sheehan’s Irish Pub in second place and, for third, a tie between Edgar’s Grille and 5 O’Clock Bistro. Our sincere compliments to one and all. Bravo!

New Restaurant

Check out these new kids on the block, say fellow diners, beginning with Cucina 503. De Novo (which means “anew, afresh,” appropriately enough) follows in second, then Abel Brown. If these places are indeed the best newbies around, your goal should be to ensure they stay around for a long time to come.


Men’s Clothing Store

They’re just threads arranged in organized patterns, but the Boardroom has built its brand making those patterns and threads the best. That’s what discriminating readers say. Rivers & Glen and the Gentry Men’s Shop complete the well-appointed gentleman’s closet.

Women’s Clothing Store

Picture this couple stepping out on the town: She’s arrayed in the finest Summerville Rags, he’s wearing the Boardroom’s best. They would literally stop traffic. Soho wins the coveted Silver Hanger; Fabrik takes the bronze medal.

Women’s Boutique

Don’t you love it when you go to a party and three or four other ladies are wearing the same dress? No? Then try Fabrik, Augusta’s best boutique by ballot. Soho again wins first alternate, followed by Lav’s Boutique.

Women’s Shoes

Shoes at Surrey does more than win this category; they win the Most Accurate Store Name Medal Prize Award. Shoe Studio wins second place, holding off the newbies down the street, where DSW takes third.

Children’s Clothing

Posh Tots takes crumb-crunchers and, well you know the old saying: clothes make the child. Kid to Kid consignment guarantees none of their clothes are adult clothes that accidentally shrunk in the wash. Pinky promise! Third place: Head to the mall and its many choices.


Sure, their name is Shoe Studio, but the idea is to match purse with shoes, right? Shoes at Surrey also gets the leather off street level; Cudos2U wins third.


Practically anyone can pro-duce, but at Whole Foods it’s pro-duce. See what they did there? In the business that’s known as “putting the pro in produce.” Since voters give Good Earth second place,hopefully there’s no danger they’ll fold their tent and steal away any time soon. We join readers in giving the ol’ green thumb salute to Augusta Locally Grown and Evans Farmers Market, in a tie for third.

Organic Food

If you’re in the market for organic, then hopefully the market you’re in is Whole Foods, say your fellow friends of the earth. Fresh Market and Earth Fare, tied in second place, are like two peas in the same organic pod. New Life Natural Foods elbows in with the big guys for third place.

Fitness/Outdoor Wear

Rivers & Glen has actually gotten fan mail from deer and trout (among others) who have spotted some of their nattily attired customers out in the great outdoors. That’s impressive. Escape Outdoors wins second by telling their customers where to go; Half Moon Outfitters garners third.

Fitness/Outdoor Gear

The competition in this category was in tents. Really. When the dust settled everyone from shotgun shoppers to hammock shoppers agreed: Cabela’s was their top choice. Academy Sports and Dick’s Sporting Goods win first and second runner-ups.

Consignment Shop (Furniture)

Looking for solid oak on a particle-board budget? Readers suggest you try Consign Design first. If they don’t have exactly what you’re looking for, Savvy Shopper just might. Third place in voting is a tie between ReQoop and Home to Home Consignment.

Consignment Shop (Clothing)

Now that your house has been furnished for pennies on the dollar, let’s do the same for our bods, starting our spree at Uptown Cheapskate, whose very name embodies the entire concept. Looking for a wardrobe encore? Second place goes to Encore Consignments and Kid to Kid wins third.


Since consignment groceries never really caught on, voters value value and variety in vittles—and freshness. Do you value value? Then Publix is the most recommended supermarket. Kroger is in the proverbial Aisle 2; Whole Foods cleans up in Aisle 3.

Seafood Market

We placed all the ballots in this category on the scales and Island Seafood came out the winner. Hey, they beat Whole Foods! Third place goes to Fresh Market. Fresh is good.

Nursery/Garden Shop

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, goes the old saying. But the second-best time is today, so head over to Bedford Greenhouses because the same principle applies to shrubs, perennials, even annuals. Green Thumb takes second; Southern Landscaping and Design third.


You’re buying cool stuff to give away? Well kudos to you! Cudos2U is presently the place to go, say voters. In second, The Swank Company is Swanksville when it comes to neato gifts. Design Images is another purveyor of nifty stuff.


Are you smarter than a fifth grader? Let’s just say you wouldn’t want to bet the farm on it, especially if the little geniuses get their toys from Learning  Express. Grown-ups can learn a thing or two there. Old reliable, Toys R Us, wins a Toys R Us gift certificate for placing second. Target is on target in third.

Costume Jewelry

Sometimes there just isn’t time to get the good stuff out of the vault or to drive to the bank and open the safe deposit box. Well, there’s always the next best thing: bright shiny adornments from the Swank Company. Give them a ring. They’ll give you a ring. Cudos2U and Handpicked also vie for a slice of your non-Harry Winston jewelry budget.

Christmas Decorations

This is not the category for “that one house over by Warren Road School.” No, this is where you buy the stuff to compete with that house. Readers suggest Southern Landscaping. And Cudos2U. And the White Crane. In that order.

Place To Shop for Husband/Boyfriend

The ballots say Friedman’s Jewelers, but we suspect they really mean Southeastern Armory, which is inside Friedman’s, and which has more cool stuff than you can shake a stick at (and they sell the sticks too, if you’re looking for a cool walking stick). Rivers & Glen Trading Company is option number two. Cabela’s is number three. Heck, get him one gift certificate from each place.

Place To Shop for Wife/Girlfriend

Gentlemen, you simply cannot go wrong by following the advice of your peers given here: Windsor Fine Jewelers. In fact, many a ballot added, “Ignore at your peril.” Should you decide to do just that, the first runner-up is the Swank Company, followed by Design Images. Heck, get her one gift certificate from each place.


Bring home the oldest antique you can find and—voila!—it’s the newest item in your home. How weird is that? Go to Antique Market on the appropriately and propitiously named Pleasant Home Road and try it yourself. It also works at Mema Had One, according to readers who know. Merry’s Trash and Treasures does their best to weed out the trash. That’s how they scored this top three finish.

Fine Jewelry

The dictionary says this under the word fine: “Worthy; Impressive; Nicely Done; Superlative; Opulent; Regal.” Amazingly enough, those words can be abbreviated as W.I.N.D.S.O.R., although we’re all used to seeing it as simply Windsor (technically Windsor Fine Jewelers). Estate Jewelry Center is first runner-up. Friedman’s comes next.

Home Furnishings

Do you live in a house? That house can become a home with the assistance of Andrews Gallery, advise readers. For example, your living room can become the drawing room. Consign Design and Weinberger’s (second and third respectively) can help too. Any room can become a great room.


5K Run

Let’s face it: a 401k is too far. 5K is just right, especially if it’s the Color Run. Jingle Jam (second place) is a 10K, which is simply two 5Ks, right? Heart and Sole and the Turkey Trot break the third place ribbon in a photo finish.

Fitness Center/Gym

All of us have six-pack abs, but many of us are looking for our inner six-pack. For us, the Family Y is the place to go. The ballots say so. Oxygen Fitness Studio and Evans Fitness Club in second and third will also be happy to assist in the search. They’re in there somewhere, we’re sure of it.

Day spa

To feel like a million bucks without spending anywhere near that much, readers suggest Tuscany Classic Spa. Retreat Spa and Salon provides a true retreat (in second) and as for Serenity Day Spa, just walk in and tell them you need some serenity in your life. They’ll take it from there.

Place To Swim

They took the basic Y, added water and—voila!—the Family Y wins the category. Augusta Aquatics Center is another place that celebrates the life aquatic, followed by the biggest pool in these parts, Clarks Hill Lake.

Place To Work Out

As Americans, we need to work in more work outs. Seriously. And that is the Family Y’s very raison d’etre. Just show up on their doorstep; they’ll help you work it out. Evans Fitness Club wins second; The Kroc Center could also be the salvation of your fitness plan. They score third.

Golf Course/Public

Forest Hills Golf Club, now in its 90th year, has been played by Bobby Jones, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love II and Patrick Reed among others. You can add your name to the list if you’re so inclined and your fellow readers say you should be. The River Golf Club and Jones Creek complete the top 54 holes.

Golf Course/Private

Personally, when we can’t play Augusta National we just don’t play. Our theory is that the National will respond by offering us full membership—and very soon. The best for the rest of you begins with the Augusta Country Club, the front 18 if you will. Then comes Champions Retreat, followed by West Lake Country Club.

Tennis Courts

Contrary to popular opinion, all tennis courts are not created equally. If they were, would Newman Tennis Center be the clear victor? No. Would Petersburg Racquet Club be second? No. Would West Lake Country Club be third? Again, no.

Place To Ride a Bicycle

You want someplace that’s paved, or a little on the wild side? Flat and easy, or hilly and challenging? No matter your answer, we think voters have you covered. The top answer is Augusta Canal, which we’ll assume means the towpath. Next up is North Augusta’s lovely Greeneway. Fear not: All trains have been removed. In third, the Forks Area Trail System (FATS). For the bikeless, all three winners are also great places to walk, hike, jog, etc.

Best-Kept Recreational Secret

We asked our printer about placing a small flap over this category in every copy, but the price was prohibitive. They suggested we just precede the results with “Spoiler Alert!” That accomplished, here we go: The single best-kept secret is or are the Augusta Sports Leagues, offering everything from softball to Olympics-worthy cornhole and dodgeball competition to its membership. In second, readers extol the area’s many sterling yet overlooked kayaking opportunities. Phinizy Swamp (third) may not be a secret to assorted eagles, woodpeckers, bobcats and beavers, but it is to humans.

Place To Play Pool

Don’t be snookered: Rack & Grill is tops, say readers. Downtown’s Sports Center also gets high marks and Robbie’s Sports Bar gets the 3-ball in the corner pocket.

Place To Walk Your Dog

The Augusta Canal gets another gold medal. It was kind of a gimme since both people and dogs were voting. The Greeneway again follows, winning the coveted Silver Scooper Award. Evans Towne Center Dog Park, which is Lady Antebellum-adjacent, also makes the grade.

Best Local Festival

Arts in the Heart of Augusta has become more than a local arts festival. It’s a major Southeastern event. Best of all, it is local. And it’s the best, say readers. The Banjo B-Que combines pulled pork and strummed strings, which is pretty much an unbeatable combination for second place. Third place is a tie between the Greek Festival and Westobou. All told that adds up to four fine festivals.

Place To Get Back To Nature

There’s no real way to dress up a swamp, is there? That’s why Phinizy Swamp Nature Park almost had to win. It’s a natural for this category. Walk along the Augusta Canal, your second choice, and you can see the hand of man on one side and nature’s on the other. Clarks Hill Lake takes the final spot in the top three.

Place to Propose Marriage

Congratulations, voters! Enthroning the Savannah Rapids Park as the victor shows an appreciation for serenity and beauty that bodes well for the future of every marriage proposed there. Another worthy option is the lovely shaded pathways and benches of Riverwalk. And the Augusta Canal overall, the portion downstream from the Savannah Rapids, takes third.

Place To Break Off a Relationship

We admit, this is a little jarring to immediately follow the best proposal spots, but sometimes that’s how the cookie crumbles. We’re a little dismayed by the first and second place nominations: via cell phone (first) and Facebook (second). Seriously? Way harsh. A little decency and civility makes an appearance in third place with “in private.”

Fundraising Event

Lights for Lydia is your favorite, helping support women coping with cancer. The Jingle Jam (benefiting Safe Homes of Augusta) and Art of Chocolate (in support of Child Enrichment) tie for second place; Good Boats, the annual dragon boat festival benefiting Goodwill, wins third.

Weekend Getaway

Want to get away? Charleston, S.C., your top destination, is famed as the Most Mannerly City in America, a reputation that has only grown in the past year. Savannah is almost as escape-worthy, just missing first place, and good old Hilton Head is always ready when you are (in third).


Local TV Station

Winning this category has nothing to do with network shows. It’s all about the local team and by that measure your collective fave happens to be the staff at WJBF. The rest of the alphabet soup is WRDW in second place and WAGT in third.

Local TV News Anchor/Female

This honor goes to veteran anchor Jennie Montgomery of WJBF, while second place goes to a relative newcomer to the position, Laura Warren of WRDW. Paige Tucker of WAGT wins third.

Local TV Morning News Anchor

Since much of the rest of the world is sneaking around doing stuff while we’re asleep, this is an important category. It’s a lot more than today’s school lunch menus. Just ask the reigning queen of the category, Barclay Bishop of WAGT. The erstwhile Meredith Anderson earned a silver morning medal for WRDW. Mary Morrison of WJBF adds another medal, a bronze, to her trophy case.

Local TV News Anchor/Male

The newsworthy gentlemen are led by Richard Rogers of WRDW. Voters, you’ve got 12 on your side. Brad Means and John Hart, colleagues at WJBF, complete what we sometimes (but not very often) call the Trio at the Top.

Local TV News Anchor/Weather

There are slow news days, but weather is happening all the time, 24/7/365 (except during leap years). Jay Jeffries of WAGT holds down this vital anchor position as your number one source for the latest forecast. George Myers, chief meteorologist at WJBF, gets first runner-up, followed by WAGT’s Rich Rogers (not to be confused with Richard Rogers).

Local TV weekend news Anchor

After a brief hiatus from the news, Ashley Campbell (WAGT) celebrates her return with a gold medal. Way to go, Ashley! Silver medalist Christie Ethridge (WRDW) was so good she’s been promoted to the 5 p.m. First at Five co-anchor desk. Mike Miller of WJBF wins third.

Local TV News Reporter

George Eskola (WJBF) can cover the hard news stories and the offbeat, zany ones too. For that, he earns your recognition as the best. Colleague Renetta DuBose, heiress to the Bose audio fortune—strike that; wrong person—takes second place. In third, Danielle Hughes of WRDW.

Local Sports Reporter

Ashley Brown of WGAC (radio), aka AB, gets the trophy from readers. The man is a walking encyclopedia whether the topic is the SEC, the NBA or NFL, local high school sports or Bulgarian lacrosse. Back on TV, Kevin Faigle, sports director at WRDW is runner up. Brendan Robertson of WAGT takes first place in the consolation round.

Local Radio Station

What’s on in the car or playing while the morning coffee perks? It would seem WGAC AM/FM is the number one preset button. In second place two very distant cousins: New Country Kicks 99 and WAEG Smooth Jazz (92.3 FM). Another tie in third place: WBBQ (104.3) and WAFJ (88.3).

Local Talk Radio Personality

Depending on your point of view, Marconi is either spinning in his grave every afternoon from 3 to 6 or Austin Rhodes (WGAC) is his favorite son. But the lovers and the haters both seem to be listening, which is always good for ratings. Harley Drew and Mary Liz Nolan (WGAC) once again attempt a challenge and once again fall just short. Maybe next year.

Local Radio Morning Show

But while Austin is still snoring, Harley and Mary Liz crank up “Augusta’s Morning News”  and “The Morning News Coffee Break” from 6 to 9 a.m., with a wake up call for radio listeners year after year. The Kicks 99 Wake Up Krew holds forth in second (not fourth) and WAFJ’s John and Cleve win third.

Local News Story

The resignation and departure of Dr. Ricardo Azziz from GRU (now Augusta University) was your choice for the year’s top—well, technically, the best—news story. Now that he’s gone, wonder how long it will be before some area parks and streets are named after him? Second place in this category is the ongoing saga of Project Jackson and the Augusta GreenJackets adding “North” to their name. Are we not in the South? Rounding out the top news stories: the continuing impact of the U.S. Army Cyber Command’s move of its headquarters to Fort Gordon.


The Augusta Chronicle’s Bill Kirby wins an all-expenses-paid (by Bill) trip to the state he didn’t get a postcard from. Congratulations, Bill! The Chronicle’s Sylvia Cooper scoops up second place and Augusta Magazine’s own Deb Barshafsky wins third. You are all so write for these honors!

Best Part of Augusta Magazine

Logic would suggest that the best part almost has to be the best part and, sure enough, voters said Best of Augusta is, well, the best. The Around Town section—starring voters themselves—wins second place.We will ignore the apparent conflict of interest. And our covers take third, proving once again that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can judge a magazine that way.


Barber Shop

In these days of franchised everything, it’s refreshing to report a top three of locally owned tonsorial parlors, starting with Durden’s Barber Shop at the top. Taking a little off the top we come to King’s Crown, still a decidedly regal second place, followed in third by Russell’s Corner Barber Shop.

Local Charity

Readers voted The Lydia Project into first place in recognition of their multi-faceted approach to care and assistance for women facing cancer. Tied in second are two worthy recipients of your votes: Golden Harvest Food Bank and Child Enrichment. Ditto for third place: another tie, this time between Augusta Warrior Project and Ronald McDonald House.

Special Events Facility

If you held a paint drying expo within the soaring confines of Sacred Heart Cultural Center, it would be special. It’s just that kind of place. In another direction entirely is Evans Towne Park and Lady Antebellum Amphitheater. The stained glass windows and cathedral ceilings are gone, replaced by the great outdoors. It’s just that kind of place. Not that third place isn’t legendary too: The Legends Club takes that honor.

Christmas Lights Display

Lights of the South has millions upon millions of lights strung through a 100-acre forest. That’s hard to beat and, in fact, no one did. They open November 20, according to their website. Broad Street in downtown Augusta wins second place and Aiken’s beautiful Hopelands Gardens takes third.

Best Reason To Like Columbia County

Your reason numero uno is the Columbia County school system. It gets high marks all over, not just from our readers. Next up is Evans Towne Center Park. It regularly hosts world-class events, true, but when nothing special is happening it just has that nice small-town vibe going for it. What we’re trying to say is what you said in third place: It’s family-friendly.

Best Reason To Like Richmond County

Your leading reason: downtown events. It’s amazing how often something is happening on the Augusta Common. There are the downtown biggies like Arts in the Heart, First Fridays and Border Bash, but there are also dozens of other happenings large and small all year long. Richmond also has block after block of historic neighborhoods, entire square miles of vintage neighborhoods that look like they should be movie sets. Your third “Like” is museums. Visit one this week!

Tourist Attraction

Where should you take the guests to show off our fair city? The expert panel we call our readers has installed Augusta Canal boat tours at the top of the list and that is an excellent choice, indeed. Another worthy option: the Ghost Trolley tour, combining a little history and maybe a little histrionics (although it’s really not too scary). In third, pack a picnic basket or a rod and reel and take a spin to Clarks Hill Lake.

Historic Landmark

These can all do double duty as tourist attractions too, starting with Woodrow Wilson’s Boyhood Home. Sacred Heart is a spectacular landmark and your second choice. Third place goes to the Confederate Powder works alongside the Augusta Canal.

Place To Get a Speeding Ticket

We’ve discovered the hard way that if you intend to disregard speed limit laws and get away with it, it’s best to locate a woman having labor pains less than three minutes apart and have her ride with you. Otherwise, the best place to get what you’ve got coming is on Riverwatch Parkway, say readers. Or pretty much anywhere in North Augusta, especially if you have Georgia plates. Third place goes to Berckmans Road. Honestly though, the best place is nowhere, so slow down and make that happen.

New Civic Project

Dozens of artists transformed drab utility boxes into 3-D works of art and the result is Art the Box, your favorite new civic project. The Miller Theater may not be new, but it would like to be—and we have every confidence it will be again. Third place goes to Turn Back the Block, the ambitious project to revitalize Harrisburg house by house, block by block.

Places You Wish Were Still Here

Will the winner be Schlotzsky’s? Anderson’s Pond? Old Ellenton? No! It’s Fat Man’s Forest. It’s amazing how often you think of something and wonder where it would be available, followed by, “I bet Fat Man’s would have had it.” Oh well. Fort Discovery lives on at number two Memory Lane, right next door to Duke’s Restaurant.


Male Vocalist

Your favorite is multitalented singer/songwriter Chris Hardy. His music is seriously fun. Next up is Carey Murdock, Augusta born and raised, although you might just as easily track him down in Nashville or on tour in France or Sweden or someplace. In
third Phillip Lee Jr. rocks.

Female Vocalist

If you drop in Wild Wing or Somewhere on a Friday or Saturday night, you’re likely one of those who voted country singer Donna Jo into the top spot. In second, the adorable Brandi Nicole. Who does your hair, girl? Tara Scheyer gets the bronze, and is well on her way to a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Jazz Band

Bill Karp wins, which is not surprising: the man seems to play everywhere. Karen Gordon and Gordon City—strike that—Garden City Jazz scoops up a bronze medal, and the venerable Preston and Weston trio takes third.

R&B Band

Hey, this is Augusta. Who do you think won? J.A.M.P.  To refresh your memory, that stands for James (Brown) Academy of Musik Pupils. The ever-popular Funk You takes the stage next and they never disappoint. Perfect Picture Band wins third.

Country Band

The winner is County Line and that’s not the half of it: They will cross county and state lines to commit country music to listeners. The Jeremy Graham Band has seen these pages before and they’re seeing them again. And we’re hearing them. Congratulations also to the Daniel Johnson Band. They received enough first-place votes to land in third.

Rock/Alternative Band

If you know the Phillip Lee Band, you know that readers are excellent judges of talent. Thanks, Phillip Lee Sr, for bringing us Phillip Lee Jr. Daddy Grace has to settle for second and third is an even tie between Livingroom Legends and The Breaking News Band. Breaking News’s secret weapon: Christi Ethridge on cowbell.

Bluegrass Band

It’s amazing how the strains of certain kinds of music—the kind The Henrys have mastered—can magically send you down a quiet country road. We need more of that. Delta Cane is your choice for second place and Eryn Eubanks and the Family Fold win third.

Contemporary Christian Band/Vocalist

“Contemporary“ means Ryan Abel, your favorite, probably only sings “Jesus Loves Me” by special request. But hey, you can ask. Eryn Eubanks wins the silver this time and The Remedy, dual threats who play Christian music and Southern Rock, takes third.

Performing Arts Group

Since virtually all art is performance art in one way another, the field was wide open on this one. When the dust settled, the curtain rose to reveal Storyland Theatre all alone at the top, gazing consolingly down at the Augusta Players in second and Dance Augusta in third. Perform on, y’all.

Concert Venue

We’ve all been to more than enough concerts in school cafeterias and gyms. We deserve an upgrade and Lady Antebellum Amphitheater is just the ticket: sweet music, lovely breezes and the sky above. Voters say it doesn’t get any better than that. While we impatiently await the return of the Miller, the indoor venues are headlined by the Imperial Theatre first and the Bell Auditorium second.

Professional Arts Performance

The question here is not the best individual performance so much as the most consistent provider of the best performances. The gold medal goes to Augusta Ballet, say readers, and deservedly so. Symphony Orchestra Augusta got the second-highest number of first-place votes. Bravo! Dance Augusta (think The Nutcracker) wins third.

Public Art

Walk in any day of the week that falls between Tuesday and Sunday (especially Sunday if you’re on a tight budget) and savor the collections of the Morris Museum of Art, the world’s first museum dedicated to the art and artists of the American South. Readers give it top marks (figuratively speaking). The Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art is first runner-up; the James Brown statue can’t run—it just stands there—but somehow it still managed to place third.

School Band

Strap tubas and trombones on a couple dozen kids and then tell them to play songs while marching in choreographed patterns around a huge field and what have you got? If you really want to know, go to an Evans High School football game this fall. Readers say they have elevated this musical art form into the rarefied category of best. Lakeside High and Josey High finish second and third.

Singles Spot

Our readers are really not the type to wear beer goggles. But if they were they might visit the Indian Queen, anointing it on their ballots as the best place to mix adults and adult beverages together, then stir. The Country Club also got enough single votes to add up to second place; Metro Coffeehouse is singled out for third place honors.

Dance Spot

Good question: Where is the best dance spot? It’s not easy to find in the semi-darkness, but it’s on the floor of the Country Club, marked by a small duct tape “X.” Find it, then dance like nobody’s watching. Sky City has another good dance spot, but you’ll have to find it yourself. Ditto for the Ballroom Dance Center in third.

Late Night Spot

What will win? Bed? Waffle House? Not even! The winner is the Indian Queen (the Augusta bar, not the 17th century opera). Surrey Tavern also is a great place to end one day and begin another, say the ballots. Soul Bar wins third.

Sports Bar

Keep tabs on 14 games at once while simultaneously flexing your elbow at regular intervals? That sounds a lot like Wild Wing Café, say readers. You can also wet your whistle (but not the referee’s) at Carolina Ale House, suggest ballots. Somewhere in Augusta scores a third-place finish.

Live Music Bar

It’s no surprise to live music aficionados that Sky City takes top honors. Wild Wing also keeps its stage well supplied with local musicians, and the Country Club and Stillwater Tap Room are tied  for third. Support live local music!

Bar To Watch People

It’s fascinating, isn’t it? And it gets more interesting with each successive round. Try the Soul Bar for this spectator sport, say your fellow readers, and you can leave the binoculars at home. The Country Club is first alternate and third place is a tie between Wild Wing Café and the new kids on the block: Twin Peaks.

Neighborhood Bar

Always good to have one, since there are times it would be best to be within walking distance of home. You can fetch the car in the morning, right? The Indian Queen offers the best neighborhood bar feel (it works even if you don’t live nearby); The Fox’s Lair is another worthy reader selection; BirdDog Grille wins third.

This article appears in the October 2015 issue of Augusta Magazine.

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    Jay Jefferies stops by to deliver the weather and much more!
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