Best of Augusta 2016

If you’re new to the area, this issue is your guide to discovering the best Augusta has to offer. If you’re a long-time resident, what follows is sure to enhance your appreciation of Augusta and lead you to some fresh new discoveries of your own.




Best Restaurant Overall

This combines everything: the best food and drink, the finest and friendliest service, great atmosphere, the best appetizers to the most sinful desserts, whether the cuisine is from Europe, Asia or the Americas. This is the whole enchilada, even if enchiladas aren’t on the menu. Your votes send Frog Hollow to this prestigious position of honor. Congratulations! First runner-up status goes to Solé Grill & Sushi Bar. Readers rank Sheehan’s Irish Pub as second runner-up. Bravo to all three.



Even if you don’t show up at sunrise, the great folks at Sunrise Grill will still feed you. Is this a great country or what? No wonder they’re your favorite place to grab an appetizer of Wheaties, followed by orange juice, bacon, eggs and sausage, with pancakes and coffee for dessert. Your esteemed runners up: New Moon Café and Bodega Ultima.



What starts well is usually going to continue in similar fashion. That’s why Craft & Vine is an excellent dining choice: readers give them the highest marks in appetizers, a sure sign of more good things to come. Speaking of which, The Bee’s Knees and Solé Grill & Sushi Bar (in second and third) also tease taste buds in tempting fashion downtown.



If barbecue is akin to a religion in the South, then another word for atheist is vegetarian. Friends, have a little faith and belly up to a checkered tablecloth at Sconyers. You’ll feel better. Like all barbecue eateries, North Augusta’s
The Pot Smoker, your second choice, offers that great BBQ aroma. Inhale by all means! Southbound Smokehouse wins third.



When you’re in the mood for a great meal you really can’t sink your teeth into, visit Sunshine Bakery.
It’s soup. Walton Way Deli and New Moon Café also bowled over our expert panel of readers.



Even during an election year, Wild Wing Café doesn’t discriminate between Left Wing and Right Wing customers. They do request that you always order an even number of wings, however. Think about it. Southbound Smokehouse (pictured here) makes yet another appearance on the medals stand, taking home silver while Wing Stop scores the bronze.



When all the votes were weighed, the scales tipped in favor of T’s Restaurant. Scales are a big deal at seafood restaurants, you know. Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar is beyond third place. They’re in second, as a matter of fact. Bonefish Grill wins third.



If you love steak—and who doesn’t?—check out Tbonz, the #1 purveyor of steaks year after year, say the ballots. If you’d like to become a steakholder in their business, you only need a small amount of capital, a fork and perhaps a steak knife. A-1 is optional. The Chop House places second; Augustino’s is third.



If you can’t put up with the S.O.B. even one more day, the ballots say go to Twisted Burrito in Evans for a fresh approach. It’s anything but the Same Old Burrito. The names on the menu alone will tell you that. Nacho Mama’s and Diablo’s Southwest Grill have a burrito battle for seond and third, respectively.



Voters did a CAT scan of area seafood eateries and the result was another
gold medal for T’s Restaurant.
Readers say they’re the cat’s pajamas of catfish. Old McDonald Fish Camp and Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar (second and third, respectively) are also top choices.



Who doesn’t enjoy a little good-natured ribbing from time to time? Next time you do, your fellow readers recommend Shane’s Rib Shack, with Pot Smoker and Southbound Smokehouse doing an encore, again in second and third.


Fried Chicken

As the old saying goes, “everyone loves the hometown chicken,” which is why Wifesaver is once again Chicken a la King, which is Bulgarian for “Best Fried Chicken.” Maryland Fried Chicken considered changing its name to MFC, but the Colonel might have objected. Third place goes to Honey From the Rock. If you ask, they’ve also got honey mustard from the rock.



If you’re reading this, what you’re really looking for is something with a couple of extra Z’s tacked on, pizza with pizzazz, in other words. Your fellow readers anoint Mellow Mushroom to the coveted Pizza Pinnacle. Stop by soon so it won’t be lonely at the top. The Pizza Joint wins the silver medal and Yo Pizza is the third tasty topping.


Hot Dog

We asked voters who think hot dog is a noun to abstain from voting, preferring only those who view the term as an exclamation. That left only people who say “Hot dog!” as voters, and they say Sonic elevates the hot dog to high art. Or as they say at exclusive French restaurants, “Chaud Chien.” Sam’s Hot Dog Stand gets second place and Farmhaus takes third.


Ice Cream

Are you more of a bowl person or a cone person? Either way, the ballots suggest you make a cold call to Bruster’s, the cold gold victor in the battle between the top scoopers in town. Cold Stone Creamery gets the silver and The Pink Dipper takes home the bronze.



Is there another word in the entire English language that covers so much real estate? The word covers everything from peanut butter and pepperoni sandwiches to tuna & jelly. But whatever it is, Hildebrandt’s is the place to go. The people have spoken. They also say Village Deli is worthy. Your third choice: new kid Jason of Jason’s Deli.



If we don’t eat hamburgers, the Hamburglar wins. So despite the threat of crime, people keep streaming to Farmhaus for their burgers. Don’t forget: their full name is Farmhaus Burger. If you can’t visit in person, at least listen to their website. Gary’s Hamburgers and Five Guys add their creations to the best burger party platter.



These sugary little gems have quite a presence in the world of food. Their very name begins with a commanding “Do!” They aren’t called don’tnuts, ladies and gentlemen. Just ask the master donut builders at Krispy Kreme, the reader fave. Next up: Belair Donuts, follwed by Kim’s Donuts.



Whether it’s just bread and nothing but—like the pre-appetizer appetizer in many restaurants—or the platform upon which is piled meats, cheeses, lettuce, tomato, mustard, mayo or any of a few thousand other options, readers say Manuel’s Bread Café is the upper crust of the local bread world. Sunshine Bakery and Panera Bread round out the top members of local bread board.



Desserts. Plural. Because nobody can eat just one. You might want to start with carrot cake with a side of chocolate mousse, follow that with some pie and a maybe a scoop of sorbet, then finish with a slab of blackberry cobbler a la mode. Or, simply go to The Boll Weevil Café and Sweetery and order one of everything on their splendid dessert menu. Readers also recommend French Market Grill and Edgar’s Grille (in that order) for additional waistline enhancement.


Special occasion cakes

The artistry in cake building has taken a quantum leap in recent years. Once upon a time, you might have been amazed by “Have fun in Paris!” written in frosting on a sheet cake. These days, that message might come on a two-foot tall cake shaped like the Eiffel Tower. Readers say the cake artists at A Piece of Cake are worthy of #1 status, followed by Delightful Bites and Lil’ Dutch Bakery.



Voters say you won’t get a raw deal at Takosushi—unless that’s what you order, of course. Solé Grill & Sushi Bar, whose sushi platter is pictured above, is the sole winner of second place, followed by Miyabi Japanese Steak and Seafood House.


Pastries & cookies

Two Moms Cookies is the reader favorite. We looked up their website online (we had to enable cookies on our computer) and discovered they are very sensitive to the needs of people trying to lose weight. If you are someone who has trouble eating just one cookie, they offer a 12-inch size. That’s definitely helpful. Lil’ Dutch Bakery wins first runner-up; A Piece of Cake wins third.



Some people drink coffee only in the morning or only when the weather is cold. What is wrong with some people? Buona Caffe will gladly help stage an intervention if that’s what’s required. Readers also say The Coffee Geek can help, as can New Moon Café.


Iced tea

The Cold War may be over, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lingering skirmishes, like over whose ice cold iced tea reigns as best. Well, we have the answer. The people have spoken. Wifesaver wins the brewhaha. Second place goes to Honey From the Rock. That sounds sweet. In third: Sunshine Bakery.


beer selection/take home

As a growler bar—growler being a word dating back to the late 1800s for a pitcher or jug for transporting beer—Hive Growler Bar gets us coming and going. They score another Best in this category. Running a close second is Evans’ Tip Top Taps and Toast Wine & Beverage completes the top three.


Beer menu

With 61 beers on tap, Hive Growler Bar was an easy top pick for the largest bloc of voters. Stillwater Taproom also scored well, and Pizza Joint takes third.


Wine menu

It’s extensive at Craft & Vine, your top choice. But there’s no need to be intimidated. The menu breaks it down for you, so you can choose light and fruity or bold and robust. You don’t even have to pretend to be a wine expert (but you can if you want to). Just up the block, Frog Hollow is first runner-up. Cadwalladers Café adds another medal to its many wine-related honors over the years in third.


Wine merchant

There are no grapes of wrath in this category, just grapes of happiness—in liquid form, bottled up and ready to take home. From Toast Wine & Beverage in particular, say the votes. North Augusta’s Wine World reprises last year’s second place finish with another one just like it; ditto for Vineyard in third.


Wine by the Glass

If you fancy a glass of wine, then head to Craft & Vine! They took top honors in this category. Surrey Center’s reputation as a dining mecca gives them second place in this category, with Finch & Fifth. We’re back downtown again at the Bee’s Knees in third.


Happy Hour

After a long and grueling day of tapping on a keyboard, nothing looks better to downtown’s legions of office workers than the Solé Grill & Sushi Bar happy hour. At least that’s what our readers tell us. The Bee’s Knees adds another silver to its trophy case and Edgar’s Grill wins third.


Friendly service

Proving once again that it doesn’t take chandeliers, linen and silver to excel in food service, Chick-fil-A takes top honors in this vital category. Way to go! The rest of the surprising field: The Coffee Geek and Honey From the Rock score second and third.



Caterers and chefs are the most important players in many a dining experience, but also the most invisible. They let the food do the talking for them, but readers let their votes do their talking, and they say it’s another #1 finish for Jennifer Shuford and Tastefully Yours. Silver Palm Catering wins next best.


Down home cooking

Owned and operated by Whole Life Ministries, Honey from the Rock Café is absolutely divine, according to the votes. Apparently collard greens and collared votes are their dual specialties. Goolsby’s and Ruth’s also serve up the city’s favorite down-home food.



Try this next Tuesday: it’s midmorning. The hungries strike. As you head for the door, call out to your colleagues, “Anyone up for brunch at Edgar’s Grille?” Just watch how many follow you! And watch how many of you will file for unemployment that afternoon! Maybe we’d better stick to Sunday Brunch. Elsewhere around town, Augustino’s also gets high reader marks, as does Bonefish Grill.



We would not suggest taking the reader recommendations that follow on the same day you sample Best Brunch, but ultimately that’s up to you. Either way, the surprise winner is Moe’s Southwest Grill. They will definitely welcome you. Honey From the Rock gets yet another Top 3 finish and Village Deli completes the triple play.


Italian restaurant

Italians have definitely put themselves on the world map, food-wise. Locally, Carrabba’s Italian Grill is the top destination, at least according to our readers. People love the outside of the building as much as what they serve inside. The Garlic Clove takes second, and last but definitely not least Cucina 503 (conveniently located at 502 Furys Ferry Road) scores the coveted medaglia di bronzo. See what we did there?


Mexican restaurant

Did you know there are almost 70 Monterrey Mexican Restaurants in their chain? There’s a lot to like, say the ballots. Numero Dos goes to Poblano’s Mexican Grill. Ask for the owner, Señor Poblano, next time you’re there. Salsa’s wins third.


Asian restaurant

The culinary world tour always starts in the Far East, but we have imported the best to our fair city. You don’t even have to get a passport to go to Thailand—if you take readers’ advice and visit Thai Kitchen. Ditto for Option 2: Fuji Asian. And for Option 3: Kawa Japanese Tapas and Grill.


Japanese restaurant

Miyabi Japanese Steak and Seafood House tops the list of reader favorites, probably as much for the entertaining grill masters as much as the delicious food. Kawa reappears, this time for a next-best finish, and Fujiyama Japanese Steak House wins third.


Indian restaurant

The beauty of foreign cuisines lies in its variety, and Indian cuisine is no exception, famous for its delicious and exotic spices. Bland is not in the vocabulary at places like your favorite, Taj of India, nor at runner-ups India Café or Curry Hut. They all come highly recommended.


Downtown restaurant

Downtown Augusta as a dining destination is superb and often overlooked. That combination means great dining without the 45-minute wait for a table you might encounter in suburbia. Try Frog Hollow first, say the ballots. Next best by reader acclaim: Solé Grill & Sushi Bar. Finally, Whiskey Bar Kitchen completes the best of downtown.


Elegant dining/romantic dining

These two categories, kissing cousins to start with, also share the same winners list: Frog Hollow gets the gold. Twice. That’s a high honor indeed. Calvert’s takes both silver medals, and Cadwallader’s Café sweeps third. Now let’s light the candles, cue the soft music and pour the wine.


Craft cocktail

There’s an art to the craft of mixology, and readers give the gold to Craft & Vine, appropriately enough. The Indian Queen and The Bee’s Knees battle to a second-place tie, while Solé Grill & Sushi Bar is, as you might guess, all alone in third.


New restaurant

It’s always a treat to sample a new restaurant, and the voting public has given you three great choices. If you haven’t already tried these, here is your official invitation. Solé Grill & Sushi Bar takes top honors, and no wonder: you’ve seen their name numerous times in the previous categories. Southbound Smokehouse comes next, giving new
life to a venerable Augusta dining location. Twisted Burrito completes the newbie triplets with a fresh take on a traditional favorite.


Neighborhood hidden gem

As we mentioned above, there are plenty of fine eateries where you’d better not show up hungry, because you’ll be waiting for a table for quite awhile. Instead, use Google and GPS to try these hidden gems that are slightly off the path beaten to all the usual choices. 1st Place: Rae’s Coastal Café. 2nd Place: Humanitree House. 3rd Place: The Pot Smoker BBQ.


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, Southbound Smokehouse. And in third, but not least, Village Deli.


Neighborhood Bar

Want to go where everybody knows your name? Then head over the Southbound Smokehouse and grab a drink after a long day at the office. Want to kick back at a cabin in the woods without the long drive? You’re in luck if you’ve discovered the Indian Queen, which takes second place. It’s your urban wilderness experience, replete with bartenders no less. Metro downtown scoops up the bronze.


Outdoor dining

If the weather is right, there’s nothing better than dining al fresco, especially, say the ballots, if you’re doing the deed at downtown’s Solé Grill & Sushi Bar. This is definitely the time of year to check it out. Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar pipes their AC outdoors, so that’s cool. If everyone did that we wouldn’t have global warming, right? And in third, Pizza Joint says let’s take this outside.




Male vocalist

It’s going to be tough for blues-infused Shane Davis to sing the blues after being voted #1 Male Vocalist. It won’t be easy, and therefore it will still be bluesey. Moving from our senior vocalist to the junior circuit, second place sees a battle of juniors, as Phillip Lee Jr. and Dwight Bradham Jr. are deadlocked in second. The glorious pipes of Ryan
Abel take third.


Female vocalist

Beautiful lady, beautiful voice. That’s what readers say about Donna Jo Carroll. Silver medalist Funmilayo Ngozi has performed in Amsterdam, London and Paris when she isn’t playing Aiken. Or Hephzibah. Perennial favorite Tara Scheyer takes home third.


Country band

The Kenny George Band is so country they hate to play here in the big city. But they manage somehow—enough to win the category! It would be funny if County Line was a crossover band—get it?—but they are pure country, and they win second. As for McKenna Hydrick, she’s so good she won third. It’s like she’s an entire band wrapped up in one woman.


Jazz band

The American Jazz Combo—as if there’s some other kind—scores as the reader favorite. But wait, there’s more. First, here’s your second-favorite jazz performer: Garden City Jazz. Good thing they’re located in Augusta, right? As promised earlier, more: third place on the ballots goes to Bill Karp. Wait a second. He’s one person, not a band. And he’s the vocalist for the American Jazz Combo, which has already won this category. Is any of this even legal?


School band

Lakeside High School is so good, say readers, that they even have a warm-up act they tour with. It’s the Lakeside football team. After they get the crowd (and the field warmed up), the crowd gets what they’ve been waiting for: marching band music. The pattern is repeated at Greenbrier (second) and Evans. That’s a clean sweep for Columbia County.


Country band

The Kenny George Band is so country they hate to play here in the big city. But they manage somehow—enough to win the category! It would be funny if County Line was a crossover band—get it?—but they are pure country, and they win second. As for McKenna Hydrick, she’s so good she won third. It’s like she’s an entire band wrapped up in one woman.


Jazz band

The American Jazz Combo—as if there’s some other kind—scores as the reader favorite. But wait, there’s more. First, here’s your second-favorite jazz performer: Garden City Jazz. Good thing they’re located in Augusta, right? As promised earlier, more: third place on the ballots goes to Bill Karp. Wait a second. He’s one person, not a band. And he’s the vocalist for the American Jazz Combo, which has already won this category. Is any of this even legal?


School band

Lakeside High School is so good, say readers, that they even have a warm-up act they tour with. It’s the Lakeside football team. After they get the crowd (and the field warmed up), the crowd gets what they’ve been waiting for: marching band music. The pattern is repeated at Greenbrier (second) and Evans. That’s a clean sweep for Columbia County.


Rock band

The winner here is Anyone’s Guess. No, really. It’s Anyone’s Guess. Wanna know who won second? No Sir. Seriously. No Sir. And in third something we all want: Happy Bones.


Bluegrass band

Readers send Delta Cane off into the sunset with a gold medal to tell the grandkids about in their golden years. Thanks for the memories. Meanwhile, Eryn Eubanks and the Family Fold—of silver medal fame—is still kickin it, while Doug and The Henrys gets third.


Contemporary christian band

Christian as in “incorporating gospel themes into the act.” Contemporary as in “plugging amplifiers into electric wall sockets, recording digitally and what have you.” By that definition (loosely), readers chose Funmilayo Ngozi. She is a force of nature, trust us. When Ryan Abel gets religious on us, it can send a chill down your spine. And finally, Eryn Eubanks and The Family Fold round out the trinity of winners.


Performing arts group

On a related note (see previous category) Dance 2 Inspire inspired readers to vote them into first place. That’s uplifting for sure. Augusta Players gets a semi-standing ovation…kind of like half-sitting, not quite standing, as is appropriate for second place. Victory Productions, speaking of inspiring, is keeping it real in third.


Singles spot

No, it’s not the far-right slot in the cash drawer. It’s The Indian Queen. The ballots say so! Our expert panel says another likely spot to meet your future—yes, your future—is The Country Club. Metro (full name: Metro A Coffee House) wins third.


Live music bar

If there’s one thing harder than a musician’s life, it’s when said musician practices for hours, days and weeks and stays up late, all just to play to an empty (or nearly empty) house. The antidote: support live local music at places like
1. Sky City; 2. StillWater Taproom and 3. Southbound Smokehouse.


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.


Late-night spot

The winner here could be a place with tile on the floors, fluorescents on the ceiling and waffles on the plates. But it isn’t. It’s The Indian Queen yet again. And The Country Club takes another first runner-up. But this time The Highlander gets the final spot among the top three.


Local festival

Even though it’s held at the beginning of fall, there’s a rumor that Arts in the Heart of Augusta, your fave festival, may change its name to Arts in the Heat of Augusta. It could happen. It would save money on signs. Another big vote getter is Banjo-B-Que Music Festival. Actually, it was Willie Nelson’s favorite CSRA music festival last year. The Greek Festival wins third. Opa!!!

The winner here is Anyone’s Guess. No, really. It’s Anyone’s Guess. Wanna know who won second? No Sir. Seriously. No Sir. And in third something we all want: Happy Bones. 


Sports bar

Readers say Somewhere in Augusta tops this category. Ah, but where, exactly? That joke never gets old, does it? Carolina Ale House and Buffalo Wild Wings also help answer the age-old question: what do you do if you only have enough money to either, A) go out drinking, or B) pay the cable bill, but not both?





Local TV Station

Back in the day there were only three TV stations. Can you believe that, kids? Now there 300 and there’s still nothing worth watching—except on the Top Three. Yes, we’ve come full circle. #1, says our panel of dedicated couch potatoes, is WJBF, which officially stands for Where Journalism Bears Fruit (unofficially it’s Where Jennie and Brad are First). WRDW— 12, that is—is 2, while 26 (WAGT) equals three. New math.


Local TV news
Anchor: Female

The lovely and talented Barclay Bishop gets the golden microphone as your favorite anchor in this category. These days she is an anchor and reporter at WJBF. WRDW’s Laura Warren takes the silver. Jennie Montgomery of WJBF wins third.


Local TV news
Anchor: Male

Veteran newscaster Richard Rogers sets the standard at WRDW, and according to our readers, for all other male anchors in town. Brad Means (WJBF) is first runner-up. John Hart, anchoring the 5:30 and 10 newscasts on WJBF, takes home the bronze.


Local media sports reporter

Notice it says media, not just TV. So the field is wide open to radio, TV, internet and print sports journalists. The victor from that wide field is Brian Chojnacki, recently of WRDW, but since the ballots were cast he has relocated to Jacksonville. Speaking of WRDW, Kevin Faigle, Brian’s old boss, takes second. Third goes to Brendan Robertson, formerly of WAGT, now also gone down the road tot the next big job.


Local TV
Anchor: Weather

There has been a lot of musical chairs in the TV media business in the past year. Your favorite Augusta weatherman, Jay Jeffries, for example, holds forth from WFXG Fox54 studios these days. WJBF’s George Myers came in second—which he probably predicted. The ever-likable Tim Strong is third.


Local TV

Like weather people, there are tons of these. The leader of the pack is Ashley Campbell, roving reporter and morning and weekend anchor for WJBF. She stays busy. Her colleague Renetta DuBose snags second place and the one and only George Eskola takes third for a clean sweep by WJBF.


Local radio
Morning show

Some people hate talk radio, but for some reason they like it just fine in the morning. And the team they like best in these parts is the Harley Drew-Mary Liz Nolan duo at WGAC. The Kicks 99 Wake Up
Krew is next up and John and
Cleve on WAFJ score third.


Local radio

Last time we checked, this was The South. No wonder Kicks 99 has the most listeners. Multiply their audience by two (number of ears per listener),
and the numbers really start to get
crazy. WGAC AM/FM comes in second and WAFJ completes the medalists.


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.


Local news story

For the last time (hopefully) the whole MCG/GHSU/GRU naming fiasco rears its ugly head, this time with its happy ending: renaming the renaming as Augusta University. They could have just done this in the first place and saved a lot of time and money. Second place: “Restaurant report cards.” Those are interesting, aren’t they? In third, “the house left in the Masters parking lot.” It looked like something that landed on the Wizard of Oz set for a while there.



Like Austin Rhodes and T-Bonz, there are some categories where the winner is a shoe-in. Bill Kirby as Best Writer, for instance. Congratulations! Occasional Augusta Magazine contributor Mark Hodges wins the silver typewriter (what’s a typewriter?) and inspirational storyteller Karlton Klay is the right writer for third.


Best part of Augusta Magazine

Maybe we should reword this category: the Best part is the Best part. Duh. Best of Augusta wins! Next most favorite: Around Town, which is kind of like The Jail Report—you look through it to see if how many of your friends are in it. But unlike The Jail Report, you don’t mind if you are. Those sumptuous homes we feature around town score third.





Men’s Clothing store

Sartorial splendor is an amazing thing: it actually makes you feel better. Some people pay therapists or pharmacies for this feeling. Clothes are a lot less expensive. This election victory goes to The Boardroom. Don’t let the name fool you—they sell play clothes too. Low Country Clothier and Rivers & Glen complete the three-piece suit.


Women’s Clothing store

The top of the line here is the domain of The Swank Company. They are, in a word, swanky. But then, you knew that already. SOHO (pictured on page 57) takes second and fabrik wins third. You know what this means? Surrey Center is the place to shop, ladies.


Children’s clothing

The right clothes on your toddler could mean getting into a better daycare, which could lead to a better Pre-K, then eventually a better Ivy League school and a better corner office. It all begins at Posh Tots, say the experts. Kid-to-Kid will also serve them well and Gap Kids takes third.


Fine jewelry

When it comes to fine jewelry, well, at Windsor Fine Jewelers, it’s almost like Fine is their middle name. That’s what readers tell us. We tend to believe them. The Estate Jewelry Center wins silver—which they already have plenty of. Third place takes us to the mall and Zales.


Nursery/garden shop

It must be nice to be in the business of beautifying this already spectacular planet. Tops among readers in this play-in-the-dirt category: Bedford Greenhouses, which about 25,000 of us drive past every single day. Aiken’s Cold Creek Nurseries is worth the drive in second and so is Appling’s Sanderlin Greenhouses.


Christmas decorations

You say you want to deck your halls with boughs of holly? We asked readers where you can get your supplies, and they said “kudos to them” and we said “kudos to who?” and they replied “Cudos2u.” Thank you very much, we said. Second place? None other than Christmas Tree Shops. If they didn’t win, place or show, something would be seriously amiss. In third, Communigraphics.


Place to buy purses

Purses are important. If you don’t believe that, just weigh one sometime. That isn’t 10 pounds of nothing in there. It’s 20 pounds, actually. That’s why purses need to be high quality, like the ones they sell at The Swank Company, say readers. Shoes at Surrey makes sense in 2nd, since purses and shoes match (sometimes). Belk wins third.


Women’s shoes

While the well-dressed gentleman can easily survive on a few carefully selected pairs of shoes, his feminine counterpart needs dozens. Hundreds would not be too many, so get busy shopping already! Shoes at Surrey is Destination One, say your ballots. The Swank Company and Designer Shoe Warehouse—DSW—will also help fill your closet. At all three, walk-ins are welcome. Encouraged, in fact.


Consignment shop

Sometimes furniture that shows the patina of the years is more appealing than something that’s all sleek and shiny and new. Visit Consign Design, suggest your fellow readers, and you’ll see the point on display at every turn. They also recommend The Savvy Shopper and Designed for Change.


Consignment shop

As long as it’s new to you it’s still new, right? That’s the beauty of Uptown Cheapskate, where the name says it all. Second Time Around and Kid-to-Kid are the other finalists, places to score a bargain or thin out those closets. Or both.


Organic food/produce

The Big Three dominate this category, starting with three green thumbs up for Whole Foods. Nothing against having three thumbs, but it’s just a little on the freaky side, you know? Fresh Market has a more normal two green thumbs and poor Earth Fare, getting by on just one green thumb, still does quite well.


Women’s boutique

You know the old adage, when you find a pair of shoes you really like, buy a pair in every color? Or to put it slightly differently, when you find a clothing store you like, stick with it. Maybe that’s why this category has the same three winners as the previous category, just arranged in different order. SOHO gets top billing here, followed by fabrik and The Swank Company.



The store virtually everyone visits. Everyone. A man’s gotta eat, right? The finest food purveyor (DIY Division) for 2016 is Whole Foods. Mmm mmm good, say readers. Second place is awarded to Publix, third to Kroger.


Seafood market

Some days if you go by early enough, you’ll see a boat tied up behind Whole Foods. That’s how you know the seafood is fresh, and it’s also the #1 seafood source of voters whenever they don’t have time to hit the water with rod and reel. Second place—the coveted Silver Hook—goes to Fresh Market and longtime local favorite Island Seafood wins third.



When you feel like pampering yourself a little, go out and buy a gift for someone else. According to the ballots, if you do this at The Swank Company, there’s a better than even chance you’ll wind up keeping it for yourself. Everybody wins (except your intended recipient)! Cudos2u, which is what you say as you give a gift, is next-best. Then the recipient will say, “No, kudos to you!” See how that works? Design Images wraps up third and puts a bow on it.


Place to shop for husband/boyfriend

If you’re in the market for boy toys, the votes are in: Southeastern Armory is the place to go. They’ve got what he’s looking for. Rivers & Glen Trading Co. is option two and Cabela’s is option three. Worthy choices one and all.


Place to shop for wife/girlfriend

For most guys this is quite a challenge, so we’re happy to help, passing along the guidance of many. Their advice is simple, and can be summarized in three words: Windsor. Fine. Jewelers. You cannot go wrong. In fact, that goes for the other two top reader picks: The Swank Company and Jared.


Home furnishings

Alternate category heading: Best Place to Shop for House/Home. Yes, houses need love too. Get a gift for yours at Andrews Gallery, a repeat gold medalist from last year’s balloting. Wondering if you can get nice stuff at Weinberger’s Furniture? As their slogan puts it, “You not only can, you may!” Or something like that. Merry’s Trash & Treasures scoops up third.


Costume jewelry

Costume jewelry isn’t just for Halloween anymore (if it ever was). No, it’s swank enough for everyday dazzlement, especially if you get it at the best source: The Swank Company. Augusta Mall’s Charming Charlie comes in second and Georgia’s (and Etsy’s) own Betsy Pittard Designs takes third.



Looking for old new stuff? Or do you want new old stuff? Either way, they’ve got you covered at The Antique Market.  More old news: Merry’s Trash & Treasures and Mema Had One also get votes for their old-fangled ways.


Fitness/outdoor store

It’s always nice to see locally owned stores win, as have several already. Another addition to that list is Escape Outdoors. Get your adventure on at two locations: Evans and Downtown Augusta. In fact, you can get your kayak on there, not to mention all kinds of other cool gear. Academy Sports + Outdoors and Dick’s Sporting Goods give you three great options for stuff to help you leave the couch behind.





Fitness club

Got time to burn? Then you’ve got the right idea. And the Family Y offers just the place to feel the burn, say voters. Orangetheory Fitness also welcomes losers—not that you need to have weight loss as your goal. Cardio health is a wonderful thing, too. So is just toning up muscles so you can chase down a Pokemon or two. Evans Fitness Club takes third.


Place to swim

Where will the next Michael Phelps or Katie Ledecky come up for air? Chances are best at the Family Y, suggest most ballots. The Kroc Center was also swimming in ballots, enough for second place, and Augusta’s Aquatic Center is another splendid place to get your feet wet, figuratively speaking.


Place to work out

Sure, everyone’s busy, but your fellow readers urge you to work in a workout at the Family Y. You’ll be glad you did. Orangetheory Fitness comes up next, and Gold’s Gym is also know for making people feel in the pink.


Golf course (public)

A good walk spoiled? No walk of any kind among acres of beautifully and meticulously manicured surroundings can be spoiled by something as trivial as a high score. So please, enjoy Forest Hills, Jones Creek and The River Club (first, second and third) at the behest of golfing voters across the area.


Place to walk your dog

Or, if you’re a professional dog walker, someone else’s dog. The place to go (so they can go) is the Augusta Canal. For this category at least, it’s going to the dogs—in a good way. The Greeneway takes yet another silver medal and Evans Town Center Dog Park scoops up third.


Golf course (private)

We can do this one of two ways: there’s the climb over the fence or parachute in under cover of darkness approach, and then there’s the legally and legitimately join-the-club approach. We recommend the latter. But where? Election central reports Augusta Country Club as the preferred course among our readers. Just one shot back is Champions Retreat, followed by West Lake Country Club.


Day spa

There is nothing quite like that just-came-from-the-spa feeling, you know? Pampered within an inch of your life is the feeling you’ll get at Tuscany, according to well-informed pamperees. It’s a classic Italian spa, after all. Spa Bleu and Balanced Body Spa will also wait on you hand and foot. Literally.


Best place to ride a bike

One of the best ways to get exercise, bike riding is low impact, especially if you avoid hitting stationary objects like trees, and there are many of them along the Augusta Canal. But that’s a good thing. Shade is good. North Augusta’s Greeneway may be the #2 place to ride, but it’s #1 in shade. F.A.T.S. (Forks Area Trail System) is also a top choice for a ride through the forest.


5k race

Advertising itself as “Augusta’s Most Scenic Race,” the 3 Bridges 5K lives up to its name and its billing. It’s also Augusta’s favorite. We have the ballots to prove it. The Color Run is a step back in second, proving that lives of all colors matter, even green, blue and orange. Jingle Jam takes 3rd.


Best-kept secret

The bike trails along the Augusta Canal take first place here, not because they’re secret or unknown, but probably because so many more of us should take advantage of this splendid area asset. Ditto for your second choice: The Greeneway. Third place goes to little-known Space Yoga Studio on Monte Sano. It’s definitely unique. For example, Space has no set fees for classes—it’s all donation based. That doesn’t mean free, but “pay what you can” is a refreshing approach.


Tennis courts

Where are scoring and line disputes settled in tennis? At tennis courts, naturally. The supreme court in this area holds sessions at Petersburg Racquet Club, report those who know. Overflow is handled at Newman Tennis Center and West Lake Country Club. All rise!


Place to play pool

Where is the best corner pocket in the entire Central Savannah River Area? Robbie’s Sports Bar. Now it’s up to you to discover which corner pocket of which table. Send us a postcard when you find it! Rack and Grill is the #2 ball, the blue one, and downtown’s venerable Sports Center is the red #3 ball.





Best carwash

It’s a common strategy: you keep your car messy outside and in so that if you’re ever pinned in your car in a ravine for a week after a wreck you can survive on the old French fries under the seat. Just get the car cleaned—and do it at LuLu’s, suggest your fellow motorists. Second place: Sparkle Express. Third: Top Notch Car Wash.


Special event facility

A special event becomes more special in a special facility, one like Enterprise Mill, suggest the ballots.
It’s definitely a singular place steeped in history, as is Sacred Heart Cultural Center. Legends Club, the new kid on the block, wins your third-place vote.


Historic landmark

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. The Haunted Pillar comes next. Third place: Sacred Heart. What an amazing edifice it is.


Place to propose marriage

For a suitably romantic setting to propose the ultimate merger, shakers and movers recommend the beautiful setting of the Augusta Canal. Gentlemen, it’s up to you to decide if you can get down on one knee in a canoe, or if you need to stay on solid ground. Second and third place: the Savannah Rapids and Riverwalk.


The place you wish was still here

#1: Squeaky’s Tip Top. At least we still have Squeaky’s in paintings and art prints all over town. Fat Man’s Forest comes up next. If your shopping list read, “rubber chicken, scented candle, thank you card, Frankenstein costume and mask, bouquet of roses, snow globe and a burger with fries,” Fat Man’s was your one-stop shop. Duke Restaurant wins third. At Duke you didn’t need a menu. You just told them what you were hungry for and that’s what they cooked up.


Reason to like Columbia County

The #1 reason is the county’s well-respected school system. They keep the kids out from underfoot for hours every day, months out of every year. Thanks! Evans Towne Center Park gets second. What’s not to like? A superb concert venue, playground, dog park, splash pad, walking track, picnic pavilions, bike sharing, et cetera. All of this says that third place—“it’s family friendly”— is pretty much a slam dunk.


Reason to like Richmond County

Tops here is downtown, the centerpiece of the entire region, replete with museums and concert venues, parks that host community events, and many of the areas finest shopping and dining destinations. In fact, downtown is central to all the winners in this category: “Events” are the runner-up asset, followed by the Augusta Common.


Best barber

Last time we checked, Augusta is in what is called the Deep South. So if a barbershop named Yankee Clippers wins, they must be pretty good. They’re just around the corner from Durden’s Barbershop, in second place. It’s apparently Augusta’s barber district. The man cave also known as The Men’s Refinery downtown gets a well-earned third-place finish.


Tourist attraction

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.


Local charity

Satisfying mankind’s most basic need, one that every person needs to address several times every day of our lives: food. That’s the mission of Golden Harvest Food Bank, your most worthy first place selection. The Lydia Project is your second choice, Ronald McDonald House your third.


Christmas light display

Lights of the South and its 5,000,000 lights wins first prize. We counted both the ballots and the bulbs, so we know. Downtown Augusta, your second-favorite, may not have 5 million lights, but then, it has shops and restaurants that Lights of the South doesn’t. Aiken’s lovely Hopelands Gardens takes the last of the top spots.


Place to get a speeding ticket

Is there really a best place? Probably not. The worst place, however, is Riverwatch Parkway, especially now with its fresh new pavement inviting speed. Do so at your peril, friends. North Augusta likes to trap speeders, as many of us know from painful (and expensive) experience. Bobby Jones Expressway gets third, and it should probably have won by a landslide. You can exceed the speed limit by 5 or 10 m.p.h. or even more and get passed like you’re parked any day of the week.


New Civic Project

Remember the sign on The Miller Theater marquee that announced “Coming Soon”? No? You’re not old enough? It has been Miller time for decades. Well, it was there once upon a time and believe it or not, it finally looks like it really is coming soon. You can even help ensure the Miller’s restoration and encore performance at The only other medalist in this category: North Augusta’s controversial baseball stadium. Love it? Hate it? Either way, it’s coming.


Fundraising event

You can’t spell fundraising without fun. Or raisin, for that matter. In any event, the event you like best is the Jingle Jam 10K, whose proceeds benefit SafeHomes. Lights for Lydia, as you would expect, supports The Lydia Project. In third, the drag boat race—correction—dragon boat race known as Good Boats benefits Goodwill and its Helms College.


Place to break off a relationship

You people in first and third place: shame on you. The winner is: “by cell phone.” Seriously? Those winners are losers. Third place goes to “email.” Again we ask, have you no decency? Thankfully there is some shred of hope for the survival of civility and manners: “in person.” Thank you, second-place people.


Weekend getaway

Whether the two of you need some alone time or you just broke off a relationship by email, sometimes you just need to get out of town for a few days. Readers would like to steer you in the direction of Charleston, a truly worthy destination for dozens of reasons. Rounding out the top three are two other splendid options: Savannah and Hilton Head.

This article appears in the October 2016 issue of Augusta Magazine.

Have feedback or a story idea? Our publisher would love to hear from you!

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