Metro’s Best Restaurant (Overall)
It’s a fine line for a restaurant to walk: diners want a one-of a kind experience, but don’t want their favorite to be so expensive that they can only visit on special occasions. Whiskey Bar (Kitchen) founders and brothers Kenny and Bobby Morrison straddle that line pretty perfectly, so it’s no wonder they’re Metro Spirit readers’ favorite restaurant. The atmosphere is clubby, the burgers and Japanese food combo is unique, the menu is reasonably priced and offers everything from safe bets (a mushroom swiss burger called The Metro) to the far out (an Elvis-inspired burger called the TCB that includes peanut butter, banana, bacon and honey). Then there’s the bar, which offers more than 200 whiskeys and everything else you could possibly want. Yep, it’s a great place to visit no matter the occasion.
Metro’s Best Breakfast
Sunrise Grill’s two locations are perennially popular, and they almost always win in this Metro’s Best category. That’s no surprise to anyone who’s visited their Martinez or North Augusta restaurants on a weekend, when there’s almost always a wait for a table. Good thing they have first-come first-served counter seating for those who can’t wait for a hot cup of coffee and an order of Eggs Benedict… or maybe the Patty O’Sullivan omelet… or the Sweet Potato Pancakes. Dang! Why does this always happen? It’s okay if you take a while to pick something out; the very friendly ladies working the dining room are used to indecision and won’t give you much of a hard time at all.
Metro’s Best Date Night Destination
It looks like any other movie theater from the outside, but Riverwatch Luxury Cinemas is anything but ordinary once you walk through the doors. Come to think of it, you know this place is different even before you visit. You can pick your seats when you buy tickets online and there are kiosks in the lobby (credit cards only) just in case you forget. We’re a little perplexed by them winning best date night destination, only because the incredibly comfortable reclining seats make it so difficult to snuggle. You’re more likely to fall asleep in them than get any action from your date, if you know what we’re saying. There is one big plus for a date night, however. You can do both dinner and movie here, since they have a café that serve menu items as well as beer and wine… for pretty reasonable prices too.
Metro’s Best Dessert
If you don’t know about the desserts at downtown’s The Boll Weevil, you’re either new to town or you don’t like sugar. If the latter’s the case, then we really don’t understand you, because, to everyone else in town, there’s nothing better than diving into the mountain that is a slice of cake at this Augusta institution. And make no mistake: while they serve slices of cheesecakes and pies, and even have a sugar-free option, cakes are the most popular items on the Boll Weevil’s dessert menu. From the 7th Heaven to the Canary Lemon, these towering infernos are enough for two or three people and are the best desserts you’re likely to ever have. Still not convinced about the cake? Our other favorite is the apple blossoms, warm apple pie filling in a pastry shell, served with vanilla ice cream and caramel. Yum.
Metro’s Best Outdoor Dining
We have water coming out of our ears here in the Savannah River Region. From giant lakes to canals to the Savannah River itself, you don’t have to drive far to take a dip or do some fishing. What we don’t have is a beach and everyone knows the best thing about a beach is a beach shack, a place where you can grab a beer in the bottle or a mixed drink in a plastic cup to go with some great yet inexpensive seafood. What we do have is Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar, whose two locations both have outdoor dining areas that will make you swear you’re on Tybee Island. So will the menu, which includes everything from one of the best burgers in town to raw and fried oysters and fried seafood galore. Our best bet? Alaskan snow crab legs, especially when they’re on special on Saturdays, and either the spicy boiled or the buffalo grilled shrimp: both messy, both totally worth it.
Metro’s Best Coffee Shop
The timing of the Metro’s Best competition couldn’t have been worse for the other competitors in this category. After all, we’re smack dab in the middle of Pumpkin Spice Latte season, so every basic white girl in town is tucking her skinny jeans into her riding boots, putting on her North Face vest — never mind that the temp is still in the 80s — and heading to her local Starbucks (in her brand-new SUV, of course). Apparently, the BWG is also a powerful force in Metro’s Best voting, which means no one else stood a chance.
Metro’s Best Place for Asian
TakoSushi now has five locations in Georgia and South Carolina, which means owner Kevin Goldsmith must be doing something right. Proof of that is in the enduring popularity of the local chain’s original location in Surrey Center. A seat at this small spot is often difficult to come by, and while half of the menu is comprised of Southwest choices, most agree that TakoSushi’s popularity is build on the “Sushi” part of the equation. Each of their rolls is expertly made and their Makimono, especially the Cary’s Roll, are inventive and delicious. Want something a little lighter? Try the Tuna Carpaccio or the Ahi Pokke, both served over their delicious rutabaga and beet salad.
Metro’s Best Place for Mediterranean
In Arabic, Laziza means “delicious,” and Nader Khatib, owner of Laziza Mediterranean Grill in Evans, makes sure that his restaurant lives up to its name. The hummus here is homemade and available in four flavors (we like the roasted garlic the best). The Spicy Chicken Shawarma is spicy enough that you feel it, but not so spicy that you can’t finish it. And you will finish it all, no matter whether you get it as a platter, in a pita wrap on on top of a salad. There are so many authentic dishes on this menu — from stuff grape leaves and kebabs to salmon and falafel, that you’ll come back again and again. And you may even buy some items from their small market so you can try your hand at Mediterranean cooking at home. It won’t be as good, we can promise you that.
Metro’s Best Place for Southern/Homestyle
WifeSaver claims to have served residents of the Savannah River Region the best fried chicken since they opened in 1965. Metro Spirit readers seem to agree, voting the local chain of five restaurants the best place to get southern and homestyle food. The chicken is good, make no mistake, but we’re just as in love with other options like the veggie plate and their old-fashioned desserts. And just a little FYI: The menu varies from restaurant to restaurant, so you can only get their world-famous pimento cheese, up until recently served in sandwiches as a certain local golf tournament, at three locations (North Leg, North Augusta and Grovetown). They also serve Brunswick stew, but only at their Grovetown and Fury’s Ferry location.
Metro’s Best Burrito
Any place whose slogan is “We roll ‘em fat” had better win in the Best Burrito category, and Nacho Mama’s was Metro’s Best voters’ clear favorite. The truth of the matter is that you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu here, but we admit that any one of the House Burritos is a thing of beauty. We’re partial to the Godfather with pulled pork, guac, black beans, mango habanero salsa, cheese lettuce, regular salsa and sour cream, but they’re all worth ordering at least once. Yes, even the Garden one that contains no meat will win you over, especially if you ask them to add the mango habanero salsa to it… and get a top shelf margarita to go along with it.
Metro’s Best Pizza
There are plenty of great pies in town, but there’s something about the crust on the pizzas at Mellow Mushroom that keeps us coming back again and again. Sometimes we don’t even order a pizza; we just get the garlic butter and parmesan pretzels with a side of pizza sauce. Hell, sometimes we just get the cinnamon and honey pretzels and make a meal of that. More often than not, however, the sheer number of pizza options make it both impossible to decide and impossible to resist ordering. When we’re feeling adventurous, the Holy Shiitake Pie, with mushrooms, caramelized onions, a ton of cheese, garlic aioli and black truffle oil, is exactly what we’re looking for.
Metro’s Best Steak
TBonz Steakhouse may have been born in Athens, but its two Augusta locations are beloved dining destinations to both locals and Masters Tournament guests. Evans TBonz is the newest of the CSRA locations. Managed by Tyler Wiley, the new location offers everything its parent does, but is certainly more convenient for the Columbia County crowd. As a 15-year-old in high school, Wiley was first hired to work as a busboy at the Augusta location during Master’s week in 1998. From there, he moved on to other positions within the restaurant, including server and cook. Both locations consider themselves neighborhood steakhouses, with clubby atmospheres and food that is reliably good. Regulars say not to forget an order of Tommy Cheese Fries to go with your steak.
Metro’s Best Sandwiches
Located on 6th Street downtown, Hildebrandt’s is still operated by the family that bears its name, and it still resides in the same Gothic brick building it has occupied, next to the train tracks, for 137 years. The German-inspired deli is in the back of a grocery store and its sandwiches and sides have become a staple of downtown lunches since they first started serving them in the 1960s. And it’s no wonder: they serve quality sliced sandwich meats, both well-known such as pastrami, salami, buffalo chicken and corned beef, and those not-so-well-known, such as braunschweiger and yachtwurst. The deli menu includes an equally wide variety of deserving cheeses, and they do exceptionally good bread. You need to visit Hildebrandt’s if you haven’t already. Stranger or regular, you’ll be welcomed with open arms.
Metro’s Best Bar (Overall)
It was August of 2012 when Steven Moore, Brandon Mears and Ryan McArdle realized their dream of creating the perfect bar. Four years on, and the Indian Queen is sitting pretty on the corner of Monte Sano and Wrightsboro; its log-cabin exterior enhanced by a large, inviting deck and patio area bordered by flowering plants. The initial concept was simple — a retreat where people could talk and socialize without yelling; a comfortable atmosphere in which people could enjoy good cocktails; a bar that inspired and encouraged community; and a place where the bartenders were capable, using time-tested methods instead of trendy substitutes. They’ve stuck to their guns on those, and it’s no wonder people love this place: not only does it have a comfortable, inviting interior (and exterior, for that matter), but the inventive drinks made with high-quality spirits and homemade mixers are incredibly good.
Metro’s Best Bartender
Sarah Brown Turnage may know how to keep her boss at Stillwater Taproom happy: all it takes, said Matt Flynn, is the banana nut muffins she occasionally brings him. But in the seven or so years she’s worked at downtown’s hub for live bluegrass music and craft beer on draft, she’s learned a thing or two about what her customers like: a pleasant, smiling server who knows how to pour a pint correctly, even if it’s a black and tan. Don’t get on her bad side, Flynn warns, because she’s also not afraid to tell you what’s what. “In short, she’s a genuine, real person and that shines through,” Flynn said. Sarah will make you feel right at home the next time you stop by Stillwater, and she won’t even laugh at you if you order a Mic Ultra.
Metro’s Best Place to Go and Dance
The Country Club has the biggest dance floor of any bar in this area, and boy do they put it to good use. They offer free line dancing lessons most Friday and Saturday nights from 7-9 p.m., and when they don’t have an up-and-coming country act on the stage, Fridays are reserved for their All Night Dance Party. Even when there is a band on stage, the dance floor is full. Such will be the case on Saturday, October 29, when hard rockers the Velcro Pygmies host a zombie-themed costume party with a contest at midnight for cash prizes. Dressed to impress? Most people will just be dressed to dance.
Metro’s Best Place to Go Antiquing
It’s fitting that Mema Had One is located in a charming cottage on Washington Road, because you feel like you’ve just pulled up to Grandma’s house before you even step foot in the door. Once you do cross the threshold, you’ll find a little bit of everything, displaying in the way your Grandma might have… if your Grandma had a little problem with hoarding. Golf gloves from the Augusta National are displayed on a table beside an ashtray in the shape of a bear’s head. An antique typewriter sits on a gorgeous dresser with a lovely mirror. A bunch of doors and windows of varying sizes and conditions are stacked together waiting for you to go through. And the staff is more than happy to help you find what you need. The thrill of the hunt, and finding what you never knew you needed, is alive and well here.
Metro’s Best Men’s Clothing Store
If your style is pretty with a side of outdoorsy, then Low Country Clothier is the perfect place to find that outfit for a college football game or an upcoming holiday party. From T-shirts to outerwear and khakis to cologne, they have everything men and women need from brands like Tommy Bahama, Vineyard Vines, Cotton Brothers, Rodd & Gunn. And don’t forget to pick up a Low Country T-shirt before you leave, so people will know why you’re so well-dressed.
Metro’s Best Women’s Clothing Store
With two locations, The Swank Company prides itself on carrying clothing, accessories and gifts that appeal to women of all ages. They have the best selection of Piko Ts of anyone in town, their clothing displays are grouped by color to make it easier to browse for what you need, and their employees are often modeling their inventory, so you can easily see how cute their clothes are. But there’s a lot more to Swank than just clothing. A great selection of affordable jewelry and shoes, plus an array of gifts than anyone would love to receive, make this the perfect place to get something for you, as well as something for someone else.
Metro’s Best Kid’s Clothing Store
When you have kids, you tend to spend a ton of money on… stuff. Kid to Kid aims to help parents from completely blowing their budgets by offering gently used maternity, baby and kids clothing, as well as toys, accessories and equipment, at prices that are up to 70 percent off what you’d pay for them new. Better yet, if you have stuff you thought you couldn’t live without but ended up barely using, they’ll buy it from you in exchange for cash or store credit. Add to that a store than is as bright and clean as any upscale boutique and there’s really no need to go anywhere else.
Metro’s Best Motorcycle Dealership
When someone buys a Harley-Davidson, they’re not just buying a motorcycle. Rather, it’s like when you get married: you’re joining a new family. Timms Harley-Davidson of Augusta treats everyone who walks in the door like a family member, and not just an in-law you have to put up with either. It’s probably because buying a Harley isn’t like any other purchase. It’s a major investment and a lifestyle. Timms clearly takes care of its customers, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re there to buy a bike, get some clothing and accessories or come in for a service. Guess that’s what happens when everyone who works there is clearly doing something they love.
Metro’s Best New Car Dealership
It’s difficult to miss the behemoth of a dealership that is the Gerald Jones Auto Group in Martinez. It’s enormous, and one of the most popular dealerships on the lot is Gerald Jones Honda. That’s no surprise; after all, Hondas are some of the most popular and reliable cars on the road today. And sure, it’s a lot of fun to walk the lot, browsing at the huge collections of cars there, but Gerald Jones makes it even easier to buy a Honda by posting nearly everything a buyer needs to know about their inventory at geraldjoneshonda.com. You can search by model, price, color, fuel economy, engine type and more. Then, once you’ve chosen your car, you can get pre-qualified for a loan, schedule a test drive, value your trade-in and more. So pretty much, all you have to do is drive down to Gerald Jones and pick up your new ride. Not too shabby.
Metro’s Best Used Car Dealership
Consumer expert Clark Howard recommends buying used, and when those in the Augusta area heed his advice, they most often head to the Milton Ruben Superstore, where they have a vast selection of cars to choose from. Certified pre-owned vehicles to choose from often include Toyotas, Scions, Dodge, Chevrolet, Chrysler and Jeep, and, unlike the stereotypical car salesmen, the folks at Milton Ruben Superstore won’t pressure to buy. They just want you to be happy with your purchase, which is why most of the cars they offer are online so you can check them out before visiting. Even better? You can ask a salesperson a question online. Now that’s customer service.
Metro’s Best Gym
There’s something for everyone of every age at The Family Y’s 13 locations in the greater Augusta area and their mission, to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all, appeals to a lot of people. It doesn’t hurt that their facilities are immaculate and their programs for children — whether it be soccer leagues or summer camps — can’t be beat. Adults appreciate the laid-back atmosphere of their gym facilities and the fact that they don’t feel like they have to be a hardcore athlete to work out there. The Family Y is just a nice place to go, which explains why people keep coming back.
Metro’s Best Public Golf Course
Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III played college events at Forest Hills Golf Club before they became world-renowned pro golfers. Augusta University’s men’s and women’s Jaguar Golf Teams call Forest Hills home. The Arnold Palmer Company renovated the 18-hole course in 2004. And, best of all, anyone can play there since it’s a public course. Players can book a tee time online, rent clubs once they get to the course or simply hit a bucket of balls on the driving range. And, of course, no visit to Forest Hills is complete without a trip to the bar & grill after a round. For many casual golfers, that’s the best part of a day on the course.
Metro’s Best Prompt Care
Illnesses and injuries often don’t keep regular office hours, but most people primary care physicians sure do. So what happens when you start throwing up like crazy or break a bone at night or on the weekend? Our readers head to MedNow Urgent Care, which has locations in Augusta, South Augusta and Evans. A visit to any one of these centers is fast, (relatively) inexpensive and doesn’t require an appointment. Best of all, it’s staffed by specialists, headed up by a board-certified emergency medical doctor and have an on-site lab and digital equipment, so you don’t have to wait to find out what’s wrong with you.
Metro’s Best IT Company
There’s almost nothing that the “nerds with personality” at Computer One (their words, not ours) can’t do when it comes to computers. If a virus has taken over your computer, they can fix it. If your business network isn’t working like it should, they can recommend a solution. Computer running slow? They can help you upgrade. Hell, they can even help you design your own system which they will then build for you. They’ll come out to your car for drop-off service and will even come to you to figure out what’s going on, so you know these are some nerds you can count on.
Metro’s Best Auto Repair Shop
Kendrick Paint & Body opened in 1952 with one location. Today, they have eight all over the area. That can only mean one thing: They know what they’re doing. It also helps that owner Stephen Kendrick Jr. grew up in the business. Both he and COO Tracy Bryant are active in the community, so customers know they can trust the people in charge. And that goes a long way in the auto repair business, when customers assume they’re going to be taken advantage of. Not at Kendrick.
Metro’s Best Senior Living Center
If you didn’t know Brandon Wilde was a community for senior citizens, you’d think it was a resort. The community’s apartments or cottages look as if they could easily be transplanted to Hilton Head and be right at home. And right at home is how Brandon Wilde’s residents feel. Granted it’s a very upscale home, since residents have access to things like indoor pools, a salon and spa, walking trails and green spaces galore and food so good it makes fine restaurants jealous. All this, and healthcare is available whenever it’s needed. Only one questions: Do you have to be a senior to live there? Asking for a friend.
Metro’s Best Veterinary Clinic
Located near Wheeler Road, St. Francis doesn’t look like an animal hospital. It looks like the fanciest dog and cat spa that ever existed. Or a church, which is apt, given it’s named after the patron saint of animals. And the folks who work there care for animals almost as much as Saint Francis did, although we doubt they preach sermons to them. Instead, they offer care, preventative, medical and emergency. They even offer nutritional counseling. Not surprising, since they consider pets family members. We have a feeling Saint Francis would approve.
Metro’s Best Dance Studio
Augusta West Dance Studio has been a household name in the area for 30 years. Then it became a household name all over the country when Kathryn McCormick competed and took third place in the sixth season of So You Think You Can Dance. McCormick continues to mentor dancers on the show, and has had roles in films like “Fame” and “Step Up Revolution.” Her career has certainly raised the profile of this studio, which offers dances classes of all kinds, as well as camps and daycare.
Metro’s Best Local News Station
Most of our readers say they turn to WJBF News Channel 6 to stay informed on local news topics. And we can’t blame them. After all, it’s where former NBC reporters Barclay Bishop and Ashley Campbell ended up, joining a team led by Brad Means and Jennie Montgomery. But it’s not just news that viewers tune into WJBF for; this is the station that’s home to Mom 2 Mom and The Very Vera Show, so they’ve got the lifestyle beat covered like no one else in town.