By Dan Pearson


If you’re the kind of person who eats from crack of dawn breakfasts to midnight snacks, we’ve got what your neighbors say are the best places to get the good stuff.  Here’s to the menu!

The Brunch House | Best Breakfast 2022

Stopped by a train thundering down the middle of  Sixth Street? Maybe someday. For now, there’s a great way to make the delay from a 2 mph train enjoyable. It’s called The Brunch House, right there at the corner of Sixth and Greene (in the old Whistle Stop Cafe). They’re waiting for you with shrimp & grits, French toast, omelettes, their signature Brunch House Burger or Courthouse Burger and other brunchy accoutrements. Readers’ second choice: First Watch, followed by Sunrise Grill. 

Just as the best breakfast gets a good day rolling, there’s nothing like great appetizers to kick off a memorable meal. Craft & Vine is the place to go, say voters. Their appetizers are appetizing, and C&V can certainly complete the package with the rest of their menu. Finch & Fifth takes the runner-up slot, followed by their Surrey Center neighbor, Abel Brown. 

Think it’s kinda boring that Sconyers Bar-B-Que wins this category every year? We think it’s amazing! How many other businesses have come and gone since that first platter of Sconyers Bar-B-Que was served in 1956? It’s pretty cool when somebody discovers a formula that works for generations. Congratulations, y’all! If Southbound Smokehouse (second place) and Smokeshow (third place) are as successful as Sconyers, we’ll be talking about them on this very page in 2081. 

If someone’s going to throw you a bone, make sure you’re sitting at a table inside Sconyers Bar-B-Que when they do. Their ribs are considered best in town, and we have the ballots to prove it. Shane’s Rib Shack (Slogan: “Rib is our middle name”) wins second; Southbound Smokehouse, third. 

Whether your personal philosophies are right wing or left, WingStop serves their constituents on either side of the aisle. When it comes to wings, can’t we all get along? Southbound Smokehouse is your runner-up birdhouse. 

If you show up wearing a tuxedo at Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar, it’s got to be prom night. You might feel slightly overdressed, but underfed? Not likely. At Beck’s (readers’ second choice), there’s still no need for a tux, but the t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops that are a-okay at Rhinehart’s might need an upgrade. Abel Brown completes the best seafood triad. 

What’s the worst thing about all this talk of supply chain issues? That word chain. Best of Augusta, ideally, should mean born and raised in Augusta, not a chain. Takosushi fits the bill perfectly. Not only does Takosushi offer the best sushi around, say readers, but this tiny regional chain is an Augusta original. That’s far out. And far east (and southwest), Koi Japanese Hibachi & Sushi wins second place. 

TBonz Steakhouse is almost in the same category as Sconyers: TBonz doesn’t date back to the 1950s, but it has won this category every year since Best of Augusta started. That’s an accomplishment and a half. Well done! Or if you prefer, rare. Frog Hollow Tavern scores a silver medallion (of beef, presumably), while Cork & Flame takes third. 

Do you miss T’s Restaurant since the fire that closed it? It’s time to get reacquainted. Past time, in fact. The Fulcher family perfected catfish filets and to-die-for hushpuppies back in the 1940s. And they’re still at it these days at T’s Downtown. Need directions? The “Downtown” in question is downtown North Augusta. Go already. While you’re on that side of the river, Old McDonald’s Fish Camp is the next-best catfish cafe, and Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar landed third. 

Fried Chicken  
You had us at fried. Specifically, WifeSaver, another Augusta original, this one dating back to 1965. Good job, people! And don’t worry about the fried foods; we’ll make up for it tomorrow with kale and alfalfa sprouts. Maryland Fried Chicken takes the silver medal, and Café 209 wins the tasty, crispy, crunchy bronze. 

People don’t usually think of Panera Bread when they hear the term “soup kitchen,” but our readers say it’s time for that to change. Next up, Pho Bac soups start with tasty base ingredients like basil, cilantro and lime, and then add chicken, shrimp, pork, steak, crab or veggies. They have about 20 different soups on the menu. In third, Olive Garden not only has primo soups, but they famously offer unlimited servings of them. How cool is that? 

For some reason it’s not easy to picture Queen Elizabeth eating pizza, so let us count our blessings for not being royals, even though readers say Mellow Mushroom qualifies as pizza royalty. Other heirs to the pizza throne include Pizza Joint and Pizza Central.  

Maybe the queen doesn’t eat hot dogs either. If so, that’s her loss if we’re being frank. If you happen to see her, invite her to SnoCap Drive-In, home of some of the finest hot dogs to be had here (or anywhere else, for the matter). Readers also nominate Farmhaus for second place and Lincolnton’s Back Paddle Brewing for third. 

Yes, we’re Southerners, but south of the border cuisine is even southernerer. So naturally we are kindred spirits around here with all things Mexican. Nacho Mama’s for starters. And Diablo’s. And Taqueria El Rey. All three have been given medals by readers.  

Hildebrandt’s | Best Sandwich 2022

These food categories are always a bit of a global tour, polling the best flavors from all over the world as they are represented locally. The thing is, you could scour the entire planet Bourdain-style and never find another place like Hildebrandt’s, your number one sandwich builder. Fortunately for us all, they’re right here. Knuckle Sandwiches is another one-of-a-kind local gem. Village Deli completes the top trio in fine style. 

There is something very special about your best burger choice — which is Farmhaus. But we can’t tell you what it is right now. It’s a surprise! The silver medal goes to Gary’s Hamburgers, and Whiskey Bar Kitchen wins the bronze. 

French Fries  
OK, the suspense is killing you, right? Here’s the scoop: The cool thing about Farmhaus and their best burgers is that readers say Farmhaus is also the home of the best fries. Outstanding! Best burger and best fries under the same roof. If they weren’t, it would be like one restaurant served the best eggs and some other place five miles down the road served the best bacon. Unacceptable! Next-best fries: Five Guys, followed by Knuckle Sandwiches.  

Your favorite greenskeepers (not counting that first full week of April) are none other than the salad shooters at Southern Salad. Even better, you can see them in action 52 weeks a year. California Dreaming and Olive Garden battle it out for second and third, respectively. 

James Brown Boulevard — aka Ninth Street — needs a third name: Sweet Street. Our gold and silver medal dessert purveyors both hail from Sweet Street. At the top of the heap (and street) is The Boll Weevil Café and Sweetery, a position they are quite familiar with. They need to make room for one more trophy. Next up, a mere block away, is the unique spot where grown-ups get their sweet treats: Vance’s Bakery Bar, where the proof is in the sweets. (Get it?) Third place goes to the more traditional (but still quite creative) offerings from Whipped Creamery.  

There’s nothing lil’ when it comes to people’s positive opinions about Lil’ Dutch Bakery. Conveniently, they are the icing on a cake they made themselves. Sheila’s Baking Company is getting plenty of company, enough to score the commemorative second place apple fritter. Edgar’s Bakehouse (Slogan: “Every Yelp Review We’ve Ever Gotten is 5-Star”) is your delicious third place bakery.

When people think about Krispy Kreme their eyes glaze over, kind of like a Krispy Kreme donut. Just so you know, they make some 50 varieties of donuts, not just the classic glazed model you’re fantasizing about right now. Sheila’s Baking Company wins another silver medal. In third, we must pause to recognize Haute Doughnuts, whose creations are works of art. But still, go ahead and eat them. True to their name, they are Haute, so much so that their kitchen — strike that — their studio is in a secret location as a matter of national security. You have to go to places like Ubora Coffee Roasters or Field Botanicals to pick up what you’ve ordered from Haute Doughnuts online. 

Ice Cream  
If you go to the website of Whipped Creamery, you’ll get a taste of the almost religious fervor with which this company approaches its mission. Well, it paid off among readers, who give them the Golden Dipper. The second-place pink dipper goes to, well, Pink Dipper. That’s serendipitous. Bruster’s Real Ice Cream scoops up third and packs it snugly down into a crunchy waffle cone. 

The mother-daughter team that gave birth to Rooted Coffeehouse moved here to put down roots in this community. It seems to be working with area residents, although the fact that they serve an addictive beverage certainly helps. Other purveyors of our favorite liquid obsession are Buona Cafe (second place) and Ubora Coffee Roasters (third place). Bottoms up, y’all. 

Iced Tea  
Count your blessings if you live in the South. Order iced tea up North and they very well may bring you a cup of hot tea and a glass filled with ice. WifeSaver carries on no such foolishness, as their first place finish suggests. Sometimes you might see a line of cars at a Bojangles long enough to snake out into the street. Yup, their sweet tea is pretty good, too. And for those who haven’t entered a 12-step program yet, McAlister’s Deli sells a 30-day Tea Pass. That should hold you for a while. 

Wine Merchant  
We asked you, our readers, to tell us the most wine-worthy shelves in town. You know the drill: the most corks, the fewest boxes, et cetera. (Not that there’s anything wrong with twist-off caps and wine that comes in a box if you’re into that sort of thing.) By that measure, Toast Wine and Beverage got a very enviable score of 96. Cork & Flame at 94 was just barely nudged into second place, with The White Horse Wine & Spirits right behind them with a 93 rating. 

Wine Menu  
Let’s say you’re in a fine dining establishment and you’ve been what we call “sweet tea sober” for almost two weeks. The waiter asks for your drink orders. Will you weakly crumble and ask for a glass of sweet tea? Maybe even a pitcher? No! Stop! You can do this! If you’re at Cork & Flame, ask for the wine list! Don’t tempt yourself like that! Craft & Vine is another excellent option for beating that sweet tea addiction. And your final Top three choice: Taste Wine Room. Need directions? Head towards the James Brown mural on Broad Street. 

Beer Selection  
This category is for beer of the take-home variety. The White Horse Wine & Spirits is the winner. Congrats! Toast Wine & Beverage and Beverage Outlet are your other two top beermeisters. 

World of Beer | Best Beer Menu 2022

Beer Menu  
The great thing about World of Beer, when it comes to this category at least, is that second word: Menu. Not only do they have a fantastic beer menu — with hundreds to choose from — but they also have a very tasty food menu. The beer makes the food better and the food makes the beer better. It’s quite a system they’ve got going over there. Back Paddle Brewing comes in second, and Stay. Social Tap & Table earns the third place spot. 

Craft Cocktail  
If there is such a thing as artistry in a glass, and there most certainly is, the best place to imbibe such artistry is Craft & Vine. We have it on good authority from people all over the city. Indian Queen also puts the craft in craft cocktails. Meanwhile, Finch & Fifth could also be known as Finch & Third if you catch our drift. 

Happy Hour  
Why don’t other types of businesses steal the “happy hour” concept? Good question. It could be a great idea for a tax prep business or a maybe a transmission shop. Give it a try, people. While they’re working the bugs out, Craft & Vine already has it down to a science, say the ballots. Finch & Fifth wins second-happiest hour, and Oliviana’s third-happiest (which is still pretty happy). 

Down Home Cooking  
Down home is the opposite of uptown in the same way Goolsby’s is the opposite of white linen tablecloths and the good china. Café 209, a homage to their first location and its “209” street number, is next up; Big Mama’s Soul Food scores third. 

Outdoor Dining  
All of us need to get outside more often, right? The ballots tell us one of the best places to do so is in the company of a basket of steamers from Rhinehart’s Oyster Bar. Solé Augusta has an awesome patio, tailor-made for outdoor enjoyment. And in third place, Edgar’s Above Broad is like a loft without a roof. Check it out. 

The unassuming little Brunch House waltzes in and steals the show. Not that it’s a steal as in, you know, uncounted votes and fake electors. Not at all. It’s fair and square. It’s just that overdogs like Edgar’s and the Partidge Inn have won this category many times in the past, so it’s great to see an underdog win. First Watch is a medal-worthy second, as is Frog & the Hen in third.   

We applaud our readers for strapping on their thinking caps and giving every vote careful consideration. It shows in the number of fresh faces that have appeared so far, some all-new eateries, some just new to the Best of Augusta. Laziza Mediterranean Grill is a perfect example, and they have two locations, so there’s no excuse to not sample the best lunch in the Savannah River Region. The SolFood Kitchen offers a very inviting and guilt-free (translation: healthful) lunch menu (they do dinner too); and downtown’s Whiskey Bar Kitchen also ranks in voters’ top three. 

Business Lunch  
Augustino’s means business” might be a good slogan, but how about “Augustino’s means delicious?” Either way, it is the reader favorite for breaking bread while discussing the NYSE, the Fed, Fannie Mae, OPEC policy and what have you. At least, that’s what we do when we go there. The shakers and movers among us also like Frog & the Hen and Whiskey Bar Kitchen for business lunches. 

Asian Restaurant  
If you’ve been around here for some time, you may remember a restaurant called Po’ Boys on Washington Road. It was a red-and-white checkered plastic tablecloth kind of place. That building’s current occupant, Koi Japanese Hibachi & Sushi, is elegant without being pretentious and there is not a plastic tablecloth in sight. Readers say it’s number one. Your number two honoree is Pho Bac and its Vietnamese delicacies (short, quick and partial Vietnamese lesson: pho is pronounced “fuh”). Thai Kitchen wins number three honors. 

Mediterranean Restaurant  
You think Mediterranean and you probably think Italy. What makes Laziza Mediterranean Grill special as the top reader choice is that much of their cuisine is based on dishes from Lebanon which, after all, make up the Mediterranean Sea’s eastern shore. Shishkebab gets the silver medal for its superb Turkish cuisine. Ephesus Greek & Turkish Restaurant takes home the bronze. 

Mexican Restaurant  
Taqueria El Rey can be roughly translated as “the king of taco stands.” Well duh. No wonder it’s the reader favorite. Salsa’s is second while third is Poblano’s. They’re all what we call bueno. Muy bueno, in fact. 

Indian Restaurant  
From a country of more than 1.4 billion people, the best Indian restaurant in this city is a two-man race. The winner is Taj of India. Namaste Indian Street Food is the first next-best. They are both supremely elite. 

Italian Restaurant  
By comparison, Italy doesn’t even have 60 million people, but that takes nothing away from the victory by Ristorante Oliviana. Congratulations to her. As long as we have the three restaurateurs listed here, the other 60 million can stay in Italy and just visit us from time to time. The second person on our short list is Luigi of Luigi’s. There is a Luigi, right? And then Signore Carrabba, of Carrabba’s Italian Grill. 

Downtown Restaurant  
Readers are essentially telling us that Frog Hollow Tavern is decidedly uptown — and downtown — and the best. Alrighty then. We’re going with that. They also give almost-highest marks to Whiskey Bar Kitchen, and Nacho Mama’s keeps popularity decade after decade. 

Neighborhood Restaurant  
We gave readers a well-deserved thanks earlier for giving each year’s ballot a fresh look instead of just reelecting the same old candidates. Case in point: none of the following finalists in this category were finalists last year. At the head of the pack is the venerable Village Deli. Who doesn’t like the Village Deli? Nobody doesn’t. Back Paddle Brewing is another winner, followed in third place by Ironwood Tavern. Check ‘em out if, you know, you’re in the neighborhood.   

Sometimes you just don’t feel like cooking. Especially when you have to do it for a hundred people. Or on days ending in Y. On those occasions, the Augusta magazine-reading citizenry suggests that you call Jennifer Shuford at Tastefully Yours. If she happens to be booked, try FatMan’s next. The ballots also suggest Roux’s Gourmet Catering as a third option. 

Hidden Gem  
Rae’s Coastal Cafe has won this before, and unless they relocate, they’ll probably win it again. Once off the beaten path, always off the beaten path. The very thought of Rae’s Coastal Cafe in some strip mall makes us shudder. Back Paddle Brewing gets runner-up accolades, and the top trio ends up downtown at The Brunch House.  

New Restaurant  
When the question is “What’s new?” The reply should be, “You mean ‘what’s new and excellent and buzzworthy in the Augusta restaurant scene?’” The answer is pretty obvious. It’s PhoRamen’l. Just look for “Welcome to Slurp City” at the old Blue Sky location. You thought Slurp City was its name? Uh, no. But remember the free Vietnamese language lesson we offered a few paragraphs ago? How to pronounce pho? With your newfound linguistic abilities, you’ve already figured out that PhoRamen’l is a variation of phenomenal. We told you the winner was pretty obvious, didn’t we? Soul City Pizza wins the silver medal, and Thomson’s exquisite Bordeaux Steak & Seafood is well worth the drive in third. 

Overall Restaurant  
Last year’s winner is this year’s winner: Abel Brown. Apparently, when you’re good, you’re good. Congratulations to Mister Brown. There is a Mister Brown, isn’t there? Frog Hollow Tavern also reprises its role as first runner-up, and Cork & Flame makes a new appearance in this most elite dining category. Congratulations to all three.

Arts & Entertainment

As live entertainment returns, look for opportunities to support music and theater. Here are a few people and places to put on your short list.

Male Vocalist 
If you voted for Luke Amerson, you voted well, wisely and worthily, and no doubt several other words starting with W. And as the opening category for stepping out on the town for some real live entertainment, it should be noted that each in-person “vote” at a performance venue is better than fifty magazine votes. The large presence of Ryan Abel looms in second place, with Will McCranie in third. Imagine if we had thrown in his pickle votes, too? 

Female Vocalist 
The reader favorite is Tyreon Williams. It’s been a tough couple of Covid years, but when the clubs aren’t open you just have a concert in your front yard, right? Your runner-up selection is Emily Amerson. In case you’re wondering, she isn’t Luke Amerson’s sister. It’s the other way around: he is her brother. Got it? Jaycie Ward has been performing all over town since she was in middle school and now here she is all grown up, walking away with the bronze medal. 

R &B Group 
The Lady & The Gents, fronted by the aforementioned Tyreon Williams, scores the top spot. Way to go! Coach takes the silver, as you might guess, since Luke and Emily Amerson are two of the band’s mainstays. Oddly enough, Peculiar Music Group wins third. 

Local Jazz Group 
A lady and several gents who need no introduction — The Lady & The Gents — take the stage again for an encore. In second place is the trio you’ve seen the murals about downtown: The BrownsTown Gritty, keeping Augusta funky since 2021. Check out their NPR Tiny Desk Concert audition video on YouTube. The perennially popular Garden City Jazz wins third. 

Whiskey Run | Best Local Country Band 2022

Local Country Band 
Whiskey Run has been around for awhile, and they’re still vying for that slot on the CMAs. It’s coming, it’s coming. Tell them you won first place in Best of Augusta. That should seal the deal. The Harlem Sons have been on our stage before and will no doubt be again. RedFoxWood hails from Aiken, but who are we to let a river stand between us and some quality country music? 

Local Contemporary/Christian Group 
The top song by Trey McLaughlin & the Sounds of Zamar on Spotify is “In Awe of You,” a title which seems to describe readers’ opinions of the band pretty well, too. The other group that is peculiar to this category is, appropriately enough, Peculiar Music Group. Everything happens for a reason, right? 

Rock/Alternative Group 
Several things qualify Bodega Cat for top honors: they play rock, often with a decidedly alt twist. Oh, and they are the best, as judged by the people who read this magazine. Readers also yelled, “Put in Coach!” So we did. Pure Indigo, no stranger to these proceedings and to tasty venues like Grovetown’s Gateway Park food truck fair, wins third. 

Performing Arts Group 
Imagine if play was your work. You would no doubt enjoy your work, and it would show. Hence the gold medal for the performers known as the Augusta Players. The silver goes to J.A.M.P., and if you know what those letters stand for, then you get extra points for keeping’ on the good foot. Readers were also impressed with Creative Impressions. 

Singles Spot 
Tired of swiping left? Swipe right on over to The Indian Queen. These things are always best done in person. Southbound Smokehouse has the people, the food, the music, the votes for second place … everything. Edgar’s Above Broad isn’t a stuffy, pretentious place, but even so, they look down on their competitors. 

Late Night Spot 
Stillwater Taproom, offering mellow backporch string music and adult libations, is a perfect place to begin the late night wind-down. Its neighbor, Soul Bar, handles the overflow, and down the road The Indian Queen serves insomniacs in that part of the Garden City. 

Sports Bar 
Back when The Chronicle had a weekly restaurant review, Twin Peaks got high marks for its kitchen offerings. And televised sporting events. What’s not to like? Downtown’s Sports Center is rumored to be the namesake of ESPN’s daily sports wraps. The rumors are undoubtedly true. Doc’s Porchside gets third. 

Live Music Spot  
It’s easy to overlook Back Paddle Brewery in Lincolnton, but it’s barely half an hour away, at least from Evans (assuming no traffic jams along the way). Readers give it their top honors. Stillwater Taproom wins second place, and naturally they always have quite a robust calendar of upcoming gigs. Ditto for Southbound Smokehouse.


The following is not fake news. It’s the results of the media categories of our annual reader poll.

Television Station
Readers – or shall we say viewers – clicked over to WJBF News Channel 6 as their proverbial Channel 1. Thanks to our beloved clickers (kids, people used to have to get up from their La-Z-Boy and actually walk across the room to change channels using a dial on the front of the TV. It’s true! But we were tougher back then.) Channel 2 – in this case WRDW – is the mere push of a button away. The next-fave is WFXG, generally known as Fox 54.

Dee Griffin | Best Local TV Anchor Female 2022

Local TV Anchor Female
It’s a one-two punch for WJBF, with Dee Griffin winning the top honors in the reader poll, followed by her colleague Jennie Montgomery. Laura Warren of WRDW/WAGT is the other best anchor viewers love.

Local TV Anchor Male
Brad Means of WJBF nails down best anchor honors. Film at 11! Richard Rogers practices his craft at WRDW/WAGT, and readers awarded him Best Anchor with an alliterative name, while John Hart placed third for another medals stand appearance for WJBF.

Local TV Weather Anchor
Breaking news: weather is happening right now, this very second. The kind of investigative journalism that uncovers facts like that is just one of the reasons you read Augusta magazine. Another reason is to discover that readers like Jay Jefferies of WFXG about as much as they like a cool breeze on a hot day. That would be quite a bit. Tim Strong of WRDW gets the silver barometer, and WRDW chief meteorologist Riley Hale reigns in third. (We know, we know: reins in third. Work with us a little, OK?)

Local TV Morning Anchor
The award-winning anchors whose names follow deserve every possible accolade for coming to us bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every morning to deliver our news. If we got up when they do, we would be bright-tailed and bushy-eyed. So hats off first to Barclay Bishop of WJBF, and then to her fellow broadcaster Mary Morrison. (Note to Richard Rogers: if you’d like to jump ship and get up every day at 2 or 3 a.m, they seem to like alliterative names over at WJBF.) Zayna Haliburton represents for WRDW in third.

Local TV Reporter
Viewers chose George Eskola of WJBF as their top choice. Shawn Cabbagestalk, also of WJBF, a favorite among viewers, takes second place, and Meredith Anderson of WRDW/WAGT wins third.

Local Media Sports Reporter
Your #1 scorekeeper is Ashley Brown, columnist for The Augusta Press. Taking second is Colin Cody of WJBF, and rounding out third is WJBF Sports Director, Brendan Robertson.

Local Radio Station
Readers voted WAFJ (88.3 FM) as number one. It plays a contemporary Christian format, so they might not play “Stairway to Heaven”, but they will play “King of Heaven.” See the difference? WKXC (“Kicks 99”) comes in next, and WBBQ (104.3) rounds out the Top 3.

Local Writer/Columnist
It’s so tough to follow these sterling writers around that we aren’t even going to try. Even if we did tell you where their collected words are found it might change by the time you read this anyway. One thing’s for sure: they aren’t at The Augusta Chronicle. Your number one wordsmith is Bill Kirby, keen observer and historian of all things Augusta. If your brackets had Charmain Brackett as the second seed in the tournament, you nailed it. Sylvia Cooper is still going strong in third.

Local Morning Radio Show
We have a winner! It is Dub and Jess, otherwise known as the Kicks 99 Wake Up Krew. Don’t believe us? Tune in to 99.5 FM at 5:30 a.m. Don’t be late! The WAFJ Morning Show with John & April comes in second, and they get to sleep in. They go on the air at 6:00 a.m. In third, Augusta’s Morning News with John Patrick and Mary Liz Nolan at WGAC.

Local Talk Radio Personality
Readers tell us that Austin Rhodes is the host with the most, and he seems to have the most votes, too. In third place is Mary Liz Nolan, the hostess with the mostest, which sounds OK when you say it but looks awful on paper. Sandwiched in between is the always easy to listen to voice of John Patrick, as smooth as the greens at Augusta National.

Local News Story
OK, get this: we had a mayoral election. It subsequently resulted in a runoff. Someone won. Someone else lost. And the results were not challenged! They were accepted! By all parties! It was so utterly amazing that readers selected it as the top local news story of the year. The runner-up was Tiger Woods’ return to the Masters, where he not only made the cut, but shot a lower score than more than 40 other golfers.

Shopping & Leisure

In this era of online retail giants and challenges posed by a global pandemic, supporting local businesses has never been more important. Here are some of the best.

Men’s Clothing Store
Interpreting the message of the electorate, readers beg to disagree with the owners of Low Country Clothier. Apparently our readers think it should be High Country Clothier. Who are we to disagree? The Boardroom similarly occupies the Top Two, and Lionel Smith Ltd. takes third. 

Women’s Clothing Store
Moving on to categories for the true professionals of shopping, we come first to the aptly named The Swank Company. It’s like they knew this day was coming when they named their business. That is downright freaky. SoHo scoops up the first runner-up trophy, followed by The Ivy Boutique & Gifts.

Place to Buy Handbags 
Handbags. Plural. In the same way that most guys have a dozen or more wallets so they always use one that matches their pants, ladies like to complement the perfect outfit with the perfect handbag. Our readers tell us Shoes at Surrey is the place to go. The Swank Company comes up next on the finalists list (say that several times fast), with Macy’s following close behind.

Women’s Shoe Store
If Shoes at Surrey won best handbags, you might think that a store named Handbags at Surrey would win for best shoes. Ha ha. Very funny. But seriously, leave the humor to the professionals. The truth is that Shoes at Surrey wins best shoes, apparently everywhere, not just at Surrey. And if you happen to be marching in a Thanksgiving parade later this year, Macy’s ranks next in Best Shoes. DSW, aka Designer Shoe Warehouse, wins third.

Escape Outdoors | Best Fitness Outdoors Store 2022

Fitness/Outdoors Store
Speaking of business names, Escape Outdoors may be the most apropos yet. Considering how much time we all spend at work, watching TV and playing Donkey Kong, we could definitely stand to escape outdoors a little more often. Escape Outdoors can show us how, but unfortunately you’ll have to go indoors to shop there. Half Moon Outfitters will also give you the gear to be two things: out and fit. See what they did there? Academy Sports + Outdoors places third.

Consignment Shop (Furniture)
According to our expert readers, people who shop at Savvy Home are savvy shoppers. The savviest, in fact. Second Time Around, in second. And Consign Design is your number three fine furnishings recycler.

Consignment Shop (Clothing)
What the name Uptown Cheapskate says to some is that everyone can live the high life. Even a spendthrift could spend thriftily there. That’s good. Second Time Around gains another second-place finish. It’s definitely deliberate. Encore Boutique & Consignment sails into third from their spot on Davis Road.

They say it’s theoretically possible to go a full day without checking Instagram or TikTok — we know someone who claims to have tried it once — but it’s extremely difficult to go a full day without eating. So this is a vitally important category, one in which Publix comes out on top. If you have to eat — and you do — then you can shop there knowing it’s the reader favorite. Kroger and The Fresh Market are second and third.

Organic Food/Products
It’s quite a feather in our community cap to have a Sprouts Farmers Market here. Seems like we heard the chain is based in Brussels, so to come all the way here from Belgium is very special, and readers gave them a gold star in appreciation. Good Earth Produce and Garden Center (2nd place) will sell you the good eats, or the plants to let you grow your own. Or both if you ask nicely. The Fresh Market takes another third.

When it’s crunch time, whether that means carrots, apples, celery, radishes or something else, readers recommend Good Earth Produce and Garden Center as the place to get your crunch on, as the kids say.  Publix also prodigiously produces produce, enough bounty for a second-place finish. And this time Sprouts Farmers Market wins third.

Take the kids to Bedford Greenhouses, say the votes. Not because it’s that kind of nursery, but because kids need to learn that food doesn’t grow in Publix or Kroger. It grows in greenhouses at Bedford, as a matter of fact, along with plenty of yard-worthy non-edible plants. As they always say at Bedford, “It not a greenhouse. It’s a green home.” Other green options include Good Earth once again and Sanderlin Greenhouses.

Gift Shop
Buy something super nice and then just give it away? That really does sound like a wonderful plan, and the friendly staff at The Swank Company will be happy to assist you. Readers next present Soap Creek Market, which happens to be in Lincolnton. It’s well worth the pleasant drive, say the ballots. Design Images follows in third.

Place to Shop for Husband/Boyfriend
Can’t decide between some spiffy new duds or some cool fishing and hunting gear? That is exactly the reason Rivers & Glen Trading Company exists, to serve the well-dressed outdoorsman, or if you prefer, outdoorsperson. Readers give it a gold star. Escape Outdoors, nestled into their new location, have the welcome mat out in second, and  Low Country Clothier wraps up the top three.

Place to Shop for Wife/Girlfriend
Go ahead and give her that coveted green box moment from Windsor Fine Jewelers, say readers. Just make sure the box isn’t empty. You see, gentlemen, it isn’t the green box — it’s what’s inside the green box. The Swank Company lives up to its name once again in second, and Cudos2u (for buying her a gift there) wins third.

Weinberger’s Furniture | Best Home Furnishings

Home Furnishings
You sometimes have to leave home for the comforts of home, which seems ironic, but the votes give Weinberger’s Furniture a home run for shoppers needing to make a home run. (“Honey, I’m about to make a home run. Need anything?”) Merry’s Home Furnishings and their third-generation family owners are awarded the silver medal, and Savvy Home, the kind of home we all want, occupies third. 

If you’re referring to victories, yes, Mema has one here. Specifically, her store, Mema Had One. Her cupboards are bare, bless her heart, because all the stuff she used to have is now for sale in her one-of-a-kind shop. Supply chain problems? Mema is the supply chain. Trends & Traditions wins second and Savvy Shopper takes home another bronze medal.

Fine Jewelry
It is no exaggeration to say that the jewel of fine jewelers in our area is Windsor Fine Jewelers. That, in fact, is the official result of our reader poll, and given the level of security we employ, there is no steal in play here. Crown Jewelers isn’t quite wearing the crown, but in second place they are what is known in the business as crown-adjacent. That makes Friedman’s Jewelers crown-adjacent-adjacent.

Costume Jewelry
The beautiful thing about costume jewelry – well, there are actually a couple of beautiful things. First, there is the cost savings, naturally, but even better, no costume is required. We are told The Swank Company has the premier assortment in what some people call the Savannah River Region. But if you insist on a costume and costume jewelry, Vintage Ooollee is the place to go. One-stop shopping. Last but not least, readers give Dillard’s third.

Food Delivery Service
If we had included this category a few years ago, all the winners would have been pizza providers. Now, practically every eatery from white linen to flimsy sporks offers delivery. Readers tell us the leader of the pack is Augusta To Go. Next up is Door Dash, and then Uber Eats.  

Takeout Menu
Some restaurants have only a limited takeout menu, but no such shortage describes Frog & the Hen. The takeaway from that is that theirs is the reader favorite. Village Deli also has an enviable selection of edibles for takeout, as does Farmhaus.

Local Online Shopping
There is an art to conducting online business well, and you tell us The Swank Company has their act together better than anyone else. Good job! The other local award-worthy web vendors are Field Botanicals and Posh Tots. Add them to your cart.

Curbside Service
Saying “curbside” and “ChickfilA” in the same sentence conjures up images of customer’s cars lined up half a block down the street along the curb. That is the phenomenon that is Chick-fil-A. But the specific curbside we’re talking about is the one you reach once you actually inch your way up to the ever-friendly order takers. There is no question, they have it down to a science at Chick-fil-A. But perhaps surprisingly, readers give next-best honors to California Dreaming. They’ve got their curbside game going too. Frog & the Hen is the final finisher.

Services & Miscellaneous

Great places to support to keep them great, and to keep them open and serving us all.

Car Wash
Sparkle Express is your best option, according to the motoring public, and it might even make it possible to quit your job. Simply go often, and each time you go, do something incredibly stupid, like have your windows rolled down, go through in a convertible, try to get out and adjust your wipers real quick, et cetera. You could make a fortune on what you post on Instagram and TikTok – and be famous too. LuLu’s and Tidal Wave can also get you millions of views, on the street and online.

Barber Shop
Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the contrast between hair salons for women and barber shops for men. The typical ladies’ salon gives off a “let us pamper you in luxury and glamour for the next two hours” aura, while your average barber shop exudes a “git ‘er done” vibe. That’s how they roll at Russell’s Barbershop. Downtown’s Real Life Barber sweeps into second, for real. And all those swanky heads in The Hill section are served by Durden’s Barber Shop.

Local Charity
Why is Ronald McDonald House of Augusta the top charity? We imagine it’s the extra-crispy fries. Whatever the reason, they richly deserve the top honor awarded by readers. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Augusta wins second place, and Golden Harvest Food Bank wins third. Thank you to all three for the tireless work you do, as well as the charities ranked four through 99. You are all medal-worthy.

Special Event Facility
If you haven’t been around Augusta all that long you may not know that it hasn’t been all that long since Enterprise Mill, your number one special event choice, was vacant and well on its way to becoming an eyesore. Thanks to Clay Boardman’s restoration, it can now win Best of Augusta categories, which was after all, the whole point of the restoration. Speaking of awesome gifts to the city, the Peter Knox family similarly stepped in to rescue Sacred Heart Cultural Center from a dilapidation situation. Savannah Rapids Pavilion wins third.

First Date Spot
Craft & Vine could be where all the memories begin for a family that doesn’t even exist yet. Think about that for a moment. Another place to forge families, say the ballots, is Frog Hollow Tavern. This is one heavy-duty category. Oliviana’s takes a well-deserved third place.

Tourist Attraction
Contrary to popular opinion, The Masters Golf Tournament is our 52-weeks-per-year top tourist attraction. There is Tournament Week, of course, and the Women’s Amateur, plus the everyday ability to drive past and show visitors the bamboo. And to say, “and this whole area here used to be a neighborhood,” or “we just drove over a tunnel connecting the course to the press building.” The stately and serene Augusta Canal flows into second place, and the downtown statute of the one and only James Brown wins third.

Historic Landmark
Soaring above the rest – literally and figuratively — is Sacred Heart Cultural Center, built in 1900, before we were born. Sacred Heart occupies a well-deserved place on the National Register of Historic Places. Of course, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (built in 1751) views Sacred Heart as the new kid on the block. That’s understandable, but the Butt Memorial Bridge (in third) is the real new kid. It’s only 108.

Place You Wish Was Still Here
Deforestation is a global concern, and perhaps nowhere is this issue felt more keenly than in the Garden City, where people still fondly recall  Fat Man’s Forest. Plant a seedling in its honor. Fort Discovery and Squeaky’s Tip Top are your other top two destinations for walks down memory lane.

Your top choices: Coming into focus first is Amy J. Owen. Yolanda Rouse Photography develops in a photo-finish for second place. Last but not least, Aurora Adeleigh co-owners Justin and Calie Cook, almost TLC-famous, complete the camera-ready elite as pictured by readers.

Financial Institution
From the plethora of votes for Queensborough National Bank & Trust, we have to assume they give out free samples. Works every time, way better than giving away toasters. In second, SRP officially be may be a credit union, but they’re cleverly disguised as a bank. And you don’t have to work at SRP to join. You don’t even have to like the GreenJackets. South State Bank completes the trifecta of local winners. They all give 110% (Not literally, although it wouldn’t hurt to ask.).

Those huge Vs you see on billboards? That’s Venus Morris Griffin signaling her victory. Jaime Putnam (in second) may not have a billboard yet, but she is on her way. Ann Marie McManus takes the bronze for putting the real in realtor.

Evans Fitness Center | Best Fitness Center Gym 2022

Fitness Center/Gym
Your personal fitness level might not qualify as “best,” but that’s precisely why Evans Fitness Center exists. They specialize in whipping people into shape. The Family Y/YMCA wants to welcome you in second. Oxygen Fitness Studio brings up the rear. 

Hair Salon
As they say every day at hair salons, thank goodness only men go bald. That still leaves half the planet to salonify at places like your number one choice, Bliss Salon and Spa. Surrey’s Cucumber & Mint earns the silver medal, and Broad Street’s Undertone Salon & Co. wraps it up with the bronzing (but never brassy) gel.

Day Spa
The name really says it all: Retreat Salon and Spa is exactly what you want: a retreat. They deliver. Rosewater Spa & Wellness and Tuscany Luxury Spa (second and third) are Ponder Place neighbors, which make that short street kind of a day spa mecca.

Place to Swim
Ignoring the fact that swim and swam are just plain funny words, readers have provided quite a pool of excellent options. They find the Kroc Center to be most swimmable, then the Family Y makes a splash in second, and the Augusta Aquatic Center is the last of the top pool rooms. All three offer indoor swimming, so if you feel like swimming when it happens to be raining cats and dogs, you can still swim at these places without getting drenched.

Place to Play Golf
It has to rank as an exceptional privilege for any golfer to play the same hallowed holes that Bobby Jones once played, which is all the explanation you need for your number one choice: Forest Hills Golf Club. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to three-putt every hole just to prolong the experience, you know? Rocky Branch Golf Club is the next putter-up, followed by Augusta Municipal Golf Course. Never heard of it? It’s better known – much better known – as The Patch.

Place to Play Tennis
Love means nothing in tennis, of course, but readers have plenty of untennisy love for Newman Tennis Center.  Ditto for Petersburg Racquet Club and Forest Hills Racquet Club, your second  and third best options.

Yoga Studio
If we can’t have Squeaky’s Tip Top, we can at least have Space Yoga. Readers say it’s tip-top. In second place, Good Vibes offers, well, you know. GVO Studios is the final finisher for every body.

Place to Walk Your Dog
Step 1: Obtain dog. Step 2: walk said dog along the Augusta Canal. Repeat daily or as required. For variety in sniffing options, the  North Augusta Greeneway is another place to take the good boy or good girl. In third and not to be overlooked – seriously, watch where you step – Evans Town Center has a dedicated dog park. That is a walk in the park. 

Local Arts Festival
Cardiologists aren’t the only ones who love Arts in the Heart; readers do, too. It brings with it tons of art, an international buffet of good things to eat, and a full array of live music. Who doesn’t like all that? Next up, the Greek Festival is all Greek and that’s just the way they like it. In third is Banjo-B-Que. Check out this year’s stellar lineup!

Readers are going with fashion forward fundraising in giving the win to Ronald McDonald House and its Wine, Women & Shoes benefit. Hundreds of non-profits around the country have signed up for WW&S to raise funds in answer to the question, “Can you have too many shoes?” Early results say the answer is no. Safe Homes’ fundraiser Fake It To Make It wins the silver dollar. The Boot Scoot Boogie Bash wins third, helping the Augusta area Red Cross provide disaster relief in the area. 

The very flower of our many florists, say readers, is Flowers on Broad. They offer the pick of the picked. Martina’s and Ladybug’s (in each case followed by “Flowers and Gifts”) win second and third.

Elegant Bridals | Best Bridal Shop 2022

Bridal Shop
For your wedding, that very special day, you want to choose the best bridal shop, and our readers believe they know exactly who that is: Elegant Bridals, in their spiffy semi-new location on Riverwatch. Or you could say yes to House of the Bride in Surrey Center.  Of course, if you like poetry, repeat this chant: “say ‘I do’ to Tiffinie Bleu.” All three are a pretty bride idea, according to the voting public.

Appears in the October issue of Augusta Magazine

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