Best New Bar
It's hard to categorize Ampersand, other than calling it the Best New Bar.
You could call it a gastronome public house, a watering hole bon vivant, a gourmand drinkery that plays host to swing dancing classes, community theater, poetry slams, live music, DJs, dancing, and networking events alike.
You could call it a culinary grog shop decorated in shades of industrial chic; an establishment that knows the difference between what’s good, what’s better & what’s best.
“I usually change my answer (as to what kind of bar this is) depending on who I’m talking to. If I was talking to my grandmother, I’d say restaurant, but if I were talking to my buddy, I’d say bar,” Ampersand Partner Charlie Crosby says.
It’s almost easier to say Ampersand will work with anyone who’s doing something right locally than to list their partners, but here’s a good start: PERC & Form & Adam Turoni, Savannah Bee Company & Savannah Hydroponics & Sweetgrass Dairy, Southbound Brewery & Hunter Cattle Company & Russo’s.
“We’re incredibly fortunate not only with timing but the people we’ve been able to get on board with us. Everybody wants a piece of this action and for good reason,” Ampersand Executive Director and Partner Rob Chandler says.
“Everybody’s here & we’re having a grand ole time,” seems to be the party line and modus operandi. Chandler, Crosby & Operations Facilitator James Miller are determined to cultivate and maintain that inclusive and hysteric glamour of upscale-not-uptight success.
Ampersand features more than 70 beers—from a three-dollar PBR to a 20-dollar New Belguim La Folie—a formidable wine selection and seasonal rotation of signature cocktails.
“Everybody in this city wants a demographic; this bar is for these types of people, that bar is for those types of people,” Ampersand Bar Manager Andre Carter explains. “But here, I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what your upbringing is. I just think everybody wants a good drink.”
There’s something for everyone, including a full menu. If you want a duck confit pizza or a burger with truffle fries, you can definitely have that, but if you want really high-end local seafood, slow-roasted pernil or pork belly, you can definitely have that, too.
Form II Table Chef John Osborne is the creative force in the kitchen. With a decade at the burners under his apron, Osborne lends a seasoned gastronomist perspective to the already spirit-infused casual fine dining outlook. His brunch, dinner and late night dishes effectively walk the line, offering quality and skipping the stuffiness.
“I’ve never seen eating well as a snooty thing,” Osborne says. “People around the world have been eating great for god knows how long and it’s never been considered fine dining.”
The whole operation reeks local urban cosmopolitan but without even trace whiffs of snot-nosed pretension. This is more than you could have said about this location’s previous iteration, which also had some rather serious shortcomings when it came to service.
The questions on people’s minds: How are these guys going to do it different? How are they going to do it better?
“It’s really important to make people feel comfortable. Being nice goes a long way,” Carter explains. “After all, we’re in the Hostess City of the South on the corner of one of the most popular streets in the city. To be in any way exclusive is detrimental to us and the community.”
“We try to learn from the mistakes of other places. That’s something that we try to remember everyday,” Chandler says. “And we’re not in the business of failing, I can promise you that.” – Jenny Dunn
Best Overall Bar
Best Downtown Bar
Best Place to Listen to Live Music
Best Place to Spot a Celeb
Best Bar Staff
Best Bartender (Tony)
No doubt about it, Savannah bends over backwards to cater to tourists. Way the hell over backwards.
Want your new hotel on River Street to double the existing height allowance? No problem.
Want to idle another 50-foot charter bus full of Paula Deen-loving hinterlanders onto the square designed for two-horse carriages? Knock yourself out.
But God freaking forbid us locals should enjoy some live rock ‘n’ roll without threats of getting shut down over trumped-up decibel readings because the place didn’t hire enough off-duty cops to work “security,” or falling victim to yet another underage sting by the hyperactive Georgia Revenue Department (do they only go to rock ‘n’ roll clubs to pull that stuff? Have they seen some of the peach-fuzz whippersnappers getting into the faux velvet rope places these days?)
Bitter much? Yes. Yes I am.
Considering how gosh-darn difficult it is to make a rock venue work in this funny little town, the success of The Jinx is all the more impressive. It’s not that the Jinx is opposed to tourists or tourism – they are just off Ellis Square and within shouting distance of City Market, after all – but it’s clearly the place where locals go to enjoy a PBR or two or three and some loud, good music and get away from the BS small town politics for awhile, not to mention to take a break from the booty-music scene that dominates most other downtown spots.
While crazy-awesome things like Savannah Stopover continue to help the local scene grow organically, God bless ‘em, let’s not forget that the first requirement for an event like that succeeding is at least one really kick-ass, bathroom graffitti’ed, scuffed-amp, smell-the-beer, honest-to-balls rock ‘n’ roll club – the kind Athens and Atlanta have always had plenty of, but other than the Jinx seems to largely exclude the Hostess City (no offense to our awesome multi-use clubs which sometimes host bands).
Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you The Jinx. Those about to rock salute you. – Jim Morekis (photo by Geoff L. Johnson)
Runner-up, Overall: Murphy’s Law
Runner-up, Downtown: The Rail Pub
Runner-up, Live Music: Hang Fire
Runner-up, Celeb: Pinkie Masters’
Runner-up, Staff: Murphy’s Law
Runner-up, Bartender: Cody Thomas@Club One
Best Outdoor Bar
Best Pool Hall
Congress Street Social Club
If you dabble in Savannah’s nightlife then chances are high you’ve at one point or another found yourself at Social. With four bars, two floors, outdoor seating and a slew of games from shuffleboard to billiards the appeal is understandable.
Replete with ample outdoor seating and standing space as well as two bars and a sidewalk grill, Social Club’s outdoor atmosphere could easily host a small battalion of nightlife gourmands -- and on a typical Friday or Saturday night it essentially does.
Show up just a bit too late and you’ll find yourself one of the unfortunate victims of fire codes standing along the sidewalk peering into the expansive courtyard wondering why you ever thought there wouldn’t be a line to get in on the weekend. So stop your shuffling, pick up the pace and grab some bench while you can Savannah -- because outdoor seating goes out the window if you don’t act fast at Social!– Sinjin Hilaski
Runner-up, Outdoor: Moon River Brewing Co.
Runner-up, Pool: Southside Billiard’s
Best River Street Bar
Best Irish Pub
Kevin Barry's Irish Pub
A longtime waterfront establishment that caters just as well to locals as to tourists, KB’s is also a mainstay of the local music scene, bringing a steady rotation of the nation’s best traditional Irish musicians, such as Harry O’Donoghue.
Runner-up, River Street: Wet Willie’s
Runner-up, Irish: Murphy’s Law
Best Southside Bar
Best Westside Bar
Generations of folks have grown up partying at various locations of Spanky’s. The Southside location is a true, if underreported, staple of Savannah’s bar scene. There’s now a pretty much equally popular version in Pooler.
Runner-up, Southside: Rachael’s 1190
Runner-up, Westside: Molly MacPherson’s (Pooler)
Best Islands Bar
Britannia British Pub
Who needs to go downtown when you have darts, Newcastle, good company, and tuneage?
Runner-up: Molly McGuire’s
Best Tybee Bar
Folks always point to the late Doc’s Bar as the epitome of the Tybee bar scene, but you could make the case that Huc-a-Poos is more the quintessential Tybee joint, with a rockin’ kitchen, live music scene, lively outdoor view, and great bartenders.
Runner-up: North Beach Bar and Grill
Best College Bar
Best Signature Drink
The action rarely starts before 11 p.m. at Wes Daniel’s place, but when it starts it hits hard, much like the kick from the signature concoction, Scorpion Tea, ladled into Mason Jars at five bucks a pop for your radiant pleasure. A steady diet of entertainment, from DJs to live bands to the great Wednesday night trivia, abound.
Runner-up, College: Congress Street Social Club
Best Neighborhood Bar
Inaugurating the new renaissance of Habersham Village, Johnny B. and Sarah and co. have provided a welcoming oasis outside of downtown which gives you all you could want in a downtown bar and more, especially plenty of free parking!
Runner-up: The 5 Spot
Best Upscale Bar
Best Rooftop Bar
Rocks on the Roof
We’re not sure why no one really thought of it before: A bar on top of a building on the waterfront, overlooking the bustling river. It’s not like there aren’t plenty of buildings that fit that bill. And there were other rooftop bars, just not on the waterfront. But it took the Bohemian Hotel to actually put two and two together with its rooftop wraparound lounge, Rocks on the Roof. Others are now joining in on the action with their own budding rooftop bars on the river, but Rocks was the first.
Runner-up, Upscale: Olde Pink House
Runner-up, Rooftop: Churchill’s
Best Selection of Beer on Tap
Best Bottled Beer Selection
World of Beer
It’s like a Disneyworld for... no, we said that already. It’s like a whole world of beer, that.... Uh, wait. It&rsq
Runner-up: The Distillery
Best Happy Hour
This may come as a shock to some, but – wait for it -- by and large the denizens of Savannah really, really enjoy their cocktails, wine or beer. All alcohol it would seem, truth be told. Who knew?
Keeping the local affinity for alcohol in mind it seems every establishment around town has created some sort of Happy Hour to tantalize our deeper desire to drink. While some are better than others and offer assorted options like five dollar martinis, it seems simplicity is the key to a Savannahian’s heart.
Enter Savannah’s Mellow Mushroom, winning both best happy hour and trivia. With everything from the typical PBR’s and Bud Lights to fine craft brews like Loose Cannon and an assortment of Terrapins, Mellow’s happy hour has something for everybody. Quite possibly a Savannahian’s fondest dream, all beer -- yes every beer they have -- costs a mere two dollars during happy hour.
Pair this with their Tuesday trivia -- always a very competitively packed house, ably run by Cam of Pub Star Entertainment -- and it’s sort of a wonder how Mellow Mushroom didn’t win these categories earlier. – Sinjin Hilaski
Runner-up, Happy Hour: The Jinx
Runner-up, Trivia: Murphy’s Law
Jen's and Friends
Jen’s is a friendly, hopping little place, a bit of a neighborhood watering hole in the middle of the downtown tourist hubbub. That said, they’ve always been best-known for that quintessential white-collar downtown type drink, the martini.
Runner-up: Lulu’s Chocolate Bar
Our man Jason has moved on up to General Manager and Sommelier at Garibaldi’s, from his previous gig at sister restaurant, Olde Pink House. Hey, wine is wine, amirite?! Haha, just kidding, J-Ro, you know we love you, man.
Runner-up: Gary Butch
Best Retail Wine Selection
Best Retail Beer Selection
Habersham Beverage Warehouse
It’s like Disneyworld for hopheads and oenophiles out there on Abercorn Extension.
Runner-up: Johnnie Ganem’s
Best Bar/Restaurant Wine Selection
Olde Pink House
The Pink House wracks up tons of wins this year as usual!
Best British Pub
The rooftop bar concept was really begun in Savannah by Churchill’s, after its move from the old spot on Drayton. It’s long since well-ensconced on Bay Street however, and is as fun on the topside as it is down below.
Runner-up: Six Pence Pub
Best Scottish Pub
Molly MacPherson's Scottish Pub
Hey, who are we to get between 500 years of internecine rivalry in the British Isles? So the Scots get their own category – you got a problem with that?
Best Dance Club
Best Gay Bar
Really, in the post gay-marriage era we can imagine a time very soon when the “gay bar” category ceases to have much meaning. (But not “dance club.” That will continue to have a great, huge deal of meaning.) But nonetheless, the local gay scene is why Club One exists in the first place, and despite being extremely friendly to anyone and everyone, that remains a key part of their identity. That, and dancing. Lots and lots of dancing.
Runner-up, Dance: Hang Fire
Runner-up, Gay: Chuck’s
Best Sports Bar
Anyone can throw up a bunch of flatscreens and call it a sports bar. Heck, that’s pretty much everywhere these days. But at Coach’s, they actually follow sports, and know and care about what the most important sporting events of the day are throughout the week – not just weekends – and plan accordingly.
Runner-up: B&D Burgers
Best Adult Entertainment
Formerly Uncle Harry’s, this dependable Westside locale has been delivering the tasteful goods for years.
Runner-up: Savannah Sweet Tease
Savannah’s a karaoke kinda town. There are lots of good karaoke nights in Savannah. There’s only one great karaoke night in Savannah, and that’s at McDonough’s, and it happens basically every night of the week.
Runner-up: The Rail Pub