WHAT IS EAT IT AND LIKE IT?
Some people see our show as a guide to local restaurants in Savannah. Others see it as a must-have foodie resource. Some use it for recipes.
What we are actually (in our view) is simple. Something different than you see on all the cooking/travel shows out there.
We are about the South.
There are a lot of misconceptions about Southern cuisine. Most of the world knows us for being all about the fried chicken and collard greens. Sometimes a chef takes that old classic and gives it a modern twist. But what's next?
There is great food out there. There are talented chefs doing great things and quiet, wonderful, small-town people turning heads, as well. The common denominator is food, and we are planning to find them all. Then share them with you. One bite at a time.
We will be taking you farther than we ever have before, figuratively and literally. Our show is growing, and so are we. We've made trips to Atlanta, Florida, Charleston and beyond.
The ultimate goal is to share all of Savannah's wonderful food with the rest of the country and share some great food in the South with all of you here in Savannah.
And we are well on our way. In February, excluding newscasts, we were Savannah/Hilton Head Island's highest-rated local television show. And we aren't planning to stop there.
Have a tip, idea or just want to say hello? Drop Jesse Blanco a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT JESSE BLANCO
How many of you remember the days when we had three or four TV channels and you actually had to get up from your seat to change them? Show of hands, please ...
It was back in that day that Jesse Blanco developed a curiosity about television news. 6 p.m. would come around and his mom would say, "Get out of my chair and change the channel."
There was no other TV set, so he watched the news. A lot. And so a career was born.
Since those days, Jesse has enjoyed a 20-plus-year career as television anchor. In that time, he has reported on major stories like hurricanes, Super Bowls, shuttle launches and a presidential inauguration. He has lived in places like Orlando, Fort Myers, Savannah, Nashville and even El Paso, Texas. More importantly, though, spending time in a variety of places has allowed him to experience and understand different people and different cultures.
That would obviously include food - both cooking and eating. It helped that he was raised in Miami along with a very, very large Cuban-American family where the genetic makeup consists of food, drink, music, dancing, laughing, family and friends.
Toss in an insatiable desire to travel and explore, and you get someone who is only happy being curious or learning and trying new things.
Jesse is extremely active in the Savannah community. He is a regular participant in countless fundraisers and community events that take place in and around the city.
On his weekends, you'll likely find him either tinkering with a new recipe or exploring something or somewhere with his family. During football season, you'll find him parked in front of a TV - glass of red wine in hand - cheering on his Miami Dolphins or Hurricanes.
Jesse and his family call Savannah's Historic District home.
The way we chose this year's Foodie Award winners was pretty simple, actually.
For the better part of the last year, we have eaten, liked, disliked, discussed and argued over who was deserving of being nominated as a finalist for a particular group.
Some categories were no-brainers; others were tough to narrow down. We then solicited input from the public. We asked visitors to head to www.eatitandlikeit.com and readers of DO Savannah to nominate a favorite restaurant or dish.
The response was tremendous and proof that people are paying attention to good food in Savannah.
We then narrowed it down to no less than four nominees in each category and put them up for a vote. Judges had about three weeks to sort out their choices, giving them an opportunity to re-visit some they may not have been sure about. Votes were tallied. Winners were named.
In addition to Jesse Blanco and co-founder of Eat It and Like It Senea Crystal, we asked the assistance of these seven people to taste, eat, enjoy and vote on who they believe is the best in town.
Kristin Davis: Kristin is a member of our Eat Squad review panel. Her reviews appear regularly at www.eatitandlikeit.com and in the Savannah Morning News. She's a local school teacher, big-time, huge Atlanta Braves fan and our eyes and ears on Wilmington Island.
Todd Williams: Todd is local businessman who knows what he likes and likes what he knows. He is also a member of our Eat Squad review panel, with an affinity for the finest wine he can find at a good value. The kind of guy who gets so excited about great food that he'll text, "Hey, found this great place down here in Key West! Want me to review it for the website?"
Scott Waldrup: Scott is one of the sharpest foodies we know. His knowledge extends to wine and spirits, as well. He is also a member of the Eat Squad. He's definitely a "downtown" guy and is always in search of something new, creative and unique to eat and like within 31401.Nathan Herren: Our newest Eat Squad member is the son of restaurant owners, husband to a classically trained chef and a world-traveling chef himself. His knowledge of craft beer is unrivaled. Elizabeth Christmas: Elizabeth is a contributing writer for www.eatitandlikeit.com. She's also a food writer for Effingham Now.
Heather Henley: Originally from Southern Illinois, Heather is editor of DO Savannah. If it's happening in this town, food or otherwise, she knows about it.
Dr. Jerry Williams: Dr. Williams is owner of Urgent Care 24/7, title sponsor of the 2014 Foodie Awards. Dr. Williams is a Savannah native who has probably eaten at every restaurant in Savannah dozens of times over. He knows food in this city. The good, the bad and the ugly.
Best Burger: GREEN TRUCK PUB
Green Truck Pub gets extra credit for freshness, simplicity and creativity in its toppings. Nothing fancy about the burgers. Just consistently good every time.
Honorable mention: Circa 1875
Best Fried Chicken (that you don't have to wait in line for): SISTERS OF THE NEW SOUTH
Most people know about Sisters. No secret there. The Brown family has it down pat. Savannah fried chicken? Now there is a secret. Just ask the scores of bus drivers, firemen and other blue-collar folks who line up at this tiny spot near Bacon Park every day at lunchtime.
Honorable mention: Savannah Fried Chicken
Best Wings: 520 WINGS
When people keep telling me, "I tried to stop by but it was too crowded," then you know something good is going on in there.
Honorable mention: Coaches' Corner
Best Barbecue: SANDFLY BBQ
This might have been our closest vote. Everyone had a favorite. To be expected with barbecue. The only multiple vote getter? Sandfly BBQ. Meanwhile, if you haven't tried Randy's on Wheaton Street, just look for the line at lunchtime.
Honorable mention: Randy's
Best Breakfast: TYBEE ISLAND BREAKFAST CLUB
No secrets here, either. I don't know what Jody puts in his housemade sausage, but it is addictive. Breakfast Club has been a model of consistency in this area for a long time. Amazing breakfast. As has B. Matthews. Both very deserving.
Honorable mention: B. Matthew's
Best Brunch: AQUA STAR AT THE WESTIN
Is there an advantage here because it's a buffet? Perhaps, but this one is impeccable. Every. Single. Time. The Bananas Foster alone is enough to make you cry. Tybee Island Social's Bluegrass Brunch is gaining traction in town as a go-to spot, as well.
Honorable mention: Tybee Island Social Club
Best Italian: LEOCI'S TRATTORIA
Sundays, Tuesdays, any days, it doesn't matter. Leoci's packs 'em in. That said, this race is going to be very interesting next year with Pacci and Hugh Acheson's The Florence coming on line.
Best Steak: NOBLE FARE
One of the best steaks I've ever had. The panel did not know this. Votes came back? Boom. I guess I was right. How good is the steak? Jenny McNamara tells me Chef Pat made her one on one of their first dates. "I knew right there I may have to marry this guy," she said.
Honorable mention: Alligator Soul
Best Salad: STARLAND CAFÃ‰
The logjam of cars on 41st Street between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. every day tell Starland's story. When it comes to selections of great, creative salads in Savannah, there are these two ... then everyone else.
Honorable mention: Kayak Kafe
Best Sushi: ELE
Sushi is a touchy-feely subject in this city. Everyone has their favorite little spot. However, I don't know many who would argue who is always at the top of their game.
Honorable mention: Tangerine
Best Drunk Food: BETTY BOMBERS
Seth and Patrick like to call it "good beer drinkin' food." No, no, no. This is the best food in town AFTER the beers. Why eat pizza that is only tasty at 2 a.m.? Betty's food is really good any time.
Honorable mention: "Fancy" Parker's Market on Drayton
Best Mexican: TEQUILA's TOWN
The new kid on the block walks in and takes the prize. Well deserved. They do a very nice job. Try the piggy burrito. Tendras que volver una vez a la semana.
Honorable mention: La Xalapena
Best Thai: KING AND I
Never a bad meal there. Basil chicken is my favorite. Chiriya has done very well since moving from the Southside to Victory Drive near Thunderbolt. A lot of people forget she is there. She is and doing a great job.
Honorable mention: Chiriya
Best Fried Shrimp: AJ'S Dockside
Almost unanimous. Almost. Gerald takes his shrimp very seriously, and they are very good, but this group came at us with clear conviction on who they thought was best.
Honorable mention: Gerald's Pig and Shrimp
Best Date Spot: ELIZABETH ON 37TH
Savannah has a ton of great spots for a date. However, wanna impress the girl? You know where to go.
Honorable mention: Planters Tavern
Best People Watching: VINNIE VAN GO-GO'S
City Market can be every bit as charming as it is a freak show. Friday nights at Carlito's? Great food and many times a freak show.
Honorable mention: Carlito's
Best Locally Sourced: GREEN TRUCK PUB
All it takes is seeing Green Truck owner Josh Yates pushing a wagon FULL of produce out of the Forsyth Farmers' Market on Saturday morning to convince me. Combine that with Hunter Cattle Company beef and we begin to wonder what isn't local on their menu.
Honorable mention: 22 Square
Best Craft Brewery: SOUTHBOUND BREWING CO.
Across the board consistent and great. Believe me, we tried them all. Many times. Tough assignment, I know.
Honorable Mention: Moon River Brewing Co.
Best Coffee Shop: FOXY LOXY
The coffees are great but the variety (and quality) of food made the difference here.
Honorable mention: The Sentient Bean
Best Craft Cocktail: SAPPHIRE GRILL
Craft cocktails are everywhere across the South. Here in Savannah? If you want the perfect drink with the knowledge to support it, go talk to Matt at Sapphire Grill. The guys and girls at Andaz deserve a mention, as well. Both are excellent places to have something unique and perfectly mixed.
Honorable mention: 22 Square
Best Female Chef: KELLY YAMBOR OF ELIZABETH ON 37TH
They don't advertise and they don't toot their own horn, but Chef Kelly very quietly delivers. Always. I bounced this vote off of a couple of chefs in town and they couldn't help but agree.
Honorable mention: Brandy Williamson of Local 11ten
Best Chef You May Not Know but Should: KEVIN CARPENTER OF SUNDAE CAFÃ‰
It surprises me how often I suggest Sundae CafÃ© on Tybee to people and the response I get is "Huh?" Plenty of people in the area know about it. They've been exceptional for years. But apparently you, or someone you know, needs to get out there and try this gem in the gas station shopping strip.
Honorable mention: Michael Clee of Jepson CafÃ©
Best Pizza: VINNIE VAN GO-GO'S
Unanimous. I don't think many would argue with that. Looking for a change of pace? Go see Anthony at Roma in Bloomingdale.
Honorable mention: Roma Pizza
Best Place to Spend a Sunday Afternoon: TYBEE ISLAND SOCIAL CLUB
This could lead to a lot of debate. A one-block walk to the beach or a perfect view of the marsh? Tough call. I'm thinking the food at Social Club tipped the scales here.
Honorable mention: Bonna Bella Yacht Club
Best Wines by the Glass: CIRCA 1875
A number of people in town have a nice wine program. However, Jeffery and Donald at Circa 1875 deliver a by-the-glass list for wine drinkers. There is a difference.
Honorable mention: Ruth's Chris Steak House
Best Gourmet to Go: K'Bella Gourmet Carry Out
The islanders know all about Kristen. You should, too. The variety she turns out is amazing. So is the taste. Meantime, every time I walk into Joe's Homemade, they've managed to squeeze another table into a tiny front space. Can't wonder why.
Honorable mention: Joe's Homemade
Best Sandwich: ZUNZI'S
The Conquistador gets all the love at Zunzi's. It's not the only great sandwich. Betty Bombers Ultimate Chicken Sub is as good as anything you will eat in this city.
Honorable mention: Betty Bombers
Best Sweets: LULU'S CHOCOLATE BAR
Cakes, pies, tarts, macarons, all of it. I dare anyone to say they had something at Lulu's that they didn't like. A well-deserved honor.
Honorable mention: Chocolat by Adam Turoni
Best Caterer: NICK MUELLER
Chef Nick is the perfect example in this city of "unless you know, you don't know." You won't find him tweeting, Instagramming or Facebooking, just turning out amazing food at every stop.
Honorable mention: Paul Kennedy Catering
Best Restaurant Group: ELE & THE CHEF
By the end of the year, they will be operating eight, count 'em, eight restaurants (when you include one in Charleston). All of them beautiful, all of them very good. They already have two Foodie Awards. An easy choice is giving them a third.
Best Restaurant Regular: TONY THOMAS
I'm told Mr. Thomas should have a table named in his honor once his days of putting down steaks are done. Standing reservations, same time, same place, same view, same requests for the entertainment. A model of consistency.
The Leopold's Best Ice Cream Award: LEOPOLD'S
Should someone ever come along and unseat Leopold's as the best ice cream in Savannah, they will be the proud recipient of The Leopold's Best Ice Cream Award, because it probably means Stratton and Mary got tired of winning. Butter pecan, please.
Best Bakery: BACK IN THE DAY BAKERY
Cheryl and Grif get all the publicity and it is very much deserved, but Dolores Montoya's Just Desserts on Skidaway Road is another gem that needs to go mainstream.
Honorable mention: Just Desserts
Best Chinese: Please let us know when you find it
Good? Perhaps. Great? No chance.
Best Food Tour: The Eat It and Like It Gourmet Foodie Tour
Sunday nights. Go to www.eatitandlikeit.com for details. (Did you think we'd pick any other?)