Here’s a look at our Best of Cobb for 2016

Welcome to another of our annual Best Of Cobb. We began asking for votes in October and got hundreds of entries. You voted and here are your winners!

>>Articles by LaTria Garnigan, Stacey L. Evans, Joan Durbin, Meredith Pruden, Jennifer Hafer, Jennifer Carter and Michael J. Pallerino

>>Photography by Katherine Frye, Jennifer Carter and Mark Wallace Maguire

Best Burger
Stockyard Burgers & Bones
26 Mill St., Marietta
(678) 503-2760

As the name might imply, if you can grill it, smoke it or braise it, it’s probably on the menu at hip Marietta Square restaurant Stockyard Burgers & Bones. Although the team here, led by partners Alexis and Scott Kinsey (also the chef) and general manager Ezechiel “Zeke” Jean-Louis, serves up everything from salads and hummus to pork chops and baby back ribs, it’s the joint’s fresh black Angus beef burgers that have won them Best Of bragging rights for 2016 — only a little more than a year since they first opened.

Stockyard is not your average restaurant, according to Jean-Louis, and he’s right. The ambiance is inviting, the service vivacious and the food clearly is made with a lot of love and passion. Everything about the experience is warm, friendly and downright tasty.

Our favorite, the Dirty South Burger, is topped with a gluttonous heap of smoked gouda mac and cheese, bacon and apple butter BBQ sauce and served between toasted brioche buns with a side of hand cut fries and your choice of dipping sauce.

We also hear the Bohemian is the best veggie burger around. Wash it all down with a selection from the rotating craft beer menu, and you won’t be disappointed.

Best BBQ
Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q
New London Square
1425 Roswell Rd
(770) 971-3201

For 25 years, Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q has been feeding the metro area and we’ve all been better for it. Brothers Danny and Larry Williamson brought their barbecue concept to the area from Alabama.

The open-pit restaurant features a rich menu with meats cooked on the open fire daily with hickory and hardwood. Staples include baby back ribs, pulled pork and chicken.

Everything in the restaurant is homemade and the brothers stay true to the Southern style of barbecue. Williamson said the customers’ pick is definitely the chopped barbecue pork day in and day out.

“That’s always been No. 1,” said Williamson. He said Boston butts are cooked for eight hours, chopped up and topped with the restaurant’s signature barbecue sauce.

Best Breakfast
Reveille Coffeehouse and Café
Locations across Cobb

Who needs a bugle when you’ve got Reveille Coffeehouse and Café? Answer the wake-up call, and head to this East Cobb staple for a modern twist on traditional sunrise favorites.

Husband and wife team Nicole and Jay McCann take a lot of care with the food that comes out of their kitchen, and the heartfelt attention shines through in each of the thoughtfully-constructed menu items and daily specials.

“Everything we use is fresh, and we give a lot of time and effort into putting our food together,” Nicole said. “We have cookbooks galore at the house and play around with things.”

The originator of another popular Atlanta breakfast hotspot, J. Christopher’s, Jay knows a little something about what has locals flocking to a.m. eateries and keeps them coming back for more. But, when the couple opened the first Reveille location in Acworth three years ago, they wanted to do things a little differently.

“J. Christopher’s has been around for 18 years,” Nicole said. “We couldn’t change menu items without upsetting guests, and we wanted to change things up. We do a lot more specials here.”

With rotating daily quiches made with fresh, on-hand produce and seasonal ingredients and other daily specials, there’s always something new at Reveille.


Best Italian Food
Provino’s Italian Restaurant
440 Ernest W Barrett Pkwy., NW #1, Kennesaw
Phone:(678) 594-5055

It’s not particularly difficult to find an Italian restaurant in the metro area, but it can be a bit trickier to find one with authentic fare, friendly service and a family style atmosphere that will keep you coming back for more. Enter Provino’s Italian Restaurant in Canton, where every visit feels a bit like a trip to Grandma’s house — if Grandma was an Italian Julia Child.

Opened in 1999, the locally-owned chain’s Riverstone Parkway location is intimate, casual and comfortable, serving up consistently delectable cuisine to everyone from smartly dressed business types to families on their way home from the lake.

Managing partner Dan Clifford has been with the company since 1978, just a year after the first location launched in Stone Mountain.What’s his secret to success?

“When you’re in one location this long, you get to know everybody and we’re fortunate to have a lot of repeat business,” he said. “I try to greet our regulars by name. We turn customers into friends here.”

With its Best Of Cobb win, it certainly appears the Provino’s team has succeeded in its mission to transform hungry patrons into satisfied pals. Salud!


Best Local Florist
K. Mike Whittle Designs
156 Church St., Marietta
(770) 499-1700

Not many people can say they’ve always known what they wanted to do in life. Except for Mike Whittle.

Whittle is the owner of K. Mike Whittle Designs in downtown Marietta and has been in the floral business since he was 13 years old.

“It’s all I’ve ever done,” said Whittle. “It’s my God-given talent.”

His passion for design, friendly personality and expansive shop have to be what made Cobb voters choose him as Best Florist. You can’t help but feel like family when you talk with him. And his knowledge goes far beyond the rudimentary dozen red roses. Whittle’s expansive skills of design can transform any home.

He opened the shop six years ago with “absolutely zero” and has watched it continually blossom. In addition to providing flowers for the home, Whittle participates in trade events and travels all over sharpening his décor skills.

With all of that, he does not forget to give back. He’s been a staple providing arrangements for the Center for Family Resources’ “Oscar’s,” Miles for Major and the March of Dimes. And the shop has been recognized as one of the top five businesses by the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s great because of my team,” said Whittle of the recognition. “We’re all very devoted to not just each other, but to our customers.”

Floral design enthusiasts will delight in knowing he will begin to offer classes this month in his new 1,200 square foot DIY Design Center, at 1890 W. Oak Pkwy., Suite C, in Marietta. It will mainly serve as a teaching center, but can also be rented for events.

The Posey Parties, as he calls them, will offer patrons the opportunity to bring in wine while trying their hands at floral arrangements. The classes will start with the very basic and go up to advanced.


Best Golf Course
Marietta Country Club
1400 Marietta Country Club Drive, Kennesaw
(770) 426-1808

If you love the game of golf, there is no better place to test your acumen in Cobb County that at the Marietta Country Club. That’s the first thing that Stephen Keppler, the PGA Director of Golf at the Marietta Country Club in Kennesaw, will tell you.

When it comes to golf and everything else, the MCC has it all — amazing golf shop, private lessons or group clinics, men’s, ladies’ and senior men’s associations, junior programs, tournaments and a premiere practice range and putting green area.

The beauty and awe that is the Marietta Country Club starts and ends with the concept behind it. When noted course designer Robert Cupp drew up plans for the greens in 1990, his directive was clear — make each and every hole interesting, not boring. That’s why the course continues to be the ideal place for high handicappers and tour professionals alike.

And besides, where else can you find epically scenic greens set amid historic Civil War bunkers and trenches, each of which are amazingly added into the design?


Best New Thing
Kennesaw State University Owls Football

It wasn’t just any Saturday at Kennesaw State on Sept. 4, 2015 when the university prepared to set up shop for the inaugural kickoff at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. There was football in the air. College football. KSU football.

When the Kennesaw State Owls squared off against Edward Waters College, a game in which the home team won 58-7, it helped usher in a new era ripe with opportunity for the university and surrounding community. As members of the Big South Conference at the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision level, the Owls finished its first season with a 6-5 record under coach Brian Bohannon.

As for impact, according to Cobb Travel & Tourism/Cobb Sports Alliance, $4.1 million was generated into the Cobb County community for the Owls’ six home games.

But it was much more than that.

“I think it had a profound effect on the camaraderie, school spirit, and obviously just the awareness of what’s going on at Kennesaw State University,” said Vaughn Williams, KSU’s director of athletics. “I think we were able to use football to tell the story of the university. We weren’t able to do that before, because there was no medium in which to draw the community and university together on six different Saturdays. Football brings new life and is the new must-do in our community. You had the business community, you had the alumni, student-athletes, students and community at-large partaking in these events, so I would say it was a big, big boost.”


Best Place To Take Out of Town Guests
Henry’s Louisiana Grill
4835 N. Main St., Acworth
(770) 966-1515

“When you come here, you’re gonna feel like you’ve stepped into someone’s party house,” said Henry Chandler, owner and executive chef of Henry’s Louisiana Grill. Truer words have never been spoken. Which is exactly why Cobb voters chose the restaurant as the Best Place To Take Out Of Town Guests.

Once you step inside Henry’s, decorated throughout with shades of green, gold and purple, you’re immediately greeted with a warm welcome and sometimes even by Chandler himself — who will present you with two strands of Mardi Gras beads around your neck. If he’s not there to greet you, there is a self-serve bucket of beads to choose them.

Open since Aug. 15, 2000, Henry’s was born out of Chandler’s background of growing up in Saint Maurice, La., and from his lifelong love of cooking. The downtown Acworth restaurant features a menu full of Cajun staples like gumbo, shrimp creole, Etouffee and the delicious Atchafalaya catfish, which includes fried or blackened catfish over spicy cheese grits with Henry’s crawfish cream sauce; it can also be served over jambalaya.

The atmosphere is ripe for a place to hang with friends and family, and Chandler said they strive to make everyone who walks through the doors feel as if they are part of the family.

To add to the atmosphere, Henry’s has live music once a month featuring artists in genres like gospel, jazz and country, an upstairs space that can be rented, a Louisiana brunch each Saturday from 9 to 11:30 a.m.

Chandler does not hesitate to credit his team for making things run smoothly — general manager Justin Williams, personal assistant Jennifer Kalinowski, sous chef Jeremy Hartman and kitchen manager Arthur Livas. His family — wife Claudia, son Liam and daughter Danielle — are also a part of the Henry’s team.

While he’s enjoying his success, Chandler is still planning for the future. He is looking to expand at Emerson’s LakePoint in 2018.


Best Salon
élon Salon
695 Piedmont Road, Marietta
(770) 427-8698

The mantra at East Cobb’s élon Salon is that the experience is all about the client. Warm, inviting and relaxing, it’s easy to see why so many women have trusted their hair to the staff here for more than 20 years.

Owners Don and Flonnie Westbrook believe not only in the best possible client experience but also that continuing stylist education is pivotal to the success of the salon and the happiness of each and every client. Guest educators regularly come to the salon for training and élon’s stylists have traveled across the world to ensure they’re always up on the latest trends, colors and techniques.

élon is an award-winning salon that has received numerous accolades and appeared in a number of industry trade publications, as well as consumer magazines. In fact, Celebrity Hairstyle magazine named them one of the top 10 salons in the country two years running.

élon also is a member of the international Intercoiffure organization, and the Westbrooks have been awarded the Adolf Biecker Achievement Award by Intercoiffure America (ICA) — the highest honor the ICA can bestow.

Here’s one more for their list — Best Salon in Cobb.


Best Landmark
The Big Chicken
12 Cobb Pkwy., Marietta

“Go down Parkway until you see The Big Chicken, and then turn …”

Come on, how many times have you heard or used those directions? Be honest. You can’t miss it. And, quite honestly, why would you want to? With its moving beak and eyes (yes, they really move), The Big Chicken — Kentucky Fried Chicken customer or not — is one of the premiere landmarks that defines Marietta.

Your history lesson starts now. If you didn’t have The Big Chicken, you would have to tell folks to go to the intersection of Cobb Parkway (U.S. Highway Route 41) and Roswell Road (Georgia State Route 120 Loop), and then turn.

The person to thank for making directions a little easier in Marietta is Stanley R. “Tubby” Davis, who in 1963 built the ever-present, seven-story steel-sided structure to help advertise his restaurant, Johnny Reb’s Chick-Chuck-‘N’-Shake.

A few years later, Davis sold Johnny Reb’s to his brother, who turned it into a KFC franchise. It stood loud and proud until 1993, when after years of deterioration and damage from a major storm was in danger of being torn down.

That’s when the community stepped in. With pleas reaching a fever pitch, KFC agreed to rebuild the entire structure and restore it to its former glory.

So, if you have friends and family who have never seen Marietta’s favorite beacon, you can purchase gifts inside its souvenir shop or visit the Marietta Museum of History.


Best Entertainment Venue
The Earl Smith Strand Theatre
117 North Park Square
(770) 293-0080
The Strand Theatre, which has echoed with the sounds of many singers, bands and movies through the years, is spent 2015 celebrating its 80th year as downtown Marietta’s “go-to” place for entertainment.

The Strand first opened in 1935 — a rare vote of confidence in the local economy during the depths of the Great Depression. The first movie screened in the Art Deco theater was “Top Hat” with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on Sept. 24, 1935.

For decades following that, it was the place to see a movie in Marietta and Cobb County. It retained that distinction well into the late 1960s, when it began to suffer serious competition from newer theaters and then from multiplexes.

In the mid-1970s it was purchased by Herbert Goldstein of Marietta. Despite expensive renovations, it could not compete with newer theaters. The building was put to a variety of other uses in the next three decades, from rock-concert venue, to offices, to a teen-only nightclub, to a church. None proved profitable, and the building sat mostly derelict during those years, its stucco covered with a coat of garish yellow paint.

All that changed in 2002, when the road toward restoration began when a group of local residents, initially steered by banker Joe Daniell and eventually chaired by former Cobb Commission Chairman Earl Smith (after whom the theater was later name), formed The Friends of The Strand, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with the goal of raising funds for its restoration.

The process was helped along by contributions from the Cobb Commission, chaired at the time by Sam Olens, and the Marietta Board of Lights & Waterworks. The Goldstein family retains ownership of the theater, which is under a 50-year lease to the Friends group.

Another key step in the process came when Smith persuaded Earl Reece to come out of retirement as director of the Cobb County Center for the Performing Arts at Pebblebrook High to become executive director at the Strand. The results have been outstanding “Seeing the Strand reborn was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have ever done,” said Reece, who is now semi-retired, with protege Cassi Costoulas filling his shoes as GM.

These days the facility post-dozens of events throughout the year bringing in arts and entertainment in all shapes and sizes.


Best Mexican
La Parrilla
Several locations across Cobb

It never fails that when my friends and I are planning our occasional dinner meetup, which we affectionately call a “soiree,” one place is consistently offered up as a dining destination.

That place is La Parrilla.

And it is no question as to why Cobb Life voters also chose it as the go to place for Mexican cuisine.

The casual and lively atmosphere, coupled with great service, delicious food and tasty drinks makes it a top destination to celebrate birthdays, work promotions or anything new and exciting happening in life.

Not to mention, if it is your birthday you’re treated with a sombrero, a plate of perfectly crispy sopapillas drizzled with chocolate sauce and a rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

While there recently, I ordered the tacos de camaron. They are shrimp tacos that you can get grilled or breaded, topped with Mexican coleslaw, chipotle mayonnaise and pickled jalapeños (which I wasn’t brave enough to endure). Mexican rice and charro beans are included as sides.

Friends ordered (and RAVED about) the Texas grilled quesadilla, which has skirt steak, marinated chicken and shrimp along with bell peppers and onions. And from their praises and the smell, I know what I’ll be ordering next time. Follow that up with a perfectly mixed prickly pear margarita and you have ingredients for a top notch outing.

No matter where you live, there is bound to be a La Parrilla within a reasonable distance. So the next time you get a pining for a taco or a nice beverage, pull on in and thank me later.


Best Place to Spend the Day with Kids
Kennesaw Mountain

Thousands of acres of woodland. Multiple trails. Great activities. A ton of history. And arguably the best view in Cobb County.

Yes, of course, we’re talking about Kennesaw Mountain. The mountain itself and the surrounding parkland is a prime place to spend the day outdoors having a picnic, hiking or exploring.


Best Volunteer
Mary Ansley Southerland

Her family lineage can be traced back to the Marietta land lottery and includes a 20th-century mayor and one of the city’s original settlers. Suffice it to say Mary Ansley Southerland, Marietta resident and co-owner-operator of WD Little Mortgage, has deep local roots. It should then come as no real surprise that she chooses to spend her free time staying active in area philanthropy.

“I believe when you support your community, your community supports you,” Southerland said. “It’s an honor to be able to make a difference where I can.”

Southerland sits on the boards of The Rotary Club of Marietta, The Marietta Schools Foundation (she has two children in the school system who will be fifth generation graduates of Marietta High), the WellStar Foundation Hospice Advisory Board (which sprung from caring for her mother-in-law under hospice care) and is the chairman of the board of trustees at The Marietta Educational Garden Center and first vice president of the Marietta Council of Garden Clubs — a love passed down from her great grandmother, who was a charter member of Flower Garden Club in 1928.

Through it all, she’s a charismatic go-getter who still managed to fit in time to talk with us!


Best Place To Spend The Day Outdoors
Smith-Gilbert Gardens
2382 Pine Mountain Road, Kennesaw
(770) 919-0248

With over 3,000 species of plants and 31 sculptures on its 16 acres, Smith-Gilbert Gardens is a landscape of lush and colorful beauty for outdoor lovers. The grounds boast a variety of flora for green thumbs as well as those who just like to be surrounded by pretty things.

On site is a bonsai exhibit, the Palladino Camellia Garden, a rose garden, a mystical-looking conifer area, as well as a tea house and waterfall, all connected by woodland paths.

Christine Davis, education/event manager, said her favorite spot in the gardens is near the waterfall.

“You feel so far away from an urban city there,” she said. “My favorite thing about the gardens is that every time I walk around there is something new that I see. You see all the life cycle phases—this one is blooming while another one is withering; everything takes on different shapes and colors throughout the year.”

What makes Smith-Gilbert unique is that, though thoughtfully constructed over several decades, many of its areas have a wild feel, as if it has been growing naturally.

The serene setting is the perfect backdrop for a romantic picnic; patrons are allowed to set out a blanket and enjoy lunch anywhere in the grassy grounds or in the picnic area. The self-guided activities for children also make it a great place for the entire family to spend the day.

Families can check out a backpack from the visitor center that contains binoculars, a magnifying glass and other items to help explore the gardens. There is a picture scavenger hunt available for anyone to enjoy. Children also receive an activity book, and there is a dedicated area for them to explore growing vegetables and fruits and play.

History buffs appreciate the historic Hiram Butler Home (circa 1880), and art lovers are drawn to the intriguing sculptures. Craft and garden enthusiasts can take part in workshops, ranging from beekeeping to wreath making. Guided tours are available with advance reservations for groups of five or more. Guided themed field trips can also be booked in advance.

“The gardens are a place you can make your own,” said Davis.

Admission: Adults, $7; Seniors (age 60+) or Active Military, $6; Children, ages 6-12, $5; ages 5 and younger, free. Memberships and annual passes are also available.

Open year round, typically 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; closed on Sunday and Monday.


Best Fine Dining
Aspens Signature Steaks

East – Sandy Plains Center
2942 Shallowford Road, Marietta
(678) 236-1400

The Avenue West Cobb
3625 Dallas Hwy., #645, Marietta
(770) 419-1744

There have been other restaurants over the years that have deservedly won the Best Fine
Dining category, but none as often as this year’s voter favorite, Aspens Signature Steaks.
Aspens East Executive Chef John Sweeney has a theory on why the restaurant continues to rise to the top of the list.

“I think we’ve won this award several times because we continuously look at ourselves objectively and that breeds a constant state of self‐improvement,” he said.

“We so appreciate Cobb County’s vote of confidence in our concept and our daily execution,” said Leslie Avers, marketing lead for The Sedgwick Restaurant Group.

The consistent success can be traced back to Aspens creators Michelle and Chris Sedgwick, who began their careers as restaurateurs almost 25 years ago and have since built a thriving culinary empire that includes Bistro VG, Vinny’s on Windward and Pure, as well as the two Aspens.

“Since both are professional chefs, they set a high standard for the quality food, atmosphere and service we provide,” said the restaurants’ managing partner, William Page.

“We buy top quality ingredients and make every dish from scratch. We have also been blessed in hiring outstanding managers, chefs and front and back of the house employees.”

The core of the menu has stayed the same, but the executive chefs, Sweeney and Jordan Daniels, have opportunities to express their style in many dishes and create their own daily specials.

“We also try to change things seasonally with the availability of different ingredients and changing markets on beef and proteins,” Avers said.

While it is well known for its excellent steaks, there is much more to the Aspens menu.
Customer favorites include seafood dishes such as jumbo lump crab cakes, crispy salt and pepper fried calamari, seared tuna, tuna tartare and North Georgia mountain trout. Of course, the hearty salt-crusted prime rib is also a perennial hit.

Both Aspens locations have the décor of a Colorado ski lodge with a stone fireplace, exposed wooden beams, leather chairs and booths. The one at Avenue of West Cobb is a much larger restaurant and Aspens East is a bit more intimate.

In Avers’ view, fine dining translates not just to a high quality of food, wine and beverages, but also a unique atmosphere and highly professional service.

“We think Aspens satisfies all those elements, even though we provide a relaxed and comfortable setting where everyone is welcome and there’s no set dress code.”


Best Festival
Big Shanty Festival

Believe it or not, the numbers only tell part of the story of what makes Kennesaw’s Big Shanty Festival — the party to end all parties that has taken over the downtown area each spring for the past 40 years.

The festival, co-sponsored by the city of Kennesaw and the Kennesaw Business Association, helps connect every fiber of the community in ways that organizers say cannot be measured by just numbers alone.

And, well, okay, if you want numbers, it just happens to be one of the largest arts and crafts shows in north Georgia.

How’s this for stats: more than 200 arts and crafts booths (with a 90 percent retention rate, by the way); more than 70,000 annual visitors (and those numbers just keep growing); more than $6 million generated back into the local economy (from numbers by the Cobb Bureau of Tourism) and more than $70,000 given back to the local community via schools and scholarships (by festival organizers).

“You cannot describe what the festival is unless you have been here and experienced it,” said Rev. Marlon Longacre, associate pastor of Piedmont Church and festival chairman for the past 13 years.

“The festival’s vision has been transformed from generation to generation. You cannot put a price on what its vision means to the community. It’s all about hometown love. It’s the greatest and largest hometown party there is in the state.”


Best Dessert
Marietta Diner
306 Cobb Pkwy., Marietta
(770) 423-9390

If you’ve ever asked someone “Have you eaten at Marietta Diner?” and saw them grab their stomach, lean back and give forth a grin — just know it’s all justified.

The restaurant, helmed by Gus Tselios and his mother Maria Tselios, has been feeding the masses and racking up awards and recognitions for years due to its heartwarming food.

But we’re here to bestow upon them the Best Dessert spotlight, voted on by Cobb residents. Many a conversation has been made by my peers that included, “Oh, I’ve never had room for dessert,” or “I just ordered it to go” when it comes to the sweet treats. What seems like a mile-long display case full of any kind of delicacies imaginable when you walk in features an array of dessert that makes it hard to choose.

Desserts include milkshakes, sundaes, cakes, pies and more. And just like their portion sizes of food, they don’t hold back on the desserts. A slice of cake took me about two days to eat and every bite was enjoyable. If you’re a chocolate lover, the Death by Chocolate cake is the real deal. So the next time you go, don’t skimp on the dessert.


Best Home Decor
Fabric & Fringe Warehouse
2440 Canton Road, Marietta
(770) 794-8106

A manufacturer recently phoned Marty Williamson.

Old school?

You bet. But, Williamson, owner of Fabric & Fringe Warehouse, wouldn’t want it any other way.

At a time when most competitors have gone to easier cut yardage programs, Williamson still proudly stocks full rolls of hand-picked fabrics in his comfortable showroom. It keeps retail costs down roughly 25 percent below the competition and helps ensure customers almost always leave with exactly what they want.

Plus, Williamson and his friendly, knowledgeable team still manage to keep a constant flow of fresh merchandise that appeals to all decorating styles, which is probably why Fabric & Fringe scooped up the Best Home Decor award for the second consecutive year.

Fabric & Fringe buys from every major mill in the country and also has the largest selection of window hardware around and other select items one might need for decor and sewing projects like pillows (they stock Made in the USA forms, too), drapes and more.

Stop by and see for yourself why everyone from college kids and do-it-yourselfers to design pros and even movie studios keep coming back for more.


Best Asian Food
Asahi Japanese Steak House
& Sushi Bar
2690 Shallowford Road, Marietta
(678) 560-0015

Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot to enjoy scrumptious, hand-crafted sushi or dinner and a show at one of the hot, hot, hot hibachi tables, Asahi Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar is sure to serve up just what your stomach is growling for. For 13 years, Asahi has wowed patrons with its fresh, tasty fare and impeccable service right in the heart of East Cobb.

Start with a bowl of edamame and an order of Japanese style dumplings served deep fried, pan fried or steamed before selecting your favorite hibachi entrée prepared and served piping hot right before your very eyes. Although you can select salmon, chicken, shrimp, scallops, lobster, New York strip steak or just plain veggies, we love the filet mignon for its tender bite and savory goodness.

And, it’s a great value — all hibachi entrées come with soup, salad, vegetables, steamed rice, dessert and two pieces of grilled shrimp — but they still do early bird specials seven days a week from 4:30 to 6 p.m. (except holidays), which is astounding! Kanpai!


Best Pizza
G’Angelo’s Pizza & Pasta
3205 Canton Road, Marietta
(770) 424-1800

Mushrooms. Black olives. Green peppers. Onions. Pineapple. Typically when ordering a pizza, I stay close to those ingredients. At G’Angelo’s Pizza & Pasta, you can order that and more. Like the G’Angelo’s House Special — pepperoni, beef, sausage, ham, onions, green peppers and mushrooms — or the BBQ pizza with barbecue pork and barbecue sauce.

These are several of the reasons why voters chose G’Angelo’s for Best Pizza in Cobb County. Other offerings include calzones, subs, fettuccine alfredo, spaghetti with marinara, baked wings, salads and more.


Best Local Artist/Band
Third Day

From their basement recordings in the early 1990s in Marietta to a now two-decades solid worldwide fan base known as “Gomers” and more than 8 million albums sold, Third Day is still going strong with a 12th studio album, “Back to Me,” released in March and a number 1 song, “Soul On Fire” in 2015 according to the National Audience Chart.

With 30 No. 1 singles, more than 8.5 million albums sold, 24 GMA Dove Awards, four GRAMMYs, an American Music Award and a place in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, Third Day has made its hometown proud. But the band’s wild success is not the only reason Third Day and its Cobb-native members find a special place in our hearts.

While they may be, Billboard magazine says, “one of the best rock bands, period,” they’ve never forgotten where they came from, the supreme importance of family, their community and their faith.

Between seasons of touring, recording and working on solo projects, the members of Third Day, Mac Powell, Mark Lee and David Carr, are easy to spot at the same restaurants, stores and schools we all frequent. And the only entourage they bring around here are their wives and kids.


Best Local Celebrity
Zach Seabaugh

From the church pews of Marietta First United Methodist to the high school auditorium and finally the hit NBC show The VOICE, 17-year-old artist Zach Seabaugh seems to have caught a shooting star and attracted millions of fans in the process.

With his urbane vocals, boyish charm and down-to-Earth demeanor, it’s easy to see why fans instantly love him and his classic country sound. But at first, it all seemed surreal to Seabaugh, who grew up watching the show with his family, performing in school plays and at a local coffee shop.

“I had just turned 16, and The VOICE had an open call in Atlanta,” he said. “I just felt it was time to give it a try. The talent pool was so incredible. It was validation for me that I had a gift and my hard work preparing through the years was all worth it.”

Worth it indeed. Since giving up high school sports to focus on music and theater, he’s won three literary state championships and now made it to the top nine on the world’s hottest singing competition. We can’t wait to see what he does next!


Best Jeweler
Diamonds R Forever
4200 Wade Green Road, Ste. 212, Kennesaw
(770) 422-0845

If you’ve only ever shopped for bling at the big box chains, you may find it unusual that a hometown jewelry store could retain a loyal following for nearly 30 years, but that’s just what’s happened at Diamonds R Forever. Since 1987, this north Cobb retailer has been delighting devoted customers not only with their jewelry selection but with their thoughtful service and inviting vibe.

Owner Karin Benado, who purchased the store in late 2011, has built on the long-standing reputation of the store, ensuring Diamonds R Forever was a shoe-in for Best Of accolades this year.

The sales associates at Diamonds R Forever, including exuberant long-time rep Vicki Holliday, are not on a commission structure and have no sales goals, which fosters a team approach that focuses on building customer relationships based on trust, respect and honesty.

Look through the selection of sparkling diamonds (perfect for bridal and wedding), radiant precious and semi-precious gems and fashion forward pieces (some with a rock star edge), and you’ll notice that no two pieces are exactly the same but each is high quality and carefully selected by the team.

Diamonds R Forever will always try to work with your budget and can usually accommodate last minute requests.






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