We had thousands of votes this year for our annual Best Of Cherokee! Thanks to our readers for sending in your votes for your favorites. We hope you enjoy reading this section and get ideas on where you can go eat, be entertained and more for 2017.
Compiled and photographed by Cherokee Life staff
Best Golf Course
1190 Bridge Mill Ave., Canton
Cherokee County’s golfing enthusiasts don’t need to travel far when looking to play 18 holes on one of the state’s nicest courses.
The rolling hills and immaculate greens of BridgeMill’s par-72 course have been a staple of the local golfing community since the late ’90s and has been voted the best place to play golf in the county.
The course opened in 1998 with the help of legendary course designer Desmond Muirhead, and the semi-private club boasts more than 260 members. Most of them have been around since the very beginning, Director of Golf Jon Hough says.
“There’s a great history of folks who have seen the club develop through the years,” Hough said. “But the course is in such great condition we get a lot of the public players who call this home even though they aren’t members.”
Pros at the shop say the greens are the best they’ve ever been and because the course is so well-maintained, BridgeMill continuously draws golfers from all over the metro Atlanta area.
“It’s in outstanding condition and the locals say the course is the best it’s ever been,” Hough said.
In terms of conditioning, BridgeMill has put a lot of work into their course over the last year, re-sodding huge areas of fairway and rebuilding all of its sand bunkers.
While many courses struggled this year with the heat of the summer and the ongoing drought, BridgeMill’s bent grass greens remain impeccable.
Members get first dibs on tee times, but the course is open to the public and those looking to play a round can schedule a time a week in advance. Lessons are available for golfers of all skill levels and the pro shop is open each day from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Best Place to Spend the Day with Kids
Paper. Scissors. Cake
6687 Bells Ferry Road, Woodstock
Paper.Scissors.Cake opened in August 2013 in Woodstock and immediately became a favorite for many families with children in Cherokee County.
Owner Adria Smith opened the modern, yet cozy art studio as a comfortable place to inspire children of all ages, even adults.
“I want this to mimic a home environment so that the children can feel free to express themselves,” Smith said describing her studio as a place for everyone to “learn, craft, shop and party.”
Before walking through the doors of Paper.Scissors.Cake, a registered Little Free Library can be found for families to bring a book, take a book. Once inside, children will be dazzled by the endless supplies to choose from at the Art Bar including wooden pieces cut specifically for Paper.Scissors.Cake, canvases, clay and ceramics to decorate with beads, jewels, glitter and buttons.
There is something for every age at Paper.Scissors.Cake including washable, nontoxic paint for children as young as 18 months and chalk paints for adults.
“Our wooden pieces are extremely popular because the kids can paint and decorate them.
They like these pieces because they are like home decor; parents can take it home and hang it up in bedrooms,” Smith said. “People often tell us that the artwork done here is frame-worthy.”
The facility offers an open studio, art classes, hosts birthday parties, ladies nights monthly, summer camps and provides a shopping experience for art supplies, as the business is a retailer of Melissa & Doug arts and crafts supplies and Seedling products.
315 Chambers St., Woodstock, 30188
With eggs, bacon and pancakes on the menu, it’s hard not to find something to enjoy for breakfast or brunch at J. Christopher’s.
The Woodstock location, right in the heart of downtown, features a bright and colorful postcard on its wall outside, an inviting welcome to an equally bright dining room. With windows overlooking Main Street and a model train clacking by overhead, the warm atmosphere at J. Christopher’s is a great way to start a morning.
“We try hard to make sure that every guest has a great experience,” said manager Abby Lane.
Open for breakfast and lunch, the menu offers a variety of traditional favorites and “food with flair,” as well as healthy options for those looking to start their day on the right foot.
A customer favorite, according to Lane, is the Blueberry Crunchcakes, which features a stack of blueberry pancakes “fortified with crunchy granola.”
For a more protein-filled breakfast, the San Bernardino omelet with chicken, avocado, Pico de Gallo and cheddar and jack cheeses offers a satisfying option. J. Christopher’s skillets also provide a unique and quirky choice, as eggs, various vegetables and cheeses are mixed together with potatoes in a heavy, cast-iron skillet.
Lunch at the restaurant delivers a number of light and heavier options including Santa Fe Black Bean soup, Waldorf salad and a patty melt. Sandwiches and quesadillas are also available for lunch, and as the seasons change J. Christopher’s specials change with it. Be sure to look out for the Gingerbread Waffles and Egg Nog Cappuccinos.
Best Fine Dining
Century House Tavern
125 East Main Street, Woodstock
Tucked in a century old house in downtown Woodstock, Century House Tavern was voted Best Fine Dining in the county for the third year in a row.
With innovative and mouth-watering menu options, the cozy and vibrant atmosphere sets the table for a unique and delicious dining experience.
“What makes us unique is that we use fresh local ingredients and it truly makes the difference in flavor and appearance,” said head chef Daniel Porubiansky.
Porubiansky has been at Century House since 2013 after leaving a prestigious restaurant group in Atlanta. He has won numerous AAA Diamonds and Michelin Stars and has brought his talent and experience to Woodstock.
“The opportunity to be a partner and to have my own restaurant brought me to Woodstock,” he said. “The bonus is that I live here. Everybody talks local and what could be more local than in your backyard?”
The restaurant prides itself on using fresh ingredients from local farms, and Porubiansky is thankful for their relationship, saying “we can’t achieve what we do without the farmers and their beautiful produce.”
Among the customer favorites are the seared sea scallops with a summer succotash of sweet Georgia corn, okra tomato and field peas.
The Jack & Coke glazed pork belly with smoked and braised bacon with Buckeye Creek Farm Heirloom grits is another much loved choice on the menu as well.
In addition to fine dining, Century House also offers a number of specialty cocktails and local craft beers including Reformation Brewery and Red Hare.
With quaint outdoor seating and welcoming interior, Century House Tavern is a great place to give your taste buds a truly local and delectable experience.
“We are very thankful for the continued support from our local patron of Cherokee County and we look forward to many more years of cooking fresh local food for Cherokee County,” said Porubiansky.
1200 Marietta Highway, Boling Park
A perennial favorite for the 32 years since it began, it is no surprise that the Riverfest Arts & Crafts Festival won the honor of best festival in Cherokee County for 2016.
Each year the festival sponsored by the Service League of Cherokee County draws crowds of more than 25,000 to the banks of the Etowah River to browse some of the best works by artists and craftspeople in the Southeast.
All money raised from the festival goes to help children in need and last year brought in about $90,000 to fund the organization’s projects.
Last year’s Riverfest Chairwoman Kim Fowler said the league created the fall festival more than three decades ago as a way to raise funds for the children in Cherokee County whose families were facing hardships.
“There are many reasons why Riverfest is our community’s most popular event … the gathering of some of the Southeast’s finest artists and crafters, the entertainment from local talent, the rides and games for children, the delicious festival food,” she said. “But the most important reason is the needy children who benefit from every dollar we raise at Riverfest and the better lives they will live because of our guests’ generosity.”
In 2016, more than 1,300 children were assisted with basic necessities such as food, clothing, eyeglasses, dental or medical care, utilities and rental assistance through the league’s case work and special needs referral program.
In addition to funding needed projects, the festival offers a wonderful fall event for the entire family.
Riverfest showcases more than 200 arts and crafts vendors, concessionaires and family entertainers each year. The popular children’s area is another big draw for the crowds who flock from all across the metro area.
Riverfest is held the fourth weekend in September each year.
6557 Bells Ferry Road, Woodstock
Cherokee has a new favorite spot for smoky, mouthwatering barbecue and it’s located on the south side of the county.
Pitmaster Chip “J.D.” Allen, pictured above, rolls out of bed early each morning and wastes no time getting started. He’s been slow-cooking delicious pork, chicken and brisket his entire life, but decided to make a living doing what he loved 17 years ago when he opened J.D.’s Bar-B-Que along Bells Ferry Road. He found a barbecue stand for sale in September 1999 and decided to leave his construction job and spend his days smoking tender meats for his patrons.
“I saw it was for sale on a Wednesday, met the man on Thursday, quit my job on Friday and started barbecuing that weekend,” Allen recalled.
Since then, J.D.’s has developed a loyal following that swears up and down their barbecue is the best in the entire Southeast. The food is so good, in fact, that Allen opened a second location in downtown Acworth in 2011. What started out as just him and one other person has expanded to 52 employees at the two locations.
The secret to making good barbecue, he says, is using the right wood.
J.D.’s refuses to use charcoal or gas and slow-cooks their barbecue each morning using a combination of hickory and oak chips.
“It take a little longer, but using 100 percent wood makes a huge difference in the flavor and the taste,” Allen said. “The customers know what they like and they’ve been coming back for 17 years now.”
In addition to traditional barbecue, J.D.’s offers ribs, sandwiches, burgers and a plethora of tasty appetizers. Can’t decide whether to start off with fried pickles, jalapeno poppers or fried green tomatoes? Order the sampler and try all three. They have all the usual fixings needed to make a southern meal complete, including smoky baked beans, coleslaw, southern fried okra, hot Brunswick stew, and spicy collards.
The Woodstock location is open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. and 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Sundays. The full menu and catering options are available on the company’s website at http://www.jdsbbq.com.
288 Gilmer Ferry Road, Ball Ground
What better way to enjoy a delicious Black Angus burger than sitting with family and friends inside a historic and iconic 1948 trolley bus at the Burger Bus in Ball Ground, home of the best burger in Cherokee County.
All of Burger Bus’s burgers are created in-house with the freshest ingredients by way of owner and head chef Dylan Brown.
Since opening its doors in November 2015, Burger Bus has created a place where people from around the U.S. can come and enjoy a historic burger.
“When we decided to open in the small town of Ball Ground we heard from many folks who thought we were crazy to open a place in such a small rural town,” Brown said. “My father and I had a vision, though, and we agreed that it was the right place for us.”
Brown said all of his burgers are made with “fresh never frozen” Black Angus with no steroids or hormones.
“We also mix our beef with brisket and bacon, and that takes it over the top,” he said.
One of Brown’s most delicious and authentic creations is the fried green jacket, which consists of a Georgia staple: fried green tomatoes and homemade pimento cheese with a homemade Wasabi ranch sauce.
Another local favorite is the dads on death row burger, which is in a nutshell breakfast on a burger, with fried grits, a fried egg, bacon, cheddar and maple syrup.
If you don’t mind a few more calories, then the chili cheese tots supreme is worth a try with crispy tater tots, homemade chili, cheese, jalapenos and onions.
Brown said his team and the Ball Ground community are the main reasons why the bus has been so successful.
“I have the greatest staff I could possibly ask for and I love the fact that the folks who work for me have bought into my idea of great quality product and even better customer service,” he said. “We make that our No. 1 goal daily.”
8670 Main Street, Suite 2, Woodstock
For a unique and exceptional shopping experience, look no further than this year’s Best Boutique, Spirited.
Located on Main Street in downtown Woodstock, the boutique focuses on art and creation.
“The whole store was designed to be a creative experience,” said owner Spirit Lala Bush. “When you come in, it’s a sensory adventure. The displays and the vibe is equally as important as the products were selling.”
With branches hanging from the walls and artistic finds in every corner, shoppers at Spirited will feel like they’ve been transported. Offering a variety of women’s clothing and accessories, the “boho chic” boutique allows shoppers to find the whole package.
“Yes you can get unique and beautiful clothes, but we put an emphasis on the accessories,” Bush said. “The whole picture is important. It’s not just the top or dress – it’s the whole outfit.”
Bush is an artist, and has been creating her own jewelry line for more than 20 years. She and her husband Ed, who combined their names to create the name of the store, take pride in the artists that they feature in the store.
“We make a lot of the jewelry ourselves,” she said. “We have a lot of other amazing artists that are either local or in the U.S.”
In addition to accessories, Spirited features shirts, sweaters, jeans, dresses and intimate apparel as well as quality purses and jackets, with prices starting at $40. For special finds at the right price, shoppers at Spirited will leave with a complete outfit that will be sure to turn heads.
Best Salon and Spa
Salon and Spa Venessa
8516 Main St., Woodstock
Nestled in lively downtown Woodstock, Salon and Spa Venessa stands tall on Main Street in a historic home that has retained its grandeur for more than 100 years to offer an oasis of beauty and wellness.
Owners Venessa Lanier and Ivey Lanier have merged high tech services with the ambience of the building and worked to preserve its ambiance and integrity. They moved their business into the Johnston building in 2001.
“Our point of difference is customized services for each guest, using plant-based sustainable products,” Lanier said. “We provide an oasis of beauty and wellness for every guest that walks through our historic doors.”
From a fresh cut and color in the salon to the tranquil ambiance of their aroma-infused spa, the professional team will rejuvenate and renew you to a balanced state your body needs.
The colorists use Aveda Full Spectrum color, which is 99 percent naturally-derived and Davines Mask hair color with Vibrachrom, which combines the best properties of nature using quinoa protein extracts.
From a moment of stress relief for head and shoulders, to sharing a consultation and then finishing with a make-up touchup, you can experience a spa experience in the salon with every visit.
Every spa experience begins with a consultation to identify a customized personal treatment, which includes aromatherapy and wellness techniques that will bring balance back to your body and senses.
The spa uses Aveda products, which produces clinical results and provides sensory relaxation, increasing overall wellness and beauty.
“We want everyone to feel like they have stepped into an experience,” Lanier said.
Find out for yourself what so many Cherokee Life readers already know: Salon and Spa Venessa is the place to look good and be pampered in Cherokee.
Best Jewelry Store
Key’s Jewelry Store
230 E. Main St., Canton
A family-owned shop that has been in business in historic downtown Canton for 65 years, Key’s Jewelry Store is the place to go for special occasions, engagement rings, watches and gifts for generations of shoppers in Cherokee County.
The Key family has operated the business longer than any other in downtown Canton and it is the oldest jewelry store in Cherokee County. The third generation of the family to own the store is helping customers find the perfect piece of jewelry, big or small.
“We couldn’t survive without our loyal customers, and thankfully we are seeing third generation customers coming in, as well as new people. We have about 10 to 20 new customers each week,” said Doug Key, who along with his wife, Judy, owns the store.
Doug Key said they did a renovation when they purchased the store from his parents in 1998, but that it was time for a fresh look.
The jewelry store offers brands such as Carla, Benchmark, Endless, Michou and Lafonn Everlasting Desire.
Judy Key said the store has great deals on wedding bands and diamond earrings. However, she does have a favorite designer.
“I love all of the Galatea pieces,” she said. “They are not outrageously priced and they’re beautiful pieces of jewelry.
Judy Key also noted the Galatea’s line of carved pearls is a popular choice among customers.
The collection features rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings featuring pearls that have some of the finish carved away and designs embedded into each pearl.
Another popular line featured at the local store is Rego, which for nearly 40 years has strived to achieve the perfection that every customer demands in the quality of fine rings, earrings, pendants and bracelets.
8654 Main Street, Woodstock
The sweet, sugary smells wafting outside of this year’s Best Dessert bakery will draw customers through the door, and if the smells don’t have you sold, the cupcake display certainly will.
With eight regular flavors and four flavors that change each day, there’s always a delicious sweet treat waiting to be devoured at Cupcakelicious.
“All of us at Cupcakelicious are truly humbled to be voted Best Dessert in Woodstock,” said owners Toni and Tony Tortorici. “We strive every day to serve the best desserts and sweet snacks and provide the best service in town because our customers deserve nothing less.”
Birthday cake, double chocolate, Oreo and red velvet are some of the flavors offered every day and gluten free cupcakes are also available daily.
Each cupcake is made fresh daily from scratch with the finest ingre dients, allowing the cupcakery to offer high-quality desserts to their customers.
In addition to cupcakes, Cupcakelicious also offers King of Pops popsicles, specialty blend coffee, hand-made Belgian-quality chocolates, cake balls, 18 flavors of Greenwood ice cream and Macaron Queen’s famous macarons. Jelly Bell Jelly Beans, Hammond’s classic lollipops, and Great Northern popcorn and cinnamon-roasted nuts are also sold.
The shop also specializes in custom cakes and cupcakes for any occasion, including weddings.
“We love making custom cakes, helping our customers celebrate the holidays and other special occasions of their lives,” the Tortoricis said.
Locally owned and locally based, the gourmet bakery is in a former grocery store that dates back to about 1900. With its bright teal exterior, and cozy, sweet interior, Cupcakelicious is a perfect stop in downtown Woodstock for a sugary snack.