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Where are the best restaurants in Middle Georgia? Vote now in Munch Madness

This is what the new Jonah’s on Johnston is like

Eric Thomas, owner of Jonah's on Johnston Pizzeria, talks on Sunday, March 3 about the changes he has made to the restaurant since he bought it three months ago.
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Eric Thomas, owner of Jonah's on Johnston Pizzeria, talks on Sunday, March 3 about the changes he has made to the restaurant since he bought it three months ago.

Middle Georgia has hundreds of restaurants — many are locally owned, unique establishments that have been serving good food to us for decades or who have popped up and become cult favorites.

The Telegraph , 13WMAZ, Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism and Georgia Public Broadcasting have partnered to bring you this Macon Food Story and a chance for you to tell us about the best food in Middle Georgia, just in time for March Madness.

While college basketball teams compete over the next few weeks in the NCAA Tournament for a national title, we want you to help us decide which restaurant takes the top spot here. We’re calling it Munch Madness.

We’ve selected 64 restaurants across eight different categories and seeded them out into a bracket: BBQ, burgers and dawgs, desserts, international, meat and three, pizza, seafood and upscale dining.

You can vote for your favorites below, or click here.

Over the next three or so weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to vote online for your favorite for several rounds as we go from 64 to 32, then down to the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final 4, Top 2 and ultimately the winner on April 8.

As we built out the bracket, we identified four spots from three different brackets that we felt weren’t as well known as the rest, so we gave them a chance to make their case.

Jonah’s Pizza in Forsyth

“I’ve kind of had the dream of owning my own restaurant for a long time and we were just in downtown Macon with some friends who asked if we knew that Jonah’s owners were retiring and closing Jonah’s. We got the place to where we felt like it was operational, we could open back up. We pared down the menu to just a streamlined pizza place,” said co-owner Eric Thomas.

“My favorite thing each night is when somebody says, ‘You’ve won us back, we’re so glad that Jonah’s is here,’ and so that’s my favorite part each night is when we have one or two guests that come through that tell us they are glad to have us in town and are glad that Jonah’s is back,” said co-owner Laurie Thomas.

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A Forsythian Ultimo pizza from the stone oven in the open kitchen at Jonah’s on Johnston in Forsyth. The pizza is topped with red sauce, Italian sausage, pepperoni, bacon, black olives, greens and red onion. Woody Marshall

Dairy Lane in Sandersville

Dairy Lane has been in operation, largely unchanged, since 1953.

Most days you can find regulars at the counter, like Brent Withrow who always gets a small burger, small onion rings and small Coke.

Vergie Collins has been cooking at Dairy Lane since 1967. She says Withrow is not alone — the cheeseburger is their #1 seller.

The cheeseburger is the same size as the small burger. It only weighs two ounces. In modern fast-food terms, those two ounces are an eighth of a pound.

Dairy Lane is especially popular during football season when people coming through town on the way to Athens to see the Georgia Bulldogs play stop for one or two of their famous burgers.

Spud Dogs in Macon

“We’re the place on the corner of Third and Cherry in downtown Macon,” said owner Scott Long. “I’m a chef and an owner and a master grill operator, so the speed that we put things out when you have those short lunches is great. Hot dogs are always fast, our baked potatoes are amazingly stuffed. It’s just a volcano of flavor coming out of a potato.”

“We don’t do it like everyone else. We’ll have a good chili dog, I’m talking about big, 8-inch Nathan’s hot dogs about the size of a Philly cheese steak. The chili is made from scratch, all the soups are made from scratch, mind-blowingly good salads and we just put it out there. I dare you to find ‘better than.’ You might find ‘as good as’ but you won’t find ‘better than.’ The quality is there for what we do, it’s second to none. We’re for locals, we’re for families, we keep good, Christian music, no alcohol so anyone can come in. It’s a safe place. We’re the number one gluten-free restaurant between Atlanta and Savannah,” said Long.

Yoder’s in Montezuma

“My father originally had two dairy farms and a large family. He had nine boys and three girls in the family and he was looking for more work for the children, so he opened this place in July 1984,” said Michael Yoder. “For the first 10 years, I was on the farm helping out still milking cows and working in the fields and me and my wife came in here full-time in 1995. It takes a lot of work and a lot of effort to keep it going, but it’s worth it. Pies, the bread, the cinnamon rolls, those are all good sellers, but the cakes are probably the number one seller that we have.”

People come from all over, especially holiday time, to buy the cakes.

“We bake everything right here in the kitchen. Early morning we start out about 3:30 a.m. or 4:30 a.m.,” said Yoder.

Want to talk more about food and fellowship in Central Georgia? Join the Macon Food Story Facebook group here.

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