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rlibkind

Savannah: A Week's Stay

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Enjoyed your posts and would now concede you have a better grip on the shrimp and grits scene here than I do. While I enjoy the different takes on the sauce/gravy, I'd trade it all for a good cheesesteak or a pork with greens.

You would have to look long and hard to find a snappy hot dog in the South, but our soft ones buried in chili, cheese & slaw can be pretty good. My kids don't like the unfamiliar texture of the dogs up North- they call them "crunchy" hot dogs.

Uga lives in Savannah and makes the 3.5 hour trip to Athens for football weekends. Even a dawg knows a good thing when he sees it.


"Eat at Joe's."

- Joe

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Shrimp and grits are an odd dish. My understanding is that up until maybe 15-20 years ago they were a sub-regional dish and really hard to find; then all of a sudden in the 90s, they got haute and practically ubiquitous. My wife, the Savannah native, had never had them until the mid-90s. But we served them at our wedding; so go figure.

Oh, and for another place in Philadelphia to get them, try the Geechee Girl Cafe. I haven't tried them there, but I'm certain they're good.

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Very late to this topic, but here's my two cents:

Shrimp and grits, during my formative years, were a very "at home" dish. Most of us from this general geographic region probably ate lots of S&G, but not at restaurants. Mostly, this was a "gone fishing" weekend dish - thus all the variations of ingredients. Personally, I grew up on the Georgia coast, and ate permutations of this dish that included cheese (including Velveeta!), no cheese, peppers, no peppers, and so on and so on and ScoobyDoobyDooby. (Different strokes, for different folks, doncha know.) I think that it is/was mostly a matter of what ingredients were considered staples for the cook. (As an example, one of my grandmothers always considered hot peppers a necessity -- her shrimp and grits were always spicy, while my other grandmother was less 'cosmopolitan,' so there were few spices added to this dish at her house. Either way, it was a fantastic dish, but there was/is no specific recipe. The best dishes I've had, though, have been in private homes. Savannah has a far richer history of great hospitality in homes than in restaurants, FWIW.)

I wish that I'd arrived on this topic soon enough to recommend Johnny Harris' for BBQ. Good stuff, and Savannah's oldest restaurant. The Old Pink House is also a good source for a one-stop introduction to "Savannah cooking." As previously mentioned in this thread, Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House is a wonderful resource, but not quite as "atmospheric" as the United House of Prayer for All People.

I'm rather flabbergasted that Philadelphia has a "Geechee Girl Cafe." For those in my particular neighborhood, "Geechee" is a pidgen dialect -- very difficult to interpret sometimes -- of English and at least a couple of African dialects, and very specific to Southeast Georgia. Is there a menu available on-line, and would the foods be mostly recognizable to a coastal Georgia native?


"Enchant, stay beautiful and graceful, but do this, eat well. Bring the same consideration to the preparation of your food as you devote to your appearance. Let your dinner be a poem, like your dress."

Charles Pierre Monselet, Letters to Emily

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Thanks for adding your two cents to the shrimp and grits pot! That more or less confirms my suspicions about the dish. In a way, it's a little bit like the Italian equivalent, polenta, which as I understand it, wasn't often seen in restaurants (certainly fine-dining restaurants) until recent years. Even now, it's a very homey dish. Oh, and this

he best dishes I've had, though, have been in private homes.  Savannah has a far richer history of great hospitality in homes than in restaurants, FWIW.)

is very true in my experience as well.

I don't know that I agree about Johnny Harris. I love the place, and it's worthwhile to go just to see that cool dining room (and imagine the glory days of fifty-sixty years ago). But the food is only okay. Though I give them credit for serving barbecued lamb; I've never seen that outside of Kentucky.

I'm rather flabbergasted that Philadelphia has a "Geechee Girl Cafe."  For those in my particular neighborhood, "Geechee" is a pidgin dialect -- very difficult to interpret sometimes -- of English and at least a couple of African dialects, and very specific to Southeast Georgia.  Is there a menu available on-line, and would the foods be mostly recognizable to a coastal Georgia native?

Here's the menu. It goes beyond straight-up low country cuisine, though the influence is clearly there, and my understanding is that many of the dishes are based on the chef's family recipes. They also regularly have special dinners that feature a more specific cuisine. I haven't eaten there in a couple of years, though we have plans to go next week. Looking forward to it.

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So, since I haven't had much luck in scoping around in this thread - any suggestions for more upscale dining in historic savannah - any type of food is acceptable - seafood, southern, etc. - any price (as long as it's worth it!) - we'll be traveling to Savannah this mid-October - and have enjoyed all the recommendations so far - so your help is appreciated...

T


Live and learn. Die and get food. That's the Southern way.

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Since Gottlieb's closed, the best upscale meal I've had in Savannah (this July) was at Noble Fare. Some of the dishes were quite good-- the "duck duck goose" (duck breast, seared foie, gooseberry jam) in particular-- but after we finished, we decided that in the future, we'll probably avoid upscale Savannah restaurants. There wasn't anything wrong with the meal. It was fine. But while it was as expensive as most high-end restaurants in Philadelphia, it wasn't especially creative or interesting. It wasn't the first time we'd had that experience, either; about every other time we've gone to Savannah, we've splurged on something upscale, and have always come away disappointed. Maybe somebody can make some good recommendations, but honestly, depending on where you're coming from, I'd suggest saving your money and enjoying some of the really terrific and more casual spots in Savannah.

Speaking of which, we had terrific BBQ at Sandfly BBQ (in... wait for it... Sandfly!) Definitely the best brisket I've had in Savannah. And I can't say enough good things about the Southend Cafe on Tybee: it's an old-school hamburger shack, with burgers cooked to order and served with onion rings, potato salad or fries. Absolutely delicious and almost laughably cheap.

Oh, and one more: we went back to the Crab Shack and you know... even granted that it's about the ambience, not the food, there... I think I'll skip it in the future. Maybe it's gone downhill, maybe I just remembered it being better than it was, but the food was really just straight-up mediocre. My daughter liked the alligators, though, so it wasn't a loss.

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I think I know what you’re trying to say, we live just south of Washington DC - but moved here from northern California - if we're looking for upscale - we expect not only high quality but also creativity. My husband and I have had this discussion many times, and often we wonder if there is still a hesitancy to really 'break the mold' in southeastern restaurants - this isn't a criticism, but rather an observation about the way southerners tend to gravitate toward what they've grown up around as far as food, being a southerner (born and raised) who had the blessing to travel - my tastes may be more varied. Don't get me wrong, I think the best thing is a great meat n' three! Thanks for the feedback... We're still looking forward to a wonderful visit though....!!


Live and learn. Die and get food. That's the Southern way.

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We used some of your suggestions for a long weekend trip to Savannah in late September. We happen to hit the Savannah Jazz Festival which was a particular treat. And for the food:

We were trying to find Harris Baking Company for a great croissant. We didn't realize that it was on side alley and totally missed it. On the main road was a cavernous place called J Christopher's. We thoroughly enjoyed our pancakes and there were many types of offerings. As a matter of fact, the menu was extensive, but we were in the mood for some starch. Another day, we had breakfast at Clary's. My husband is still talking about his corned beef hash, which was excellent (and house-made).

We had dinner at Sweet Potatoes, and it was as good as promised. We also had tapas at a place called "Jazz'd" in the downtown area. They had a tapas for two deal for $55 which included 2 salads, 4 tapas, and 2 desserts and coffee. I thought it was a pretty good deal, and the food was quite good. There were a few southern specialties, though the menu was quite eclectic.

My husband was there for a convention, so we didn't get a chance to get to Mrs. Wilkes during the day. We did get a Sunday afternoon off and took off for Tybee Beach. We felt that we needed to try Crab Shack. I found it a bit off-putting to have a garbage can below a hole in the middle of your table. That's just me.

One night we took off for Uncle Bubba's. It was like a cartoon of Southern cuisine rather than real Southern cuisine. All of the food was forgetable (or you wanted to forget it) except for the memorable side of grits that my husband ordered. There was so much butter in it, that you could hardly discern the grits. I would guess that there was more than a 1/2 cup of butter in his little side.

On our last night, we decided to try Elizabeth's on 37th. It was a very beautiful restaurant in an old mansion. The service was lovely. It was fine dining, very influenced by Southern recipes and ingredients. We loved it, but the price for this dinner was the equivalent of all of our other dinners combined.

Marie


NJDuchess

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Hi all, topping this thread because I'll be in Savannah next month and wanted to get some recent recommendations/updates.....

My fiance and I are getting married on a Thursday, and we have about fifteen people coming in from Richmond and Kansas City, so we're looking for 2 friendly and accomodating restaurants for the group on Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon.

Our original plan for Wednesday night was Lady & Sons because they take group reservations, but after finding out that groups of 15 or more HAVE to eat the buffet, one check, etc., we're looking into other options.

We're all staying on Bay Street so we'd like to remain in the historic district to make it easy for everyone, and aren't looking for anything too fancy....as a point of reference we're thinking of someplace like Fiddler's Crab House on Thursday after the wedding, definitely keeping it pretty casual. As long as the food is good, it's not too expensive, and would be good for a group, we're pretty flexible.

After doing some research on here and a few other sites, would love some feedback on places that are on our list.... Jazz'd, The River House, Huey's, Shrimp Factory, Vic's on the River, B. Matthews, Fiddler's Crab House...... any recommendations are appreciated! Thanks!

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Wow....after calling around the Bay/River Street area to inquire about reservations for a group of 15, many of the "River Street TOURIST ABYSS" reviews I've read are ringing true...... disconnected phone numbers, argumentative employees telling me they don't take reservations even though the website clearly states they take them, places just flat out not taking reservations.....

No biggie......I did get post-wedding lunch reservations at Vic's on the River, and they were super nice...so here's hoping. Told them we didn't necessarily need a banquet room as long as we could sit together and order off of the regular menu vs. a group/banquet menu.

Other than that EVERY MAN OR WOMAN FOR THEMSELVES.....me and the soon to be wife will probably eat at Il Pasticcio, Cha Bella, Jazz'd, possibly Olde Pink House.....but man, the group reservation in a tourist area is something I just can't do. I know we'd probably have good luck within a reasonable driving distance....buuuut then there's the whole caravan coordination thing... :biggrin:

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I noticed some changes to the barbecue scene since my last visit. Papa's has moved across the road and expanded: their sign now says that they have seafood. I'm told that they're smoking their own bacon, too.

But I didn't try Papa's because we went instead to a new BBQ place that opened in Papa's old space: Wiley's. Very good brisket (tender as can be, and unafraid of fat), good pork and some impressive sides, including really first-rate vinegar-based cole slaw. I'll try to get back before we leave Tybee next week.

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Just got back from our wedding in Whitefield Square a couple of days ago, and I wanted to make time to report on our Savannah meals....

First of all, this was our first trip to Savannah, and I have to say that I really did love that town. It was definitely one of the friendliest places I've visited....almost off-putting for a jaded guy like me, but the locals and 99% of the hotel and restaurant staff were just stellar.

We got into town on Tuesday afternoon, and we would have been there earlier if we hadn't stopped at the greatest place on earth.....South of the Border. If David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch ever shoot a movie together, it will HAVE to be on location at South of the Border.....but I digress. Our first meal in Savannah was at Fiddler's Crab House. I can't say how thankful I am that they were so rude and abrupt when I called last month about a group reservation for the night before our wedding.....the view from the deck was great, but other than that, overcooked oysters, room temperature fries, indifferent service until it's time for you to pay the bill. No need to elaborate, I'm guessing on River Street there are a ton of touristy "turn and burn" restaurants.

That was the first and last iffy meal we ate during our trip. Tuesday night we just wanted to have a quiet "date night" before everyone got into town for the wedding, so I made reservations and we walked across the historic district to Cha' Bella. We couldn't have been happier...their dedication to local, seasonal, fresh ingredients is exactly the type of thing we look for. We started with the Slow Roasted Pork Belly small plate. The slow cooked belly was fantastic, but the baby mustard greens and oyster mushrooms almost stole the show. The risotto that accompanied it was perfect, but we could have just gone for more of those greens and mushrooms. We shared some soup and salad....the soup that night was a fresh tomato gazpacho (humongous bowl...we couldn't finish it), and the salad we chose was the "Grilled, Organic Local Harvest Eggplant & Oven Warmed Plum Tomatoes with Farm Fresh Sweet Basil". The salad may have been our favorite dish of the evening....the grilled eggplant was some of the best I've had, and the fresh lightly dressed salad that was sandwiched between the eggplant and goat cheese cut through the richness. The breaded and fried Sweet Grass Dairy goat cheese was phenomenal.....I'm not usually a huge fan of a big hunk of goat cheese, but this had a good light flavor and was similar to a smooth ricotta after the heat was applied to it. After that we shared a main of pan seared black grouper with a sweet corn succotash. Once again, the meat, while delicious, was almost superfluous compared to the veggies....I could have just eaten a plate of that and been perfectly happy. Overall, great ambience, fantastic service.....our favorite meal of the trip.

Wednesday night was our first group meal. Thirteen people total, varying preferences and tastes....never an easy thing to deal with. We'd called a bunch of different casual places on River and Bay Streets to try and keep it close to our hotels, but neither of us got a warm and fuzzy with any of them. My then fiance (now wife!) happened to call Toucan Cafe last month to inquire about a group reservation, and when the owner called her back he was so great to deal with we just said the heck with it......everybody can take a cab or drive, we're going. Long story short, FANTASTIC service and great food. Between all of us, I think we just about ordered everything on the menu. My wife got a Moroccan Salmon over cous cous special, and I thought that was the best dish on the table. Most importantly, even the least adventurous diners in our group LOVED it. No complaints from anyone. So it was worth getting out of the tourist corridor, no question. Getting thirteen plates to the table within about sixty seconds of each other, and still have them all good and hot, was impressive.

Judging by our experience at Vic's on the River Thursday afternoon after our wedding, I can only assume that many of the nicer restaurants along River Street are worth a visit. I called them last month about a group reservation for lunch, and they were great to deal with. Again, with a group of this size, we probably got at least one of everything on the lunch menu. Possibly the best Oysters Rockefeller I've had....mainly because they didn't use those mega-huge Blue Points...these were small to medium sized and very sweet. The pan fried chicken livers with country ham, caramelized onions and demi glace pan gravy were extremely addictive, and my flounder po' boy had the perfect amount of breading without being greasy. Again, everyone was genuinely happy with their meal, and my only regret is that I didn't go for the shrimp and grits.....I'm from the midwest and am no aficionado, but the Vic's version may be the best I've tasted thus far. Bonus points...they let us bring in our own small wedding cake and provided us with all of the hardware. Lastly, for the life of me I can't remember my mother or myself massively over-tipping a bartender like the one at Vic's. It would have normally been a slow Thursday afternoon, so this poor girl was working the bar, the service bar and all of the tables in the lounge. I'm low maintenance.....hand me a Knob Creek Manhattan on the rocks and I'm good, but Vic's has a wonderful specialty drink menu. So of COURSE half the people in our group wanted pear martinis and mojitos......and they make "real" mojitos, so what a major pain in the ass with all of the muddling and running downstairs to find more mint. She was a trooper though, one of the most patient and efficient bartenders I have met in quite some time.

Some other things worth mentioning....the ice cream and pralines at the Savannah Candy Kitchen. Also, breakfast at Belford's, which was literally across the street from the Hilton where we were staying. We didn't see a ton of breakfast options near the hotel, and my dad is a fiend for the most important meal of the day. The omelettes, daily quiche and eggs benedict are winners, and the sausage egg and cheese croissants may be the most obscenely large examples on the planet. Oh, and for a more tranquil and relaxing drink and smoke right on Bay Street, next to the screaming throngs at Moon River...we had some good luck at Churchill's.

Too many options, too little time, but I think we did okay for our first visit. From start to finish, everything went off without a hitch. I look forward to coming back.

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I remain convinced that Sweet Potatoes is the best restaurant in Savannah. Another visit, another terrific meal, starring the fried oyster platter with cheese grits and green beans. Just straight-up delicious Southern food, prepared with care and love. I could eat there every day.

Papa's new digs are nice; their barbecue is good and the larger space gives them the opportunity to offer a wider menu. There's nothing too special, but I liked the crab stew pretty well. It's a nice place if you're out in that direction.

We had one upscale dinner at Eos, a newish small-plates restaurant that has receiving some accolades. While we enjoyed some dishes there (most notably the duck breast with risotto), most of it was disappointing. Some dishes were just a little sloppy (Spanish-style garlic shrimp were overcooked and over salted; gritty cheesecake), and nothing was particularly inspired or, well, delicious. It also suffers from small-plates price inflation: if I'm going to spend $13 for five medium-sized shrimp, they really ought to be something special, you know? So I also remained convinced (alas) that fine dining in Savannah is just a few steps behind where it ought to be. But I'll keep looking...

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