Eating my way through Savannah
Is that a euphemism for something dirty? No. no it isn't. And I'd thank you to get your minds out of the gutter.
Recently my girlfriend and I visited Savannah, Georgia for the first time, and although we didn't have much planned prior to going, there was one thing in particular I was looking forward to; the food.
I am by no means a skinny guy, and the #1 reason for that is my unashamed love of food. As such, I was excited for some good ol' southern soul food. But, before that, I am addicted to the Food Network, and even though she no longer works for the station, I felt it only proper to visit Paula Deen's Lady & Sons restaurant first. I understand there's a cloud that hangs over her reputation, and while I won't go into detail s about why, it's safe to say she's no role model (not sure if she ever actually was). Regardless of any negative aspects, she's also known for her southern cooking.
This is all to say our very first meal in Savannah was at Lady & Sons. Wanting the most bang for my buck, I opted for the buffet option, giving me a wide variety of the food on the menu, including fried chicken, which just felt like the right place to start my culinary journey of the city. I also had bbq chicken, smother pork chops, salisbury steak, pulled pork, collard greens, dirty rice and gravy, and more sides. Everything was good(although perhaps a little more salty than I'd have preferred), except for the mashed potatoes which tasted like nothing but butter (another thing Paula Deen is known for). It was a great beginning to our list of meals, and surprisingly, almost every meal got better from there (sorry Paula).
Before we even exited the plane, there was one restaurant that was unanimously recommended. From the stewardess, to our cab driver, the hotel concierge, and even people at Lady & Sons, all suggested eating at Mrs. Wilkes. A quick Google search, and I found that the restaurant is only opened from 11am to 2pm, Monday to Friday, and it is closed the entire month of January. Now, any eatery that can keep its doors open while only operating three hours a day, five days a week, 11 months of the year, must be good. We got on line at 11:10am (no reservations allowed) and waited just over an hour, making friends with the couple in front of us while we waited. It's a good thing we did, as we learned upon entering that the seating and food service is all family style at large tables that sit 10 people with the food already on the table waiting for us. On the table was fried chicken (of course), pulled pork, pot roast, chicken and dumplings, and sausage jambalaya, along with about 15 different sides. EVERYTHING WAS GOOD! I don't know how Mrs. Wilkes does it (I kept referring to her as Mama Wilkes which seems more fitting) but there was nothing that I wasn't a fan of. Okra, which is so easy to screw up, was amazing. Creamed corn, which I've never liked, couldn't be refilled fast enough. I nearly choked by inhaling the rice and gravy. There's a reason everyone talks about this place, and it is more than worth the hour wait, but I'd recommend getting on line as early as possible, don't want to chance not getting a seat. (p.s. The restaurant is cash only)
The next stop on our treasure map of delectable eats was Leopold's Ice Cream. We again arrived at this establishment based on recommendations. And once again we were on a line waiting. Ironically, but perhaps not surprising, behind us on line was a group of people that were waiting behind us for Mrs. Wilkes, and inside was the couple we befriended. Leopold's has been rated as the 5th best ice cream in the country, honestly, how do you pass that up? We both ended up ordering mint chocolate chip, and even though my girlfriend found it to be too heavy, I enjoyed it very much. That may be because I ordered an ice cream sandwich, which came on two delicious fresh made cookies. Again, I was very happy with my ice cream, but then again it is only ice cream, no matter how much I may have liked it, I'm just not that much of a dessert fan.
Chive. I feel like anything I say about this place will not do it any justice, but the food was so spectacular I have to at least try. We had stopped in Chive the night prior for drinks to go (you read that right, drinks to go because Savannah is an open container city. It's also an open carry city which seems like it should be a bigger issue than it is) and we really liked the ambiance of the restaurant. Deciding that we'll have appetizers here, than go elsewhere for dinner, that all went out the window once we actually looked at the menu. We ended up splitting several apps and an entree. First was their she-crab soup. For anyone who doesn't know, she-crab soup is a bisque like soup that has origins in the south east of the country, and talk about hearty. You actually have to chew the coup there's so much crab in it, and the flavor... sorry I started salivating over the memory. Next up were mussels in a unique sauce of curry, mustard, the eponymous 'chive', fennel, pepper, and just a hint of celery salt. It was a large bowl of mussels and sauce, and my only problem was that they only gave us four baguettes to sop up the sauce. The final appetizer we had was the lobster and shrimp rolls. I'll admit that I was anticipating 'lobster rolls' as in chunks of lobster in a mayo sauce on a piece of buttered bread, so I was more than a little disappointed when we were given lobster and shrimp egg/spring rolls. Thankfully that disappointment was washed away by how light the rolls were, and not at all as heavy as your traditional Chinese egg rolls. Inside were large pieces of lobster and shrimp without much filler like your typical spring rolls. They were served with refreshing chili Thai sauce but I'm not ashamed to admit that I used the rolls to scoop up more of that sauce from the mussels. Finally our entree. Seared scallops over a bed of edamame risotto with asparagus. Scallops are so easy to screw up, I'm genuinely surprised when I'm served perfectly seared scallops. They were served with a creamy saffron sauce that I want to mainline intravenously. I can write an infinite more about this meal, but it's late, and I'm not allowed to eat now so I have to stop torturing myself. However, not to be forgotten or left out, Chive has a fully stocked mixology bar with some unique refreshing drinks on the menu.
For breakfast on our final day, we stopped by J Christopher's. We lucked out with outdoor seating on a nice day with no wait. J's is basically a breakfast diner, and although it was a last minute decision, the meal was better than expected. Foregoing any apps or sides, I ordered cheesy shrimp and grits in a skillet. Truth be told, no southern trip is complete without shrimp and grits, and I was waiting for the right place to order them from, but fearing I was running out of options, I ordered them here. Oh man, the buttery grits with the melted cheese and grilled shrimp in a cajun sauce was a pleasant combination to greet the day with.
Last stop on our culinary tour was The Olde Pink House, and you bet your ass it is an old house that happens to be pink. Legend has it that after the former owner accidentally killed a servant (i.e. slave) in the basement, he hung himself. After his death, his wife, tired of the red paint job the house previously had, opted to paint it white, however the red paint bled through, even after repeat coatings of white, and that's how the house got its distinct pink hue. The restaurant is in the house with two fully stocked bars, one in the basement, and the other on the side of the building. The upstairs is a banquet hall for weddings and whatnot, and it looks impressive. Onto the food! Shrimp gumbo. Rounding out the southern trio of required meals, including fried chicken, and shrimp and grits, the shrimp gumbo at Pink House was on point. The fried green tomatoes were a little bit of a let down, but the gumbo more than made up for it. There was a smokey/peppery-ness to the sauce that was initially a little over powering, but following a quick stir, you'd be hard pressed to find a better bowl of gumbo in the city (not that I have any basis for that statement). The meal came with complimentary baked cheese sticks, that worked as a nice palate cleanser. Another restaurant with a nice setting, the haunted feeling in the basement, doesn't hurt any.
There you have it, my edible expedition through Savannah, GA. Stay tuned for my next culinary course through a city.