Savannah: Bring Your Elastic Pants

In our last blog, “Opening Day 2013,” we expounded on the assets of the Savannah Sand Gnats ball park, historic Grayson Park. One outstanding aspect was some of the food items offered. Turns out that “food” happens to be a grand theme of the overall city of Savannah itself. During our recent visit there, we seemed to eat our way across the city, consuming more food than we had in a year! And, oh, how good it was!

First on the list: since Savannah is situated on a river next to an ocean, of course, seafood is ubiquitous. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a seafood restaurant. Moreover, the offerings are both similar and unique at the same time. For instance, the Shrimp Factory, a restaurant on the riverfront, serves scallops and crab, as many of the other restaurants do, but here the crab is deviled and served in a small tin about the size of a one cup measure. It looked small–being the appetizer portion–when the server set it on the table. But it was just the right amount once Ginny had eaten her salad. In fact, the server told us that the dinner entree portion was normally too much for most people. The scallops were wrapped in bacon and coated with sesame seeds. Dan had them gone before Ginny even took a bite of her deviled crab. Apparently, they were delicious. Down the road from the Shrimp Factory is Huey’s, one of the only places to get breakfast (and lunch and dinner). On their menu they had a seafood omelet, and a Creole omelet with shrimp. They also have beignets with an optional praline sauce. Those of you not from the South, or who have never traveled to the South, particularly around Louisiana, you have been deprived of this treat. Beignets are like a flat yeast donut with powdered sugar. At Huey’s they’ve added a side of praline sauce that will knock you down. We’ve had beignets at the most famous beignet place in the U.S.–Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans–and we have to say that Huey’s were better. Who doesn’t love a great sugary sauce over deep fried dough?

Second on the list: since Savannah is situated in the South, of course, there is Southern cooking. Fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, biscuits…we can’t even finish the list without salivating. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to partake in two Southern cooking buffets during the time we were there. The first is quite famous and you MUST make a reservation if you want to get into the restaurant. The Lady and Sons restaurant on West Congress Street is owned by the queen of Southern cooking, Paula Dean. Thus, the wait to get a table. We actually called the day before to get a reservation for lunch and the earliest they could get us in was 3 p.m. So, ok, we had a later breakfast (at Huey’s), then walked all over town for several hours working up a healthy appetite and had our late lunch/early dinner. Thank goodness we walked! And we needed to walk more afterwards! The buffet at this restaurant had all things Southern, including fried chicken, ribs, mac and cheese, collard greens, biscuits, and desserts brought to your table. For those health conscious patrons, the buffet included baked chicken. There was also what Ginny described as the best lima beans dish she’s ever eaten. (Dan wouldn’t know because lima beans wouldn’t touch his lips for a million dollars.) The macaroni and cheese is of special note here. It came out from the kitchen with at least a quarter inch of extra melted cheese on the top. The two kinds of cheese made gooey strings on the spoon when it was dipped from the pan. (We didn’t see a defibrillator anywhere, although it should’ve been near by.) The desserts included Paula’s famous chocolate gooey butter cakes. By the time we got to that course, Dan couldn’t even look at the dessert. Ginny had a tiny space left in her stomach and just had to try the cake. Quite tasty. After that, we waddled our way around town, trying to digest our huge meal.

The next day, Sunday, friends took us to the Desoto Hotel where they served a champagne brunch. Despite the fact that the day before we had sworn off food forever, we were actually hungry again. Here, Ginny discovered that champagne’s not so bad with orange poured into it. The brunch buffet included the typical breakfast offerings, eggs, sausage, bacon, and grits (remember, we’re in the South) and biscuits. The buffet also included dinner items: baked fish, shrimp, fried and baked chicken, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, salad. While the mac and cheese wasn’t quite as good as what we’d had the day before, the baked fish was superb. Ginny normally always asks for tartar sauce when eating fish (yes, she’s something of a Philistine), but she said that this fish was too delicious to ruin with anything like tartar sauce. The servers also kept filling our champagne (or Mimosa) glasses until the brunch was officially closed. Even then, as we lingered over desserts, they continued to fill water glasses or fill requests that we might have. We actually were the last people out of the restaurant that afternoon. The atmosphere was truly laid-back Southern hospitality.

Beyond these two restaurant experiences, there were other places that we thoroughly enjoyed, and places that we just didn’t have time to get to, or were so crowded with tourists that we chose to go elsewhere. One of those places was Mrs. Wilke’s Boarding House, famous for its fried chicken, and famous for being in the movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. When the taxi approached the restaurant, we saw that the line was out the door and down the street. No thanks to that. So we had the taxi drop us just three blocks away at Clary’s Cafe on Abercorn. It, too, was featured in the movie, but for some reason didn’t attract the attention as Mrs. Wilke’s, which is quite unfortunate. We found the food here to also be scrumptious. Ginny had Crab Cakes Benedict and Dan had the corn beef hash and eggs. They both came with a choice of grits or buttermilk biscuits. When in the South, do as Southerners do–we had the grits. This restaurant also has kosher food, which we’re sure is equally delicious.

We’re now back home in Rochester, NY, missing the warm weather and the flowers, but now on a necessary strict diet. We don’t want to have to wear those stretchy pants for too long!


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