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Savannah Dining: Southern Comfort With a Contemporary Twist

Old-South home-style meets post-modern haute cuisine in Savannah’s restaurant scene.

 

You would expect the restaurants in a historic Southern city like Savannah to offer that region’s famous home-style cooking. The surprise may come when you realize how many contemporary dining options are also available. Here are a few restaurants to check out during your Savannah vacation.

Classics

Elizabeth on 37th

Elizabeth Terry, one of the pioneers of New American cooking, opened her restaurant in 1981. Though she eventually sold it—to two brothers who worked for her—Elizabeth on 37th remains a sensation. It occupies a big neoclassical house, with parlors opening onto glassed porches, oriental rugs and romantic touches throughout.

The preparations are complicated, but highly refined, and the menu changes every day. It might offer inventions like crab cake with creamed corn and tomato-chive butter, or even roast pork with sweet potato flan and Brussels sprout hash. Salads come straight from the garden.

105 E. 37th St. Tel. 912-236-5547. Hours: daily, 6 to 9:30 p.m. elizabethon37th.net

Olde Pink House

A lavish historic mansion—supposedly haunted—with numerous dining rooms, lounges and even a piano bar, the Olde Pink House is a Savannah institution. The cooking is haute Southern: she-crab soup, stuffed flounder, shrimp and grits, fried green tomato salad. Some may find the menu pricey, but you are paying for atmosphere too—with Georgia heart pine floors, Venetian chandeliers and a gracious Southern welcome.

23 Abercorn St. Tel. 912-232-4286. Hours: Tue. to Sat. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch, 5 to 10:30 p.m. for dinner; Sun. and Mon., 5 to 10 p.m.

 

Next: Down Home and Delicious

Down Home and Delicious

Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room

Selma Wilkes opened her boarding house in 1943, serving family-style meals of homey Southern fare. Her family runs it now. Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room no longer rents rooms, but little else has changed. People line up outside at lunch, the only meal served. You are seated at a table for 10, and pass big platters of fried chicken, meat loaf, collared greens, butter beans and the like.

107 W. Jones St. Tel. 912-232-5997. Hours: Mon. to Fri., 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. www.mrswilkes.com

Wall’s BBQ

The name is right on for this hole-in-the-wall soul food eatery tucked into a quiet alley. Few tourists find it. The loss is theirs because there’s nothing more authentic, or affordable than Wall’s BBQ. Ribs and chopped pork are favorites, as is deviled crab.

Almost everything is offered as a sandwich, a plate (with two sides) or a classic meat-and-three dinner. For those three sides you might choose Southern standbys like stewed okra and tomatoes, candied yams and red rice. Wash it all down with the house wine of the South, a glass of sweet iced tea.

515 E. York Lane. Tel. 912-232-9754. Hours: Thu. to Sat., 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. www.myspace.com/wallsbbq

The Lady & Sons: Southern Food Phenomenon

They don’t take traditional reservations at Paula Deen’s wildly popular restaurant, the Lady & Sons. Instead, you line up in the morning to get your name on a list, and return at your appointed time for lunch or dinner. Once you’re seated, cornbread and fluffy biscuits arrive to hint at the kitchen’s Southern accent.

On TV recently, Paula Deen talked about wrapping macaroni and cheese in bacon and then deep frying it. That concoction is not on the menu—or the buffet many diners choose—but it does represent the lady’s culinary aesthetic. Expect starters like crab stew and seafood dip, mains like fried chicken and barbecue pork, and the usual sides. The dessert selection runs to pecan pie, banana pudding and something unabashedly described as “gooey butter cake.”

102 W. Congress St. Tel. 912-233-2600. Hours: Mon. to Sat. lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., dinner begins at 5 p.m.; Sun., lunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. ladyandsons.com

 

Next: Tastes of the Moment

Tastes of the Moment

Local 11 Ten: High Standards, in High Style

Maybe it’s the Savannah College of Art and Design’s influence, but the city’s newest restaurants really emphasize their décor. And none is more impressively designed than Local 11 Ten, a deft conversion of an old storefront space. Tall windows overlook a corner in the residential Victorian District, as does a raised terrace. The interior has a warm textured glow, with wood and brick surfaces and a palette of brown and white.

The cooking is full-flavored, and flawless. It employs locally sourced ingredients, like Sapelo Island clams, Carolina sea scallops, loquats and figs from neighboring gardens. Breads come from Savannah’s stellar Back in the Day Bakery. But the menu doesn’t really pretend to be Southern, old or new—just freshly inventive.

1110 Bull St. Tel. 912-790-9000. Hours: 5 to 10 p.m., closed Sunday. www.local11ten.com

Noble Fare: Darkly Dramatic

This newcomer has a striking post-modern interior scheme in shining red and black, with glittering crystal chandeliers. Noble Fare’s space is intimate, and a bit dressy—though beyond French windows, tables line the sidewalk too. Food-savvy locals make up the clientele, at least as much as visitors.

An agreeable dinner here might start with crispy sautéed sweetbreads over haricots verts and shitake mushrooms in red wine reduction. Then sorbet arrives, to refresh your palate. For an entrée, try roasted grouper with crab risotto and pea shoots dressed in basil oil. The rest of the offerings are similarly ambitious.

321 Jefferson St. Tel. 912-443-3210. Hours: Tue. to Thu., 5 to 10:30 p.m.; Fri. and Sat., 5 to 11:30 p.m.; Sun. and Mon., reserved for private parties. www.noblefare.com


Destinations: Georgia, Savannah

Themes: Culinary

Activities: Eat


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