We had a wonderful opportunity this month to travel with my husband to Savannah, Georgia ahead of a work conference. We take a vacation with my parents nearly every winter, and we are always trying to figure out where we would all like to go. This was our first big trip with our 17 month old daughter as well, so the conference location was just the right place at just the right time. We all flew out a few days before the conference and then my parents, my daughter, and I flew home.
I had several reservations about taking a cross country trip with a 17 month old. Aside from flying and the obvious challenge of entertaining and transporting a toddler and all that it entails, I was a little worried that we might be taking the long trip and finding that we would be too restricted on sites we could visit, and restaurants that we could dine in. As a food loving family, most of our vacations are a very even split between sight seeing and finding the next place to eat, and the last thing you want when visiting a new place is to be consigned to chain dinning. What is the point after all, if not to try new things.
Savannah was an incredible surprise. It is truly one of the most beautiful cities in the country. The city is planned around squares that look a lot like small neighborhood parks. Much of the history of the city is told in the heart of the squares, with monuments to those who made great contributions. Surrounding the squares are grand homes, preserved and restored, that stand as monuments in their own right telling the story of a city that saw revolution, abundance, great upheaval, and still stands today with much to tell us.
Nothing says so much about a place as the hospitality, and the restaurants of Savannah show the world a distinct and special kind of southern hospitality. The dining we found was not only outstanding, but nearly every place we visited was organized to accommodate families, and I never felt like we gave in on finding authentic, high quality Georgian cuisine. If I had to describe eating in Savannah with one word, it would be comfort.
The beautiful thing about eating in Savannah is that you can soak up history while enjoying a great meal. You can start your meal with a nice walk along River street and take in the sights along the waterway, or meander along the oak lined streets and watch the Spanish Moss sway in the breeze, giving glimpses of the treasures on display in each distinct neighborhood before sitting down to a fine Southern meal.
Our first major stop was to enjoy Southern Brunch at the Pirates’ House. While I was a bit skeptical of a restaurant that claimed to be pirate themed, The Pirate’s House did not disappoint. It has a great deal to offer and is not just a pirate themed restaurant catering to tourists looking for entertainment. This restaurant has been around since 1753 and was truly and inn for seafarers and at times a pirate haven, equip with a legitimate rum cellar and tunnel leading to the riverfront that secretly moved goods and people under the noses of local authorities. Every bite from the greens to the key lime pie was absolutely outstanding, but the crowning jewel of the meal was definitely the fried chicken. I have never had a piece of friend chicken as moist and flavorful all the way to the bone, as I had at the Pirates’ House. The breading was thick and crispy, and the experience was an all around pleasure. To finish off our great experience we got a tour from two lovely pirate wenches, who filled us in on the history and quirks of this long standing, working monument.
Fort Pulaski was another great stop. We lucked out and the local volunteers were out in uniform giving the crowd musket demonstrations, shooting off the canons, and bringing this short-lived fort’s story to life.
After an exciting and loud history lesson we made our way toward Tybee Island, and stopped at The Crab Shack. Without a local’s recommendation, we never would have know about this incredible restaurant, but from the size of the place, the locals certainly know that this place is the end all, be all of Low Country Boil. It is an incredible setting right on the water, with a small gator habitat surrounding the dining room. It was pretty low key, since it was the off season, but this place must get packed for the summer crowd. The picture really says it all. The crab was fresh and sweet. The shrimp was tender. The muscles were firm and fresh. The sausage and potatoes were cooked perfectly. This was my first crayfish, and even with though they are a lot of work, I would say excellent. Everything about the meal was simple and to the point, but with seafood that good and fresh, that really is the absolute best way to enjoy it. The portions were huge, and good thing, because you didn’t want to stop. The thing that stands out above all for someone who sometimes shies away from messy dining, is that they found a way to keep the mess off the table. Every table is a custom fit with a platform for your seafood tray and hole in the middle that falls right into a clean garbage bag. Pure Genius!!!
Dessert lovers, you are not forgotten. Leopold’s Ice Cream is a local favorite that has a very unique boast. It claims to make the original Tutti-Frutti ice cream that inspired the song by Johnny Mercer. Johnny grew up down the street, and I can attest that he has fabulous taste in dessert.
The final place I have to mention wasn’t technically Georgian cuisine. Huey’s is a New Orleans style restaurant on the river. I think we can forgive it, since Savannah and New Orleans are sister cities, and the food was just so darn good. We ate there more than once, and since my husband stayed behind, he ate there one more time after us. The Pain Perdue, New Orleans style French Toast, was out of this world. The sesame french bread was sweetened with a rich egg batter, cooked perfectly, and finished with Pecan butter. It was a simple dish, but it was French Toast on another level. The Shrimp and Grits was another incredibly common and simple dish turned into a crave-able classic. The Parmesan grits were creamy and nutty, with just the right amount of salt. The shrimp were done in a very light creole sauce and cooked perfectly. The truth is that shrimp were wonderful, but the grits were so good that the shrimp wasn’t even necessary.
If you get the chance to visit Savannah, take it. When you get there, eat!
“No matter where it is in the sky, no matter where you are in the world, the moon is never bigger than your thumb.” John Tyree