We recently traveled to Savannah for a long-weekend-style summer vacation. As much as we were excited to explore the city’s history, culture and natural beauty, we anticipated its extensive and varied culinary offerings. When we arrived and started to sample food at a wide range of different restaurants throughout the area, we were even more pleased with our plates than we expected.
Savannah sits in what I’d call the Deep South, right on the border of South Carolina’s Lowcountry and Georgia’s short-and-sweet coastline. So it’s reasonable to expect a delicious lineup of stellar Southern cooking. We found that, but we also discovered so much more.
The following is a breakdown of our #FoodieScore journey through the restaurants we chose in Savannah, including when we visited and a variety of other thoughts. Keep in mind that we were in town for a total of about 72 hours over four days, that we ate a small breakfast early each morning at our hotel and there is a lengthy list of other eateries that we must try when we return, perhaps most notably the famed Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room, a legendary spot that offers a variety of Southern comfort foods in dishes that you pass around tables with other guests. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, that’s what Savannah offered us everywhere we turned our stomachs, and here’s the play-by-play of where we picked up our forks.
Each bit of information includes a dollar sign to denote the relative price, with one dollar sign meaning most affordable and three dollar signs meaning most expensive.
After a four-hour drive and a few hours exploring the Savannah riverfront in the Georgia summer heat (mid-to-upper 90s), the ice cream spot seemed to be our best source of refreshment. It was the right choice.
LOCATION: Broughton Street, known as Savannah’s Main Street
FOOD TYPE: Ice Cream and American Deli
WHAT’S UNIQUE: This place is all about the fabulous ice cream, and the constant line out the door proves that Leopold’s has achieved high satisfaction since 1919.
SEATING: Expect a crowd, so you may have to take your ice cream to one of several tables out front or on a walk through town. The option of getting a milkshake makes the walk possibility much better.
PARKING: We parked in the Drayton Street garage nearby and lucked out on a $2 total charge for the evening. That was much simpler than feeding a meter and it kept us from parking on the street.
LASTING IMPRESSION: This was the smoothest and most flavorful ice cream I’ve ever had in a milkshake (and I had the lemon custard). They even delivered the extra milkshake that wouldn’t fit in my glass and offered complimentary water.
The Collins Quarter
Everything about this place beckoned us to try it, but we decided on brunch to sample a delicious menu alongside a cup of coffee from the coffee bar during weekend breakfast time.
LOCATION: Bull Street, along a fabulous walking tour route for checking out the city’s beautiful park squares.
FOOD TYPE: American
WHAT’S UNIQUE: Don’t let the “American food” fool you. The owners have ties to Australia (hence the name, Collins Quarter, which references a cafe district in Melbourne) and the menu gets Aussie and other global infusions.
SEATING: Arrive ahead of the typical meal times. This place fills up quickly.
PARKING: I would again recommend the inexpensive Drayton Street garage, but be aware that the prices for parking in the city’s garages vary on the weekends.
LASTING IMPRESSION: I tried eggs benedict for the first time and the balanced flavors blew me away, as did the surprising potato bites as a side item unlisted on the menu. Molly had the smashed avocado, billed as the house specialty. It was heavy on the avocado, but she also enjoyed it. The atmosphere in this place was also incredible. It felt like we were dining in another country, save for the music. I counted four Michael Jackson songs in the playlist during our brunch, but that didn’t bother me because all of the music was upbeat and added to the ambiance. The modern decor and use of natural light also really made this place shine.
After a filling brunch, we took a self-guided tour of the public squares along Bull Street and then headed to the market portion of the city to browse a few shops. We had seen the words “British Bakery” the night before and knew we wanted to return to the spot. It was the perfect time, too, as we decided to have a savory item (sausage roll) and a sweet item (vanilla custard tart), along with a water, all for $8. That combo provided a nice small meal in the afternoon to supplement our morning feast.
LOCATION: Just a few blocks from the riverwalk in the city’s North Historic District
FOOD TYPE: Bakery
WHAT’S UNIQUE: Its British ownership offered more of an English-style taste, with different savory foods than you see in American bakeries, as well as treats that are less sweet (but not less satisfying) than American bakery goods.
SEATING: Not much room, but many patrons get their baked goods to go.
PARKING: We would suggest parking elsewhere and walking to Pie Society. The parking garages closer to the riverfront are more expensive (more on that later) and the meters are less plentiful in this area.
LASTING IMPRESSION: We enjoy pies and other goodies that aren’t quite as sweet as the typical American chocolate-based desserts, and we greatly enjoyed the savory choices that allowed us to share a light meal. There are cake, doughnut, candy, cupcake and other treat shops galore in Savannah. This was a unique option.
Lady and Sons
Paula Deen is revered among women in the South as one of the greatest cooks, if for no other reason that she encourages the use of butter to make foods even better. Lady and Sons receives its share of criticism through reviews online, but most restaurants with a high profile do. The restaurant offers only a buffet on Sundays, so we decided that would be an appropriate time to sample as many items from their Southern comfort menu as possible, even if the choices varied from the everyday menu.
LOCATION: Congress Street in the North Historic District
FOOD TYPE: Southern, American
WHAT’S UNIQUE: Paula Deen is the owner, of course. That and the special accents on parts of the meal. Sweet tea comes with refreshing mint garnish. You get cornbread and a cheddar biscuit with each Sunday buffet. You can eat as much of the meat and sides as you can hold, all for $16 per adult. And you get your choice of dessert (we had peach cobbler and gooey butter cake) that comes to your table straight from the kitchen.
SEATING: Make a reservation. Priority is given to those who reserve a spot in advance. You’re thankful for that pecking order when you arrive.
PARKING: Again, I’d recommend parking at a garage or a meter farther from the riverfront section of the city to avoid higher costs. We parked at the closest garage, had to get our bearings of where we were when we emerged because we parked underground, and we paid $10 to park on a Sunday when downtown was busier.
LASTING IMPRESSION: Despite the scathing comments from some diners online, we were incredibly pleased. The hostess and waiter offered Southern hospitality you’d expect from a restaurant owned by Paula Deen, and all of the food was incredibly tasty. Molly raved about the fried catfish, and I greatly enjoyed everything from the breads to the tea to the dessert. The venue in a historic city building with multiple floors of seating also offered nice views out the windows and a slightly different perspective than a normal restaurant setting.
We wore our swimsuits underneath our clothes to dine at Paula Deen’s restaurant, and we traveled to Tybee Island for an afternoon exploring and relaxing on the beach after a filling lunch. (By the way, we recommend the north end of the island for the ocean breeze and the view of the lighthouse and the Savannah River channel.) After the beach, I was in the mood for seafood, and Molly searched online for a place to have dinner. Her find, Desposito’s, was completely unexpected. We plan much of our stops on our travels, even to new places, but this one of those times when we ended up glad that we diverted from our course.
LOCATION: 15 minutes east of Savannah, on the way to Tybee Island, along the Intracoastal Waterway
FOOD TYPE: Seafood
WHAT’S UNIQUE: The basic menu without the frills, its low profile and its high praise make it a gem of a find. We drove down a road that looked like it couldn’t possibly lead to a restaurant. But this place has been recommended by Southern Living magazine, and its guests include actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
SEATING: Small but ample
PARKING: It has its own parking lot.
LASTING IMPRESSION: We ordered deviled crab and a half pound of boiled shrimp. The deviled crab was the most flavorful we’ve ever eaten, and the boiled shrimp boasted a fresh, natural flavor without unnecessary seasoning. The food tasted like a place you’d find right beside the water. When I asked where the shrimp came from, the response was “two doors down, at Nelson’s.” Now that’s local eating! Our server was friendly and attentive. This place is all about simplicity, and it was a relaxing, quiet dinner after a few hours in the sun.
ONLINE: Desposito’s on Facebook
On our final morning in Savannah, we visited a bookstore and then decided to have lunch on the way out of town before returning to North Carolina. I had heard about Betty Bombers in searches for burger restaurants in Savannah, and it attracted me with both its menu and its setting.
LOCATION: Bull Street, near the massive Forsyth Park (also the first stop on our walking tour of the city’s delightfully tree-shaded squares)
FOOD TYPE: American
WHAT’S UNIQUE: This place is located within an American Legion building, and the whole restaurant is decked out in gear that pays homage to American efforts in World War II. Even the server at the counter was dressed as Betty Bomber herself. The menu also offers touches of food from other types of restaurants, such as chips and salsa as a replacement for fries.
SEATING: Plenty of space
PARKING: We parked at a meter along Bull Street. We arrived early at 11 a.m., so there were plenty available. If you plan to spend the day in the city and walk to eat at Betty Bombers, you might try the Drayton Street garage.
LASTING IMPRESSION: The food was incredible, and the portions were substantial when you consider we paid $21 to both have a nice sit-down lunch and beverages. Molly enjoyed perhaps her favorite Philly Cheesesteak (with a queso cheese) outside of Philadelphia, and I had the basic Bomber burger with fries. It was a nice American dining experience to end our weekend in Savannah and send us home wanting to return and eat more.