Savannah stands on its own. It remains, upon reflection, a mystery why people compare and contrast Charleston and Savannah. They are, in truth, very different. Just as night and day. Maybe it was in my mind; both are located on the Southeast coast, both ought to feature low-country cooking, both ought to have a developing cocktail scene. But damn, they are different and Savannah, in its own way, is exciting.
Savannah is a grid. Unmistakably square. Right angle upon right angle. Disturbed only by more right-angled squares and a giant right-angled rectangle of Forsyth Park. The oak trees grow wide here. Sweeping, stretching, limb-after-limb, creating a stitch-like pattern blotting out the sky.
On a Savannah square a few hours before dusk, dusk feels like it’s come and gone. The sun setting, darkness falling, and the Spanish moss moving in a melancholy fashion with the light breeze off the Atlantic. The alleyways are more than merely for conveyance here, extending the habitable areas to coach houses and little barns behind the mansions on the main streets. Though diagonal streets need not apply, the city is eminently walkable. Savannah feels intimate.
Unlike Charleston, which stretches out into the water, Savannah slowly falls toward the Savannah River well inland by 10 miles, until the bluff falls out from under you and cascades dramatically down to River Street, a reclaimed section of old factories that dominated Savannah’s waterfront.
Savannah’s food and drink scene is compelling. Not surprisingly, it’s art scene is equal parts traditional and contemporary/experimental. Art galleries dot the city and art museums – the Telfair and SCAD – offer a fun diversion. On a weekend, we walked, ate, and drank. These are our highlights.
Located on Perry Street in the historic center, Emporium is a kitchen and mini-market. On a Friday night, the place is packed. Crowds of twenty-somethings line the 8-seat bar tops. The open kitchen is bustling. And to watch the table-side Raclette burger appear and be served is nothing short of a religious experience. Just as it sounds, a cast iron of melted Racelette cheese is poured over a perfectly cooked half-pound beef patty on the table. It is heaven. In addition, the 24-hour bourbon-brined pork chop is remarkable insofar as it is equal parts tender as it is tasty.
Situated in the old Greyhound station – if you don’t believe it, notice the glass doors, the signage, and the floor tiles at the entry way – The Grey is racking up the accolades. Named 2017 Eater.com “Restaurant of the Year,” Time Magazine’s “One of the World’s Greatest Places 2018,” and Chef Mashama Bailey named James Beard semifinalist for “Best Chef: Southeast.” The restaurant features southern fare with Italian influence in a series of small plates that are offered in theme: “pantry,” “water,” “dirt,”and “pasture.” Unlike many restaurants that have tried this concept and muddled through, The Grey excels at it. Each dish thrusts the ingredient into the fore. The foie stands up to the grits it sits upon. The ribeye for two is charred perfectly but retains the moisture you expect from medium-rare cooking. The shrimp boil is shrimp – in a good way. All in all, this was a remarkable meal.
Recommended by our waiter at Emporium, Top Deck offers the best views of Savannah’s river-front and, due to the large container ships that dock just a short distance up river at the Port of Savannah, brings excitement to all from a 5-story container ship coming up river. The drinks are reasonably priced and the daytime crowd is subdued over rounds of Rose.
Set in the alley behind Broughton Street, the Alley Cat is part speakeasy and part hipster bar. The speakeasy part comes from the combination of having to go downstairs for the bar and the bar menu, which features by-gone cocktails. The hipster part comes from the vintage booths, the handlebar mustaches, and the crowds that come here to get in. Best tip we can give: go off menu, put your hands in the fate of your bartender, and enjoy. Because you will.
SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design) Museum of Art
If contemporary art is your thing, it doesn’t get better than the SCAD Museum. Here, they feature new artists, experimental techniques, and sometimes very freaky art and design. It’s fun.
Mirabelle’s, located just across the street from The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, is a woman-owned and woman-operated breakfast stop. The featured dish is waffles – savory or sweet. The restaurant is very French with its quaint tables and chairs and welcoming vibe.
We purchased a lot, but not a ton. Some of the places we patronaged were Nourish, The Salt Table, The Paris Market, The Peanut Shop, and Byrd’s Cookies. You can easily do all of these along Broughton to City Market.
The Perry Lane Hotel is a brand-new Luxury brand collection for Marriott. Featuring a rooftop pool and very large rooms, it is highly recommended.