A former Savannah plantation, The Olde Pink House serves classic Southern comfort food. // © 2014 Nila Do Simon
Featured image (above): 22 Square at the Andaz hotel features a breakfast buffet that doesn’t skimp on the sweets. // © 2014 Nila Do Simon
It can’t be denied: Southerners love their food. And in no other place is it more apparent than in the Spanish moss-lined streets of Savannah, Ga. A proliferation of superb dining establishments makes Savannah a go-to destination for the best in Southern cuisine.
As one Savannah native accurately describes it, “Southern food is sexy when it’s bad.” For those who have never tasted true Southern cuisine in the Deep South, it’s the ultimate comfort food, where the calorie count and number of butter sticks don’t matter, but the smiles after every bite do.
As Savannahians like to point out, there’s more to Southern food than Paula Deen. To experience the best of Savannah dining, check out the following establishments.
The Olde Pink House
Built in 1771, The Olde Pink House is the matriarch of all Savannah dining. White tablecloths and polished silverware give this former plantation a refined air, but the down-home friendly service and comfort foods, such as fried green tomatoes and macaroni and cheese, make it a cozy spot for any occasion. The restaurant staff will not hesitate to claim its shrimp and grits as the best in the South. Modern dishes on the menu include a deconstructed take on fish tacos, and cocktail recommendations include the subtly spicy jalapeno margarita, made with fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juices.
Nightlife at The Olde Pink House is popular, with its basement-level tavern playing boisterous live music. The dimly lit tavern and dark wood decor are nods to the old days, and it serves as a retreat for those looking for a more casual escape.
Named after the 22 squares in the city, 22 Square is the anti-hotel-restaurant restaurant. Set on the ground floor of the trendy Andaz hotel, 22 Square utilizes a farm-to-table approach with local organic and seasonal ingredients. Its backdrop is a clean and refreshing take on Southern decor, with tables dotted with potted herbs for centerpieces and large windows flooding the dining area with natural light.
The breakfast buffet is moderately priced at $20 and prides itself on a fresh approach to the classic Southern meal. A make-your-own Bloody Mary and mimosa bar adds to the restaurant’s modern feel.
Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room
When the server at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room announces, “Y’all go ahead and eat — the food has been blessed,” it’s a telltale sign this isn’t your average restaurant. Open only for lunch on the weekdays, the wait to get into the restaurant can last longer than an hour. But ask anyone who’s dined there — the food is well worth the wait.
Served family style, Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room is where tourists and residents alike go for classic Southern cuisine. The menu changes daily, but classic dishes —prepared the traditional Southern way, mind you — such as collard greens, black-eyed peas, okra and cole slaw, are staples. The fried chicken is particularly out of this world.
Dining at Mrs. Wilkes’ can only be described as an experience not to be missed. In Mrs. Wilkes’ tradition, guests are asked to take their used dishes and cups to the sink to be washed by the staff. No alcoholic drinks are served, but water and sweet or unsweetened iced tea pours freely.
Maison de Macarons
For those who need to satisfy a sweet tooth, Maison de Macarons is the right place. As its name indicates, Maison de Macarons serves flavor-packed versions of this French concoction. Of the nearly 50 flavors in their arsenal, the most popular ones are salted caramel, pistachio and chocolate ganache. Founded by two friends, Maison de Macarons now has two Savannah locations where guests can find fresh, locally-made macarons.
The Coffee Fox
The pride Southerners feel about their cuisine isn’t limited to food; it includes coffee too. A craft coffee shop that feels like it is straight out of the streets of New York City, The Coffee Fox takes its coffee seriously. Espresso lovers can appreciate the lengths The Coffee Fox goes to separate itself from other cafes. It serves locally roasted coffee made by its own roast master, the owner of Perc coffee. In addition to the cup of Joe, The Coffee Fox also offers cheese platters, wine and craft beers.
Perhaps the swankiest Savannah restaurant is Chive Sea Bar & Lounge. Devoid of typical Southern dishes, Chive sought a fresh seafood menu that includes impressive sushi selections for the diner who needs a break from comfort food.
The nearly one-year-old restaurant is decked out with posh mirrored furniture, stylish chandeliers and plush seating — a complete changeup from the traditional Southern decor found throughout Savannah. It’s the perfect palate cleanser in between the array of Southern dishes travelers will invariably taste while in this historic city.