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Mar 14, 2008 10:01 AM

Savannah - ethnic or quasi Cal cuisine?

My husband and I are considering a relocation to Savannah from Southern California, and one of our main concerns is the FOOD. We hear from friends that the South is largely about fried food and BBQ and that even in a sophisticated place like Savannah, we'll be hard pressed to find light, fresh fare or really tasty ethnic (we especially love Indian, Thai, Korean, Mexican). We'll be out there next week for a preliminary visit. Any places we should take in that might fit the bill?

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  1. wow, your friends have led you astray. First off, Savannah has more than a few places that prepare traditional Southern food with a light/healthy touch (arguably more healthy than many Asian cuisines that are full of sodium).

    My favorite example is Sweet Potatoes Kitchen. They use clarified chicken broth and herbs to season their Southern dishes instead of lard or fatback. I had the best veggie plate of my life there - vinegary collard greens, dilled lima beans, pureed sweet potatoes with orange zest, and stewed okra/tomatoes.

    Their sister restaurant, Toucan Cafe, is pretty close to your paradigmatic Cal cuisine (and as I lived in the Bay Area for five years, I know what you mean).

    New South Cafe is updated Southern cuisine using fresh, local ingredients that also does marvelous "Lowcountry seafood". Lowcountry-style seafood is better seafood than anything you can get in CA.

    Finally, Savannah has quite a few restaurants doing more cutting-edge cuisine like you'll find at the popular LA haunts. My favorite is:

    Local 11 Ten -

    I'm not really familiar with ethnic cuisine in Savannah since I don't vacation there to eat that sort of food. I save that for my trips to the Bay Area. I really hope you take the opportunity to try the South's non-fried creations. Arguably, it's the best and most underrated regional cuisine. In fact, there's a ton of synergisms between the "Chez Panisse" style of cooking that first defined "California" cuisine and the styles of preparations employed by Southern chefs. Alice Waters can tell you that herself.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mikeh

      Wow, Mike. I'm thrilled to read your post. We'll certainly visit each of the places you've mentioned. Thank God for hounders, I tell you. Would you happen to have stumbled on a good bakery in the area, by chance? And also, do you know about grocery stores? We're Trader Joe's/Whole Foods people. Anything comparable in Savannah?

      1. re: mikeh

        Any ideas for a hearty breakfast in Savannah before tackling the rest of a drive from Asheville to Tampa? Nothing too eclectic, just a good Southern breakfast.

      2. As far as ethnic goes, there are a few hidden gems. Madras Chettinaad is great for Indian, you can find good Thai at more than one place (The King & I is the best though, on Hodgson Memorial Drive), and there are a couple of Korean and Vietnamese places. Unfortunately, Mexican is seriously lacking, and I'm sure it won't measure up to what you will find in California! Savannahians basically flock to one of two large chain restaurants, which feature greasy enchiladas and frozen margarita machines. Cheap but not good... I stick with Asian if I want quality ethnic food in Savannah

        2 Replies
        1. re: salsify

          Good news about the Asian restaurants. Thanks, salsify. Interesting about the Mexican, though I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I went to school in San Diego and of course, good Mexican was the norm. I guess I'd come to take it for granted because it really shocked me when, on a trip out to Michigan, I tried to order a quesadilla at a Taco Bell and the employees there had no idea what I was talking about! Worst case scenario, I can make my own chile verde and machaca. That's what my fellow hounders are for, to get me those recipes when I need them!

          1. re: jbeaux

            I've only spent a few days in Savannah, but there are tons of good, authentic Mexican places in the South these days. I live in North Carolina and you can practically throw a rock in any given direction and hit one. I would be really surprised if this isn't also the case in much of Georgia, which along with NC has been one of the main recipients of Hispanic migration to the South.

        2. I live here in Savannah and have to tell you, we are getting more and more really tasty restaurants. The suggestion of Local 11Ten is great - wonderful environment, great staff and eclectic menu. Also try ChaBella - great organic food! My favorite ethnic is Idian/Himalayan at Curry Corner on the southside of town. Very small but oh so worth it!