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What do New Orleanians eat in Savannah?

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I'm going to Savannah for the first time for Easter weekend and am trying to get some suggestions from New Orleanians who are familiar with Savannah as to where to go and eat. I've checked out www.SavannahOffTheBeatenPath.com for some ideas, but could use a few more. I want to go some place to have a really good, nice dinner - not Paula Dean's place, or some other similar tourist trap, but a place that I can have a good dining experience. I'm renting a car too, so am not restricted by public transpo or taxi fares.

I've checked a couple of Savannah's chowhound boards which have given me a couple ideas, but even there locals disagree. Can anyone help me out? It is much appreciated!

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  1. Try Sapphire Grill. Fine dining, very sleek. Also, A Vida restaurant and wine bar is a terrific place if you're wine-centric.

    1. The chowteam will probably move this thread, but here goes.

      Depends on what you're looking for. Elizabeth's on 37th is solid. I was decidedly unimpressed with the place in "the mansion," but that's based on one visit shortly after they opened; it may be better now... Sapphire is nice enough, but it hasn't wowed me. Honestly, i don't think that fine dining is the best option when eating out in SAV.

      Places that i like, in no particular order: The Breakfast Club on Tybee, Firefly cafe, Vinnie Van Gogo's, Back in the Day bakery, Teeple's in Thunderbolt, Rancho Alegre in Southside, SoHo South, Wall's BBQ, Leopold's icecream, Sweetleaf.

      Also note: You will be tempted to try the "low country boil" while in the SAV/Charleston/Hilton Head area. And, to be fair, you should, if you're going to spend an appreciable amount of time out there. You'll go to The Crab Shack or Desposito's, and the weather will be great, and there will be cold beer and ocean breezes, and the softening light of dusk will make everything look exquisite; the steaming seafood, the newspaper tablecloth, the pail for the soon-to-be-emptied exoskeletal remains. Then you will taste the food. And it will be bland. You will think you've perhaps just gotten an under-seasoned morsel and move on to the next crab, shrimp, or corn, but no...it all tastes like that. You will have empassioned discourse with barefooted local elites* who will tell you what you really like is the flavor of the boil medium and not the flavor of the things you're actually eating. You will respond that, no, what you really appreciate is well-seasoned food. Lemons, ketchup, and tabasco will be demanded. And things will go downhill from there. Seriously. Go for the experience, not the chow, unless you like boiled sausage. A lot.

      *this isn't a slur; it's a reference to the marketing scheme of the aforementioned restaurant.

      3 Replies
      1. re: foodmuse

        foodmuse and I are almost completely on the same page.

        I also like Express Deli on Barnard. Great bagles and lox for breakfast, done up however you like them (me, toasted with cream cheese & lox, slice of raw onion, slice of tomato, salt and papper and capers). They have a roasted red pepper and warm goat cheese sammich that is excellent. It's a local place that's been there about 20 years or so - solid.

        The best seafood in town is at Tybee, at AJs on the Back River. If you like a nice spice, they do Buffalo Shrimp as well as I've ever had it, and their specials are excellent. The seafood is always perfectly cooked.

        There's Garibaldi's on Congress by the market with very good food. Crispy scored flounder (used to be pompano before the fisherman took all the decent sized fish out of the ocean) is their signature, but everything I've tried is solid.

        There's a serious kick-ass fusion place on the southside, out Abercorn extension, called Tangerine.

        1. re: foodmuse

          Foodmuse, the note that you wrote regarding the "low country boil" is hilarious! It really did make me laugh out loud - you're a great writer.

          Thanks to you and to ALL for the tips. I am planning on checking out menus and locations this weekend to map out the places we want to eat, both in Savannah and on Tybee. I have heard good things about Elizabeth's, so I'll plan to check that out. Anywhere that has the best seafood, I'm there, so I can add AJs to the list when we go to Tybee. What about Mrs. Wilke's boarding house for their family-style dining. Has anyone tried this and does it live up to the hoooplah?

          1. re: dreamer76

            Mrs. Wilkes is only open for lunch, Monday - Friday. If that fits into your schedule, don't miss it.

        2. I'm a former New Orleanian who just got back from Savannah. Belford's has jumbalaya, Bull Street Chophouse has fried oysters, Bistro Savannah has creme brulee, everywhere has red rice and grits which you don't really find in N.O but it's close. It's amazing how similar the food is.

          2 Replies
          1. re: bronwen

            I don't agree with all of foodmuse's recs, but the take on The Crab Shack is spot on. Be advised that "the local elite" at the Crab Shack is there to drink, not eat. Drinking is really what Savannah life is all about

            1. re: sarge

              I didn't like it because I thought it was nasty...as in dirty.

          2. Also, any opinions on B.Matthews or The Olde Pink House? I had seen another Savannah board where these two were highly recommended, but I'd like to hear if these are wise choices. The same board didn't say such great things about Elizabeth's so if anyone has any other insight on eating there, let me know. Also, on Elizabeth's site there was a mention of a chef's tasting menu - 7 courses for $70 - this sounds like a great deal; has anyone done this?

            1 Reply
            1. re: dreamer76

              After two and a half years in Savannah and a lot of time in No I mus say there is no comparison at all. There is wonderful food all over NO and not much in Savannah. Some comments: The Saphire Grill is fine, Not exceptional but fine. Garibaldis is in a similar category. Elizabeths is over priced and nopt as good as it should be. 700 Drayton at the Masion at the Park has better food as does Local 11110, A Vida can be excellent and is as a consistenly good as Savannah gets. The Olde Pink House is allright but over rated. The Crab Shack is fun but the food is mediocre. The Breakfast club has excellent breakfasts as does Clarys. Il Pastichio is consistently good. Screaming Mimis has better pizza than Vinnie Vann Go Gos and excellent subs.

            2. Just wanted to let you know, now that I'm back from my trip, that the best two meals I had were at Local 11 Ten and at AJ's on the River in Tybee Island.

              Re Local 11 Ten: We had the potted fois gras and brioche, which was amazing; a delightful charcuterie with fresh and well seasoned meats; crabmeat tortilla crisps - which were essentially gournet nachos - an excellent execution. The salad with the baby arugula was incredibly tasty; and for an entree, the scallops - they were perfectly seared, with a wonderful citrus sherry vinaigrette and seared endive. By far the best scallops I've ever had. A truly lovely meal.

              Re AJ's - everything was perfectly fried! I went for lunch (though I would have liked to go for dinner) and got a fried shrimp and scallop plate. I didn't know that people fried scallops - which I guess are readily available in coastal GA because they were on every menu - but they are, surprisingly, really good - almost like a giant lump of sweet, tender, fried crabmeat.

              A Vida was closed down and abandoned, though I would have liked to eat there. I got high recommendations to go to Noble Fare - and intend to the next time I'm in town. For off-the-cuff-we're-already-out-and-need-to-eat-something food, we went to a couple places down by the river - one with very bad food, and one with very good food. I wish I could remember their names, but they're all kind of the same. The place that was pretty good (a rich and hearty crab chowder and my first taste of fried scallops) had "dockside" in the name and was just a few down from the Chart House.

              Went to Vinnie Van Go Go's for pizza and it was terrible! They should not call it New York style pizza. And even if they didn't, it still was bad pizza. Don't go there. What we should have done was check out what pizza place the bike/rickshaw guys were all hanging at and do eat there, which was Sweet Elizabeth's (I'm pretty sure that's the name; they have giant pizzas) right down the street.

              2 Replies
              1. re: dreamer76

                I'm glad you had a good experience at AJ's, dreamer. I've loved it every time I've gone, but ya never know. If you make it back, do try AJs for dinner. Their dinner specials are always different and depend on what's fresh and available. They work such magic with their specials that I rarely order off the menu at dinner time.

                You asked about the tasting menu at Elizabeth's. My wife and I did it one evening about two years ago and it was simply fantastic. It is also a total and complete pigout in terms of the amount of food provided. The last entree they trotted out was downright silly. It is over the top in every way you can imagine. Sounds like another trip?

                And seconds on the Nobel Fare reccos. It and Elizabeth's are my favorite restauants here.

                1. re: dreamer76

                  Glad you like Local 1110. I am glad I remembered to recommend it. A Vida must have closed in the 10 months since I was there. Agree about Vinnie Van Go Gos. Much better pizza at Screaming Mimis on Habersham.