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Jun 14, 2010 01:42 AM

Only 1 Day in Savannah - Where to Get the Best Lunch?

Hi Savannah locals! This will be our first trip to your beautiful city, but we'll only have 18 hours or so to take in all the great food and architecture, and would greatly appreciate your help on finding non-touristy CASUAL restaurants within walking distance of the historic district that really showcase the local flavors of Savannah and/or the south. We'll be staying at AVIA Hotels (14 Barnard St. and W Bay Ln) in the Historic District North, and we won't have a car.

Keep in mind we're 1 New Yorker and 1 Californian, so we're not interested in anything that we can get back home, e.g. Italian, French, New American, any type of Asian, fine dining/haute cuisine. We just want to soak up the local flavors of the south!

Would love your recommendations on:

1) What are the quintessential Savannah foods/dishes or southern fare that one must sample when in town? Biscuits? Shrimp & grits? Pulled pork? BBQ? Fresh Oysters? Catfish?

2) Where to get casual dinner/drinks after 10pm on a Friday night? Our train will be getting in late.

3) Where to get a casual lunch or brunch on a Saturday? Would have picked Lady and Sons but probably won't now due to mixed reviews and an impatient boyfriend who refuses to wait in line for anything.

Unfortunately we won't be able to check out the famous Mrs. Wilkes since we'll be arriving late on a Friday night and leaving Saturday afternoon for a week in Hilton Head Island.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. SC low country cuisine consists of mostly seafood dishes using local ingredients. Fried green tomatoes, shrimp and anything together, crab meat and anything else, fresh fish sauteed, oysters raw or cooked in any style, she crab soup, etc. Catfish is not a SC low country specialty. 90% of the catfish in America are raised in Mississippi. SC is famous for grouper, snapper, flounder, tunca, et al. Those pulled pork sliders look good at the Pink House.

    The Old Pink House is open Friday nights until 11PM on Fridays and the bar is open until 12PM. They have live music and fine southern cuisine. You may want to go there for drinks Friday night and check it out. Then you could have lunch there Saturday. Here's a link to their menu.

    The Olde Pink House Restaurant @ 23 Abercorn St., Savannah, GA. 912 - 232 - 4286.

    Skip Mrs. Wilkes and Lady and Sons. I will give you some country food places to eat at Hilton Head Island. Sweet Potatoes is the country food place in Savannah but it's S of the Historic Dist. out near Hunter Air Field. Just stick with Pink House.

    Crystal Beer Parlor is a local joint you may be interested in having lunch Saturday. Pinkie Masters is a real dive about 20 short blocks from your hotel but I would not walk at night. It has a lot of history and stays open late with good music and atmosphere.

    Crystal Beer Parlor @ 301 West Jones St., Savannah, GA. 912 - 231 - 0999.


    Pinkie Master's Lounge @ 318 Drayton St., Savannah, GA. 912 - 238 - 0447.

    Bistro Savannah would be good for lunch Saturday also.

    Bistro Savannah @ 309 W. Congress St., Savannah, GA. 912 - 233 - 6266.

    Let me know if you need HHI recommendations.

    The Olde Pink House
    Savannah, GA, Savannah, GA

    Pinkie Master's Lounge
    318 Drayton St, Savannah, GA 31401

    24 Replies
    1. re: Littleman

      Littleman, are there country cooking places between Savannah and Charleston that do as good as job as Mrs. Wilkes? I know some places down in Jesup and around the Golden Isles of Georgia, but wasn't familiar with any along the Lowcountry stretch (except maybe Sgt. White's in Beaufort)?

      1. re: mikeh

        OO how about Harold's in Yemmassee?

        1. re: Sue in Mt P

          isn't that more of a biker bar than grandma's kitchen?

          1. re: Sue in Mt P

            Have you been to Harold's? I have not, but it is on my list.

              1. re: Littleman

                Haven't been yet, but it is a country place!

                1. re: Sue in Mt P

                  Good description of Harold's.

                  We parked the car and made our way past the old-timey gas pumps (still functioning) and in through the front door of an old country gas station/tackle shop/bar chock full of the most bizarre mishmash of humanity I have ever seen this side of a county fair. Old toothless men and women, kids from age 3 and up and rich folks from town just looking for a reason to put on the Wranglers and cowboy boots , drink some beer and eat some damn good food. Cristina ordered me a 22 0z. Budweiser which came wrapped in a paper sack and by the time I had killed about a quarter of it, we were told to get into the food line. We made our way single-file into a hallway where we gave our party's name, paid our money, took an oval Chinette plate and stood in front of a table. On the table were three large aluminum covered pans and behind each pan sat a blue-haired dowager with a set of tongs. Each pan contained the steaks cooked medium, medium-well and well done and our order was conveyed loudly to the first "steakwoman," "3 mediums, Lee party of three!" She plopped a 16 oz, well gristled, beautiful piece of "cow ass" on each of our Chinette plates and we entered the big room. On the left was a table with salad, baked potato, potato salad and green beans. We sat at a wooden table and commenced to eating. The room was packed but not noisy with all the people cramming steak and potato into their faces. About 9:00 P.M., the dining room was cleared out and the entire crowd waddled back into the main part of the gas station where the Karaoke was cranking up. Folks, I've seen karaoke, and most of it is incredibly lame-non-tune carrying drunks up on stage on a dare trying to sing "Brandy," but this was different. The freakin' song book was as hefty as a New York City phone directory and the "DJ" would call individuals by name to come up and sing their song. Some were lame, but some were flat out talented. Old men and young kids burned up the small dance floor they had carved out of the crowd by their twisting and twirling. One old man danced and drank until I saw him outside laying p

                  1. re: Littleman

                    Do they tell you what you're having when you make your reservation or is it a surprise?

                    1. re: lizzy

                      No you have to reserve your steak! Otherwise you might not get one!

          2. re: Littleman

            Thanks Littleman! Olde Pink House looks like the ticket for late dinner, although do you have another suggestion for a more casual spot in case we end up not feeling like dressing up?

            What are the star southern dishes at Crystal Beer Parlor? What must we get there? The menu doesn't look like it contains too many of the SC low-country cuisine items you mentioned... guess that will have to wait till HHI?

            Would love HHI recommendations - we'll have a car when we get there - looking for amazing seafood. Many thanks!

            The Olde Pink House
            Savannah, GA, Savannah, GA

            1. re: Noodle fanatic

              Old Pink House does not have a dress code. Don't go in shorts and flip flops maybe shorts, sneakers and a golf shirt. Crystal Beer Parlor has been renovated since I was there last. The owners are Greek and some Greek dishes have been added but it's basically a hamburger/beer joint but lots of fun. They have some LC dishes with crab, shrimp and oysters and I see they have added some lamb/bison to their menu.

              Huey's on the River has outside seating and a fantastic view of the river about 4 blocks from your hotel. I'm not sure about their hours and they have no website. It's open breakfast/lunch/dinner and serves good SC LC cuisine/burgers/steaks/etc.

              Huey's on the River @ 115 East River St., Savannah, GA 912 - 234 - 7385.

              1. re: Noodle fanatic

                NF, Crystal Beer Parlor is definitely old-time Savannah. The whole shrimp grits thing started to come out of low country homes and into restaurants sometime in the 90s, IIRC. Before then, shrimp salad sammiches were the hallmark of a nice Savannah lunch. The ones at CBP are first-rate. Order one with their trademark onion rings and a cold one and you can't do much better than that.

                You'll notice CBP has some greek offerings. Southern towns and cities of any size had Greek immigrants who opened local dining establishments that created a curious mix of mediterranean and southern country cooking. I remember a restaurant back in the late 60s-early 70s in Athens, GA that served spaghetti and fried chicken livers(pretty good!); the joint was run by a couple of older greek men and the atmoshere of the place was booths, tables, and the old greeks yelling at the waitresses. I bet it made some people feel right at home, LOL! In any case, my wife really likes the lamb burgers and gyros at CBP as well as the regular burgers and the BBQ. I like the reubens as well. CBP would be a fun choice for you, lotta history and consistently good chow. Have fun!

              2. re: Littleman

                Littleman, why do you recommend skipping Mrs. Wilkes'? We'd been considering it but wondered if it sounded a little more touristy-atmospheric than truly-local-flavor. :)

                1. re: valereee

                  Mrs Wilkes has its fans. I always take out of town guests there and the food is always very good. That being said, I can think of a dozen more or less unknown country cooking restaurants in small towns throughout GA that fry up chicken and serve up collards and green beans that serve every bit as good a lunch as Mrs Wilkes. At Mrs Wilkes, you're getting a truly old-time country cooking place on Jones Street with real history and good food and its real Savannah. It's a little spendy and the lines are always long, but my out of town guests enjoy it. You should go, IMO, purely FWIW. I'll let Littleman tell you why you should skip it.

                  1. re: Buddha49

                    Thanks, Buddha!

                    It's the lines that I can't deal with. A restaurant has to be EXTREMELY worth visiting before I'll stand in line for the privilege of giving them my money. :) That said, if the line is somehow part of the experience, I'll take that into consideration. And if I can arrive well before I want to eat and get a seat at the bar and spend my time in line -there-, then all bets are off. :D But if what I can get at Mrs. Wilkes is basically what I could get at any number of places plus bragging rights, I'm a little lukewarm on it.

                    One of my husband's coworkers recommended we stop in her hometown, Sylvania, on our way home (we drive right past it on the way back to Cincinnati if we avoid I-95) and order the fried chicken at Pop's Kitchen.

                    Pop's Kitchen
                    109 Mims Rd, Sylvania, GA 30467

                    1. re: valereee

                      Another representative Southern luncheon buffet in Sylvania is R&D's Steaks and Seafood, on Hwy 301 on the north side of town. It's a good-sized place with a fair variety on the buffet and a selection of desserts.
                      I've never been to Pop's.
                      If you want one in Savannah without the waiting in line try the Fairmont.

                      Fairmont Restaurant
                      65 W Fairmont Ave, Savannah, GA 31406

                      1. re: savdoug

                        Is a buffet restaurant a southern thing? I'm from Ohio, and I've always avoided buffets completely (literally cannot remember the last time I went to one), but I see a lot of folks on the SouthEast board here recommend restaurants that are buffet-style.

                        1. re: valereee

                          Southern food lends itself to the buffet paradigm because of how the cuisine is approached. While in most of the country, a buffet is just a convenient excuse for diners to pile up on loads of poorly-made food (quantity, not quality), each Southern dish is meant to complement many others. You're supposed to get a bit of the chicken skin crisp in your mashed potatoes. You're supposed to get a bit of the yam or rutabaga juice to counterpoint to butter beans. I mean literally having 10 or more items on one plate, mixing and matching bites. It's a foodie dream. Absolutely impossible to replicate a la carte. The idea used to revolve around family-style meals where you sit at a big table with your relatives and pass a bunch of bowls around. Tough to implement in today's fast-paced environment (with some holdouts such as Mrs. Wilkes, which still does it that way). The buffet is a convenient way to maintain the concept, adjusting for the need to get in and out in a hurry, and with anonymity.

                          For example, here's a plate of food I had at the Jones Kitchen buffet in Jesup, GA (about an hour SW of Savannah). Everything is home cooked and piping hot out of the kitchen. You tell me if that looks like typical buffet food as other parts of the country would have you believe?


                          Jones Kitchen
                          526 W Cherry St, Jesup, GA 31545

                          1. re: mikeh

                            Jones is a hidden gem I travel an hour to get there just for lunch from St Simons.

                            1. re: mikeh

                              Great photo, mikeh. Yep, that Jones Kitchen's food, all right! I recognize their fried okra.

                              1. re: mikeh

                                Wow, coming in here really late, sorry Mikeh! Thanks for the explanation -- that makes perfect sense, and now I'll know not to rule out buffet-style restaurants completely when I'm in the south!

                          2. re: valereee

                            Had the fried chicken at pops kitchen! It really is THAT GOOD. Definitely worth a stop.

                        2. re: valereee

                          I think MW is existing on it's fame. There are a lot of lesser known "country" food restaurants in Savannah and around GA that are just as good and not near as much trouble to secure a table. Fried chicken is fried chicken. Purple hull peas or purple hull peas. JMO.

                      2. Not super close to downtown, but I've had a great and creative lunch at Toucan Cafe.


                        1. For lunch and dinner on HHI Chef David's is recommended for lunch/dinner.

                          Chef David's Roastfish and Cornbread @ 70 Marshland Rd., Hilton Head Island, SC. 843 - 342 - 2996.


                          Signe's Bakery is great for breakfast.

                          Signe's Bakery @ 93 Arrow Rd., Hilton Head Island, SC. 843 - 785 - 9118.


                          Frankie Bones and Hudson's on the Docks are outstanding both for fine dining open for lunch/dinner. Hudson's is near the water and has excellent seafood.

                          Frankie Bones Restaurant and Lounge @ 1301 Main St., Hilton Head Isle, SC. 843 - 682 - 4455.


                          Hudson's on the Docks @ 1 Hudson Rd., Hilton Head Island, SC. 843 - 681 - 2772.


                          Santa Fe Cafe is a great place for fine dining lunch/dinner with rooftop dining.

                          Santa Fe Cafe @ 807 William Hilton Pkwy., Hilton Head Island, SC. 843 - 785 - 3838.


                          Santa Fe Cafe
                          700 Plantation Ctr, Hilton Head Island, SC 29926

                          Frankie Bones
                          1301 Main St, Hilton Head Island, SC 29926

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Littleman

                            Thanks Littleman. How about the Black Marlin? Is it any good?

                          2. For lunch, you can't beat the Masada Cafe at the United House of Prayer for All People. Seek it and you will find the true essence of regional southern food. Don't let the neighborhood scare you away. It's located a couple of miles up Bay street from the historic district. Best meat and three I've had since the real Lady and Son's went out of business and was replaced by the tourist trap of the same name.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: bkhuna

                              I think it's Madison Cafeteria.

                                1. re: bkhuna

                                  They are one and the same. I wonder which one is the official name. I'd think the one that Littleman posted that's on the actual sign.

                                  1. re: mikeh

                                    Masada Cafe is at the United House of Prayer on W. Bay Street, and Madison Cafeteria is at the United House of Prayer on Ogeechee Road.

                                    I think....

                                    1. re: Buddha49

                                      Thanks for the clarification. I'll have to check this out when I'm in Savannah in two weeks.

                                      1. re: Buddha49

                                        That makes sence. The photo of Madison Cafeteria e was lifted off another web site:
                                        and the address isn't the same as Masada Cafe. It seems as if they have two locations. I've eaten many times at the one on West Bay.

                                        1. re: bkhuna

                                          Be forewarned. FWIW, and IMHO, the location on Ogeechee Road was a perfectly miserable experience the one and only time I went there. I would have to get some five star recos about that place to even consider going again. You do not want to experience what I had to endure at the UHOP on Ogeechee. The folks were friendly enough, but the food was execrable. and for ten bucks?? 'nuf said.

                              1. I'm not a Savannah native, but we had some outstanding BBQ from a place called Wall's. It's a real hole-in-the-wall on a quiet alley. It's downtown so you can definitely walk there.

                                3 Replies
                                    1. re: bkhuna

                                      I'm glad to hear it's not closed permanently. I ate there a some years ago and really enjoyed it. Not the best Q I've ever had but a worthwhile stop.