Savannah Georgia – More than Food for Thought by Terry Zinn

History says that when Sherman in his rampage march to the sea, was so impressed with Savannah and its beautiful homes and landscaped squares, that it was too beautiful to burn. Truth about this or another agreement on the outskirts of the city, not withstanding, Savannah is a beautiful city. Just being there and meandering through the old town, despite its touristy popularity, is still a joy. Perhaps one of the most beautiful sights can be the dinner plate in front of you, promising delectable morsels of un equaled pleasure. For your visit instead of marching to the sea, may I suggest a saunter to a number of fine eateries you may conquer.
Having been to Savannah several times over the years, I always like to revisit my favorites, and one is the Restaurant of the Olde Pink House. This historic building, is one of the first building renovations saved by Jim Williams. Yes, that Jim Williams, the protagonist in “the” book, Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil, the book that revitalized Savannah tourism. I dined in a cozy nook on the upper floor of the old section. It was once an office, but now has a charming view looking down from the front of the house onto the traffic going around the square. On my evening, there was an unexpected April rain shower, which made for a nostalgic atmosphere. By candle light I savored my cocktail and meal, promptly served by helpful wait staff. Reservations are a necessity.
I and many others wished that Mrs. Wilkes would accept reservations for her eternally popular luncheon affair. In the first floor of another historic house in old town, Mrs. Wilkes (now deceased) still serves a plethora of home cooked vitals, which makes the most polite dinner guest a ravenous diner. Seated at various table sizes in two rooms, you’d wonder how they could serve so many so quickly. And that’s a good thing, as at Mrs. Wilkes you must wait in line for your portion of the line to gain entrance. From 11 to 2 pm Mrs. Wilkes is always packed. I don’t do lines, but for the reputation Mrs. Wilkes had infecting on my bucket list, I just had to make time. By finding available seating near the line, I survive the hour plus wait. And yes, the food was delicious, and I fear there was plenty of butter and a pinch of sugar in all the vegetable dishes. Known for her Fried Chicken she also provided scores of other offerings, all with their own unique taste and level of satisfaction.
For a not so hectic dining experience the Roof Top Bar of the Bohemian Hotel overlooking the Savannah River is a grand alternative. While you may stay inside near the bar, the outside L-shaped terrace is the place to be and be seen, whether in an elevated cocktail table or lounging in one of their sofas. I visited twice and enjoyed both seating options. The first evening cocktail and appetizer was so fulfilling to my senses that I returned the next night. The second night they were plagued by insects I did not notice the first evening ~ must have been the rain shower. In either case the terrace and its view of the Savannah River complete with paddle wheelers and commercial traffic added to Savannah’s unmatched feeling of a unique place and time.
For the most elegant upscale dining the 700 Drayton, restaurant in the Mansion on Forsyth Park is unmatched. Again in an historic building, the elegant dining room, complete with fireplaces and beveled glass accessories, while a bit on the stuffy side, rounded out the dining options, I also had on my Savannah Bucket list. I enjoyed the Fried Green Tomatoes with pimento cheese, pickle radish, and herb oil, as well as the Bleu Cheese Filet Mignon, with blue cheese grits, asparagus and the most delightful balsamic and molasses braised Vidalia onion. On a previous visit I had a beverage at their upstairs bar and terrace, overlooking a section of the expansive Forsyth park, and thought I spied a movie star or his cousin or a double. Amazing what tricks and games the mind can play when intoxicated by the elegance of The Mansion. This trip I again ventured upstairs, where many of the 700 Drayton food items are available for dining at the bar while listening to live music. The friendliness and attentiveness of the bartender was an after dinner treat.

I did not know, until I took a ghost tour the following evening, that next door was a ruin of a building that was once a hospital, and of course had many uneasy spirits, from unpleasant demises, and mass burials. It’s now bought by a law firm, or law school and destined for renovation. In an old historic city like Savannah you never know the happenings of the distant past. From the happy spirits at the upstairs bar to the ghostly spirits next door – Savannah haunts the mind.
Other delights of Savannah include; tours of Jim William’s Mercer House (first floor only – no photography), overnight stays at the Country Inn & Suites, shows at the Bay Street Theatre where I saw an energetic production of Reefer Madness, the professionalism of top notch musical entertainment at the Savannah Theatre, Trolley tours, your own meandering through the moss draped and monument packed Bonaventure Cemetery, or a hard to book or find one of the many clip clop horse drawn carriage tours, Savannah Art museums, the art glass at Liquid Sands Glass Gallery on Wright Square, and if you must a noisy and bustling visit to Paula Dean’s, just to say you did it.
There may not be many things to thank Sherman for, but the deliverance of Savannah from the torch is certainly one, and I encourage your own personal march, not to the sea, but to the dinner tables in Savannah.