Where to have break­fast, lunch and din­ner in Sa­van­nah

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Carolina Living - BY ALEXAN­DRA MARVAR Wash­ing­ton Post

In Sa­van­nah, the ghosts of the Civil War hang thick in the Ge­or­gia air. The gnarled arms of live oaks arc over rows of his­tor­i­cal homes full of heir­looms. Horse-drawn car­riages click-clack around the lush pub­lic squares that dap­ple the map. It’s a city ob­sessed with its his­tory and with its South­er­ness.

At the heart of all things South­ern, there is food. Din­ing here, there’s soul and com­fort food, bar­be­cue, seafood shacks and gen­er­a­tions-old recipes hewed from par­tic­u­lar lo­cal in­gre­di­ents such as lo­quats and sat­sumas (ex­otic fruits that have taken to Ge­or­gia’s warm cli­mate), but­ter beans, pecans, crabs (try dev­iled or stewed) and Ge­or­gia shrimp ( pre­pared all the ways). From the Ogeechee River come cat­fish and shad. From the edges of town, boiled peanuts. From the docks and back porches of friends’ houses on breezy evenings, oys­ter roasts and low­coun­try boils.

At the best eater­ies in town, whether they’ve been in busi­ness for three years or three-quar­ters of a cen­tury, pa­trons who pay at­ten­tion will find, wo­ven through the menus, traces of these ob­ses­sions: a deeply South­ern cul­ture and his­tory.

Clang­ing pans, hiss­ing fry­ers, laugh­ter and lively con­ver­sa­tion echo through Naro­bia’s Grits & Gravy, an off-the-beaten-path, eight-table es­tab­lish­ment where pro­pri­etor Re­nee Reid and the cooks on her sprawl­ing line – mostly made up of fam­ily – hap­pily wel­come all ev­ery morn­ing but Sun­day. Early birds will avoid a wait. “I’m stand­ing on the shoul­ders of giants,” says Reid, “try­ing to lis­ten and please, and just try­ing to use the sim­plest in­gre­di­ents pos­si­ble.” If the menu over­whelms (there are 44 dishes for break­fast alone, some branch­ing into your choice of grilled or fried), just con­sult the signage: You can’t mis­step with the head­lin­ing items, and a sign on the build­ing’s ex­te­rior pro­claims the per­fect maple-sweet French toast ($4.99) to be “so good it don’t need syrup!” Gen­er­ous, meatand-three-style break­fast plat­ters ($6.75 to $9.95) come with eggs any style, grits and a warm, but­tery, sweet-salty bis­cuit. Shrimp and grits ($ 7.50) is one of Sa­van­nah’s clas­sic dishes and, thusly, sub­ject to much judg­ment, but Naro­bia’s passes the test: a healthy hand­ful of pe­tite peeled shrimp top a mound of light, creamy grits, crowned with onions, pep­pers and the much-dis­cussed house gravy that’s fla­vor­ful, pep­pery and, break­ing from stan­dards, pork free. For lighter fare, try the per­fectly sim­ple chicken bis­cuit ($2.25), a fried chicken patty — crispy, fla­vor­ful, light on the grease — in the mid­dle of one of those per­fect bis­cuits.

Ev­ery week­day morn­ing, a line forms in front of an 1870s house on per­haps the most beau­ti­ful street in Sa­van­nah. Mrs. Wilkes Din­ing Room has been serv­ing lunches since Sema Wilkes opened its doors in the early 1940s. She ran the place un­til she died at 95, and her restau­rant and ad­join­ing board­ing­house have been main­tained by her fam­ily. Strangers are seated to­gether at round ta­bles of 10 for the South’s great­est im­pe­tus for gath­er­ing: the shar­ing of a feast. A one­size-fills-all, prix-fixe menu ($23) changes daily, but of­ten in­cludes the likes of fried chicken, beef stew, col­lards, okra, black­eyed peas, sweet potato souf­fle and corn bread. “Fam­ily-style” in the truest sense, dishes are placed and passed around each group of 10, and they are bot­tom­less. This carb­for­ward magic un­folds only from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; do set aside time for a wait in line, a leisurely meal and the nap that may fol­low.

A res­ur­rected 1938 Grey­hound de­pot at the edge of down­town is now The Grey, where chef Mashama Bai­ley’s dishes play­fully ref­er­ence Sa­van- nah’s culi­nary past while stand­ing out as the fresh­est ideas in town. Her per­fectly ten­der Chicken Coun­try Cap­tain ($28) – a low­coun­try fa­vorite ru­mored to have orig­i­nated at the city’s own port dur­ing the spice trade – is cel­e­brated for its ex­otic, sa­vory and sweet sauce of curry, cur­rants, and al­monds. But start with oys­ters ($3.50), and try the smashed new potato dish ($8), small pur­ple pota­toes with their skins crispened in brewer’s yeast and doused in an el­e­gant cas­cade of sour cream topped with scal­lions. A chal­lenge though it may be, save room: The warm beignets ($8), rem­i­nis­cent of hush pup­pies rolled in sugar, are served five across the plate with a streak of gin­ger cream and a dol­lop of cho­co­late sauce. A flight of this city’s fa­vorite di­ges­tif ($19) tours your palate through the salt, cin­na­mon, and caramel re­frains of four his­toric Madeira styles from cities in­clud­ing, of course, Charleston, South Carolina, and Sa­van­nah. Make a reser­va­tion to score a seat at the el­e­gant horse­shoe bar, framed by art deco de­tails and holdovers from the space’s past life, such as lug­gage racks above the kitchen-side booths and the faded gate num­bers still posted above the old bus-lane board­ing doors.

ALEXAN­DRA MARVAR Wash­ing­ton Post

French toast is a fa­vorite at Naro­bia's Grits & Gravy in Sa­van­nah, Ga.

ALEXAN­DRA MARVAR Wash­ing­ton Post

Fried chicken is a pop­u­lar menu item at Mrs. Wilkes Din­ing Room in Sa­van­nah, Ga.

CHIA CHONG Cour­tesy

Chicken Coun­try Cap­tain is a crowd-pleaser at The Grey in Sa­van­nah, Ga.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.