The Inside Scoop on Savannah

Prior to my trip down to Savannah last month, I’d only ever passed through for a brief stop to cool down with ice cream at Leopold’s. It’s one of the city’s most famous—not to mention, delicious—institutions, and while it’s an obvious part of the whole “tourist experience,” it’s one tourist attraction you definitely shouldn’t miss, sweet tooth or not. (The restaurant sells lunch and other savory items, though you’d be crazy not to sample the ice cream.)

Leopold’s was born when a trio of brothers from Greece landed in the States via Ellis Island, learned the art of ice cream- and candy-making from an uncle in Indiana and opened the parlor in Savannah in 1919. In 1969, it was shut down for nearly 40 years when the brothers grew too old to be in the business anymore. The only child who might possibly take it over, Stratton, jetted off to Hollywood in pursuit of a film career. But he wasn’t done with ice cream: He returned to Savannah in 2004 with his wife, a Los Angeles native, Mary in tow, when his father passed away, and the pair reopened the much-beloved establishment in a new downtown location, using the soda fountain, cabinets, marble front, phone booth and other fixtures from the original parlor and maintaining the old-fashioned feel.

“There were very strong memories when I first got here,” Mary recalls. “People would say, ‘oh my gosh, Leopold’s ice cream!’ and they’d go into the flavors and things, and I thought how neat is that. I’m someone who loves oral history, and the soda shoppe is part of American tradition.”

And Stratton’s other dreams did come true, too: He’s not just one of the most celebrated ice cream makers in the country, but also serves as executive vice president of production Paramount Pictures. (Busy guy.) You’ll see movie posters from his films like Mission Impossible III and Paycheck and other cinematic paraphernalia adorning the walls of the parlor.

“People will always ask ‘what’s with all the movie stuff?’ And I’ll say, ‘oh, that’s my day job. I produce movies.’ And I get one of two distinct reactions. One: ‘why are you scooping ice cream?’ or two: ‘oh, sure you do.’ One day, this fellow was sitting at a table at front and asked the question and I told him the answer. He said, ‘oh yeah, and I left my Nobel Prize on the counter.'”

The best part of the whole visit was that Stratton Leopold himself happened to be there. Not only was he physically at the parlor, but he was actually behind the counter taking orders and scooping ice cream. How cool is that—a Paramount exec still maintaining such dedication to the family business? “I just enjoy people, love talking to folks, and this is real—versus movies, which can not be as real as other things.”

And he and Mary are as friendly as they come, too. Mary joked, “I never thought I’d go from being a pharmacist to a soda jerk!” The place is always packed, with a line out the door and spilling over onto Broughton Street; try to go midweek during off-peak hours if you can.

In honor of the Girl Scouts being headquartered in Savannah, Leopold’s has two custom-made cookie flavors each year, the current ones being a Thin Mint variety (which I would have ordered but they were all out!) and Savannah Smiles, the new lemon-flavored cookie mixed in with lemon custard (the one I ordered, which was divine). There are plenty of other flavors, sundaes and shakes—both regular offerings and seasonal specialties—and one of the most popular fixtures is the honey and almond cream, made with local Savannah Bee Company products. Judging by the looks of all the other parlor-goers’ grins, no one was dissatisfied with their choices!

Leopold’s Ice Cream
212 East Broughton St. Β 
Savannah, Georgia


Other places to get your sugar fix

On the way out of town back to Tennessee, I happened to pass Back in the Day Bakery, a spot my friend Marissa had recommended after seeing it in a magazine article. And who am I to turn down vouched-for baked goods (or any baked goods, really)? Besides, I had seven hours ahead of me in the car, alone; obviously, I was going to get hungry. I just looked at a brief detour at the beginning of my drive as a time-saver once on I-75.

Everything about this establishment was downright cute, from the interior design to the fonts used throughout the shop. The sandwiches smelled delicious, and while I’m not usually a bacon fan—I know…you won’t listen to any recommendation I ever make in the future now, will you?—I was tempted by my favorite culinary accoutrement, the onion, and spontaneously ordered the Bacon Onion Jam panini. It’s the stuff dreams are made of, let me just say, and I will crave that sandwich until we meet again.

I also took an Old-Fashioned Vanilla cupcake for the road. Oh all right, and a Pink Lady, too. Bottom line: You need to factor Back in the Day Bakery into your Savannah getaway.

Back in the Day Bakery
2403 Bull St.
Savannah, Georgia


If sweet adult libations are more your thing, make use of Savannah’s open cup policy and grab a spiked slushie at Wet Willie’s down by the waterfront. I’d been to the South Beach location several years ago while working on a Glamour shoot and was happy to try the banana split slushie while exploring Savannah with my pals Marissa and Jackie. It was sweet—really sweet—and I didn’t even manage to finish half before I gave up.

There are approximately a bazillion flavors already on tap, plus you can combine any of the preexisting flavors to make your own concoction. The extensive menu also offers up suggested recipes.

It’s very retro feeling and kitschy, it’s probably double your daily allowance of sugar intake, and it’s cheap pure grain alcohol. But it’s also your vacation…right?

Wet Willie’s Drinks
101 East River St.
Savannah, Georgia

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Comments ( 60 )

  1. I wish I’d read your Savannah articles before we honeymooned there. At the time I was like, “Eh, Savannah,” but now I want to go back! Especially for the boozy slushies. How did I not know that was there?!

    • You should! I’ll meet you at Wet Willie’s. Deal? I feel like we would have A LOT of fun (trouble?) there together….

  2. You couldn’t go wrong with these three food groups. It does cover them all right?

    • Pretty much, yes! Though shockingly I refrained from chocolate at both the bakery and the ice cream parlor. Who have I become?!

  3. Those spots look lovely! I was once in Savannah, but I don’t remember much more, food-wise, than Paula Deen’s resto. Good to know that I can a quality sugar fix there too.

    • Which the locals seem to hate! Everyone I met said, “oh I hope you’re not going to Lady & Sons—it’s terrible!” I haven’t eaten there–what did you think?

  4. Such gorgeous photos. I really like the colours you’ve used and the shot at the start looking up at the clouds. Dreamy.

  5. Ooh love the vintage filter you are using, gives a great feel to the ice cream photos.

    • Thanks, Ayngelina! I love using filters when the colors of a photo come out a bit drab. In this case, it was quite appropriate, too.

  6. Wait! Is that a (red velvet?) cupcake with a MINI CUPCAKE ON TOP? And could your photos be more gorgeous? I’m also loving the vintage filter.

  7. Thanks for the great tips – I’ll be in Savannah in about two weeks and will definitely check out these places!

  8. Oh I absolutely LOVE Savannah! These photos are great. What an amazing city, right? It’s the best in the Spring, too. Thanks for sharing, Kristin!

    • The best! I will never get enough of the Spanish moss and the public squares. I could spend days wandering from one to the next!

      • I just found your blog via Elliott, and have really enjoyed your photos and writing. I just wanted to tell you that I concur wholeheartedly, as Savannah is EASILY my favorite city in the US. I was stationed there for some time back when I was in the Army, and have gone back at every opportunity available. It’s just so… charming! Keep up the good work! And I INSIST that you visit St. Kitts, too. Love that place! (I stayed at the Timothy Beach Resort.)

  9. Love the vintage filters – great way to showcase the retro feel. I actually kind of thought that Leopold’s was only okay but you missed my very favorite cupcake place – Mabel Francis Potter’s Cupcake Bakery: You’ll have to put it on your list for next time.

    • Oh, I remember when you went there! Can’t believe I totally forgot about it. There was also a cupcake place right around the corner from Leopold’s with a key lime cupcake that I’m sad I missed, too. More excuse to go back…

  10. The photos & filters are gorgeous.. they really do a great job showing off the day! Also – booze slushies?!? combined with an open cup policy?? This is what my dreams are made of.

    • I know, right? I was floored that a Southern city had such a policy…though we do like our booze down South πŸ˜‰ Then again, I’m from the area that boasts both Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel, and the county is a dry one!

  11. My great-grandfather had a pharmacy/soda shop in a once-tiny town here in Utah. The building was destroyed decades ago, but my Mom has some of his banana split dishes and I’ve always loved them. A few years ago I found 20+ split dishes in the EXACT SAME PATTERN at a thrift store for 0.50 cents each. I bought them all and distributed them to my siblings. :)


    • No way, my great-grandfather ALSO owned a pharmacy (in Knoxville, not Utah). I’ve never thought about it, but I bet he had a soda fountain, too! He died well before I came along, and the pharmacy no longer exists.

  12. I loved Savannah so much! I did get to go to Leopold’s, which was delicious, but not Back in the Day Bakery or Wet Willie’s (or the Savannah Bee Company). I guess that just means I have to go back, right? And I loved the open cup policy! It was so nice to be able to have a beer while wandering around town.

    • Obviously! I’ll meet you there. I just wish it weren’t a seven-hour drive for me (Atlanta is only two and a half) because I would seriously go once a month if Savannah were just a wee bit closer.

  13. If you want to skip Paula Deen, but still get really good Southern cooking, go to Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House. Forget eating breakfast that day, and go get in line around 10:30. It is cash-only, family-style and some of the best food in the city.

    Other tasty places are:

    The Olde Pink House – Eat at the bar or outside and order off the same menu as inside, but no reservations needed.

    The Crab Shack out at Tybee – Kind of kitsch, but the food is really good and worth the wait.

    17Hundred90 Inn and Restaurant – Great food, and like every other place in town, supposedly haunted.

    Vinnie Van Go Go’s Pizza – Cash only, but worth visiting an ATM for. My wife and I always go there our first night in town .VVGG is also next to one of the Savannah Candy Kitchen locations, and near Ellis Square.

    The Pirate’s House – Good food, a great atmosphere and they have Chatham Artillery Punch – it *will* knock you out! Really for kids (pirate hats, a tour, etc.).

    Those are just a few of my favorite places to eat in Savannah. There are too many more to mention.

    If you are seriously planning a trip, almost any time of the year is great, though it does get warm in the summer. Go on and stay somewhere fun like the Marshall House or the Kehoe House of another old inn. Plan to be there at least a week, and take a couple of days getting familiar with the squares and the river front. Take a trip out to Tybee (North Beach Bar & Grill is good), visit the old forts – Jackson, Pulaski and McAllister, just hang out and have fun!

    • Whoops – Pirate’s House atmosphere is fun for kids, not the Chatham Artillery Punch. That is for you if you have kids!

    • Great recs! I actually did go to Mrs. Wilkes (haven’t yet blogged about it) but heard so much about Olde Pink House *after* I already left Savannah that now I want to go back just to eat there!

  14. Oddly enough, Savannah has some of the BEST pizza I’ve ever had – Vinnie Van Go Go’s is in my top 3 pizza joints ever. Believe it or not, my number one place is in Georgia too: Antico in Atlanta. I think Georgia pizza deserves to be considered right at the top with New York and Chicago.

    • Someone else said that about Vinnies, too! Bizarre. I’ll probably be in Atlanta soon, so I’ll have to seek out Antico…if I have room in my stomach after burgers and nitro-shakes at Flip Burger, that is!

      • 2 other places in Atlanta to consider while you’re in Atlanta:

        1. The OK Cafe. They sell lots of comfort food (burgers, meatloaf, fried green tomatoes, huge milkshakes) that’s really good and fairly priced. The decor is also crazy kitchy. Don’t pass up the sweet potato chips!

        2. JCT Kitchen. They have great salads and sandwiches but are known for their fried chicken(get there early, the fried chicken runs out quick!). They’re also located in the same shopping center as Jonathan Adler and across the street from Anthropologie, so that helps!

        • Oooh, fantastic food right beside an Adler and Anthro? Dangerous! Will definitely have to check it out. Thanks for the recs! =) The OK Cafe sounds amazing, too. Scott and I had fried green tomatoes with goat cheese last week, and that might be my new favorite dish.

        • Of course, you can never go wrong with The Varsity! Their onion rings are the gold standard by which I judge all others!

          If you like Vietnamese, Cha-Gio on 10th is great if it has not changed in 25 years or so….

          Go Jackets!

  15. Laura (a local) April 12, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Other really good places.

    Churchill’s – nice bar/dinner place.

    Moon River – micro brewery.

    brasserie 529 great food, french in backgound with a modern feel.

    Pink House (I like the tavern over the main dining room)

    Lulu’s Chocolate Bar – do I need to explain this…

    Vinnie Van Go Go’s – not only is the pizza the best in town, but the Calzone are Great.

    Vic’s on the River – the shrimp and grits, creamy and spicey

    ROCKS ON THE ROOF, not the one on the river but up on the roof of the building. Great bar, great view.

    • I’m sort of really bummed now that I missed the CHOCOLATE BAR. Gah!

      These are really great recs–I definitely want to hit up Olde Pink House, Moon River, Lulu’s, Vinnie and Rocks on my next visit. We ate at Vic’s this time around, and it wasn’t my favorite.

  16. I need to get to Savannah. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it and it looks like I could eat my way through that city. I like eating πŸ˜‰

    • I would have never known that from looking at you…you’re so tiny! You also like photography, so eating + picture opps = Savannah being the perfect city for you!

  17. Kristin,

    If I didn’t live here already, your stories would make me want to go, like, NOW. Each story has revealed another side of Savannah that our guests won’t miss out on – but I especially loved the Sassy story.

    It was indeed our pleasure ( to host you and the other Ladies. IMHO Leigh placed in your the right inn – Joey says he thoroughly enjoyed the attention you all gave him and wonders when you will return?

    We’d love to have you again!

    Azalea Inn and Gardens

  18. Ok that red velvet cupcake with the little one on top has my name written all over it… Looks divine!

    • I had a hard time not ordering cupcakes for once, as I wanted to reserve all the space in my stomach for ice cream!

  19. For somebody with a sweet tooth like myself posts like these are terrible. Why? Cause I really want to eat things but I can’t!

    • I’m with you, brother. World’s biggest sweets lover right here. And yesterday I was working on a magazine article about ice cream parlors, popsicle stands and gelato bars and have never craved sweets more!

  20. You and your punny titles!! Wait, is punny a word? I tried to write it as “puny”, but that has a whole different meaning.

    • Punny is totally a word! I actually used it yesterday in an article I’m writing for Southern Living, funny (or should I say “punny”) enough…now I’m just hoping they don’t edit it out!

  21. I love how you made the photos look old-fashioned. It probably made the sweets take better too πŸ˜‰

  22. A cupcake with a cupcake on top – yeah baby!

  23. Love the color treatment you did on the Back in the Day Bakery. Also, I’m in love with the cupcake with a small cupcake on it. πŸ˜›

  24. Yes, please to all of these things. All of them. Right now.

  25. Yuuuuuuummy!!!!!!! How could you choose what to eat?

  26. How did we miss Wet Willies? And Leopolds? Yes, we did make it to the bakery though I don’t remember what I got…oldtimers and all.

  27. Leopold’s looks and sounds amazing! I can’t wait to go there one day and your other suggestions look great too!

  28. Yum!!!! Yeah, we definitely enjoyed eating when we were in Savannah last year…all of the food (especially the dessert) at The Pink House were delicious! We didn’t go to these places you wrote about, but I wish I had known about them. I’m adding them to my list for next time!

  29. Oh, Savannah, how I long to visit thee!

    Great photos!


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