I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that I live to eat rather than eat to live. (Well, when traveling at least; when home, I try to juice or go light on the carbs to balance it all out.) Which is why destinations like Savannah are my favorite kind of places: great visuals for photos, stellar shopping options, a deep-rooted history and some of the best food around.
When I started planning Lemon’s bachelorette, it was tough whittling down the ample dining options to fit a group our size and budget. So I had to be selective. Selfishly, this also gave me an opportunity to try out some places that have been on my radar for ages.
And thus, I give you my Ultimate Eating & Drinking Guide to Savannah, Georgia’s tastiest city.
Best for … Lunch or a Midday Pick-Me-Up
If you read magazines, you’ve likely heard of this place. Every travel/food publication has at least mentioned it—and I wrote a little blurb last time I was in Savannah—and with good reason. As its name implies, Back in the Day exudes a sense of retro nostalgia, and even the servers dress the part. The place is the epitome of cute and decked out in mismatched shabby chic decor, but the owners don’t compromise quality for the sake of aesthetics: Everything I’ve ever tried there is on pointe; order the bacon and onion jam sandwich for lunch, and be sure and add on a coffee specialty and grabbed a baked good (or seven) to go. I’m always partial to their cupcakes; then again, I’m partial to any cupcakes!
Best for … A Hearty Lunch
This was first up on our group itinerary, and we never made it there. Why? Well, Mrs. Wilkes is so popular that you pretty much have to get there an hour before it opens to claim your place in line. That didn’t quite work with our lazy bachelorette itinerary; however, I was able to try out Mrs. Wilkes the last time I was in town. It’s quite comparable to Miss Mary Bobo’s in Lynchburg in that it’s a boarding house with a mishmash of Southern comfort food served up family style. That said, they don’t take reservations, so you really must arrive early—say, 10am for the first seating at 11— to claim your spot (or plan on waiting a long time). This is an instance when you’re going to want to forgo breakfast and wear your roomiest fat pants; it’s that filling (and good).
Best for … Date Night or A Fancy Dinner
Let me start by saying: If you’ve never been to Savannah, this is where everyone will recommend you spend your fancy dinner. Let me follow-up by admitting: Everyone is right; this may be the best restaurant in Savannah. Located inside an 18th century mansion (as the name implies), the Olde Pink House occupies prime real estate on Reynolds Square in the downtown historic district. From BLT salad (yes, salad!) to mac and cheese jalapeno poppers to vidalia onion and sweet potato ravioli in a pecan cream sauce, everything we tasted was nothing short of phenomenal. My only minor caveat with the place is that we had a group larger than they allow you to book online, and it took me two months and five phone calls before I got anyone to get back to me to confirm our reservation (good thing I started early!). But again: worth the effort. And for all we ordered, the check wound up being around $37 per person—including tip! You can’t find that cheap of a great meal anywhere else. Love you, Savannah. And if you don’t have a reservation, you can grab a drink in the basement bar and check out the live jazz that takes place many nights each week.
Best for … Dinner with Friends
You wouldn’t necessarily stumble upon this under-the-radar, subterranean restaurant unless you set out looking for it; it’s tucked away on an unassuming side street and doesn’t get as much love as, say, the Olde Pink House. That doesn’t mean you should discount it, not for a second. It’s a hodgepodge of American, Southern and Cajun/Creole cuisine, heavy on game (kangarooooo! antelope! ostrich! camel!)(I didn’t taste the last one for obvious reasons) and seafood (shrimp and grits? breaded fried oysters anyone?). While there two years ago, I had the six-course tasting menu (with wine pairings, duh)—which let me eat my way through the gamut of what they serve—and I say: go for it. Splurge. You deserve it.
Best for … Sunday Brunch
Four words: fried green tomatoes Benedict. I don’t know about you, but I’m an eggs Benny girl, and the more creative options a brunch spot has under that category, the higher a rating it gets from me. This was our last stop on the way out of town, and even though we were there right at 10am, I was sure glad we made a reservation; the place was packed (and this was off-season on a rainy, gloomy February day at that). The staff couldn’t have been friendlier, and everything our group tried was tasty.
Best for … Pre- or Post-Dinner Cocktails
There aren’t a lot of places to drink with a view in Savannah, but Rocks on the Roof is one of the few of them. Part of the Bohemian Hotel, this rooftop bar overlooks the river and h. We planned to make it there before sunset, but again: bachelorette problems. So we headed straight there after dinner instead. The crowd at first skewed younger—Savannah is a popular spot for frat and sorority formals so there were a lot of just-barely-of-age college kids—but we stuck around long enough to where we were the younguns.
Best for … Anytime!
Another instance of somewhere we planned to go all weekend, but never got around to it. Leopold’s is a Savannah staple, and you should absolutely put it high on your priority list (get there before you fill up on Southern food at Mrs. Wilkes and Olde Pink House, will ya?). I got to meet Mr. Stratton himself the last time I was in (he was behind the counter scooping up the goods), and this old-fashioned ice cream parlor is one of my favorite of anywhere I’ve been. And those Girl Scout flavors! O. M. YUM. It’s right in the thick of some of the best shopping in town, so promise yourself a treat if you don’t blow all that cash at 24e.
Best for … Take-Out
Because sometimes you just want to order takeout and eat in your hotel room. We anticipated this would be the case on the final night of a jam-packed bachelorette weekend and so we had already planned to order a few pizzas from Vinnie Van Go Go’s after I discovered this place on Yelp. The pizza wasn’t mind-blowing but it did the jobs and the pies. were. HUGE. I’m just glad we carried out and didn’t plan to eat in, as it was a Saturday night and the crowd at the restaurant was bonkers!
Best for … Lunch
Truth be told, this place had better reviews online than the Tea Room on Broughton Street where I went last time, but while I loved the Gryphon’s lunch menu, the afternoon tea service was just OK. In other words, if you want the proper tea experience, go to the Tea Room, but if you want ambiance and delicious sammies, book yourself a table at Gryphon (either way, you can’t go wrong).
Best for … Afternoon Tea
See previous review. I loved everything about this place. And the convenience of being right in the middle of Broughton Street is clutch. Go there and order the tea they set on fire; you won’t be disappointed.
Best for … Sugar Sweet Cocktails
A friend was in Savannah a week before me, and once I saw her birthday cake martini, I knew we’d be making a stop here. If you don’t like sweet drinks, this might not be your place, but dang, they have 300+ kinds of martinis—from traditional to specialties like Reese’s Pieces and S’mores—and every one I tried was delicious (I recommend the gingerbread). It’s tiny, though, so get there early if you want a table or space at the bar.
Best for … Late-Night Shenanigans
A Savannah staple, this piano bar is loud and raucous, but also a must-do at some point during your stay. Who doesn’t love a good piano duel, and all the music was great, the drinks were affordable and there was plenty of space to sit in the roomy establishment. One thing that did sort of annoy me is that there were three brides-to-be there—and we had heard this was the place to go with a bachelorette group as the musicians would call you on stage—and no matter how many times we requested songs and told the pianist we, too, had a bachelorette, he ignored us in favor of the other two. Still, a fun bar, and I’d go back.