This bistro in the Marshall House hotel serves appetizers like jumbo lump local blue-crab cake with whole-grain mustard aioli and citrus-scented frisée, a bento box of sushi, dumplings and tempura vegetables, and tuna carpaccio with onion relish. There are also wood-fired pizzas, salads and such entrées as lobster omelets and quinoa-crusted black grouper served with goat-cheese creamed spinach.
Back in the Day Bakery
A neighborhood favorite, this local bakery declares as its mission to “slow down and taste the sweet life.” For breakfast, there are biscones (biscuit/scones) in flavors like cinnamon and apple-smoked bacon cheddar. At lunch, you can order delicious sandwiches on ciabatta bread such as madras-curry chicken, rosemary chicken salad and tomato and basil. However, the real musts are the cupcakes and sweets. It’s hard to choose among such treats as lemon-coconut, red-velvet and chocolate-heaven cupcakes, lemon bars and pie bars. Everything is made from scratch and based on beloved tried-and-true recipes. It may be too much of a hike from the Historic District for a quick break, but if you are in the area, be sure to stop by.
Congress Street Up
Elizabeth on 37th
Housed in a handsome Greek Revival mansion, Elizabeth on 37th Street remains a must-meal in Savannah. The team behind it has been winning awards since it opened, in 1981, with chef Elizabeth Terry in the kitchen and her husband, Michael, greeting guests in the antiques-filled parlor. Elizabeth, whom the New York Times dubbed the “queen of Savannah cuisine,” married contemporary techniques with old-fashioned flavors that she discovered in her exhaustive research into the region’s 18th- and 19th-century culinary traditions. Her protégé, Kelly Yambor, has taken over in the kitchen but still relies on Elizabeth’s inspiration and the freshest Georgia ingredients. Tables occupy the rooms where one of the city’s grand families, the Spragues, entertained lavishly in the 1930s and ’40s and many original details remain intact. Coastal specialties like local oysters or Virginia sea scallops appear regularly on the menu, which also features specials like blackened grouper that will give you new respect for the joys in Southern cooking.
Green Truck Pub
Since it opened in 2010, The Green Truck Pub has garnered a devoted following of diners who come for its honest farm-to-table cuisine and mouthwatering burgers. Most of those burgers are made with naturally-raised beef from a nearby ranch, except for when they are made with an equally tempting veggie patty called the Mighty Veg. Chef Josh Yates works with a handful of local purveyors to create everything from scratch, including the ketchup, and with a whole lot of love. You’ll find dozens of small brewery beers to choose from, and a thoughtful wine selection. After having “The Whole Farm” burger with bacon, cheddar and a fried egg on top, you may be tempted to skip dessert, but do leave room for the pecan pie.
Gryphon Tea Room
SCAD students and traditional Savannah converge on this tea salon on Bull Street. The Gryphon Tea Room occupies one of the city’s former drugstores, and many of the pharmacy’s original Victorian details, such as Tiffany lamps and antique mirrors and cupboards have been retained. It’s a great spot to refuel and admire Savannah’s old and new charm on display. Its local, seasonal and sustainable fare may include such salads as a fresh crab, avocado mousse and tomato salad and entrées like filet mignon with arugula, goat cheese and sweet potato cakes.
Leopold’s Ice Cream
Leopold’s Ice Cream was founded in 1919 by three Greek brothers and resurrected by one of their sons, a local-turned-Hollywood success story. (Stratton Leopold left Savannah to become a major movie producer. His blockbusters have included Mission Impossible 3, The Sum of All Fears and The Big Chill.) But in 2004 he and his wife returned to reopen Leopold’s with the original black-marble soda fountain and banana-split holders as well as all the original family recipes. An Academy Award-winning designer helped pull together period details from the ’50s and movie memorabilia to create a fantasy soda fountain. Burgers, sandwiches and salads are served, but the real draw is the homemade ice cream, in such flavors as rose-petal cream, strawberry shortcake, tutti-frutti (apparently Johnny Mercer’s favorite) and Girl Scouts thin mints ’n’ cream.
Local 11 Ten
A former bank building has been transformed into one of Savannah’s hottest restaurants. The airy dining room, with its sleek tables, banquettes and edgy modern portraits, signals an immediate departure from the city’s traditional temples of fine dining, which celebrate historic details and antique furniture. In many ways, the hip, amiable servers reveal the essence of the place. They may look like art graduate students, but they know their wines and vinegars. These are 21st-century artisanal foodies who have dispensed with formality but elevated healthy cuisine to a gourmet level. The North Carolina-born Executive Chef Brandy Williamson combines an obsession with regional ingredients with a passion for Creole, Cajun and Georgian cooking. A springtime menu might include starters of stuffed sweetgrass mussels or rabbit galantine with pink peppercorn granola. Sea scallops may come served with black garlic bisque and buttermilk cream, or milk-braised lamb belly could be paired with a chive potato purée. A chef’s tasting menu is available, and may also be paired with wine. The caliber of the wine list and cocktails equal that of the food, and in good weather, there is a lovely terrace near where the bank’s drive-through window used to be.
The minute you walk through the door of the United House of Prayer for All People, you know you’re going to be well fed. Then you meet the pastor’s wife, who runs the restaurant, and she makes you feel like a regular. Meals are served cafeteria-style and the menu changes daily. Typical choices include: the crispiest fried chicken, beef and pork ribs (only available on Saturday and cooked in an enormous smoker out front), oxtail, country-fried steak, Savannah red rice, the best macaroni and cheese, creamed corn, green beans, black-eyed peas, corn bread and dressing (stuffing). Though you'll be stuffed, when the staff offers sweet potato pie, you must oblige.
Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room
In a former boarding house that was run in the 1940s by Selma Wilkes, Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room is still owned and run by the Wilkes family, who dish up their family recipes in period rooms (but no longer take boarders in the upstairs rooms). When Jim Williams, of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame, was in jail awaiting trial, he had his meals sent to him from here every day. Lunch is served family style Mondays through Fridays only, and there is always a line outside before noon, as it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city and noted in every guidebook. President Obama ate here when he visited Savannah. Visitors are seated together at tables of ten where they help themselves from passed platters of such Southern favorites as okra gumbo, fried chicken, cornbread biscuits, collard greens and beef stew. Even locals confess to loving the food, if not the crowds, so consider doing what they do and get takeout. You’ll miss the family-style experience, but will avoid the wait and can head instead to Forsyth Park or one of the nearby squares to eat on a bench. Closed weekends; cash only.
Noble Fare is the dream enterprise—a restaurant for modern tastes but with historic charm—of married couple Jenny and Patrick McNamara, who live above the restaurant. Patrick conducts the kitchen, and Jenny orchestrates the front and the wine list. Located in a brick house that has been jazzed up with crystal chandeliers and shimmering red silk curtains, the restaurant is imbued with the soul of the cook. The opulent design evokes a private club (Patrick worked in some), and such details as fresh bread served with macadamia pesto and honey butter reflect his sensual love for great ingredients used creatively. The most adored item on the menu is definitely the "Duck, Duck, Goose," which is pan-seared foie gras served with duck confit and gooseberry sauce. A slightly less rich option is the grilled sea bass and mashed potatoes with lobster butter and basil oil. A chef’s tasting menu is available on weekends and should be reserved in advance. Service has been inconsistent of late, but the fare is as noble as ever.
Olde Pink House
This has been considered one of Savannah’s best restaurants for so long that it has turned into a bit of a tourist trap. The tour buses point it out, and many of your fellow diners may have cameras hanging around their necks and fanny packs at their waists. However, if you can get past those distractions, you may discover that the setting and the food deliver a fine taste of Savannah.
Set in a wonderful pink house built in the late 1700s on Reynolds Square, the restaurant seats guests in a series of restored rooms on two floors. The second-floor rooms are the most popular, but if those are booked, ask for a table in the blue room or wood-paneled library on the main floor. The least appealing room is the main parlor to the left of the reception, because you have to watch the crowds stream in. Order the she-crab soup, but skip the lemonade, which isn’t fresh, and brace yourself for inconsistent service.
Olde Pink House is now open for lunch, and while the food is not as great as it is at Elizabeth on 37th, Local 11 Ten or Noble Fare, the restaurant does deliver the historic house experience with tasty traditional Southern fare. If you cannot get into the main restaurant, consider eating in the bar.
Owner Ali Parsaei, whose earlier restaurant was already a hit among local foodies, opted to open a slightly more refined menu at Persepolis. You’ll still find Middle Eastern classics like kabobs and babaghanoush, but the freshness and quality are notable – and a nice change from heavy Southern fare.
Soho South Café
A former garage just off Bull Street has been transformed into a lively café so popular you will likely wait for a table for lunch unless you show up before noon. Lunch features soups, salads and such sandwiches as the portobello burger, the Waldorf tuna pita and Mom’s meatloaf. There is a kids’ menu as well. Sunday brunch draws long lines for favorites like pecan waffles and shrimp ’n’ grits.
This airy café in the Jepson Center for the Arts, with potted plants and views over Telfair Square, offers an upscale-cafeteria experience. Museum admission fee is not required for eating here. It’s open for lunch until 5pm most days, but until 8pm on Thursdays.
The Pirate's House
Pirate lore and sunken treasure are the themes here, and you can expect costumed waiters with peg legs serving drinks in tankards. It’s pure theater, but kids find it fun and memorable.
Wright Square Café
This café in the Historic District serves breakfast, lunch and coffee all day but is known for its gourmet chocolates, including truffles. Salads, sandwiches and wrap are also available.
Zunzi’s Take Out
Reportedly one of the best sandwich shops in the South, Zunzi’s brings together the owners’ diverse cultural backgrounds, with such options as the South Africa-inspired Jo Burg burger and the vegetarian curry sandwich. Even before being profiled on the Travel Channel, Zunzi’s lunch line went out the door.