Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
- The "Hostess City of the South"
We took a roadtrip down to the Low Country (Savannah / Charleston) last March that I'm just getting around to now. I figured I'd wait for the colder months to come which is when lots of us northerners make our way south. Stay tuned for my second all in report on Charleston but in the meantime this would be the first visit to Savannah for both of us. From what I always gathered Savannah is a smaller Charleston and that's what it felt like even though I'm sure anyone who's lived in both cities could give you some major differences between the two. I found Savannah to an extremely livable place though also one I would likely grow tired of coming from a much bigger city in Chicago and all.
Sights from Savannah
Since we drove we had a car but I found the city to be very walkable and I loved all of the squares and parks found throughout town. It's a great walking city (have an alcoholic drink while you do if you so please). We got one of the better AirBNB's I've stayed in, both in terms of the nice apartment itself and also it's location which was kitty corner from Forsyth Park. It's the main strip of public land in the city's much visited Historic District neighborhood. So it's a lively area in terms of foot traffic and coffee shops and farmers markets and such. Savannah is a popular spot for fun so you can expect to see quite a few bachelorette parties and other groups of people in town for a good time. They host the Souths largest St. Patrick's Day parade which surprised me but I came to learn the Irish have a major presence. As do African-Americans who have more than 250 years of history in the area.
Sights from Savannah
We stayed in Savannah for three full days and I felt like we did it all. But it was enjoyable enough that I'd happily go back. It wasn't warm enough to sit at the beach but we drove over to Tybee Island anyway and you could feel the typical beach town vibes that attract some big crowds when the weather is warm. Lots of good food this trip too. I'd go back to the majority of places we ate at.
Sights from Savannah
We didn't arrive in Savannah until later in the evening. So I just stayed in knowing when I woke up the next day Randy's Bar-B-Q would be the first stop of a quartet of must stop bbq spots down here in the Low Country. Savannah style ribs and chicken are what we're here for. With South Carolina being just across the river the popular mustard bbq sauce from over there crosses state lines into the Savannah area. Good chew to the ribs while the chicken was fall off the bone tender. Both were perfectly kissed with smoke and the sauce works in unison with each of the meats. I really liked this local favorite.
Smoked Chicken with Orange Mustard Sauce
Ribs (sauce on the side) at Randy's Bar-B-Q
If you're looking for good food, nice views, and cold brews head over to this hip dock bar and get there early if you don't want to wait. The Wyld is a locals favorite in part due to it's away from downtown location. It's got a very Low Country feel with it's menu and setting. Fried local shrimp was excellent as it most always is in these parts. There's not a better region to indulge in it than here.
Fried Shrimp at The Wyld
I think I took part in a Low Country Boil every day I was in Savannah save for one. In these parts there's plenty of spots that sell seafood both fresh and also cooked and one of the more popular options at these type of places are the Savannah style Low Country Boils. The main components of which are boiled shrimp, sausage, and potatoes served with garlic sauce, hot sauce, and a little dime baggie of extra seasoning. Exactly like you see below. Sometimes crab is included too but most spots didn't have any around the time we were visiting. The key to a good boil is shrimp that isn't overboiled plus that finger licking sauce. Bobo Seafood is rightfully one of the most popular local stops for a boil.
Shrimp Boil at Bobo Seafood
Common Thread was brand new when we visited in March of 2021. It's the second restaurant from a team that runs a well respected spot across the river in Bluffton South Carolina called Farm. We liked what the menu was showing us and managed to get a reservation before we drove down. Good call bc the place was popping and many groups were being turned away. Actually it's a good idea to make reservations for anywhere you're trying to go in Savannah as it's a busy little city with eating out being a big part of the tourist draw. Common Thread is a reservation you want. They served up one of my favorite sitdown meals this year and while the menu has switched I'd love to check out the new items bc those we had on our visit were pretty exquisite. In fact we tried to go back but it was booked.
Black Bass Crudo - strawberry harissa, snap pea, red onion, benni, basil, aioli
Tortellini - ricotta, lemon, fermented chili, red mustard greens, chard, grana padano, breadcrumbs
SC Shrimp - butterbean falafel, collards, peanut, fermented chili, shrimp butter
Hearth Cooked Cobia - bbq red cabbage + rainbow carrots, fermented garlic honey, aleppo
Strawberry Tart - pistachio, whipped yogurt, roasted strawberries
We managed to snag a brunch reservation at one of Savannah’s most critically acclaimed spots. A formerly segregated Greyhound Bus Station turned James Beard winning kitchen helmed by Chef Mashama Bailey. As seen on 'Chefs Table' on Netflix. We missed out on dinner reservations (they go fast) but that ended up being a blessing in disguise. You see both of us love whole fried fish and a cornmeal crusted flounder was on special that day. Served with all sorts of homemade sides such as a creamed spinach, grits with red eye gravy, and housemade chow chow paired with salsa verde and hot sauces made with locally grown peppers. Such an amazing spread but then to start we had maybe the most soul satisfying dish of the year - perfectly fried blue crab beignets. The hype is real.
Pics from brunch at The Grey
David's Crab House
The best boil of the bunch came from this locals spot serving a plumper shrimp product than the others I tried. Locally caught blue crab and shrimp is boiled in a potent bath of seasoning with sausage, potato, corn. It always comes with both hot sauce and garlic butter on the side as well as a little baggie of extra seasoning which I don’t think it needs. This is fresh local shrimp. Savor the flavor.
Shrimp Boil at David's Crab House
I came across Castaways through online research for good seafood in Savannah. From both the looks of the place and the menu it felt like the Floribbean type fish shacks you find down in South Florida and the Keys. It's just outside of Savannah towards the water. Picture a Jimmy Buffet type hangout with fresh colorful plates of local seafood and you have a typical Floribbean Fish Shack.
Local Crab Cakes with Key Lime Aioli
Blackened Redfish with Shrimp and Coconut Rice
This iconic cafe is in the Historic Landmark District which means it's popular with both locals and tourists. They've been serving the city since 1903 when they first started out as a drugstore with an ice cream counter and eventually evolved into a full service restaurant. It's one of the city's most popular breakfast destinations and they do lunch too. One of the most common mentions in reviews of Clary's is their corned beef hash. One of my all time favorite breakfast dishes and one I can usually tell if it's good just by seeing a picture of it. I had a good feeling that Clary's corned beef hash was the real deal and I was not wrong in my pre-eating assessment. Some of the best I've had anywhere.
Corned Beef Hash at Clary's Cafe
Pictured below is the Signature Fish Sandwich at Shabazz Seafood. I loved this and all fish sandwiches like it. Not sure why but wheat bread or bun always works so well on the typical soul food style fried fish sandwich which at Shabazz is made with whiting. Pair one with their signature house punch for a true taste of Savannah. All the people packing oyster bars serving a non-local product in the tourist-y part of town don’t know what they’re missing. A classic roadfood type establishment.
Fish Sandwich from Shabazz Seafood
Savannah is packed with places like Linda's. Stops where you can pick up seafood both fresh and or fried. I decided to try some fried shrimp instead of a boil and while it was pretty good it wasn't as good as some of the other spots we hit up this trip. But it's a testament to the quality of fried shrimp in the area that the average stuff down here is not only cheaper than everywhere else but better than most spots too. The Low Country is likely home to the best fried shrimp shacks anywhere.
Fried Shrimp from Linda's Seafood
I made sure to stop for a quick South African sandwich fix at the locally grown Zunzi's. A place that at least ten or so Instagram followers must’ve messaged me about when they saw I was in Savannah. The South African / Southern inspired deli is home to what many consider the best sandwiches in Georgia. It’s been on my radar for years now having honeymooned in Cape Town back in 2016
. These aren’t Gatsby Sandwiches by the exact definition of the Mother City specialty (no fries inside) but they’re big and they’re delicious. Pictured below is the housemade Boerewors which is one of the main meat offerings you’ll find at a South African style barbecue aka a braai. It’s a natural casing well seasoned beef sausage that’s served on French bread with grilled onions, grilled peppers, Zunzi's gravy, and the house special Dank Sauce. A damn fine sandwich better known as the ‘Booty Roll’ - also available in Atlanta. I’d say the hype was earned. I'd warmly welcome a Zunzi's in Chicago.
Booty Roll at Zunzi's
The Olde Pink House
By the time our final night in town rolled around we pretty much tried every spot that we wanted to. Savannah is a great little dining city, key word being little. There's lots of tourists traps too and The Olde Pink House probably falls somewhere in between. It's located in the heart of Historic Savannah and stands out with it's looks so of course there's lots of tourists that choose to eat here. The building itself dates back to the 18th century but the restaurant isn't nearly as old. It's ran by a family of restauranteurs from Charleston. We managed to snag a last minute table as there were a couple things on the menu that were local in the sense of dishes you wont really find in Chicago. An order of comp'd corn bread was excellent as was a bowl of she crab soup, a local specialty similar to bisque made with cream and local crab. For our entrée we split a whole fried flounder with an apricot shallot sauce served with local stoneground grits and collard greens. The crispy scored fish is a common entrée around town and most of the spots serve it with a similar orange fruit glaze. The food was much better than it has to be when you consider lots of tourists that go here also go to Paula Deen's.
Dinner at The Olde Pink House
That's it for this trip. See you next time @chibbqking.
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