Southern cooking is part soul food and part butter, and undeniably one of the best comfort foods known to man. Nowhere in the south is there a place where southern cooking has such a long and celebrated past than in Georgia’s first settlement, Savannah. Laid out by James Oglethorpe in 1733 with 22 beautiful, tree-lined squares, this coastal city has a long history of southern hospitality.
Today, Savannah is known worldwide for its charm, wonderful historic preservation, and lip-smacking southern foods. Home to chef Paula Deen, who has elevated southern food to epic proportions, Savannah has some down home hot spots as well as some creative new culinary eateries you won’t want to miss. Here is a list of my favorites.
Most southern towns used to have boarding houses where day laborers, washer women, school teachers and middle-class merchants could find a quiet room and two hearty meals a day. Savannah was no exception and in 1943 a young Sema Wilkes took over a boarding house in the historic center of the city and began to cultivate relationships with local farmers who dug sweet potatoes for her in the fall and shelled whippoorwill peas in the summer.
Four generations later, the Wilkes family is still cooking real down-home, finger-licking, country cooking and is one of the last classic boarding houses around.
Perhaps the most famous restaurant in the city is the one owned and operated by everyone’s favorite southern mama and Food Network star, Paula Deen. At Lady & Sons, lines form around the block with people wanting to sample her famous hospitality. Paula was originally called the bag lady of Savannah. She was so painfully shy she did not like to be seen in public, so she made and sold bagged lunches that her sons would deliver.
Near Telfair Square, one of Savannah’s first four colonial era squares, you can enter into what was once a grain house in 1885 and into one of Savannah’s newest eateries, Alligator Soul. The food here is a perfect blend of old southern cooking and contemporary cuisine.
The Olde Pink House has survived natural disasters, two devastating wars, epidemics, and neglect and for that reason alone it is worth the visit. But, today, it is simply one of the best dining experiences you can have while in Savannah. Built before the Revolutionary War in 1771 for James Habersham, one of the wealthiest men in the colonies at the time, the pink-brick Georgian mansion was one of the most beautiful homes in the city. It took Habersham over 20 years to complete. The house played an important role leading up to the American Revolution and was the location of many secret meetings between the colonists as they planned their separation from the crown.
Dan Dawson is a travel journalist and dedicated world traveler who has written articles for many publications on adventures abroad. He is also the marketing manager for the Big Blue Bus. Tell him about your favorite vacation spot at www.WonderlustTravel.com