Savannah’s 11 Essential Eats

Chia Chong

An emerging hub in southern foodways, Savannah’s culinary scene is more homegrown and low key than Atlanta’s, New Orleans’ or Charleston’s. There’s traditional Southern fare, certainly, with staples like Mrs. Wilke’s Dining Room and Alligator Soul Restaurant. However, new restaurants like The Grey and The Vault Kitchen and Market are pushing boundaries with global flavors and inspiration. Access to great seafood, vegetables and Ossabaw pigs have inspired chefs to be more careful and thoughtful with sourcing local, fresher foods. Amber Gibson

Quentin Bacon

THE GREY

WHERE: 109 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd

A Greyhound bus depot has never been this glamorous, with bright young things slurping oysters and drinking coupe glasses of champagne against an Art Deco background. The Grey is undoubtedly the hottest reservation in town. Executive Chef Mashama Bailey earned universal praise for her elegant, fresh perspective on Southern food from the James Beard Foundation, Bon Appétit, Eater and Food & Wine. There’s no mistaking the building’s origins. The worn pink terrazzo floor remains and the ticket counter is now the kitchen, where dishes like coffee roasted beets, red pea pancakes with whipped lardo, creamy Carolina Gold rice risotto and roasted chicken with chow chow are thoughtfully composed. Service is gracious and sophisticated,

Insider Tip: If you don’t have a reservation, the restaurant’s horseshoe bar is first come first serve and you may order off the full menu. The front room diner (previously a 24-hour news café in the building’s bus-terminal past life) offers an abbreviated bar menu.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Savannah Guide

Cha Bella

CHA BELLA

WHERE: 109 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd

A Greyhound bus depot has never been this glamorous, with bright young things slurping oysters and drinking coupe glasses of champagne against an Art Deco background. The Grey is undoubtedly the hottest reservation in town. Executive Chef Mashama Bailey earned universal praise for her elegant, fresh perspective on Southern food from the James Beard Foundation, Bon Appétit, Eater and Food & Wine. There’s no mistaking the building’s origins. The worn pink terrazzo floor remains and the ticket counter is now the kitchen, where dishes like coffee roasted beets, red pea pancakes with whipped lardo, creamy Carolina Gold rice risotto and roasted chicken with chow chow are thoughtfully composed. Service is gracious and sophisticated,

Insider Tip: If you don’t have a reservation, the restaurant’s horseshoe bar is first come first serve and you may order off the full menu. The front room diner (previously a 24-hour news café in the building’s bus-terminal past life) offers an abbreviated bar menu.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Savannah Guide

Josh Morehouse

THE COLLINS QUARTER

WHERE: 151 Bull St

This local favorite Aussie café is busy all day long, transitioning seamlessly from cozy brunch spot to mid-day hangout to classy wine bar. Owner Anthony Debreceny named the restaurant after a bustling street in his hometown, Melbourne, and the coffee here is the best in the city. There are cold brew and French press options, along with unique drinks like spiced lavender mocha and Aussie iced coffee, which is really just a coffee flavored milkshake. Breakfast favorites include brioche French toast, avocado smash and braised short rib hash. The by-the-glass wine selection and cocktails are excellent any time of day.

Insider Tip: For live jazz, visit on Sunday evenings and Wednesday for brunch.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Savannah Guide

Lily Lewin

CHOCOLAT BY ADAM TURONI

WHERE: 323 W. Broughton St and 236 Bull St, Savannah

Step into a dainty Rococo chocolate wonderland at Chocolat by Adam Turoni, where the young chocolatier and entrepreneur elevates bonbons from candy to art form. Six days a week, you can watch chocolatiers at work tempering, rolling and sprinkling gold dust over finished bonbons, but they take Sundays off. Help yourself to a delicate silver tray and carefully select your favorite bonbons from the cabinet with silver tongs. Seasonal flavors might include a pistachio Christmas tree or white chocolate snowman for the holidays, while perennial favorites like red velvet and Grand Marnier will always be available. Try one of their collaborations with Savannah Bee Company – a chocolate square filled with wildflower honey or a dark chocolate bar filled with honeycomb.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Savannah Guide

Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce

MRS. WILKES’ DINING ROOM

Where: 107 W. Jones St

There’s no denying that Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room is an institution, serving Southern soul food in a communal dining room since 1943, when young Sema Wilkes ran a boardinghouse and restaurant here. Most days, there is a line snaking out the door. When you make it inside, you’re seated at a large table with more than a dozen different piping hot veggies, proteins, and starches waiting for you, reminiscent of a Thanksgiving buffet. Dig in and get to know your neighbors as you pass the fried chicken, collard greens, black eyed peas, mashed potatoes, macaroni salad and beef stew. Don’t forget there are stewed peaches a la mode and banana pudding for dessert.

Insider Tip: Mrs. Wilkes’ accepts cash or check only and don’t forget to bring your plastic plates and cups with you when you get up or you’ll be gently reprimanded by the wait staff.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Savannah Guide

Chia Chong

LEOPOLD’S

WHERE: 212 E. Broughton St

Leopold’s is a nostalgic, family-owned ice cream parlor of yesteryear, serving many of the same flavors as when it first opened in 1919 along with malted milkshakes and massive banana splits. Try classic favorites like the lemon custard, butter pecan and tutti frutti – rum ice cream with candied fruit and roasted Georgia pecans. Friendly staff will let you sample to your heart’s content. Pistachio is a sleeper hit and flavors like ginger and honey almond and cream use local products. Current owner Stratton Leopold is a Hollywood producer, working on films like Mission: Impossible III and The Sum of All Fears and his movie posters decorate the walls. 

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Savannah Guide

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BACK IN THE DAY BAKERY

WHERE: 2403 Bull St

Back in the Day Bakery brings a touch of sweet, whimsical Americana to Savannah in a rustic farmhouse environment. Co-owners Cheryl & Griffith Day were 2015 James Beard Outstanding Baker nominees and the tempting bakery case is filled with seasonal pies, pecan sandies, chocolate chip cookies, brownies and cupcakes. Buttermilk biscuits are a must-try, and you can build your own biscuit sandwich with your choice of cheeses, meats, egg and condiments. Biscuits are even used to make croutons for a colorful salad tossed in balsamic brown sugar vinaigrette. Sandwiches on housemade bread range from a vegan butterbean spread option to decadent pimento cheese and smoked bacon.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Savannah Guide

Pie Society

PIE SOCIETY

WHERE: 19 Jefferson St, Savannah and 115 Canal Street, Pooler

At this family-run British bakery, the smell of buttery, savory pies will draw you in as soon as you open the door. Edward Wagstaff bakes fresh pies and pasties each morning and this is the perfect option for a filling and quick lunch during an active busy day downtown. There’s quiche for breakfast and sausage rolls for snacking, but the uniformly crimped pot pies steal the show. Chicken pot pie and steak & ale are bestsellers and there’s even a vegan Moroccan spiced vegetable pasty. Although the pies are quite filling, if you still have room for dessert the small but excellent selection includes Bakewell tart, banoffee pie and apple crumble.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Savannah Guide

Circa 1875

CIRCA 1875

WHERE: 48 Whitaker St

Circa 1875 offers a rare taste of Europe in Savannah. French bistro fare is served in a casual and cozy dining room decorated with wine bottles and vintage Belle Epoque posters lining the walls. The crowd here tends to be older, and the menu consists of French classics like steak tartare, steamed mussels in white wine, cassoulet, ratatouille and steak frites. Executive Chef David Landrigan makes his own sausage and country pâté, and the “plateau du chef” assortment of housemade charcuterie and cheese is a great way to start a meal paired with your favorite glass of wine. Landrigan isn’t too inventive, but finds comfort in familiarity with straightforward, delicious food. Paired with sharp service, it’s a winning combination.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Savannah Guide

Somi Benson-jaja

THE VAULT KITCHEN AND MARKET

WHERE: 2112 Bull St

The newest restaurant on our list is The Vault, where a medley of pan-Asian flavors collide for an eclectic fusion menu delivered in a restored Bank of America building. The former vault is now a private dining room. You’ll find Lao sausage, Thai curries, Vietnamese spring rolls, Chinese dumplings and a bunch of snack-size tacos to choose from. There’s even sushi, although much of it is fried. This is a great pick for vegetarians and vegans, with flavorful options like BBQ tofu steam buns topped with shiitake mushrooms and Szechuan glaze. The wine list is sparse, but they make up for it with beer, sake and intriguing cocktails.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Savannah Guide

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SAVANNAH BEE COMPANY

WHERE: 104 W Broughton St and 1 W River St

Stop by Savannah Bee Company to learn about honey. The retail store encourages liberal sampling, and the array of flavors ranges from acacia and tupelo to lavender, rosemary and chocolate, including raw varieties. At the mead bar, sip a well-curated selection of the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage from meaderies around the country. There’s a light mint and lime juice Belgian Meadjito and fuller bodied Monks Mead made with traditional champagne yeast. Brand new are Savannah Be Company’s private label meads in partnership with Boulder’s Redstone Meadery (using SBC’s sourwood honey) and St. Ambrose Meadery in Beulah, Michigan made with tupelo honey.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Savannah Guide