Savannah sure knows how to eat. From old-school Southern mac 'n' cheese to nouvelle creations like crawfish pizza, the best Savannah restaurants span the high-low gamut. Once one of the South's most ethnically diverse cities, its multi-culturalism is still apparent in the kitchens of its many restaurants. Southern ingredients might take on a Mediterranean flavor or a West African twist. We recommend avoiding most of the restaurants on River Street, as they tend to be over-priced, over-hyped and over-crowded. Ditto for most of the City Market joints. But other than those two spots, the rest of the Historic District is fair game. Many blocks have more than one world-class establishment. Midtown is also good pickings, especially if you're looking for somewhere lower-key. You could spend weeks doing nothing but eating and never get to try all of the best places. Spend enough time here and you might have to take out your belt a notch or two. Dishes to look for include Lowcountry classics like shrimp and grits, crab cakes and benne (sesame seed) wafers. Other Southern classics include fried chicken, chicken and dumplings (strips of floury savory pastry), collard greens and fried okra. Oh, and pie. Don't forget the pie. Coconut cream, strawberry ice box, chocolate chess—Savannah's got them all. If you've still got room, try a praline. New Orleans might have made them famous, but Savannah's are just as good.
It's hard to find more atmosphere than at this stately 18th-century mansion. Multiple cozy dining rooms, two fireplaces and dramatic beamed ceilings recall the opulence of bygone days. Serving New Southern cuisine, the restaurant's a favorite with old-money Savannah residents and well-heeled visitors. Dine on herby crab cakes, delicate lobster salad and perfectly-seared steaks. Don't miss the Southern fried sushi—fun! On warm evenings, we're particularly fond of the open-air front patio. It's also a good spot for lunch or afternoon cocktails and people-watching.
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This beloved Savannah establishment offers exquisite Southern coastal fare with a modern twist. Locally raised chicken breast gets a glaze of peach-pepper jelly and black-eyed peas are paired with roasted shiitake mushrooms. In a stunning Italianate mansion, it's one of the most romantic restaurants around. The best part? Its Midtown location keeps it off the radar of most travelers, so it has a charmingly local vibe. It's the kind of place Savannah residents go for special occasions. For visitors, just being in the city is special-occasion enough for a trip to Elizabeth.
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Savannah trendsters flock to this hip New American joint, where a wide variety of proteins—locally raised chicken, Kurobata pork, Moulard duck breast, wild Georgia shrimp—are paired with your choice of sauces. We're partial to the Japanese-style ponzu, the green tomato ketchup, and the decadent foie gras butter. Upscale comfort food sides, like truffle parmesan French fries and roasted Brussels sprouts with chorizo, round out the menu. The atmosphere is very urban loft, all high ceilings and white-painted bricks. Things can get pretty noisy when the restaurant's in the swing of the weekend dinner rush.
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Food Network chef Paula Deen has grown wildly famous (or infamous) for her butter-smeared Southern recipes. No surprise, then, that her down-home theme park of a restaurant is one of Savannah's top tourist attractions. The Lady & Sons is enormous, noisy and jam-packed for every single second of its open hours. Its vast popularity has led to some odd reservation policies. Lunch reservations are taken (in person only) beginning at 9:30AM; dinner is first-come, first-served. So you better show up at 3PM if you want to eat before 10. The food, classic Southern artery-clogging goodness, like fried chicken, crab-stuffed shrimp and pecan pie, is tasty, if not exactly earth-shattering. Go ahead, get the buffet.
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Italian food gets the local, seasonal, organic treatment at this fabulous farm-to-table restaurant. Ingredients from Georgia and the Carolinas feature prominently—North Carolina dayboat scallops with melted leeks, local eggplant with sweet basil and Georgia goat cheese, homemade charcuterie. The menu changes frequently—if you see pork belly on the menu, go for it. The casual bistro vibe makes this a good pick for large groups. Locals love the patio and bar, a popular spot for a glass of vino.
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Why are all those people lined up in the street? What could possibly be worth the wait in this hot Savannah sun? Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room, that's what. Those lucky enough to get inside before they faint of starvation will find communal tables piled high with cornbread, fried chicken, collards, mac n' cheese, yams, okra, butter beans and classic banana pudding. The dining room is meant to evoke the feel of the old-timey boarding house it was when it first opened in 1943. Its perennial popularity and long waits make it more of a visitor's favorite than a locals' haunt. Make conversation with someone in the line next to you—you'll probably find a new friend.
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For a total change of pace, try this little South African joint, a locals' favorite for hearty dishes like boerewors (South African sausage), curried chicken sandwiches on French bread and cottage pie. Try the African tea. This is a popular haunt of SCAD students, who dig the hearty portions and laid-back atmosphere. There's often a line outside the tiny, orange-tiled cafe. Get your food to go and find a bench in one of the Historic District's many parks.
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Wall's redefines the term "hole in the wall." A tiny, shabby bungalow on a Historic District side street, it doesn't look like much, but it serves up some of the best barbecue in the state of Georgia. Get a pulled pork sandwich with Lowcountry red rice, or a plate of deviled crabs. The greens, stewed with a chunk of ham bone, are delicious. Completely off the radar of most Savannah visitors, this is a total locals' joint. Note: Wall's is only open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
This Historic District favorite is a great spot for some bar munchies and a pint (or three) of house-brewed IPA or stout. Try the Swamp Fox IPA, with its floral hoppiness and bitter kick. Food's nothing special—quesadillas, burgers, Southern chicken salad, pork chops—but the atmosphere is warm, convivial and slightly raucous at times. Given its location, near so many of Savannah's popular sights, this is mostly popular with visitors rather than locals. It can get crowded, especially at lunch. Consider stopping in for a late-afternoon beer instead.
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Whether you're sick of heavy Southern food or you just need a quick lunch on the go, this super-casual bakery and cafe has you covered. Breakfasts—oatmeal, granola, egg bagels—are popular, as are lunch sandwiches, like The Telfair (Havarti cheese with cucumbers, sprouts, tomatoes and avocado) and the Barnard Street Club (smoked ham, white turkey, Swiss cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and cucumbers). It's a popular spot with locals, who duck in to pick up lunch to take back to the office.
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