Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

corned beef hash

Savoring Savannah One Step at a Time

The San Bernadino Omelette at J. Christopher's in Savannah, GA

Getting to know a beautiful, old city anew is a little bit like falling in love, I think. First, there is the initial attraction, that pull from the gut that tells you this one is special and the overwhelming sense that this one will last. Then, there are all of those exciting yet nerve-wracking firsts – the first cup of coffee, the first moonlit walk,  the first romantic dinner, the first kiss – each one hopefully building upon the next to confirm a mutual and enduring adoration.

So, it is, that I find myself in the early stages of  getting to know and love Savannah. I spent most of last week there walking downtown and Forsythe Park (near my hotel) with my accommodating and sweet dog companion, Tann Mann. Together, we were getting reaquainted with this most lovely of cities. The goal was to get the lay of the land, study,  and find restaurants and eateries that looked interesting and good – worthy of inclusion in some upcoming books I’m writing about Savannah and her food scene. At times, it was hard to make headway. It seems Savannah is plum-full of friendly dog lovers.  There were times when I couldn’t advance three feet with little Tann Mann without being stopped, all ooh’s and ah’s, from the canine adoring crowds. Tann Mann, who has mastered the “high five,” started doing it spontaneously as the groups circled him, flailing his little paw greedily to hands that hadn’t even yet been extended.

As we walked the beautiful,  live oak and Spanish moss draped squares designed by Savannah’s visionary founder, James Edward Ogelthorpe, we literally inhaled the palpable history and soul of Savannah. And so, the first steps towards falling head over heels were taken.

All of this walking (as was part of the intent), builds an appetite, so we stopped to sate it, morning, noon, night and several times in-between. On this first visit, it was the breakfast and lunch stops that most impressed – ah, that first cup of coffee!

Clary’s Cafe is the kind of place that recalls the world as it used to be, an old-school diner where you can practically imagine spotting Andy Griffith downing some honey pecan waffles while he chats up Barney Fife about the latest smalltown scuffle. Real and delicious chunky house made corned beef hash prepared with slow cooked brisket ($9.99), blintzes, and hoppel poppel (scrambled eggs with Kosher salami and more), are all scrumptious nods to the cafe’s Jewish origins.  Inside rambles in true diner style with the requisite long counter and glass refrigerator with assorted pies, and outside metal tables and chairs invite with pale green and white laminate tablecloths – oh, and a doggy bowl full of cool, iced water.

A little further into the center of downtown, there are two neighboring hot breakfast/lunch spots that, like Clary’s, are well-worth a visit when appetite calls.  Both are on different “sides” (one is east, the other is west) of pretty, broad and inviting Liberty Street. J. Christopher’s serves heaping plates of breakfast goodness (see the San Bernadino omelette, $8.59,  pictured) with glowing, happy smiles from the super amiable service staff. The griddle puts out some seriously amazing cakes – from the stellar bluebarry crunchcakesl laced with granola and  berries to the chocolate chipcakes. There are many choices across many spectrums – skillets, burgers, sandwiches, crepes, omelettes – and many are spiced with Southwestern ingredients, such as the avocado and pico de gallo in the recommended San Bernadino omellete.

Soho South Cafe is a sunny, Bohemian haunt that is equal parts art studio and restaurant. This is “where food is an art,” afterall! There is truth in those logo words.  The chunky, creamy tomato basil soup ($3.75, cup, $5.50, bowl)  comes out steaming hot with a just-right dusting of fresh basil and the grilled salmon blt ($11.75)  served on grilled challah with a fresh herb mayonnaise, bacon, arugula and tomato is worth many return visits. Inside is delightful with artfully scattered benches, umbrellas, mirrors and paintings. Ah – the first kiss!

Looking forward to many more delightful firsts in lovely Savannah. We’ll keep you posted:)

Clary’s Cafe, 443 Abercorn Street, historic district, Savannah. (912) 233-0402. There is a second location at 4430 Habersham, (912) 351-0302.

Soho South Cafe, 12 W. Liberty Street, historic district, Savannah; (912) 233-1633.

J. Christopher’s, 122 E. Liberty Street, historic district, Savannah; (912) 236-7494.

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