Savannah, Georgia is the kind of place that quickly draws in visitors with its draping Spanish moss, manicured gardens, grand architecture, and charming cobblestone streets. But if the way into one’s heart truly is through the stomach, then this city solidifies itself as a top foodie destination. Although there is no shortage of dining establishments, to get a true taste of Southern life, check out these eight local favorites.
For special occasions that make a strong impression, locals flock to The Grey, a James Beard-nominated restaurant housed in a repurposed 1930s Greyhound bus station. With a fabulous New American menu that features regional ingredients and a cocktail program, the restaurant hints at the building’s former self through the beautifully restored Art Deco space. The yard is open seasonally for alfresco meals that include pickled oysters ($12), St. Louis-style ribs ($25), and charred okra ($7).
A long line begins to form outside the legendary Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room well before its doors open at 11 a.m. Mondays through Fridays (except in January, when it is closed) -- a true testament to the incredible home-cooked Southern feast of fried chicken, okra gumbo, candied yams, and other comfort food staples that have continued to come out of the kitchen decade after decade. For just $22 per person, long-time patrons and visiting tourists share tables of 10 to devour the impressive spread. Note: The restaurant doesn't accept reservations or credit cards.
Locals love the casual vibe at Zunzi’s, a small storefront where the menu includes legendary sandwiches like the “Godfather” ($11.95), stuffed with South African sausage, grilled chicken, and Zunzi’s special sauce. Tip: Head to the adjacent parking lot decked out with tables and chairs, and chat with Savannahians about their favorite meals here.
For old-fashioned baked goods in a fun, retro environment, head out to the rapidly gentrifying Starland District and stop by Back in the Day Bakery, a 2015 James Beard Award nominee, where everything is made from scratch. Its motto is to help its customers “slow down and taste the sweet life,” which can easily be achieved with its biscones -- a delectable biscuit-scone hybrid -- lavender shortbread cookies, and seasonal pies.
The warm Southern sun and humidity gave rise to an iconic Savannah institution: Leopold’s Ice Cream. Operating for almost a century, there’s typically a line out the door for this award-winning ice cream any time of day or night. With popular flavors like butter pecan, chocolate chewies and cream, rum bisque, and lemon custard, several visits may be in order. You’ll discover that $4 for a single scoop is a small price to pay for pure, unadulterated happiness.
If you love chocolate, you’ll be positively stunned by the beautiful confections at Chocolat by Adam Turoni. There are two locations in Savannah, though we're charmed by the Library Bull Street location. The chocolate is not exactly cheap, but you’re obviously not paying for run-of-the-mill treats. Take your pick from red velvet cake truffles ($15.90), milk and dark chocolate graham crackers ($10.90), and bacon butter pecan toffee ($25.90), among others.
The Foxy Loxy Cafe is another perennial fave outside of the historic district. The converted two-story home dishes out some of the best coffee in all of the city, as well as brunch staples with a Mexican flair (think: enchiladas and breakfast tacos, from $6) on Sundays. The brisket hash ($7) and shrimp and grits ($8) are also not to be missed. Local artists are featured on the walls, while the adjacent boutique shop has a collection of unique gifts to take home.
For a fun night out, Treylor Park can’t be beat. In this vintage-chic space, enjoy modern yet authentic Southern comfort food like the Southern sloppy joe ($14) or the PB&J chicken wings ($10). Sip on seasonal cocktails ($10) or grab a pint from one of the local breweries ($6) and get ready to dance the night away under the soft, inviting lights of the beer garden.