Savannah is known for being quirky and mysterious—and for its 22 lovely park squares, framed by Federal-style and 19th-century Greek Revival houses and shaded by trees hung with Spanish moss.
Crowds line up early to snag a family-style table at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room, which has been serving many of the same dishes since 1943. Servers bring out bowls piled high with Deep South fare: sweet stewed rutabaga, fried chicken, and peppery red rice and sausage. Marcia Thompson, Mrs. Wilkes’s granddaughter, circles the room, encouraging conversation between diners.
In-the-know locals stop by Emerald City, a handful of six-foot-long pits next to a car wash, for tender pork, beef ribs and rack of lamb. The smoky meat is pulled off the barbecue and slathered in tangy tomato-based sauce. Down the street at Back in the Day Bakery, the cheerful staff turns out old-fashioned cupcakes and banana pudding with house-made vanilla wafers.
Most of Savannah’s cafés and restaurants are on the redeveloped waterfront, a grid of redbrick streets lined with boutiques, a few blocks from the Savannah River. A discreet sign marks Alligator Soul, a cavernous downstairs space that feels like an elegant wine cellar, with its stone walls and arches. Dive into Christopher DiNello’s reinvented Low Country classics: Squash blossoms are sautéed with lobster and crawfish; shrimp and grits are livened up with cheddar and lemon butter; and green tomatoes are tossed in Parmesan before being fried.
A Hendricks gin martini at Circa 1875, expertly made and garnished with a cucumber slice, might sound like a dangerous conclusion to the night. But in this bistro, where artists and designers sit deep in conversation in the dark wood booths under pressed-tin ceilings, it feels just right.
Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room: 107 W. Jones St.; 1.912.232.5997
Emerald City: 2601 Bull St.; 1.912.272.7337
Back in the Day Bakery: 2403 Bull St.; 1.912.495.9292
Alligator Soul: 114 Barnard St.; 1.912.232.7899
Circa 1875: 48 Whitaker St.; 1.912.443.1875