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    Published 9-26-2019

    You may go to Savannah for the history and fun but you gotta eat. So why not eat at the most fun and interesting restaurants. As icing on the cake many of Savannah's restaurants have a historic background. Here are a few I loved there and why.  

    The Original Crab Shack on Tybee Island has its own unique history. It would be worth visiting for that alone but the food is something else. Jumbo Georgia shrimp, big blue crabs, clams, mussels, even crawfish from Louisiana, and all kinds of fish will tempt your palate here.

    We had the Captain Crab's Sampler Platter with boiled shrimp, snow crab, rock crab, mussels, corn on the cob, crawfish, sausage, and potatoes. It was some of the best seafood I had ever had. If you're not a seafood lover, there are choices of barbeque chicken or pork.

    Not only is the food out-of –this –world, they have a few unique pets you seldom find in restaurants.  First off they make it clear that the cats that prowl around are not feral. They are family. One visited our table. She politely stood about a foot from the table and gave us a look that said, "I love seafood."

    Naturally I had to "accidentally" drop a scrap within her reach. She ate it all and allowed me to pet her.  I met several of her feline family as I prowled around the Crab Shack taking pictures for this story. All were friendly but not aggressive. If you're not a cat lover, they will not bother you when you eat there.

    Then they are the other pets, ones with a long tail and sharp teeth. Fear not the alligator are in a fenced pen. You can choose to visit or not but who passes up a chance to see alligators swimming around a pond?

    Last but not least, there are the rescued birds. These are kept in cages on the far side of the restaurant. Do not miss a visit. These guys are brilliant, literally. Some might even talk to you.

    Clary’s Café  is part of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil but it has a separate story of its own. It has its scene in the movie where Luther Driggers sat at its lunch counter and plopped down a bag of poison.  In real life, former owner, Michael Farber, says Luther actually sat at a table where the jukebox is now. He always ordered and paid for two breakfasts although he usually only ate one. The book's author John Berendt visited often while writing the book looking for character to include. He still sometimes dines at Clary’s.

    When we lunched at Clary's Café, we had to wait for a table even though it had dozens of tables inside and some outside ones. It is that popular.  Surprisingly it is reasonably priced. Once inside we saw a stained glass portrait of the Bird Girl and lots of other “Midnight” memorabilia. It is dog friendly and the kind of place you see locals as well as tourists. There is an old-time drugstore feeling about the black and white tile décor and the long lunch counter. No surprise as that was how it started out over a hundred years ago.

    You can get breakfast all the time here so I tried the Greek Omelet with spinach, tomatoes, feta cheese, and onion. It was served with grits and buttemilk biscuits.  It was good and so huge and I couldn’t finish it. Don't know how Luther could even think about two breakfasts.

    My friend got the Grilled Ruben. It was sliced corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut on Caraway rye bread and served with fries and pickles. She got a takeout box for her leftovers.  You cannot go wrong here.

    The Fat Radish is a newcomer in Savannah but has a sister restaurant that is long successful in New York. Chef  Nick Wilber does something unique in restaurant practices. He focuses on the vegetables and adds meat as an option.

    We sampled a lot of the chef's favorites. The unusual appetizers; shaved cauliflower with anchovy and mint and dressed with roasted corn oil; grilled shishito peppers, smoked soy an benne seeds; and local tomatoes topped with chives and basil buds and dressed with buttermilk dressing were all tasty but the tomatoes were my favorite.

    Our entrees also offered choices; roasted chicken with a warm farro salad; grilled grouper with tomato and caper relish and pine nuts; some veggie choices were braised carrots with turmeric chutney, benne seeds and whipped goat cheese; and okra. My favorites here were the chicken and for a veggie, the okra.

    Dessert choices were equally delicious, housemade donuts with jam and banoffee pie. They have a full bar and the wine and cocktails are nothing to sneeze at.

    The building it is housed in was built in 1875 and was originally a pharmacy; the essence of the old building is still present in its stone arches, large windows, and green and white porcelain tiles that cover the floor at the entrance. Inside there are exposed white painted ceiling pipes, wood flooring, and green plaster walls that evoke a natural feeling.

    Cha Bella is housed in a red-brick 100 year old building that still sits on its original foundation. Inside the décor preserves its heritage with exposed brick walls and beadboard inner walls and ceilings. Floors are a shiny hardwood.

    The food has touches of old Italy dishes with a Southern twist. They were one of the first Savannah restaurants to begin the Farm to Table movement. If you order a dish with some herbs it's likely they will pluck the leaves from their own backyard. Cha Bella's chef-owner Michael Lacy says a day's drive is the farthest that he will go to stock his kitchen. That's why their menu changes with the seasons. There are two appliances Cha Bella's kitchen is missing: a microwave and a freezer.

    The food is so tasty. Their boards and flatbreads are scrumptious. We sampled the Flatbread with Burrata, roasted tomatoes, basil, Parmesan, and prosciutto. It was as if we were transported to Italy.

    We sampled two of their charcuterie boards filled with jam, honey comb, assorted cheeses and Italian bread. Another choice is an unusual pairing of food and whiskey. Bacon and Bourbon Board filled with candied bacon, braised pork belly, guanciale, and pancetta. It's served with three tasting of 13th Colony Whiskey made in Americus, GA.

    For my entrée I tried Fettuccine Frutti Di Mare, a beautiful mix of clams, mussels, scallops, and shrimp. It was topped with Fra Diavolo sauce and had a slice of toasted ciabatta.

    Cha Bella is a dinner only restaurant. It is also dog friendly.

    For many of us, dessert is the most important part of a meal. We had dessert one night  at Leopold’s Ice Cream Shop. This year they are celebrating their 100th anniversary. When you visit you might notice a lot of Hollywood paraphernalia around. That ties in with their history which you can read here.

    One thing about Leopold's is it's always busy. Every time I passed it during my time in Savannah, there were lines but they move fast. It has been a Savannah institution since the three Greek Leopold brothers open it in 1919. Savannah's most famous songwriter, Johnny Mercer, grew up just a block away and used to get his sweet treats here. His favorite flavor was Tutti Frutti. Leopold's still carries the original Tutti Frutti made with rum ice cream with candied fruit and fresh roasted Georgia pecans.

    Todays most popular is Savanna Socialite made of milk and dark chocolate ice cream, Georgia pecans and swirled with bourbon-infused caramel. All together they have about 23 original flavors and each month has seasonal flavors.

    True to its roots, Leopold's has an old fashioned soda fountain and offers all those delights those of us of a certain age remember. You can get a banana split, an old fashioned ice cream soda, a float, hot fudge sunday and even sandwiches and salads like you used to order at an old five and dime store.

    I went for a chocolate ice cream soda and was delighted. It was perfection right down to the cherry on top.

    You will not go hungry in Savannah.

    For more Savannah stories click here and here




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