It’s no surprise that Southern Charm, the Bravo reality show replete with drawling beauties, flashy cars and two-hundred-year-old mansions is set in Savannah. The “Hostess City of The South” has a charm that is as real and thick as the local honey.
So famous for its sprawling cemeteries that it is sometimes referred to as a necropolis…or city of the dead, the ghost tours are packed with people eager for a glimpse of the spectral and supernatural. And while plenty of people still come here for its ghostly attractions, don’t let that fool you – the formerly sleepy but historic river town has ballooned in popularity, and was one of American Express Travel’s top trending destinations for 2019.
The real draw is actually the distinctly southern food and drink – but like everything else in Savannah these days, the biscuits and grits are getting a decisive update. The classics remain, but on our last visit, we checked out a few hotspots where tradition and innovation sat comfortably together on the menu. And the arrival of chic boutique hotels, new art galleries, and celebrity chef restaurants is definitively changing Savannah for the better.
Here were some of our faves.
A relatively new member of The Luxury Collection, Perry Lane Hotel is bringing the class. Part of AMEX Travel’s Fine Hotels & Resorts program, the rooms are filled with plush white linens and cozy reading nooks, with a few carefully selected antique books stacked close by. Located in Savannah’s historic district, there are three very different food and beverage venues to service the 167 rooms. Touting itself as the kind of place to “welcom[e] everyone in with a crooked smile and a glimmer in her eye,” each space has locally sourced art collections and rotating activations, telling their own versions of the story of Savannah. And partnered with an American Express Travel & Lifestyle Concierge, they can secure last minute reservations at the newest and hottest tables.
The Perry’s floor restaurant showcases locally-sourced, high-quality ingredients. Half wine market/café and half sit down eatery, the weekend jazz brunches are lively and decadent affairs, with twists on classics like jalapeno hollandaise over poached eggs or the smoked and cured brunch tower, boasting bagels with avocado mousse and herb schmear. Dinner leans more heavily on the French culinary influence, with dishes like coquilles St-Jacques, and rabbit ragout with house-made pappardelle – or whatever wild foraged mushrooms happen to be in season. All expertly mated with something from the quite impressive international wine selection.
A trendy rooftop bar actually feels a bit like your old backyard – tropical plants, lawn games, a year-round swimming pool – it has frozen cocktails (Death on Credit is made with espolòn blanco, st. germain and lime) paired with Filipino chicken sisig tacos an a daily ceviche selection. But it’s the elegant views over historic Savannah that truly steal the show.
Opened in 2014, this café introduces Australia’s clean flavors and coffee obsession into Savannah’s buzzy brunch scene. Named for Melbourne’s famed Collins Street, the lines literally wrap around the block on weekends. The coffee program is helmed by Anthony Debreceny, who found and trained local coffee and food connoisseurs on their mission. Those staff now direct hungry diners on how to order off of the Aussie influenced menu, with dishes like the signature Avo Toast with smashed peas, or vegetarian bubble and squeak, all with a southern twist.
When acclaimed chef Mashama Baiely and restaurateur Johno Morisano partnered to create The Grey, also in Savannah’s historic district, they had no idea of how popular their new take on southern dining would quickly become. Housed in a refurbed Art Deco Greyhound Bus Terminal from 1938, Bailey utilizes her unique style of blending elements of Port City Southern food with her NYC background, employing local and seasonal ingredients. A finalist for a James Beard Award for Best Chef in 2018, she is definitively raising the bar in this very traditional Georgia city. And whether it’s for the shaved country ham with braised leeks or the signature smothered quail with blackening spice and creole sauce, the wait for reservations is unquestionably well worth it.