Savannah is a must-visit town in the southeast that is defined by its rich history, incredible food, and unique wine menus that rival any metropolitan town.
If you have been to New Orleans or Charleston, you will find some occasional similarities, whether it be in the food, architecture, landscape or climate. But at the same time, Savannah is decidedly its own town, which we discovered after a short one-day, two-night visit.
When in Savannah, put the Olde Pink House on your dining list. Located near the river, it is a restaurant known for its history (it was built in 1771) and fine southern-style food. Make reservations well in advance, or plan to eat at one of the bars like we did. The dimly lit, spooky basement bar tends to fill up more quickly and was packed when we arrived, so we bellied up to the upstairs bar instead.
We discovered that the restaurant does not charge corkage for the first bottle, a tip we initially wished we had known. However, our ignorance worked to our advantage as we ordered a bottle of Soave, an Italian white from the Veneto region, and LOVED it. It is not often you will find a Soave on a wine list and when you do, don’t think twice about ordering it if you like light, dry whites. We did a collection of appetizers to include jalapeno mac and cheese poppers, the perfect pairing with our Soave, which is a nice alternative to Pinot Grigio. It offers aromatic melon characteristics and almost a creamy mouthfeel. I am going to be on a mission to find this Pieropan and/or a close alternative when I get home.
We had only one day to explore so we started the following morning with a 2-hour guided walking tour of the city to get the lay of the land and learn more about it’s history. I had no idea that the state of Georgia was founded as a penal colony for those who were imprisoned in England for not satisfying their debts. And, as locals will share, Savannah is haunted by the many soldiers and other souls buried below the city.
Savannah is easy to navigate and is very walkable. We parked our car when we arrived and didn’t need it until we left. I loved the many city squares that feature statues of prominent historical figures and provide ample shade, courtesy of the magnificent live oaks draped with Spanish moss. Savannah, one of the major seaports of cotton in the late 1800s (which gave it the nickname of the Wall Street of the South), also offers glorious views over the river.
After our tour, we ate lunch at Vic’s on the River, which we had walked through as part of our walking tour. An old historic Civil War battle map was uncovered in the restaurant during construction and was left in its original condition. Hand-drawn by Union soldiers, it is now protected by UV-coated glass and is truly a must-see artifact. This is also a great spot to get traditional fried green tomatoes and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
Following lunch, we walked over to the American Prohibition Museum, the first of its kind. One of the most interesting learning points was that the origination of federal income tax came from the 40% revenue loss the government incurred due to the absence of liquor taxes when Prohibition began in 1920. Sadly, the end of Prohibition in 1933 didn’t put an end to income tax. However, I’m still most troubled over how I would survive without wine for 13 years! Obviously, the “warnings” posted on certain items during this time may have been the saving grace. Number 9 below says that grocery stores sold packages of dehydrated grapes and told customers not to put them in a corked jug in a dark place for 3 weeks, lest they turn into wine. Can’t say I would have heeded that warning.
Thankful that Prohibition is behind us, we decided to cap off our day having a cocktail at the Top Deck Bar, a rooftop bar at the Cotton Sail hotel, and watched the sunset over the Talmadge Memorial Bridge.
For dinner, we decided on Garibaldi’s since our server at the Olde Pink House said they have a good wine program. It is a beautiful, romantic restaurant that almost has an old San Francisco vibe. We ate at the bar and decided to go with the Sinister Hand by Owen Roe, which seemed fitting in a haunted sort of town and since it is a Grenache-heavy blend, we thought it would flex to the duck and grouper we ordered. Having been to the winery in Washington (more info), we know they make quality wines, and were surprised to see this wine in Savannah. It certainly did pair well with both dishes, given it’s subtle characteristics. It was well balanced and elegant, having velvety fruit and soft spices.
After we finished the bottle, our server treated us to a taste of the Seamus Grenache/Cab Sauvignon blend, a sample the restaurant had received from their distributor to try the wine. This was a home run. It was punchier than the Sinister Hand, with more distinct fruit and spice characteristics. In other words, this one can stand alone and doesn’t need any food. For anyone who has heard of Foley wines, take note. This small-production label is a product of the father/son team of Jim Foley Sr and Jr.
Being intrigued by ghost stories, we ended the evening doing a tour of the Sorrel Weed House, considered one of the most haunted homes in America. Touring an old home at night certainly has it’s mystique, but we had no ghost encounters, except for the fact my camera refused to capture photos of the room where the figure of a man had been previously recorded. The guide showed us a photo of the apparition, whom we thought may have been the tall native American, Tomo-chi-chi, who greeted the first English settlers to arrive in Savannah. Who knows why my camera became inoperable in that room. Coincidence? Probably. Or maybe Tomo Chi Chi was having a bad hair day and didn’t want to be photographed!
There is so much to do in Savannah. I highly recommend a walking tour (we used Savannah Walks) and based on that, decide what you want to explore in more depth. As far as where to stay, Bay Street, which is on the river and offers walkable, easy access to most historical sites, offers a combination of boutique and chain hotels. We stayed at the Hampton Inn, which offers a fantastic value and a rooftop pool and patio area that probably has the best views in town of the river and bridge.