72 Hours in Savannah
Buttermilk biscuits, ancient trees draped in Spanish moss, and (love or hate her) Paula Deen. It doesn’t get more southern than Savannah. But with the edgy presence of the Savannah College of Arts and Design and a growing food scene, this southern belle serves up some spice with her sweet tea. Andrew Skwarek dishes up 72 hours of bourbon-spiked charm.
Beeline to Mrs. Wilkes before it opens at 11 a.m. for an early lunch; you’ll chat with locals around the communal tables laden with downhome classics like fried chicken and meatloaf alongside collard greens, sweet potato soufflé, corn bread and banana pudding. President Obama is a huge fan. Walk off all that gluttony by strolling south and weaving through the city’s 22 statue-dotted squares, the postcard-perfect, palmetto- and oak-shaded areas around which the city is organized. Then make your way to the 30-acre Forsyth Park – Savannah’s answer to New York’s Central Park.
Hit up the weekend farmer’s market on the south end for artisanal picnic fare and fresh local fruit and produce or head back north to beloved local sandwich stand Zunzi’s. Their deceptively simple Conquistador with baked chicken, lettuce, tomato and a special creamy sauce on French bread, is regularly rated among the best sandwiches in the country.
After lunch, get a dose of culture at the SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) Museum of Art. Its permanent collection showcases 19th- and 20th-century photography, modern and contemporary art alongside rotating exhibits from the likes of Oscar de la Renta (through May 3, 2015) and Nari Ward (through June 25, 2015).
Grab sundowner drinks at the hip riverfront Rocks on the Roof in the Bohemian Hotel, a short walk from your dinner reservation at Olde Pink House. Request a candlelit table in the 1770s dining room beneath Venetian chandeliers and sample indulgent dishes like crab hush puppies with spicy peach remoulade and crispy fried lobster tail with bacon buttermilk potatoes.
You’ll be tempted by the baked goods overflowing from the trays at Goose Feathers Café, but you’re here for the Bird’s Nest: poached eggs, cilantro and cheddar tucked atop a mess of grits with homemade salsa.
Dig into the history of Savannah at the stunningly creepy Saint Bonaventure Cemetery on the outskirts of downtown. The former plantation is now the final resting place of military generals, poets and novelists, and you may recognize some of its haunting sculptures from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Round out the morning back in Savannah’s Historic District with a walk down cobblestoned River Street and pop into the galleries, design shops and candy stores fronting the water.
It’s time for some suds, and you can quench your thirst in the beer garden of Moon River Brewing Company. Order up a flight of beer and ask your bartender about the ghost that haunts its historic walls. Savannah has no open container law, so get that last drink in a to-go cup and head a few blocks over to City Market; the outdoor promenade is lined with bars and restaurants and has live entertainment throughout the day. Around the corner is Lulu’s Chocolate Bar, which serves our two favorite things: booze and dessert. Order a martini and their signature Strawberry Suspension with rum-brushed chocolate cake sandwiching berry-dotted marscapone. Then continue your pub crawl at the Congress Street Social Club, a buzzy indoor-outdoor bar with pool, darts and a rowdy crowd, or go divey with PBRs at Pinkie Master’s Lounge, where Jimmy Carter was rumored to have hopped up on the bar to proclaim his desire to be president.
Fuel up for the day with a classic Southern breakfast at B Matthews Eatery (reservations recommended) on E. Bay Street. Think stone-ground grits, shrimp, cheddar cheese, diced green onion and tomato and a pinch of mornay or biscuits and gravy served in a no-frills spot with hardwood floors and exposed brick.
Afterwards, flex that plastic along Broughton Street: visit James Gunn for a well-curated selection of hip threads, 24e Design Co. for interiors scores (some designed by SCAD grads) and The Paris Market and Brocante for a globe-trotting array of vintage and design goods. Wrap up your shopping spree at Leopold’s Ice Cream, a near-century-old Savannah institution, for a classic sundae of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and Georgia pecans topped with whipped cream and a cherry. Then kick off your shoes and end your Savannah sojourn in the sand with a beach afternoon on nearby Tybee Island.