Saturday, September 18, 2010

Frugal Foodie on the Road: Savannah

I got to spend last weekend in Savannah with two friends who live there, enjoying the delicacies of the South. We started out on Friday with an organized food tour of six Savannah culinary hot spots. After some sliders at Churchill's and mini cupcakes ('newborns') from 'Back in the Day Cafe' we stopped at the family owned Polk's Fresh Market, where I had my first tomato sandwich. I'd heard of them before but until I tasted one I never had the desire to try one. The Southern favorite is comprised of soft white sandwich bread, tomatoes, and mayonnaise, which sounds unappetizing. When each of the three components are of top notch quality, however, as they are at Polk's, the sandwich is like the 'peanut butter and jelly' of the South. I also had my first scuppernong at Polk's, a Southern grape with a thick skin and sour lychee flavor.

Angel's BBQ was the next stop, a place known as much for their award winning firey sauces as their pulled pork. I'd come back to this dive for a more substantial meal next time. Another stop was at Wright Square Cafe, a tiny place run by the chocolatier cousin of Michael Voltaggio, winner of last year's Top Chef. The French truffles and other creations were silky and rich, but chocolate is never my first pick on a hot day so I didn't try much. The final stop was at Lady and Son's, a now famous restaurant due to the fact it is owned by the Food Network's Southern queen, Paula Dean. Her collard greens were delicious, even though they were swimming in pure pork fat, but her fried chicken didn't hold a candle to that of Mrs. Wilke's (more about that later).
We somehow managed to make room for dinner at the newly opened Sugar Daddy's, a quaint downtown wine bar. Though everything we had was worth ordering again, the highlight was the mini Beef Wellington with grilled asparagus and horseradish cream sauce.
On Saturday we headed to the beach, but on the way we had to stop for a shrimp salad sandwich at Papa's and boiled peanuts at a roadside stand.
I just love the charm of roadside food stands.
Saturday night we went back downtown where we went to The Jinx to hear "Damien and the Shit-kickers," an outlaw country cover band. After dancing and drinking we were starving so we went to Vinnie Van Go Go's, a locals favorite. The seemingly normal pizza was much better than I expected it to be with a good dose of cornmeal crunch on the thin crust and a stand out marinara.
What trip to the south would be complete without chicken and waffles? Actually, despite going college in Virginia, this was my first chicken and waffles experience. The version at Loc's Chicken and Waffles was decent and cheap, but still not as good as Mrs. Wilke's fried chicken (coming up).
Sunday we headed to the lake with white wine spritzers. I flavored them with a fresh Georgia peach puree I made and some diced peaches. The peaches were so ripe and juicy! Needless to say, the scenic trip in Sara's boat was tons of fun.
Before heading back West they took me to Mrs. Wilke's, a place known far and wide for having some of the best Southern food around. The place was really put on the map after Obama's recent visit, so now the line extends around the block. Luckily, Kathryn has some juice so we were able to bypass everyone and go in through the back door. Seating and eating here are family style, so about 20 communal bowls of Southern favorites are placed on a table for ten, where refreshing sweet tea and an empty plate are waiting for you. It's all you can eat for $16, and, regardless of whether or not you show restraint, and you can't help but leave with the feeling you won't be able to eat for the rest of your life. I loved all the sides, like the buttery biscuits, buttery stuffing, buttery sweet potatoes, and buttery butter beans, but the show stopper was the fried chicken. The skin was as crispy as a cracklin' and the chicken itself was so juicy and tender you swear you would do the unfathomable to eat it again. My appreciation for the dish was renewed after tasting this creme de la creme of fried chicken.

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