By Ben Adler
I recently went to Savannah, Georgia with my parents. There is not much of importance to see in Savannah but there are two things that make it seem like a place with high quality of life and good for a quick visit: the beautiful, historic streets and parks, and the delicious food. I have no idea how Savannah compares to the rest of the South, food-wise, as my Southern traveling experience is limited. I know I had some great barbecue on my way back from the Outer Banks in North Carolina, and some very mediocre food at the beach itself. I was also very unimpressed with the supposedly great food in Charlottesville, VA. But Savannah was exactly what I had hoped for.
Every thing I ate over several days was good. My first afternoon I got something called a summer stack cake to go with my coffee from the self-consciously “hip,” coffee bar. It featured cream and berries and was delicious. That night we went to a barbecue restaurant where I had some excellent pulled pork: part crispy, part tender, part sweet and part spicy with a hint of vinegar, all delectable. Only caveat is that the macaroni and cheese was underwhelming. I tried some of my dad’s beef ribs and was suitably impressed by the incredibly tender, juicy meat.
The next day for lunch I got a cheap brisket sandwich from a cheap local fast foody place. It lean and perfectly seasoned. I had two fancy dinners: both blended southern cooking traditions, such as buttery biscuits, with nouveau trends. I wouldn’t say I was overwhelmed by what passes for the best food in Savannah. My fish had been frozen and the artichoke and goat cheese fritters were breaded when they should have been fried very lightly. Also my duck was a little dry. But you can get an overall good meal in Savannah with as much ease as you can in D.C., and you can also get some ribs that fall right off the bone, which I had one night, along with fresh seafood at a family friend’s house.
And, for breakfast, you can go to any old diner and get some intensely satisfying fare. I’m talking about cinnamon apples and aged cheddar in an omelette — with a biscuit, of course.
D.C. has all the disadvantages of a Southern city: the summer is sweltering and there is a lack of white ethnic immigrant communities that you find in the Northeast and Midwest. Hence, no real Irish bars, pizzerias or Greek diners. You’d think the trade-off would be good Southern food and barbecue, but you would be wrong. Outside of Florida Avenue Grille and a waffle house here or there, there are very few choices. Don’t say Georgia Brown’s or Creme, I mean old school places that are cheap.