Savannah Has Become One of the American South's Most Exciting Food Destinations — See What's Cooking

Over a relatively short span of time, this U.S. city has evolved into a foodie mecca.

Sure, Georgia's oldest city has been a tourist draw for generations, but something extra special is simmering in Savannah these days.

The irresistible charm of its cobblestone streets and fountain-strewn squares — Spanish moss suspended above it all — was enough to earn its distinction as a National Historic Landmark more than 50 years ago. That story has been the same for centuries, in fact. But now, the urban enclave is writing an exciting new chapter into the future, establishing itself as a full-fledged foodie mecca. Come taste what's cooking over in the "Hostess City of the South."

Any journey here must include a stop at The Grey, an acclaimed playground for executive chef Mashama Bailey. Built into an art deco-era bus terminal, the hip eatery helped define what contemporary Savannah cuisine would become: food with a refreshingly broad worldview. Bailey started infusing Southern soul with African influences back in 2014 — just one year after the city hosted its first-ever Food & Wine Festival. It wasn't until 2019, however, that she solidified her status on the national level, taking home a coveted James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southeast.

Interior of Husk in Savannah, GA
Andy Lee/Courtesy of Visit Savannah

Around the same time, Savannah started attracting interest from chefs beyond its city limits. Sean Brock opened an outpost of Husk here in 2018, offering a killer plate of dan dan noodles smothered in tahini, chili oil, and scallions, and a memorable take on pimento cheese. That's just for starters.

And it's not only the eateries that are emigrating here from much more sprawling cityscapes — it's also the people. You could sense a swell of newcomers flocking downtown during the lockdowns of 2020. They were coming from places like Atlanta, D.C., and, yes, New York. And many of them came craving fine food and beverage.

Exterior of Common Thread in Savannah
Eastwoods Photography/Courtesy of Visit Savannah

A slate of openings has cropped up over the years to serve the increased demand. Common Thread is notable among them. It occupies a fully renovated 5,000-square-foot mansion in Thomas Square. Here, executive chef Brandon Carter endeavors to refocus Southern staples through a global lens. That means duck confit served with sweet potato dumplings and collards studded with black cardamom and pistachio dukkah.

Interior of Franklin's in Savannah
Jeremiah Hull/Courtesy of Visit Savannah

On the corner of Liberty and Bull in the heart of historic downtown, Franklin's joined the ranks of best brunch spots in the South in 2021. Although it holds the trappings of a Parisian grab-and-go coffee shop, it's actually a sensational sit-down stop for breakfast sandwiches. The croque monsieur is a standout among them, prepared on thick-cut sourdough and slathered with creole mustard and béchamel. It also serves steamed eggs, prepared on an espresso machine. The location joins an enviable midday cafe scene that has been anchored for the past few years by The Collins Quarter. With two locations, the concept promises all-day brunch with an "Australian accent."

The Peregrin rooftop at Perry Lane Hotel
Courtesy of Perry Lane Hotel/Visit Savannah

Indeed, Savannah's modern food scene is adept in all sorts of dialects. It speaks as effortlessly to vegans as it does to unabashed carnivores. The former is catered to skillfully by Fox & Fig Cafe, while the latter folks will find ample comfort at the Double Wide Diner. The riverfront haunt slings peanut butter and jelly chicken wings and fried chicken-topped nachos alongside sake-based cocktails.

Speaking of drinks, Savannah boasts a dependable selection of rooftop watering holes, where quality of preparation is matched only by the caliber of the view. Atop the Bohemian Hotel, you'll find Rocks on the Roof, featuring fireside martinis and savory tapas alongside a Savannah River panorama.

Exterior of Artillery bar in Savannah
Geoff L. Johnson Photography/Courtesy of Visit Savannah

The Perry Lane Hotel (part of Marriott's Luxury Collection) offers its own open-air venue, Peregrin. Drinks at this sixth-story poolside bar are named simply by the respective fruit flavor each is intended to evoke. For those preferring to go underground, Artillery Bar offers bespoke craft cocktails — and an extensive list of American whiskies — in a speakeasy setting. Or, for something decidedly more tropical, head over to the Starland District to explore the menu at Water Witch Tiki, a spot that quickly earned its place as a local fixture.

Exterior of The Olde Pink House in Savannah, GA
Dylan Wilson/Courtesy of Visit Savannah

Yes, Savannah food and drink has evolved quite rapidly in a relatively short time. But it hasn't come at the expense of any historic standbys. Southern classics such as The Olde Pink House,Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, and The Pirates' House are as popular as ever. As you stroll the city streets, the centuries-old charm remains intact. If you sense something different in the air, it's most likely the alluring aroma of a nearby kitchen. Get it while it's hot.

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