Thursday, February 21, 2013

Savannah, Georgia ~ February 14-19, 2013

Let me start by saying that if you haven’t been to Savannah, I recommend you go. It’s absolutely beautiful, romantic and clean. Considered “The Hostess of the South” the people are beyond hospitable and there is an infinite number of great places to eat and drink. The oak trees draped in Spanish moss are picturesque and although a slower city than we’re used to, it’s important to take the time to look at the beauty that surrounds you.

 My dad and Berneda have talked about their love for Savannah for years and I wasn't sure what to expect. We don’t need to be entertained or wooed, we just like to have fun and not stress (that applies to me and not Steve…) I am happy to report that Savannah exceeded my expectations and I honestly believe anyone can enjoy themselves in this quaint and spectacular town.

As long as you stay within the Historic District, there is no need to rent a car, but be sure to bring your walking shoes because you will put plenty of miles on them. At 2 ½ square miles, the Savannah Historic District and its 22 park-like squares are one the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States. It’s hard to say how many miles we walked, but being there for nearly six days gave us plenty of time to see everything.

Unlike most of our trips, this was fairly spontaneous and I booked it only a few weeks out. Steve’s 40th birthday was (is) fast approaching and I wanted to do something special. Our work schedules permitted time off during this weekend and we had some frequent flyer miles to burn, so it seemed like a good excuse to get away. Along with a handful of other cities, Steve has talked about visiting Savannah for years. Neither of us have ever been, but have appreciated and enjoyed our time in its sister cities, New Orleans and Charleston.

 Once I began my research, I was immediately overwhelmed with the restaurant options available and had a hard time narrowing it down. Living in Lakewood, we’re used to walking everywhere within our little 5 ½ square mile city, so when I saw the Historic District only covered 2 ½ square miles it put space in better perspective. I continue to be surprised at the restaurant diversity they’re able to fit into such a small area. With this in mind, we decided to wait until we arrived to get a better look at menus and pricing and then determine where we’d be spending our time.

I booked us a room at the Andaz Savannah and I’m really happy I did. We've never stayed at an Andaz prior to this, but if you’re familiar with the Kimpton brand of hotels, this reminded me of one of them. It’s a Hyatt brand hotel, but is best described as a small, but modern boutique hotel and with a #2 rating on TripAdvisor; I was confidant with my decision. We were checked in with an iPad and it seemed everyone was at our beckon call. Free wine during check-in? Duh. The fire pit on the outdoor patio was a nice touch as well. 

We loved the comfort, hospitality and overall feel of the hotel, but a surprising and awesome addition was the free snacks and non-alcoholic drinks from the mini-bar…and they were refreshed daily! This wouldn't typically be such a redeeming quality for a hotel for me, but with the many parks to eat lunch and the open container laws J We often found ourselves with a sandwich to-go and a bag of chips from the mini-bar. Oh, and don’t forget our to-go cocktail. We purchased a bottle of vodka from the local liquor store and used the juices from the mini-bar to make cocktails. This place had our name written all over it!

 The hotel bar and restaurant were also a scale above the rest. I've recently fallen in love with a great Manhattan, so I was swooned by the pure beauty of the East of Hudson Manhattan served at the hotel bar (voted best in Savannah), made with a Woodford Reserve, a few things I can’t pronounce and a smoked cherry! The smoked cherry was like a campfire in your mouth. Odd, but awesome…and instead of bar nuts, they served it with candied bacon. Like I said, this place had our name written all over it J Steve had a taste of mine and couldn’t resist getting one himself. Of course, a cocktail of this caliber has a stiff price tag, so we were one and done and happily carried on.

The history of Savannah is interesting. Founded in 1733 by colonists led by James Edward Oglethorpe, Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia and one of the outstanding examples of eighteenth-century town planning in North America. During the Civil War, Union General Sherman conducted his famous March to Sea where he and his troops destroyed much of Georgia. The March ended when he captured Savannah and salvaged the city. Some historians say it’s because Savannah was so beautiful that he couldn't bear to destroy it, but I seem to think there were ulterior motives J

Savannah's architecture, history, and reputation for Southern charm and hospitality are what attract millions of visitors every year. Mansions, haunted buildings, museums, tours, trolleys, churches, squares, theatres, cemeteries, bars and restaurants. The list goes on, but I’ll do my best to capture our experience.

We arrived on Valentine’s Day and the City Market was hosting a vow renewal ceremony. We participated with about 20 other couples and albeit cheesy, it was nice.  With the exception of Vinny Van Go Go’s Pizza, we didn't spend much time at the City Market.

Jen’s and Friends is a bar with 300 different martini’s, 200 different beers, and other stuff. We managed to make a few visits to try our own sampling including: Peanut Butter Cup, Chocolate Covered Bacon, Nutterbutter, Sugar Cookie, Watermelon Lemonade (to-go!), The Elvis (with peanut butter & fluff), Caramel Pecan and Peanut Butter Bacon (Yes, those are ALL martini's!! Not sure how much alcohol they really had in them, but the garnish alone served as a nice after-dinner treat.)

We took this one to-go and it had a watermelon blow pop as the garnish!

River Street is the more touristy part of Savannah. Located on the Savannah River, we had some great views and nice walks along with boardwalk. There were cobblestone streets and precarious stairs everywhere.



Based on the recommendation of a friend of a friend, we tried the famous chicken fingers at Spanky’s. I too questioned “Why are we getting chicken fingers in Savannah?” But we did and they were the best chicken fingers I've ever had. I tried to convince Steve to go back, but it didn't work.

Bernie’s Oyster House is known for their Bloody Mary’s and oysters, so we gave them a try. We had a dozen on the half shell and they were good and sufficed as a nice afternoon snack. We've become quite the oyster snobs since Scott & Gretchen have started serving them to us freshly shucked, so these couldn't compare.

The First African Baptist church was organized in Savannah in 1773. The church structure was built in the 1850’s by both free African Americans and slaves and served as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Opened in 1818, the Savannah Theatre is the country's oldest continually operating theater. While we were there, the Savannah Theatre was showing one of my favorite musicals.

 The Savannah St. Patrick’s Day celebration is considered the 3rd largest in the country behind Chicago and Boston. As a result, we figured there had to be somewhere that poured the coveted perfect pint of Guinness. A local bartender recommended Molly MacPherson’s, a Scottish pub. He was right; they knew how to pour the perfect pint.   

Forsyth Park is a large city park that occupies 30 acres within the Historic District. It contains walking paths, a café, a play area, a fragrant garden for the blind, a large fountain, tennis courts, basketball courts, park benches, and areas for soccer and Frisbee.


We stopped at the Savannah Candy company to pick up some pralines for my dad. Free samples were always a welcome treat.

Based on our own observations, Savannah might also covet the title “the most Girl Scouts in one location in the world, ever” due to it being the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low (founder of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America). It actually was a little crazy. Girl Scout cookie sales were everywhere!


Our favorite characteristics of Savannah are its 22 squares. We made our way and spent time in each of them and it was the highlight of our trip. The squares vary in size and personality, from formal fountains and monuments of the largest, to the playgrounds and basketball courts of the smallest.

Chippewa Square is the famous square where Forrest Gump waiting for the bus in the movie. Steve couldn't resist.

Elbert, Ellis, and Liberty Squares are considered the three "lost squares," destroyed during urban development in the 1950's. Elbert and Liberty Squares were paved over to make way for a realignment of highway 17, while Ellis Square was demolished to build a parking garage. The city restored Ellis Square, which opened in March 2010, and our hotel was located adjacent to it. Separate efforts are now under way to revive Elbert and Liberty Squares.

 Food and Drinks!

I’ve mentioned a few places where we enjoyed some great food and adventurous cocktails, but the list continues! I wasn’t as good as usual with my picture-taking and you may notice there are VERY few pictures of us, but the memories are still there. We’re known for enjoying lunch or dinner while sitting at the bar and we were proud to say we sat at the bar during (almost) every meal! The only exception was a park bench for lunch and a small café for breakfast :)

Churchill’s Pub had an extensive whiskey selection, but we opted for a Savannah Brown Ale to drink along with our British cheese board, macaroni & cheese and short ribs.

The Moon River Brewery is Savannah’s only brewpub. With Savannah being considered the most haunted city in America, the Moon River Brewery claims to be the most haunted building in Savannah. The haunted tour and food menu didn’t interest us much, so we opted for one of their beer samplers instead.

 Alligator Soul was another recommendation from a friend and like a lot of the food we've tasted in Savannah, it was delicious. Alligator Tail and Shrimp & Grits were our entrée’s of choice. After dinner we had no choice but to enjoy a snifter of our favorite after-dinner cordial, Navan. No longer available in the U.S. and Canada, we have preserved a bottle at home and find it hard to resist when a restaurant has it at the bar.

At the Crystal Beer Parlor, we had their nightly special of Spicy Shrimp and Grits in Creole Sauce with a salad. I also enjoyed the highly touted Bell’s HopSlam Ale.

 Zunzi’s was a place we ate at twice, but wish we would have eaten there even more. Not only could we easily split a sandwich, but it was reasonably priced and extra delicious. Exclusively available for take-out, both times we visited the line was out the door. The Conquistador was selected as one of the best sandwiches in America so we had to give it a try. Wow. Tons of chicken, lettuce and their super special sauce. It was that good. 

On our second visit we ordered the Godfather, which was similar to The Conquistador, but added kielbasa, cheese and marinara sauce. Yum times two!

The Old Pink House was recommended by a couple of people and is talked about on every travel site known. We decided to eat from the bar menu on one occasion, where we ordered this very satisfying BLT salad (bacon, lettuce & fried green tomatoes) and the jalapeno Mac n’ cheese poppers.

 We visited a second time to have a drink in their famous Planter’s Tavern, which was voted as one of the top-ten romantic bars in America. The room was dark with low ceilings, candlelit tables and a pianist, making for a quiet but social environment.

 The Rail Pub ended up being our go-to bar most nights. With happy hour consisting of buy one, get the second for $1.00, it was a deal we couldn't pass up. We met locals and tourists from all over and had a great time. Bar Bar was another bar we visited on our last night. Met some nice people who told us about other fun places to go.

 Lulu’s Chocolate Bar was another place with a good happy hour and desserts. We find comfort in most places we visit and Lulu’s had a more hipster vibe and the staff was really kind and helpful. 

We had our share of sweet martinis, but once again, I couldn’t resist the Manhattan. They participated in the same Manhattan contest as our hotel bar and finished 10th. With the addition of St. Germain, it was a much sweeter drink, but still delicious.

Goose Feathers Café was a very short walk from our hotel. Since I’m not much of a breakfast food lover, I ordered the The Chippewa (veggie cream cheese, cucumbers, red peppers and sprouts on a bagel) during both visits. Steve was pretty envious and ended up with the same sandwich on our second visit.

 We usually try to avoid chain restaurants while on vacation, but on Sunday night we wanted to watch the All-Star Game and share something fairly small. Wild Wing Café is a place we've visited in Charleston, Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach. Their wings are always good and it was a good option along with a side salad.

 Café Gelatohhh! Was a place I dragged Steve into on our last day. Every day we would walk by and I would see the list of flavors and finally ended up with my staple. Pistachio. Light and refreshing!

 The Lady & Sons is Paula Deen’s famous restaurant in Savannah. It was right around the corner from our hotel, but with mostly buffet options, it wasn't something that we were interested in entertaining. Eventually, we decided to make a short visit for a peach mint julep, served with a hoecake and biscuit. Luckily we had low expectations, so we weren't disappointed.

 The Distillary was a little off the beaten path, which means it was more like a 15 minute walk from our hotel. It ended up being one of our favorite places. 


The beer selection was outstanding and the fried pickles were amazing! Really, they were. We also ate a cheesesteak egg roll, which was as good as it sounds J I ordered a pickle bloody Mary, which was made with pickle vodka. It was good, but took me nearly two hours to drink. Thankfully, they gave us a to-go cup.

Well, that's it! Once again, we both recommend Savannah to everyone. We'd love to go back sometime soon, but there are so many cities we want to venture and explore. I'm glad to be back on the travel and blogging bandwagon as these Cleveland winters can be quite depressing. The great news is that we have lots of travel ahead of us including Atlanta, Georgia for the Final Four in April, South Carolina in May, then our long-awaiting trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico in July. 

Until next time...Have fun and PIBE and SHIG!

No comments: