10 Essential Places to Eat in Savannah
Published Jul 13, 2017
Finding good places to eat in Savannah is easy. Choosing from the many excellent Savannah restaurants is hard.
Locals know the can’t miss restaurants found only in Savannah. The following list is by no means comprehensive, but we’ve put together 10 of the best one-location, non-chain local Savannah restaurants that we know you’ll love.
(In reverse alphabetical order, for fairness…)
(108 E York St Mon-Sat 11am-9pm Sun Closed)
Johnny DeBeer founded Zunzi’s and operates the Savannah landmark with his wife Gabriella. Locals and tourists line up in droves everyday to eat at this restaurant in the Historic District.
Featuring flavors combining South African, Swiss, Dutch, and Italian influences, the menu is unique and diverse.
THE BEST SANDWICH IN AMERICA
Zunzi’s Chicken Conquistador was named the “Best Sandwich in the South” according to The Travel Channel, and one of the Top 3 Sandwiches in the Nation by Adam Richman.
The Conquistador is a marinated, baked chicken breast on french bread, with lettuce, tomato, and two Zunzi secret sauces. Everything on the menu is excellent, so don’t be afraid to try something new.
Vinnie Van Go-Go’s
(317 W Bryan St. CASH ONLY! Open until midnight FRI & SAT, 11:30 SUN – THURS)
Started by college friends who wanted a place to drink and hangout, Vinnie’s has become a Savannah landmark.
Selling New York Style “Neapolitan” pizza by the slice or the pie, draught beer, and facing a square, Vinnie’s is where the locals come to eat pizza.
Situated on the outer edge of Savannah City Market, you can sit inside, or on the front porch looking onto Franklin Square.
If you want to check a Savannah Essential off your list without ever leaving your Savannah vacation rental, Vinnie’s will deliver your pizza in the Historic District from River Street to Park Ave!
Vic’s On The River
(26 E Bay St. Open SUN – THURS 11am – 10pm, FRI & SAT 11am – 11pm)
Dine in a 158 year old building with spectacular views and awesome food. The first of Savannah’s fine dining restaurants on our list is Vic’s on the River.
CIVIL WAR HISTORY
Covering 3 floors, and boasting views of the Savannah River, Vic’s occupies a building with historical significance.
Completed in 1859, the building was originally a warehouse, and later the offices of a shipping company. During the Civil War, the space housed some of General Sherman’s officers during his famous “March to the Sea”.
The Union officers used some of the empty offices in the building to rest and plan. Stop by the main dining room of Vic’s on the River, and you’ll find on display a map, hand drawn by General Sherman’s troops.
Discovered in 1901 by a renovation crew, the map records the movement of the troops from Tennessee to Georgia.
SHRIMP & GRITS
Vic’s on the River is famous locally for serving the best shrimp n’ grits.
Truly a southern creation, Wild Georgia Shrimp lays atop smoked cheddar grits with apple-wood bacon. Start with an appetizer of Fried Green Tomatoes, and have a glass of sweet tea. Welcome to Savannah!
The Pirate’s House
(20 E Broad St. Open SUN – THURS 11:00am – 9:30pm, FRI & SAT 11:00am -10:00pm)
No list of Essential Savannah Historic District restaurants would be complete without including the Pirate’s House.
Possibly the oldest building in Georgia, the Pirate’s House was originally the site of what was supposed to be a botanical garden. It was hoped Savannah could grow mulberry trees, and be a major player in producing silk and wines.
In 1734, a small structure was built to house the gardener, locals deemed it the “Herb House”. The structure was added on to over the years, and grew into the building that exists today.
Unfortunately, Savannah’s soil and climate could not grow the mulberry trees, and by 1754, the city had become an important shipping port. The citizens decided to forget the botanical garden and build an inn and tavern to service sailors instead.
The tavern attracted sailors from all over the known world. Pirates became repeat customers, and the business earned a reputation for being a place to avoid.
People began to disappear from the place, and it is possible that they were smuggled out in the night using the underground tunnel system of which the Pirate’s House has an entrance.
The rumors and lore turned into legend, and now the truth is probably lost forever. The history of the building is real, though, and the staff are servers who should be granted tour guide cards!
The Pirate’s House is a pirate themed restaurant featuring 15 separate dining rooms each with a different feel. You can have fresh seafood or steaks, and the restaurant is great for families with kids.
(5 E River St. Open 7 days a week 11am to 10pm)
Located on River Street, Olympia Cafe has THE BEST authentic Greek food in Savannah, period.
Co-owned by Nick Pappas a Greek transplant, who is also the chef, and Vasilis Varlagas, Olympia has been a Savannah staple since 1991.
TRADITIONAL GREEK FOOD
Every item on the menu is prepared in the traditional methods taught to Chef Pappas by his mother many decades ago, and using tricks he learned from friends over his lifetime career. The octopus for example, is made using a secret learned from a fisherman on a small Greek island, that renders it perfectly tender every time.
The attention to detail and the insistence on using traditional methods is evident in the taste of the food at Olympia. The sun dried tomatoes are not dehydrated, they are dried. The hummus is not shipped pre-made in tubs from a food distributor in Atlanta or Jacksonville.
You’ll love the food at Olympia Cafe. You’ll leave as a new friend of Nick, Vasilis, and the crew, who make you feel glad you spent your money with real people and not some corporation.
Savannahnians don’t eat here just once, we eat here our whole lives.
The Olde Pink House
(23 Abercorn St. Open SUN & MON 5pm to 10:30pm, TUES – SAT 11am – 10:30pm)
The Olde Pink House is another Historic District restaurant, and is Essential Savannah fine dining.
Located on Reynolds square in a colonial mansion built in 1771, the building is called the “Pink House” because of the pink stucco covering the old brick.
Originally built for James Habersham Jr, the eldest son of one of Savannah’s most important “founding families”, there are many reports that he never left after his death in 1799. From 1812 to 1865, the mansion became the Planter’s Bank and the First Bank of Georgia.
The building survived the fire of 1796, and was so beautiful and historic, that it was one of the first buildings in Savannah to be renovated.
Offering one of the most romantic dining experiences in Savannah, locals and tourists alike eat at The Olde Pink House. The food is fantastic and the service impeccable.
Blackened Oysters, Pulled Pork, and Mac and Cheese Poppers make up the Reynolds Square Platter, which is excellent. Or try the Caramelized Vidalia Onion and Sweet Potato Ravioli with Pecan Cream Sauce.
The Olde Pink House Main Dining Room is elegant, and if you’re under-dressed, or looking for something more laid back, dine instead at the Planter’s Tavern, downstairs.
Sitting in the tavern in the cellar of the Olde Pink House, it could be any year your mind wants it to be.
1771? 1871? 1971? Sure. The low lighting, the dark wooden bar and the exposed aged brick walls lend an air of relaxation and sophistication that rubs off on you. Come at the right time, and the piano might be manned by an incredible pianist who claims to be a former roommate of Liberace.
The ambiance is incredible, and the Planter’s Tavern offers the Pink House’s full menu.
The Lady and Sons
(102 W Congress St. SUN – THURS 11:00am – 9:00pm, FRI & SAT 11:00am to 10:00pm)
The food at The Lady and Sons lives up to the hype, in case you were wondering.
FROM BAG LADY TO FAMOUS LADY
Before she was famous, Georgia Native Paula Deen was just a nice lady, and a heck of a southern cook.
Freshly divorced, and with only $200, Paula had to earn a living. When nothing else worked out for her, she started a catering company out of her home called The Bag Lady.
She’d cook and her sons Jamie and Bobby would deliver the food. Soon the operation outgrew her kitchen, and she opened a real restaurant called The Lady on Savannah’s southside in 1991. The business was a success, but the restaurant was located in a Best Western.
In 1996, Paula renamed her business The Lady and Sons, and relocated to Congress Street. She had made it from the kitchen of her modest house, to the owner of a restaurant in Savannah’s Historic District!
In 1997 Mrs. Deen wrote her first cookbook, which she self published.
Things took off for Paula, when USA Today named The Lady and Sons “International Meal of the Year” in 1999. The restaurant moved to the location it occupies today on the Corner of West Congress and Whitaker Street.
She’s been on The Food Network, QVC, and even Oprah. You’ve seen her on the cover of tabloid magazines, and she’s even been spoofed on SNL by Kristen Wiig.
Her status as a celebrity has had it’s ups and downs, but the girl can cook!
The Lady and Sons has a full southern buffet, featuring all the soul food you can eat. Sure most of it is fried, but honestly, when it tastes this good, who cares?
The fried chicken alone is worth walking in the door for, but the sides are every bit as important. Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Macaroni and Cheese, Cheese Grits, Fried Okra…all the comfort foods are on offer. All. You. Can. Eat!
MEET PAULA DEEN
Come for the food and come to see Paula, she is known to pop in at any time.
Paula does book signings at The Lady and Sons from 10am to 12pm on select dates, click here to see the next opportunity.
(109 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Open 7 Days hours vary)
New to the scene in Savannah, The Grey has made a big impact on dining in the Historic District.
Chef Mashama Bailey, who grew up in Savannah, returned home from success at Manhattan’s Prune restaurant to make her mark at home.
Chef Bailey partnered with Johno Morisano in a thorough renovation of the old Greyhound bus station, an art deco building from 1938.
Sit outside under the patio, under the skylight in the main dining area, or at one of The Grey’s two bars.
The old ticket booth has been turned into the kitchen, where all the action is on display.
At the Diner Bar, grab an Ice Cream Float and a Cuban or Smoked Brisket sandwich.
Or for dinner, try an order of Geechie Boy Grits or the Roasted Yardbird.
Check the schedule on their website for “Sunday Supper”, where Chef Bailey prepares multi-course themed meals that are truly next-level for Savannah.
The bar service is extensive, offering modern concoctions such as “Moors Account” (gin, vermouth, pamplemousse, apricot), and vintage cocktails like a “Planter’s Punch” (Jamaican rum, black tea, lime citron).
Seating is limited, and goes fast. Make reservations if you are able.
Elizabeth on 37th
(105 E 37th St. DRESS CODE! Open 7 Days 6:00pm to 9:00 pm)
Elizabeth on 37th is probably the very fanciest fine dining restaurant in Savannah.
Opened in 1981 by Elizabeth & Michael Terry, the restaurant occupies a 1900’s mansion in the Thomas Square neighborhood of Savannah.
The restaurant only serves dinner, so Executive Chef Kelly Yambor and her staff have the entirety of each day to prep locally sourced produce, seafood, and home grown herbs and edible flowers harvested from the garden on site.
If you’re thinking about popping the question, Elizabeth on 37th is the restaurant in Savannah where you might do so. As such, the restaurant does have a relatively strict dress code.
The setting is formal. Gentlemen are to wear coats and ties, ladies should wear a dress or suitable attire (pants are okay for ladies, it IS 2017 after all). Jeans, golf shirts, or shorts of any kind are prohibited. Blazers, ties and khakis are okay.
The menu is seasonal, and the dishes are presented as art. Anything you order will be excellent, but some examples include: Breaded Mussells, Ranch Crusted Pepper Beef Tenderloin, Flounder and Goat Cheese Flan, Scallops with Tuna Tartare, and of course Oysters and Filet Mignon.
AWARDS AND ACCOLADES
Named one of the Top 40 Restaurants in America by Forbes, and in the Top 25 Restaurants in America by Food & Wine Magazine, Elizabeth on 37th is a truly special place.
Yahoo Travel was so impressed with the mansion, the food, and the service, that they named the historic Savannah fine dining restaurant among the Top 10 Dreamy Dining Destinations in America.
The list of awards Chef Yambor and the owners have received is too long to fully report here, but suffice it to say, Savannah locals and the international press all agree: Elizabeth on 37th is truly can’t miss Savannah dining.
Crystal Beer Parlor
(301 W Jones St. Open SUN to THURS 11:00am – 10:00pm FRI & SAT 11:00am – 11:00pm)
Crystal Beer Parlor holds the title of Savannah’s second oldest restaurant, and was the first restaurant in town to start selling alcohol after the end of Prohibition.
The building was built in the early 1900’s and was originally Gerken Family Grocery Store, but was sold to William “Blocko” and Connie Manning in the early 1930’s.
Though the history is murky, it is believed “Blocko” and Manning were selling alcohol illegally and the business was called the “Crystal Palace”. It wasn’t until prohibition was officially repealed on December 5, 1933, that the business was renamed Crystal Beer Parlor.
Not a place for ladies, the Crystal was known as a gambling den, sold cigars, and served the seedier of Savannah’s population.
The “outlaw” attitude still permeates the place today, and it isn’t hard to imagine Savannah’s “gangsters” of the day crowding the polished wooden bar that has survived 80+ years.
Crystal Beer Parlor briefly closed, was auctioned off, and Savannah nearly lost the much beloved restaurant. Perhaps due to the history and great love the people of Savannah showed for the landmark, the new owners decided to reopen about three years later.
Today, you can eat in the original Crystal Beer Parlor, have an awesome hamburger for under ten bucks, and see what is possibly one of the best collections of 20th century Savannah memorabilia in existence.
SAVANNAH DREAM VACATIONS
Hopefully this list of Essential Savannah Historic District Restaurants helps with the difficult decision of where to eat in Savannah.
The decision of where to stay in Savannah is easy.
All of the restaurants on the list above are within several feet to less than one mile of most of the Savannah vacation rentals we offer at Savannah Dream Vacations.
We’re all Savannah locals and we strive to provide accommodations that will make your vacation to our area unique and hassle-free.
Stay in one of our historic vacation rental homes for a truly unique Savannah experience that blows away what you’ll get staying in an overpriced forgettable hotel room.
At Savannah Dream Vacations, your vacation home is part of your Savannah experience, not just a room to drop of your stuff and sleep in.
We can’t wait to show you the difference!
Call us at 912-713-7278, contact us to find out more, or to book your Savannah vacation rental, now!