Food Lovers Are Heading to Savannah and So Should You

The dining scene in this charming Southern city is heating up.

<p>WILL CROOKS</p> The Whole Chicken Dinner at Brochu’s Family Tradition in Savannah’s Starland District


The Whole Chicken Dinner at Brochu’s Family Tradition in Savannah’s Starland District

I arrived at Late Air in the last minutes of a Friday night “apero hour” and ordered a fizzy bianco vermouth-pét nat cocktail and a plate of pickled Georgia shrimp. Next, the bartender poured me a glass of sparkling Chardonnay from Beaujolais to go with a tangle of green beans, peanuts, and crunchy tofu. With its quirky menu and new-to-me bottles, the natural wine bar reminded me of my favorite spots in New York, Mexico City, and Paris. But I was snacking and sipping in Savannah, the Spanish moss-draped town of 150,000 in coastal Georgia.

Growing up, Savannah was the closest thing I had to a big city. I lived 95 country miles away, and every few months, my mom would load us into our minivan and drive to Savannah to shop. We’d eat lunch at Spanky’s, a restaurant that claims to have invented the chicken finger, or at a chain restaurant near the mall. Occasionally, we went downtown for a cheeseburger at the old-school Crystal Beer Parlor. But meals were mostly incidental.

Indeed, no one would have considered Savannah a food destination until a decade ago, things started to change, with investment in the city’s downtown — and with the 2014 arrival of game-changing restaurant The Grey. Mashama Bailey and John O. Morisano opened The Grey in an art deco Greyhound bus station, and ever since the restaurant’s progressive Southern cooking has drawn travelers, locals, national press, and cooks to Savannah. That slow river of transformation became a flood during the pandemic, when Savannah’s less-restrictive COVID policies and warm weather fueled a boom in tourism. Now, the Hostess City can count a destination-worthy restaurant and bar scene to its many charms — contemporary art, historic architecture, oak-lined squares, and liberal open container laws, among them.

<p>COURTESY OF BROCHU’S</p> patio seating at Brochu’s in Savannah, Georgia


patio seating at Brochu’s in Savannah, Georgia

On my most recent visit, in walking distance of Forsyth Park, some of the city’s most picturesque acres, I polished off a bowl of bucatini bolstered with umami-rich sardines and anchovies at Saint Bibiana, a modern Italian restaurant opened by recent transplant Derek Simcik. Down the street, I scoped out Strangebird, a Southern-meets-Mexican barbecue joint inside a renovated Streamliner diner where chefs Daniel “Nilo” Aranza and Felipe Vera engineer a delightfully sloppy birria burger and salsa macha-topped refried butter beans. Strangebird is the latest restaurant from restaurateur Brandon Carter, who has opened three restaurants in Savannah since 2021. The others are Common Thread, a fine-dining spot set in a Victorian mansion, and Wildflower Cafe at the Jepson Center, a contemporary art museum.

Related: Chef Mashama Bailey Is Bringing Dishes Inspired By Her Savannah Restaurant to Delta's First Class Menu

Yes, tourists still line up for pizza slices at Vinnie Van GoGo’s and legendary fried chicken lunches at Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House, but these mainstays don’t offer the town’s only pizza and chicken worth waiting for. At Vittoria Pizzeria, Kyle Jacovino sells blistered Neopolitan-ish pies made with naturally leavened dough; I savored one of his farmers market pizzas topped with merguez bolognese, ramps, and morels. Jacovino arrived in town the same year that The Grey opened, as chef of Hugh Acheson’s short-lived The Florence, and decided to stay. “It’s a cool town. It’s not hyper stressful. It’s affordable to live in and raise a family,” he says.

<p>COURTESY OF VITTORIA PIZZA</p> A bubbly Neapolitan-style tomato pie from Pizzeria Vittoria


A bubbly Neapolitan-style tomato pie from Pizzeria Vittoria

Around the corner, at Brochu’s Family Tradition, I tucked into their whole chicken dinner, a tray packed with fried thighs brined in chamomile tea, charred breast, chicken salad, biscuits and gravy, with housemade sunchoke hot sauce and pickles. Chef Andrew Brochu had originally planned on opening his Southern-inflected concept in Chicago, where he had worked at Alinea and Roister. The pandemic squashed that dream, and he started over in Savannah, where his wife Sophie grew up. “It took COVID to make us say, ‘Let’s go down South and see what’s going on,’” says Brochu. “I found the space here, and we just bought a home.”

Todd Harris, another Chicago transplant, moved to Savannah in 2021 and took over the kitchen at Garage at Victory North, a favorite late-night hangout spot, the following year. “Savannah was attractive because Mashama was here,” he says. At Garage at Victory North, Harris celebrates Southern ingredients, including okra he grows in a backyard garden and collard greens he dresses up into a Caesar salad, and weaves one of the Lowcountry’s most iconic dishes, red rice, into a creamy, must-order risotto.

<p>GABRIELA HERMAN/GALLERY STOCK</p> The iconic fountain in Forsyth Park, just steps from the heart of downtown Savannah


The iconic fountain in Forsyth Park, just steps from the heart of downtown Savannah

The juxtaposition of old and new is what makes Savannah exciting right now for diners — and chefs. The city has always had a wealth of history and culture to share, but now there’s a deeper bench of hospitality talent to tell its stories on the plate.

On my last night in town, a Monday, I popped into Over Yonder, a honky tonk bar and industry hangout. I expected the place to be empty but had to elbow my way to the bar to order a cheeseburger and ranch water. Across the room, I spotted Ryan Landers, the bartender who’d poured my wine at Late Air a few days before. Brandon Carter and his culinary team were there too. We may have shared a few tequila shots. “I love the energy of this city,” said Carter, as we raised our glasses to Savannah.

Where to eat in Savannah

<p>COURTESY OF DOTTIE’S</p> Southern-inspired fare at Dottie's


Southern-inspired fare at Dottie's

Brochu’s Family Tradition

Chef Andrew Brochu traded Michelin trappings for a fun, no-frills restaurant in the artsy Starland District neighborhood. Pull up to the bar at Brochu's for grilled oysters and a piña colada slushie.

The Garage at Victory North

At this bar, restaurant, and late-night hangout in Starland District, start with a classic cocktail, and build a meal around Savannah red rice, oxtail, and buttermilk fried chicken.

Common Thread

At Brandon Carter’s debut Savannah restaurant, Common Thread, you’ll dine in a lovingly restored Victorian home and eat the region’s best produce tucked into okonomiyaki, fermented into kimchi, sidled next to Georgia beef, and drizzled with huancaina sauce.

Strange Bird

Expect to sit next to a sweet tea–sipping local at this Southern-meets-Mexican barbecue joint, where birria burgers, shrimp burritos, and barbacoa tacos reign supreme.

Saint Bibiana

This modern Italian restaurant from chef Derek Simcik, a recent transplant, anchors the new Hotel Bardo. Every dish at Saint Bibiana — even the burrata and the grilled branzino — has nuance and intrigue layered in.


Grab a falafel or sabich pita, and head to Forsyth Park for a picnic, or enjoy a saucy shakshuka at fast-casual Israeli newcomer Shuk.

Pizzeria Vittoria

Kyle Jacovino’s pizzeria anchors the Starland Yard food truck park. Order a beer nearby while you wait for an ideal Margherita or a cheffy market pie.


Former New Yorkers, chefs Christopher Meenan and Ericka Phillips opened this all-day café and market, dedicated to Phillips’ great-grandmother. Stop in Dottie's for a towering shrimp po’boy while shopping on Broughton.

Where to drink in Savannah

<p>PETER FRANK EDWARDS/REDUX</p> The bar at The Grey on a busy night.


The bar at The Grey on a busy night.

Late Air

After living in New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, and Virginia Beach, Madeline Ott and Colin Breland chose Savannah for their natural-wine bar Late Air. The couple has introduced 50 bottles to the state since opening.

Savoy Society

Jane Fishel has owned bars in Savannah since 2012, and her airy downtown spot, Savory Society, touts advanced bartending — there are amaros, infusions, and cheese in cocktails — without attitude.

Over Yonder

You have to walk through Moodright’s, a bar and duckpin bowling alley, to reach this late-night hot spot. Locals love the double-stacked smash burgers and Georgia-brewed Creature Comforts beer at Over Yonder.

Where to stay in Savannah

Perry Lane Hotel

At the intimate, art-filled Perry Lane Hotel, guests are greeted with Cava and can mosey to the first-floor bar, The Wayward, for complimentary happy-hour cocktails. Chef Daniel Herget left a plum post in South Beach to lead the hotel’s restaurant, The Emporium Kitchen and Wine Market. Rooms from $309

JW Marriott Savannah Plant Riverside District

This historic power plant–turned–hotel holds a concert venue and a serious collection of gemstones, geodes, and fossils. Watch cargo ships steer in and out of the city’s busy port while you slurp oysters at District Seafood, one of 11 restaurants and bars on-site. Rooms from $299

Thompson Savannah

Art curated by local gallerist Susan Laney fills the lobby of this hotel near River Street’s eastern edge. From the hotel, you can snag a breakfast sandwich at Stevedore Bakery before strolling along the Savannah River or sipping a culinary cocktail at rooftop Bar Julian. Rooms from $269

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