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Just had a few meals in Savannah, May 1-2, 2012

We just spent a few days in Savannah. As a tourist, I should be careful to not speak too disparagingly of my kind, but we went in and then out of quite a few places that seemed really focussed on the tourist market - repeat business not so much of a consideration, a lot of "fresh from the freezer" fare, etc.The scenic riverfront area seemed to specialise in this. My spouse and I were also struck by the average tourist age - seemed a lot older than we had expected, so maybe patrons are seeking more familiar cuisine? That said, we did find a couple of places worth writing about.
Mrs. Wilkes (West Jones St, near Mercer-Williams House) was very good on 1 May. If you haven't been there or read about it, it's communal boarding house dining. You'll likely have to wait in line. Everyone at our table was from (far) away, and I suspect that other tables were similar. It's a tourist trap, plain and simple. But the food was very good, old-school Southern. It's heavy, it's not trendy, and it's far from fine dining, but it's good. The biscuits, the collard greens, and the chicken were highlights, but nothing was bad (except the syrupy-sweet "sweet tea" - same as everywhere else that serves it, I expect). If I'm in Savannah again, I'll return.
That evening, we drove out of town 5-10 minutes to a strip mall to hit Wiley's BBQ. Well worth the trip. This was a local scene. Our server knew everyone else in the place. She told us to get the fried pickles. I hesitated; she insisted; she was right. Surprisingly good. The pulled pork and the ribs were right on. Skip the frozen fries in favour of the beans and rice or potato salad.
The surprise for the trip was Alure on West Congress, next to the bigger, busier Garibaldi's operation, where the hostess wasn't sure if they'd still take walk-ins. It was a meal that a foodie could appreciate. It's been open for a month and a half now. It hasn't generated enough reviews to rank above #200 on TripAdvisor (it had two reviews when I checked, both Excellent ratings), the tour buses haven't found it yet, and hotel desk clerks aren't yet sending people there. You can still go and enjoy a very fine meal without waiting in line. It specialises in fish and mostly operates on a 100-mile menu, though not fanatically so. I wanted steak and that's what I ordered...I know... in a fish place. And yet it was excellent. My spouse had grounder on grits, and it was better than mine. While I think the servers were still getting into the groove, the service was very good too. If you want a meal that's very fine and that reflects the local area, and if the absence of an attached celebrity chef gift shop isn’t a problem for you, you may enjoy Alure too. I would be curious to hear if others have this kind of experience or if it was atypically good the night we came across it.
One other meal worth mentioning in case anyone arrives in town late, as we did. The kitchen at AVIA is open late - until 11p.m. most nights. It was better than expected. Surely much better than the pub options that are the only other alternatives on the late side. They also have surprisingly fine scotch by the glass too, for those with $70 to drop on a wee dram. I didn't partake myself.

May 02, 2012
dretson in Southeast