Positive responses to our May/June Epicures issue have been pouring in, so we asked blogger and contributor Hannah Hayes to delve deeper into the question—is Savannah a food city?
Savannah doesn’t have a fleet of food trucks dispensing kimchi quesadillas or Jamaican jerk chicken sandwiches. And, it’s true a liquid nitrogen-chilled margarita is hard to come by in this town. But, it is in my opinion that James Beard Awards and Michelin Stars do not a food city make.
According to John T. Edge, founder of the Southern Foodways Alliance and the leading voice of Southern food writing, for a place to call itself a restaurant town, it has to meet two criteria:
First off, a great restaurant town “boasts eating places, where, during time spent at the table, diners bridge…the chasms of class and race that segregate citizens.”
It’s at many of my favorite places to eat in Savannah I feel that comradery. I feel it shucking oysters with bent butter knives alongside teachers, football players and drifters at Charlie Teeple’s on Thursday nights.
I feel it sitting at the bar with a Bell’s and an El Jefe at Green Truck Pub. I feel it at Ma Randy’s when I’m inhaling a meat ‘n’ three.
Secondly, according to Mr. Edge, a good restaurant town will “claim a core of old-guard restaurants, worthy of devoted patronage.”
But a great restaurant town “excels at the fringes too… at restaurants off the so-called row.”
But it’s not just about restaurants; it’s really about the people.
Like PERC’s Philip Brown, who is singlehandedly changing how Savannahians drink coffee, and Kristin Russell, who not only brought a farmer’s market to downtown, but also made it accessible.
From the folks selling peaches out of a Ford Ranger in a parking lot on Montgomery Crossroad and Paula Deen’s country cookin’ empire, to the shrimpers out on Wilmington Island and Claude, Brian and Jimmy at FORM—people here are passionate about food. And let’s not forget everyone’s cast iron skillet-wielding grandma.
We’re a city of good eaters, but also good farmers, bakers, chefs, bartenders, fishers, fry cooks, prep cooks, sommeliers, crabbers, cheese mongers, butchers, pasta makers, cookbook authors, food photographers, baristas and home brewers (just to name a few).
So is Savannah a food city? Hell yes, y’all.
Taste for yourself. Find our web-exclusive recipe from the Culinary Institute of Savannah HERE >>
Although Hannah Hayes was born and raised in the Midwest, she is quick to claim her mama’s roots in Mississippi and Tennessee to explain her obsessions with cornbread, cast-iron skillets, coconut cake and Dolly Parton. Hannah is a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and the Oxford American’s first Summit for Ambitious Writers. She earned serious street cred when she took on Anthony Bourdain in print, after he said something mean about her father. A graduate student at SCAD, Hannah really needs to stop reading cookbooks and finish her thesis.