When you arrive in Savannah, Georgia, it is impossible to ignore its unique Southern Charm. It is a steamy, hot, quirky and dreamy little city with an abundance of personality and beauty. While it may be easy to stereotype certain aspects of Savannah and its “southern-ness”, the City itself is in a league of its own. There is a specific strangeness that fills the streets and adds a tremendous amount of character, always keeping it interesting.
Savannah is a drinking town, an eating town, and a relaxing town. Everything is slow and thoughtful. And thanks to the Savannah College of Art & Design (aka: SCAD), the city is truly thriving and growing in the most colorful ways possible. Its overall beauty and charm will leave you feeling breathless and the feel-good nature of the people there will leave you feeling, well, kind of hopeful.
–Sarah Cunningham, Small Kitchen College Contributing Writer
Best for ‘Feel Good’ Shopping
The Paris Market & Brocante
36 West Broughton Street
How does one even begin to describe this perfect place? As soon as you step into the Paris Market & Brocante, an overwhelming sense of beauty and whimsy washes over all of your senses. The scents that fill the air could be coming from one of their many perfectly aromatic candles, or perhaps it’s from the buckets of lavender found throughout the store. The main floor is filled with exotic and unique gift items, stationery, baby clothing & accessories, delicate vintage inspired jewelry, and amazing coffee table books. Downstairs is where shoppers can find truly one of a kind home décor items and furniture or sift through old black and white photographs. Don’t forget to wander over to their tiny refreshment station located in the right hand side of the top floor which is reminiscent of an old time French patisserie. Here you can purchase a variety of different pastries, sweets and drinks. My personal favorite is the lavender iced tea.
Best Southern BBQ
21 West Oglethorpe Lane
Savannah may be a small city, but there is certainly a lot of competition to be the best BBQ joint. Savannahians take this very seriously and everyone has an opinion about which is the Best. Is there a true winner? That’s up for debate. Angel’s BBQ, however, is absolutely amazing. As a born & raised Jersey girl, I would not have known good southern BBQ if it had hit me in the face. Two years of living in the South has changed all that. Angel’s is some good BBQ. Their menu has variety but it still sticks to the basics of Southern BBQ that everyone knows and loves: pulled pork/chicken sandwiches, mac and cheese, and collard greens. However, Angel’s kicks it up a notch with their signature flavors even offering vegan options for their customers. From their secretive alleyway location to their extremely friendly service, one trip to Angel’s and you will be hooked.
Best Go-To-For-Everything Store
Parker’s Urban Gourmet
222 Drayton Street
Explaining the magic of Parker’s Urban Gourmet is difficult at best. There is just so much that goes into it! Located in a renovated old downtown gas station, Parker’s is the ultimate place to go to for basically everything. Now, there are Parker’s located all around Georgia and they are simply gas stations. No frills. Sure they have excellent coffee but normally, your typical Parker’s is nothing to write home about. But fancy Parker’s? Well, that is certainly something to write home about. The difference between the two is immense. Fancy Parker’s can offer you gourmet food, dessert, drinks, beautiful gifts, and stationery at all hours of the day (because who doesn’t need gifts at 2am?). It is a place that I (and everyone I know) go to numerous times a day. With their delicious homemade lemonade with huge chunks of pineapple & strawberry or their breakfast that begins at 3am, Parker’s will become your new favorite place.
Best Cheesy Beach Fun Place
Tybee Island, GA
People visiting downtown Savannah for more than five or six days may likely run out of things to do since it’s a relatively small area. This is where Tybee Island comes in to the story. Hop in a car, drive just 30 minutes and find yourself in a little beach community geared towards families and locals. While there are various restaurants and bars found on Tybee, it’s mostly known for its beaches where people come to escape Savannah when temperatures reach a boiling point. It’s good ol’ fashioned beach fun. Grab your beach chair, relax, and obviously be sure to get to the boardwalk to pick up an airbrushed t-shirt with your name on it.
Best French Food in The South
218 West Broughton Street
Walking down Broughton Street (the main shopping/restaurant street in downtown Savannah) can get mundane after a while, but there are certain spots along the street that make every visit completely worth it. Papillote is one of those places. Started in 2007 by a French chef and his American chef wife, Papilotte delivers the ultimate express French cuisine. Whether you’re stepping in for some delicious macarons, brownies topped with gold leaf, or their absolutely decadent croque monsieur, your taste buds will be screaming “merci beaucoup”!
The Conquistador at Zunzis
108 East York Street
If you ask anyone living in Savannah “Where can I find a great sandwich?” 9 times out of 10 you will be directed to Zunzi’s. When you first walk in, it’s immediately obvious how tiny and almost inconvenient the space is. There is almost always a crowd, a long line, and it can be quite difficult to breathe your own air. Once the aroma of all of the different flavors cooking hits your senses, it becomes clear why this place is the way it is. Sure, it is small. Sure, it is almost always a hassle going there. However, it is so worth it. The menu is inspired by Zunzi’s owners’ who are of Swiss, Italian, South African and Dutch background. The must have item from Zunzi’s is the Conquistador Sandwich which is flavorful baked chicken, lettuce, tomato and special sauce served on their homemade French bread. Whatever is in that special sauce just completes the sandwich and it is absolutely perfect when paired with Zunzi’s very own South African iced tea.
Best Touristy Decision
Old Town Trolley Tour
In a town like Savannah, there are many tourists roaming around every month of the year. The best time of year to go is from late October through April. The weather is crisp and perfect while other parts of the country are covered in snow. Savannah is an excellent walking town so it is easy to wander around and spot all of the historical favorites as you go. You can even carry around a beer as you walk, which is a major plus. The one thing that I recommend to everyone that comes to visit is the trolley tour. There are about three to choose from but I usually recommend Old Town Trolley Tours. It’s an easy, breezy way to get educated on everything that has happened in Savannah with a hop on/hop off as you go option.
Savannah is an interesting town with plenty of eye candy, so it is a good decision to take a trolley around on your first or second day to spot the places you would like to return to.
NOTE: There are numerous Haunted tour options, but really, just pay attention on the trolley tour and they will clue you in on the spooky places. No need to pay $20+ to hear an overly animated person talk about apparent ghost sightings. It’s safe to say all of Savannah is haunted.
Best Place for Haunted Food & Drink
Moon River Brewery
21 West Bay Street
While we’re on the topic of spooky places in Savannah, I am truly convinced that Moon River is authentically haunted. Moon River Brewery is a delicious stop for beer and food with a chilling reputation for housing ghosts. Offering typical bar food options and a very tasty selection of beer, Moon River is a favorite spot of mine. If you visit Savannah or live there, you will hear about Moon River’s paranormal reputation. During my first visit to Moon River, I was sitting across from my mom, explaining how I didn’t believe all of the ghost stories . Right as I was ranting and raving, drips of water fell onto my head. I looked up only to find that there was no hole or any evidence of a leak. The drips finally stopped once I shut my mouth about how I didn’t believe the hype. Coincidence? Who knows! Maybe I’m just turning into a true Savannah crazy person now. Regardless what anyone believes to be true, Moon River Brewery is a fantastic Savannah classic spot that must be visited.
Best New Place for Art
19 East Bay Street
Located in a very popular and almost touristy area, The Butcher is one of the best up-and-coming cutting edge havens for art in Savannah. While it is still new and in a somewhat small space, The Butcher is a tattoo studio, art gallery and shop. Not only can visitors attend art events & fundraisers, there are life drawing classes available and artists can also sell their goods on consignment in the ‘deli case’. As they are in an excellent location, it’s easy to stop in to see what they are up to – which is always something fantastic.
Best Dive Bar
a tie between Pinkie Master’s & The American Legion
It is hard to imagine anything better than hanging out with great friends over a couple of bottles of cold cheap beer in a dimly lit, no frills bar. If you are the type of person that enjoys that scenario much more than a pretentious drinking spot where high heels and loud bad music are encouraged, then Pinkies and the Legion are for you. Both of these spots are different one from the other, but cater to the low-key type of crowd.
Pinkie Master’s (318 Drayton Street) is located in an old building adorned with a large Pabst Blue Ribbon sign above it’s door. Once inside, you’ll get the sense that there is no such thing as time of day or year. Is it 2011? I could have sworn it was 1975. Or maybe it’s 1965? Is that guy over there wearing a “Vote for Reagan” button on his shirt and is serious about it? Those things don’t matter when you are at Pinkies! It is a generous mix of locals that have quite possibly never left the place since it’s heyday (why bother!) and young SCAD students thirsty for PBR and in need of jukebox tunes. One of my fondest memories there was people watching at 3am, witnessing a middle aged drag queen dance to a Madonna song with an older pearl-wearing Southern Belle. Pinkies is just an all around fun place to go to, especially as an end to your night out with friends.
Now, if an even more laid back environment is your thing, head on over to The American Legion (1108 Bull Street) at the south end of Forsyth Park. Nestled safely next to health-food heaven, A Brighter Day, and a coffee house named The Sentient Bean, the American Legion is not your Grandfather’s hang out. Okay, maybe it is. When I tell my family members that I often go there to drink cheap beer and relax, they usually laugh. Yes, the American Legion is a war veteran’s organization. This particular hall was built in 1913. It’s a real old-timey place with an excellent hang-out environment with a decent selection of beer for two bucks. The Legion even has a sassy as hell bartender who will scream at you if you tip her poorly or leave the door to the deck open for more than two seconds. In fact, she scares me so much that I’m afraid to even write about her in fear she will find me and kick me out of my own house. But you know what, people like her are what makes places like the Legion and Pinkies the interesting experiences that they are.
Best Date Spot
606 Abercorn Street
When one thinks of the South, the last thing that usually comes to mind is delicious, authentic Italian food. Well, the South is full of surprises. With its chic and modern exterior and interior, Leoci’s Trattoria is the perfect place to go with someone you love. If sitting inside isn’t your thing, then take a seat outdoors on their cozy deck with strings of white lights hanging above like stars in the sky. Their delicious yet simple Italian-inspired menu includes favorites like wild mushroom risotto, gourmet pizza, handmade pastas and decadent desserts. The must have item on the menu is the Truffle Sacchetti which is a dish of wild mushroom filled pasta paired with a four cheese truffle sauce.
Best Place for Your Sweet Tooth
Back in the Day Bakery
2403 Bull Street
As soon as you step foot into Back in the Day Bakery, you are transported into a precious world that you almost never want to leave. The scent of baked bread and intoxicating sweets take over and it is only natural to want everything that they have to offer. Owners Cheryl and Griff Day are wonderfully successful at creating a delicious spot that instantly makes everyone feel cozy inside. From the bakery’s vintage inspired interior design, to the adorable knick knacks customers can admire while waiting for their food, this place is certainly addictive. If you come in hungry, there is plenty to chose from. Savory dishes like mouthwatering paninis made with ciabatta bread are prepared fresh daily and are always tastebud pleasing. Their famous cupcakes, pies and brownies are absolutely delightful. It is not a trip to Savannah without a stop at Back in the Day bakery.
Best Coffee Shop
234 Bull Street
Now, there is an ongoing debate as to which coffee spot in Savannah is the greatest. The two contenders are The Sentient Bean and my personal favorite, Gallery Espresso. Maybe it’s because that was where I went every day with my best friend while visiting Savannah before I moved there. The cozy atmosphere kept us coming back for more each night of our visit, tasting the to-die-for muffins and pastries and drinking cup after cup of their fantastic coffee blends. Since that first visit, I have been hooked . I walk over to Gallery Espresso almost every day. Falling in love with Savannah means falling in love with its relaxing attitude that encourages everyone who visits to kick back and enjoy life. Gallery Espresso is the perfect place to have a seat, sip some coffee and gather all of your thoughts.
Best Place to Drink and Be Merry
37 Whitaker Street
Like a good pair of shoes or perfect fitting jeans, a favorite drinking spot is hard to come by. Once you find it, don’t let it go. Discovering the type of bar that will be a good time no matter what is difficult. Hangfire Bar is the type of place that is fun on any day at any time. It gets crowded but you are bound to always see someone that you know. The drink mixes are interesting and affordable. The music has good variety and it is absolutely always imperative to go dancing there once Saturday night hits. An all around good place to head to when you are in the mood to drink, stay out late, and have a good time. If you head there, you must promise me that you will order their famous Scorpian Tea which is a concoction made of ginger beer, Crown Royal and another secret ingredient served over ice in a mason jar. It is heavenly. Trust me on it.
Best Place For Post-Bar/After Hours Food
35 Whitaker St
Located right near Congress Street (a street lined with the most popular bars & nightclubs), Sweet Melissa’s is the ultimate drunk person dream come true. What’s better than a gigantic delicious slice of pizza after going out with your friends til the early morning hours? Open 24 hours a day, Sweet Melissa’s is a destination that surely earns its golden reputation after 12am. If you’re heading there at night, beware of the long line and human chaos that erupts once the bars let out. There is a theory that any time a sober person steps foot in there during the day, an angel loses its wings. It’s just not right.
Best Outdoor Place to Relax
Savannah is the type of place that makes you want to become an outdoorsy person. Maybe it’s the romantic trees covered in Spanish moss that drape over your head as you walk down the cobble stone streets. Perhaps it’s even the friendly and quirky characters that you come across even during a five minute walk to grab coffee or the dreamy weather that encompasses the city ten months out of the year. Whatever it may be, when you are in Savannah, you will want to soak up every inch of the city. The perfect outdoor setting to kick back and take it all in would absolutely have to be Forsyth Park. Spanning 30 acres, Forsyth Park is the gathering place for the city. There are walking paths, a children’s play area, a beautiful fragrant garden, huge grassy areas to lay, outdoor concerts and a delicious cafe located near the band shell. You could be having the worst day and one trip to Forsyth Park makes everything feel better.