“The Hostess City” is an apt nickname for Savannah, where Paula Deen and Sema Wilkes stirred the city’s (and nation’s) appetite for home-style fare. To get a sense of the destination, let the best Southern food in Savannah guide you.
404 Abercorn St.
This longtime business is nondescript from the outside but has had a loyal following since the early 20th century. (It also features in John Berendt’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”) Though only open through late afternoon, the restaurant serves breakfast all day. Best bets are eggs Benedict, country-fried steak served with eggs or the legendary corned beef hash. If you have any room, try a malted milk shake from the soda fountain.
The Lady & Sons
102 W. Congress St.
Buttery and fried Southern specialties—Paula Deen’s involved, after all—lure customers from all around to the city of Savannah. A buffet offers fried chicken, ribs and a medley of vegetables. If you prefer to order off the menu, for a small fee you can add a piece of the restaurant’s celebrated fried chicken to any entrée, such as the shrimp and grits. You also can order a vegetable plate with rice as a healthful vegetarian option.
Mansion on Forsyth Park
700 Drayton St.
This historic hotel serves up serious foodie experiences, both at 700 Drayton and the 700 Kitchen Cooking School by Kessler. Why not take a class? If you come on a select Saturday, for instance, you can explore the area’s fresh produce with a trip to the local farmers market to buy and then prepare the ingredients. Other classes have included regional cuisine, including Lowcountry favorites. Book in advance to ensure space is available.
Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room
107 W. Jones St.
Plates filled with macaroni and cheese, fresh green beans, collards, meatloaf and juicy fried chicken—among a long list of other hearty Southern dishes—get passed around at this renowned family-style restaurant, which only serves lunch. The former boardinghouse took off in popularity after Sema Wilkes took over as proprietor in the 1940s. Be aware that neither credit cards nor reservations are accepted here. Therefore, come early with enough cash for a seat at one of the three communal tables (and prepare to make friends).
The Olde Pink House
23 Abercorn St.
Eat fine Southern cuisine at this former mansion-turned-restaurant in the Savannah historic district. Find everything from time-honored standards, such as fried chicken smothered with mushroom gravy, to Southern sushi—aka traditional shrimp and grits with a twist—smoked and wrapped in coconut-crusted nori. The desserts, such as the praline basket, are as lovely as the restaurant’s décor. If the weather’s nice, consider eating outside.