Food tours are a great way to get to know the culture, history, and flavors of the South, as I previously learned in Charleston. Savannah, located on the coast of Georgia, is another city best experienced through its cuisine. Savannah Taste Experience offers two tours of the city, each offering a sampling of some of the best restaurants around.
I took The Famous and Secret East Side Food Tour, which visited more local favorites than the First Squares tour, which focuses primarily on River Street and the tourism corridor. Both tours are walking tours and provide enough food for a very full meal, so you don’t have to worry about getting hungry. Tours cost $45.95 for First Squares and $54.95 for East Side for adults.
Savannah Taste Experience allows visitors a behind-the-scenes look at restaurants, offering bites not found on the menu or access to places before they’re open to the public. You’ll also receive discounts for local restaurants you want to go back to and recommendations for other places to eat during your stay.
The Pirate’s House
The tour meets at The Pirates House, which is an old tavern and boarding house that once hosted writer Robert Louis Stevenson while he was writing Treasure Island. The 1753 restaurant sprawls across fifteen dining rooms over multiple houses and almost an entire block. It’s a popular restaurant for visitors, especially the buffet, which includes all your Southern favorites.
We started the morning off right with a cocktail known as “Country’s Tea,” made by resident bartender Country, which includes Absolut Tea, peach schnapps, sour mix, and Coke. Then we were brought a platter of fried chicken with a honey pecan glaze, which was the perfect mix of sweet, salty and crunchy. I wasn’t ladylike in eating it, digging in with my fingers and licking them clean.
Our guide showed us the alleyways that break up the main thoroughfares in Savannah, including East York Lane, where Wall’s Bar-B-Que resides. This institution has been family owned since 1963. The restaurant only has four or five tables, but they’re almost always full.
Here we had the main attraction, the barbecue sandwich, which has a sauce that blurs the line between mustard and vinegar. I’m told the macaroni and cheese and collard greens are also worth a trip to Walls. Their hours are Thursday to Saturday from 11 am to 9 pm, so you’ll have to plan accordingly to get your fix.
17Hundred90 Inn and Restaurant
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this stop, as it seemed like a more upscale bed and breakfast, but 17Hundred90 Restaurant is a historic inn and tavern. The allegedly haunted spot, where the ghost of a child roams room 204, is a favorite of regulars in search of a stiff drink and a well-cooked steak. Menu items like oysters Rockefeller, crab cakes and filet mignon make it a popular spot.
Here we dined on salmon crostini, a delicious bite that is not found on the regular menu. They were the perfect palate cleanser after some heavier dishes. Our guide told us that some regulars are here so often the bartenders won’t let you sit in their barstools.
Fire Street Food
While you might not think of Savannah as a place for authentic Asian cuisine, you’d be mistaken. Fire Street Food is just one of seven restaurants owned by the Ele and the Chef group, each of which puts a different spin on the regional fare. Fire is known for its large portions and reasonable prices, making it a favorite haunt of local students.
We snacked on curried shrimp skewers, which packed a lot of flavor into a small item. The shrimp were interspersed with carrots, peppers, and onions. Other menu items include sushi, sandwiches and street food favorites like curry and pad thai.
You’ll know Zunzi’s Take Out from the South African flag flowing above the takeaway joint, which has outdoor seating only. It’s not uncommon for it to have a line down the block and people hovering for a seat under the umbrellas. If you don’t snag one, take your food to enjoy in the nearby squares.
While their entire menu has delicious options, it’s the Conquistador sandwich that brought us by. The behemoth is a baked chicken breast with lettuce and tomato on French bread, topped with their secret Special Sauce for extra zing. Don’t ask what’s in the sauce because they won’t tell!
Savannah’s Candy Kitchen
The sweet shop known as Savannah’s Candy Kitchen may now be found throughout the South, but it’s the River Street locale that started it all back in the 1980s. The family-run company makes pralines, which are made from nuts, usually pecans, and a sugar syrup.
We were handed pralines, hot off the pan, and those who didn’t eat dairy were given an alternative of popcorn. There’s always a crowd in the store, which also sells candied apples, glazed pecans and cakes. Savannah’s Candy Kitchen also offers old school favorites like taffy, rock candy, Swedish Fish and licorice.
This tour was hosted by Savannah Taste Experience but all opinions are my own.