Savannah’s dramatic history clings to her cobbled streets and centuries-old townhouses like Spanish moss to a live oak. It’s rich and lovely, but also ubiquitous. When you’ve finished your touristy hearse/walking/haunted tour or a curious hour in the Graveface Museum of Oddities, settle into the city and wind your way around like a local — which means walking around with a cocktail in your hand.
Savannah has a contemporary side that blows the dust out of the old smoky bars. Plant Riverside recently opened on the Savannah River. The complex encompasses two different hotels (the rooms are massive), shops, restaurants, and bars. Their Baobab Lounge has a South African menu and wine list. Two different rooftop bars allow for plenty of social distancing and a view of the river. If you leave there with a half-finished go-cup, you won’t have time to drain it on the walk to another rooftop bar. The Alida offers a city and bridge view, while Rocks on the Roof and Cotton Sail gives you the chance to watch the world’s largest container ship slip silently up the river. (Savannah is the home of one of the largest ports on the eastern seaboard.) The Peregrin, perched atop Perry Lane hotel, is a local favorite for its chic coziness and city views.
If, somehow, you manage to forget to eat dinner on your meandering rooftop bar adventure, fortify yourself at what the locals call Fancy Parker’s. From the outside, Parker’s looks like a gas station/convenience store, but from the inside, it is late-night heaven — and busier at 2 a.m. than any other time of day. You can buy anything from fresh hot chicken tenders and egg biscuits to fancy imported wine, and Swiss yogurt or Amish butter. Also, you wouldn’t be the first slightly hungover person to wake up the next morning with new jewelry or an outfit you bought in a late-night Fancy Parker’s shopping spree.
For years, Savannah’s highlight list was topped off with Pinkie Master’s, fried chicken, and the movie version of the book Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil. Definitely stop into Pinkies for a go-drink. Also, watch the movie. But now, Savannah has more bona fides, including her own James Beard-award winning chef: Mashama Bailey at The Grey. If you can’t swing a reservation, never fear, her sister ship, the Grey Market, is only a few blocks away. Both serve low-country fare with a contemporary twist.
Savannah has a surprising niche in the film industry. At any given time, there is an overlap of movies and shows being shot downtown. Disney’s live-action Lady and the Tramp offers a charming street-level view of the city.
Savannah College of Art and Design has buildings all over town and gives the city a quirky edge. ShopSCAD showcases the best of student, faculty, and alum art. Location Gallery always has a curated collection of the best not-at-all-boring local art.
If you really want to hang like a Savannahian, you don’t even need to head downtown. Start with a coffee at Collins Quarter in Forsyth Park or Foxy Loxy, then move on to a libation from The Legion. A walk south on Bull Street will take you past Bull Street Taco (the cauliflower taco: OMG) towards the Starland District. This is where you’ll find the cool kids who can’t be bothered with dealing with downtown traffic and parking. If you’re lucky, you may find a few treats still available at Back in the Day Bakery, run by James Beard darling Cheryl Day. Don’t leave without the lavender shortbread and one of her best-selling cookbooks.
You can while away a lovely afternoon or evening at Starland Yard, an open-air bar constructed of old shipping containers. They host a selection of food trucks as well as in-house pizza. Get your fish and chips on from the Pie Society truck, or plant-based deliciousness from the Farm Bluffton truck.
Whether you’re visiting for a weekend or an extended yard period, you’ll find someplace to make Savannah feel like it’s your very own.
This article originally ran in the December 2020 issue of Dockwalk.