What’s New in Savannah – Garden & Gun

Born and raised in Savannah, Raskin remembers when part of Abercorn Street, now a main thoroughfare, was a dirt road. when dialing from Tybee Island, fifteen miles away, was a long distance call; and when people dressed up to go downtown. For one thing, not so long ago. On the other, the city is so different now. Unsurprisingly in his work, Raskin is nostalgic for those old days, particularly the 1970s, when he paid roughly the same price for an entire building near Monterey Square as someone could now pay for that mahogany table. .

photo: Chia Chong

Tower of plaster ceilings at Alex Raskin Antiques.

photo: Chia Chong

Alex Raskin, owner and Savannah native.

Although many of the companies he frequented at the time have disappeared, several remain: Levy Jewelers since 1900; Russo’s Seafood Since 1946; Eighty-nine-year-old Crystal Beer Parlor; Bradley Lock and Key, now run by fifth generation locksmith Andrew Bradley; and the mid-century dive Pinkie Masters Lounge, which was nearly closed after a bizarre chain of events that involved a guy named Catfish getting stabbed. (Luckily he survived to tell the tale.) Now it’s called the original Pinkie Masters.

Some great ones have fallen. But where they fall, they leave gaps in the canopy, a chance for new competitors to put down roots.

photo: Chia Chong

Fifth generation locksmith Andrew Bradley.

photo: Chia Chong

Enter the Original Pinkie Masters.

Andrew Jay Ripley and his business partner, Tom Worley, opened tropical-themed bar Lone Wolf in the fast-growing outskirts of Starland in 2018. Their place is down an aisle from the cowboy bar Over Yonder and its partner (same roof, same owner), local dive Moodright’s, Savannah’s go-to for duck bowling since 2019.

Even farther from the bustle of downtown, on Tybee, I’m sitting with friends at Lone Wolf’s sandier, sunnier, and more food-focused sibling, Sea Wolf. Ripley stops by our table and we talk about the infusion of visitors, newcomers and new energy into the city – and the changes that have followed.

photo: Chia Chong

An oyster spread, a loaded hot dog and more at Sea Wolf on Tybee Island.

photo: Chia Chong

Take advantage of the Sea Wolf’s terrace.

While the pandemic has slowed the flow of visitors, over the past decade tourism to Savannah has broken records. In 2019, nearly fifteen million visitors to this city of less than 150,000 people spent more than $3 billion. As in many working-class cities, rents and home values ​​have risen sharply, especially downtown, sending businesses and customers who once lived in the historic district to different neighborhoods.

A good crowd came out today for Sea Wolf on the surf and turf: platters of oysters and Wagyu beef hot dogs in lobster-roll style buns, loaded with chorizo, jalapeño relish and homemade Cheez Whiz. “We wanted to do something local,” Ripley says of the menu and the mentality. “No outside investors. Local anchors. And not pretentious. This local love is a growing trend.

For decades, Savannah has conveyed a certain image: a southern city, charming, romantic and eccentric, like the Savannah we talk about in this book—the one with the photograph of Bonaventure Cemetery on the cover, taken by the late Jack Leigh, a brilliant local photographer who had already gained international fame for his images of shrimp and the Lowcountry landscape. But this new generation expands the history of the city.

photo: Chia Chong

The oak canopy entrance to Wormsloe State Historic Site.

“It’s so important to talk about what Savannah really has it all,” says Susan Laney, who worked with Leigh at her gallery and opened her own, Laney Contemporary, in a beautiful Brutalist building in 2017. She still represents Leigh’s estate, while helping cultivate the career other local artists. “Some things come out about the tougher history here,” she says, “and the culture that goes with it.”

photo: Chia Chong

Work by Betsy Cain at Laney Contemporary.

Some of the city’s most visited historic sites have recently told a fuller story: in late 2018, curators at the 1819 Owens-Thomas House transformed the museum’s cellar and coachhouse into a series of storytelling exhibits that explore the history of slavery in Savannah. . Black-owned guide companies such as Underground Tours of Savannah, founded in 2017, run walking tours of African-American landmarks and champion Gullah Geechee food, culture and history passed down by African descendants.

An emerging wave of store owners are also finding ways to shape Savannah’s story. In 2015, part of a tourism study for the city recommended “elevating” Savannah’s retail offerings with more mega-brand tenants. But the Downtown Design District – a growing swath of boutiques along Whitaker Street – has largely done its own thing.

Rae Haggist mans the counter for Asher + Rye, a sustainability-focused housewares store her daughter and son-in-law opened in 2020. “The owners of this building also have stores on this street,” says she, pointing the way to Circa Lighting and home and clothing store One Fish, Two Fish, two cornerstones of the neighborhood since 1998. the character of the neighborhood.

Down the block, Savannahian Roz Morris moved from New York during the pandemic and opened art and design studio StoneLords, where she sells clothing and jewelry from “brands with a cause.” On Oglethorpe Avenue, tea supplier Wayne Ashford established his Ashford Tea Company in 2018 and offers gourmet teas on infusions like his River Street blend, a blend that pays homage to the city’s port history: black tea, molasses and African pearl salt. “Brotherhood is a lost art in our community,” he says. “What better way to help people engage than by having a cup of tea?”

photo: Chia Chong

Wayne Ashford of Ashford Tea Company.

Nearby, a network of women-owned businesses line Liberty Street: The Book Lady has held the block since 1978, leather goods boutique Satchel since 2006, and in 2019 came cocktail bar Savoy Society, where I spend a Saturday. evening. . The tables on the sidewalk are close together and, as if by magnetic force, a group accumulates as friends pass by. Everyone, including my husband, one of the store owners in the Design District and a friend of a friend who is late for a yoga class next door, sings the praises of the Going Down Proper, the concoction rye, lemon and Savoy orgeat. , and Underberg on the rocks.

When locals support local businesses and business owners support each other, owners enjoy a degree of freedom that makes things interesting. Hartford and I are going to dine at Common Thread, a new restaurant run by chef Brandon Carter. For fans of Carter’s Bluffton, South Carolina, restaurant FARM, including us, the news from Common Thread was exciting, but also nerve-wracking: talented chefs haven’t always had much luck here. An underrated Savannah venture by Athens, GA-based chef Hugh Acheson (opened in 2014) had the terminal arc of a shooting star; a local iteration of Sean Brock’s Husk (opened in 2018) has been a roller coaster.

photo: Chia Chong

Common Thread Executive Sous Chef Victor Solano, Executive Chef Brandon Carter and Executive Chef Joseph Harrison.

photo: Chia Chong

The Agua de Jamaica at Common Thread.

Tonight, every dish is a thrill, including Carter’s off-menu choice: a poetic preparation of deep-fried shipwreck cheese. Carter is a chef who loves fish heads, and why waste a good one? It brings back fond memories of when we first dated, when I insisted that Hartford try a dish of delicately crispy goat’s brains that chef Mashama Bailey was serving one night at Grey’s, which might be the best modern restaurant success story in Savannah. It opened in 2014 in a refurbished mid-century Greyhound station, and its fame has spread everywhere from Netflix Chef’s table at Bailey’s new outpost in Austin, Texas, and he enjoys as much local love and loyalty as outside accolades.

photo: Chia Chong

An inviting corner at Common Thread.

photo: Chia Chong

The restaurant’s amberjack crudo.

Matt Graham, manager of the new Thompson Hotel in the long-awaited Eastern Wharf development in Savannah, on the city’s easternmost beachfront, says the secret to a successful hotel business is its relevance to the residents. Part of a New York-born hotel chain, the Thompson could easily feel like a permanent visitor. But Graham thinks it can be different, the kind of place where neighbors feel welcome. “It’s supposed to be a new neighborhood in an old town,” he says of the location, a blank slate for years before the hotel popped up. He works with Laney Contemporary to organize the lobby.

He also wants it to be a good place to work. When we arrive the next morning for breakfast, we receive a warm welcome from Maurice “Mo” Orr, a beloved Savannah hunter who has worked downtown since 1994. During his tenure at the Kimpton Hotel Brice, he conquered hearts by watching over elderly neighbors. — even helping someone trim ginkgo behind his house, half a block from his valet. When visitors ask Orr for suggestions on where to see the real savannah, he tells them not to miss his favorite churches: First African Baptist Church and St. John’s; and also to spend time at Bonaventure and Laurel Grove cemeteries. “They have stories,” he says. “And the dead don’t lie.”

One day, the heart of Eastern Wharf will be a new plaza, an addition to Savannah’s iconic park grid. But for now, the Fleeting, the hotel’s lobby restaurant, is the seat of the action. Arkansas native chef Rob Newton’s menu embraces seasonality, changing as often as needed to showcase fresh ingredients in dishes like coconut curry striped bass with charred savoy cabbage, local oranges and Carolina Gold rice crisps.

photo: Chia Chong

Chef Rob Newton serves vegetables at the Thompson Hotel’s Fleeting Restaurant.

photo: Chia Chong

Ephemeral cocktails.

“We didn’t want a chief to just come in and plant a flag and say, ‘I’m doing this,'” Graham said. “We wanted someone open to new things, learning, exploring.”

Our server, Justin, hands us menus. “Welcome to Fleeting,” he said, his dark blue nail polish catching the light. “As the name suggests, things are constantly changing.”