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Mom and Pop Savannah: Top Spots in Savannah Tourism

Savannah dining Mrs. Wilkes House | Photo (c) 2012 Sandy Traub

Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room

Check out Savannah’s local scenery, beginning with hunting down the local mom and pop’s small lodging, shops, and cafes.  We think you’ll enjoy better conversations and learn some of Savannah’s close-to-the-vest best recommendations!

A Mom and Pop business in Savannah is sometimes just mom, sometimes couples, sometimes multiple generations,  sometimes two guys, or two gals!   Our point is to introduce you to some of the beloved people and their little places.

To do this we paused recently for a few minutes to run down some of our own favorite small Savannah places. We amazed ourselves to realize just how many of the legendary little Savannah spots there are with stellar reputations.  It goes without saying, we are happy to add Green Palm Inn among Savannah’s favored places.  TripAdvisor.com will verify that our little historic inn (circa 1897) deserves to be mentioned with the beloved  company that we have selected for this blog post.

Leopold’s Ice Cream – Today Stratton and Mary Leopold carry on the tradition of Leopold’s Ice Cream, founded in 1919 by three immigrant brothers from Greece: George, Peter, and Basil Leopold.  Leopold’s is one of those “must go” Savannah places, attested to when named #5 on The Toronto Sun’s list of “10 Best Ice Cream Shops in the World“.

Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room is now run by Ryon Thompson and Marcia and Ronnie Thompson, Mrs. Selma Wilkes’ posterity who bring home style  cooking, southern goodness, and the same boarding-house-reach at 8- and 10-seat tables.  There’s no pretentiousness here, but it’s easy to discover: this 2-room restaurant reigns as the most sought out lunch spot in Savannah — even by U. S. President Barack Obama who dined at Mrs. Wilkes with Savannah’s mayor during his 2010 trip to Savannah.

Wiley’s Championship BBQ – Janet and Wiley McCrary retired to Savannah, first catering before opening their popular-from-the-start  barbecue joint.  Wiley’s is top of the heap in annual “Best of” BBQ awards at National Barbecue News to local polls.

Russo’s Seafood is a fish-market-family of fishmongers who also serve dine-in or take out local seafood now.  This mid-town restaurant is too often overlooked.  Even in the rain, it’s delightful to dine on the porch, but there is inside comfortable seating too with plenty of beer-barrel-style tables.

Wall’s BBQ (open Friday & Saturday only) is sought out for it simple, home cooked southern food, and it  is right around the corner from Green Palm Inn.  We’ll remove the suspense now. You do have to search to find it on York Lane, between Price and Houston streets. Remember: the cafe entrance is on the lane!

Back in the Day Bakery is a retro bakery-on-the-corner kind of place with artisan breads, desserts, sandwiches, and 1950’s style decor. Proprietors Cheryl and Griffin Day have a new cookbook that we hear is selling out repeatedly.

Lulu’s Chocolate Bar is the creative genius of two local, creative gals!  All the right ingredients for chicness with martinis and dessert wines to complement chocolate desserts made from scratch right on premise.

Alligator Soul is the colonial warehouse upturned to fine dining restaurant by Maureen Craig and her late husband, Hilary.  Today Executive Chef Christopher DiNello and Maureen reinvent new menus nightly, literally, based on the freshest local produce and day boat fish. From vegetarian fare to the restaurant’s famous Hilbo Steak to spectacular desserts, we can heartily praise every dish we’ve tried there. A full premium bar hosts happy hour, plus small plates beginning at 5:00 p.m., 7 days a week.

Savannah Bee Company’s founder Ted Dennard was first introduced to honey as a 12-year old boy gathering “Swamp Honey” from the White Tupelo tree on his father’s retreat. In Savannah he started at the Oatland Island Wildlife Preserve, where he paid his rent in honey. Retail stores are now on River Street and Broughton Street. Check any chic food or lifestyle magazine and you’re likely to see Savannah Bee honey featured. It’s a hot commodity! Here’s a link to Huffington Post’s recipe, Grilled Peaches with Savannah Bee Honey.

Café Gelatoooh! owner Joel Caplan embraces organics — from the fruits to sugar cane, to milk and nuts. The result: he serves up really delicious, cooling flavors in a really popular spot, right on Ellis Square in the bustling City Market downtown.

E. Shaver booksellers features local books in the window on Madison Square.  Esther Shaver carries on the tradition that she and her late husband Erwin Shaver began in the treasured little book store that has launched books like South by Southeast, written by Walter Cronkite and illustrated by Ray Ellis art. 

The Paris Market and Brocante is the brainchild of owner Paula Danyluk. Paula and her husband, Taras, travel the globe in search of unique items for their “storehouse of treasures” on Broughton Street. Paris Market typically will top magazine features that name go-to spots for shopping in Savannah.

Fire Street Food on Chippewa Square is the fourth restaurant from the owners of Ele Restaurant, Tangerine and The King & I — Sean Thongsiri and Ele Tran.  The Asian style street food is unique and delightful, and the contemporary turquoise, white, and tangerine interiors inviting. But, it may well be the family’s story that gives you the insights into this couple’s story of how hard work has paid off.  “ Sean developed his culinary expertise humbly by cooking alongside his mother and grandmother in Vientiane, Laos,” their web site reports.   He told us that his father had been a cook for the American forces during the Vietnam war. After his dad was held imprisoned by the Communists for five years straight, then off and on through ten years.  It became obvious there would be no peace, so the family chose to move to America.  Ele Tran was born in Saigon, Vietnam and comes from a long line of entrepreneurs. Her parents own Saigon in downtown Savannah.

What is the net effect?  We think families add that very personal, special touch that endears tourists to visit Savannah again and again.  We are interested to know what you think.   Please, come visit soon and often.

Diane McCray, Innkeeper & Foodie
Green Palm Inn
Cozy and historic bed and breakfast
548 East President Street, Savannah, GA USA 31401
Telephone 912-447-8901 / Toll Free USA & Canada 888-606-9510 greenpalminn.com | Twitter @GreenPalmInn | Facebook
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Copyright (c) 2012 Sandy Traub/Green Palm Inn.

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