Every time, and really, it’s never often enough, that I escape the ankle-deep slush and relentless face-paralyzing gusts of wind that New York City is so fond of thrusting at us for warmer climates, I’m always bewildered when I arrive. Wait, it is spring here? It’s usually like this? Did the weatherman just say to take out your winter coat because it’s going to be 50 today? And then, there’s always the great undressing, so much less exciting than it sounds unless you were me on Saturday, stepping outside without a sweater, tights, tall boots, scarf, hat, gloves and thick down jacket for the first time in months, light as a feather, happy as a clam, albeit with the skin cast of someone who had just crawled out from under a rock. Ah sunshine. How we’ve missed thee.


Savannah and Charleston were as pretty as could be. We spent from Saturday through Monday afternoon in Savannah, and until Tuesday afternoon in Charleston. It didn’t give us time to do “everything” but we felt like it was more than enough. We’re not big on guided tours or museums —troglodytes, indeed—we just want to wander. In Savannah, we walked through all 24 squares on Sunday, and I took a picture of a leaf, flower, path, sculpture or fountain in each one and in Charleston, we walked up and down the river and wandered through the old, pastel-painted neighborhood. 177 pictures later, I need a nap, but that has more to do with the unplanned Orlando leg of our trip home than the torture of sifting through sparkly, leafy pictures.


The Good:

  • The Mansion on Forsyth Park, our hotel in Savannah, and boy, does Alex know how to pick ’em. Every angle, wall, detail on every floor was stunning, like a boutique. I loved the geometric chandeliers with cascading beads as much as our goofy convex mirror and garish white headboard. Did I mention they have cooking classes there? Sigh.
  • Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room in Savannah, where we had lunch on Sunday. I at first shuddered at the line outside, certain that any place with a cluster of tourists outside couldn’t have anything worthwhile inside, but the food erased all of my doubts. We sat at an 8-top with a group from Minnesota, where the snow apparently reaches the tops of their windows, and all agreed that while the fried chicken was phenomenal, the pork cooked in barbeque sauce stole the show. The waitresses’ t-shirts read “if the Colonel made fried chicken this good, they’d call him the General.” Lunch was $15 per person.

crab-crusted red snapper

  • 700 Drayton, the restaurant in the Mansion on Forsyth Park. Phenomenal food, from my chicken on grits with a glorious mess of saucy vegetables to Alex’s crab-encrusted red snapper on top of sweet potatoes, with the kind of details that smack of a chef who really relishes his work. In addition, I would like to redecorate our apartment to match the restaurant’s decor.
  • The Peninsula Grill in Charleston. I was certain that we’d had the best meal of our trip at 700 Drayton, until I had the duck breast that you could cut with the side of your fork at this restaurant. I feel that to get down the rest of this meal in words, silly words, would cheapen it. Suffice it to say, this place could give a good chunk of the better NYC restaurants a run for their Michelin stars, and I wish it would.


spicy savannah rice with seafood

The Eh:

  • Alex won’t agree with me, because his red rice with sausage and mixed seafood was apparently phenomenal, but I though Elizabeth’s in Savannah was hideously overrated. I can’t even think about my pork tenderloin with blue cheese sauce on top of sauteed cabbage with slices of fresh ginger (why, Elizabeth, why?) without my stomach turning. Our desert tasted like it came from a freezer case and Sandra Lee could have made a better black-eyed pea patty; I’m sorry to be so outright mean about a restaurant some people apparently love, but you’re not the one who bit into nearly raw ginger when eating something as harmless as cabbage. Our wine, however, was perfect and I can’t wait to find it again.


  • The impossible hours and schedules of many places in Savannah. Almost nothing open on Sunday (hence the meal at our hotel’s restaurant, though we have no regrets about this), the bakery closed all weekend and Monday too, another place only open for lunches on weekdays. Finding something to do was like navigating a very complicated map, one not written to serve the reader in any way. New York’s 24/7-thing is very spoiling, I know.
  • I had deleted my original comment here, because I promised I wouldn’t get into what the hotel clerk said about going to a certain place for food because it was in a “neighborhood, you know, a neighborhood place, that mostly serves people in the neighborhood.” Oops, I did it anyway.


The Kick-Ourselves For Not Getting There’s:

  • Tybee Island — We didn’t rent a car until we were en route to Charleston
  • The bar downstairs from the Old Pink House — We were too full on good food and tired from walking all day to get there after dinner on Sunday night.
  • 99 percent of your recommendations in Charleston. Everything looked so good, but we were only there for about 23 hours. Did I thank you? I was overwhelmingly grateful for all those comments. I dutifully noted all of the places you mentions, their addresses and their phone numbers, even when I knew full well we’d have time for two things only.


Alas, we’ve been home less than 24 hours and already gone out for a birthday dinner and missed many hours of sleep, all of which means no new recipes for you! For me! At least not today. I hope to be back in the swing of the things shortly, as I have a blissful Southern-inspired recipe I’m tweaking just for you. I mean, us. Until then, I will do my best to lure that great thaw a few states north.

[Remainder of the vacation pictures over here.]

forsyth park

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48 comments on sav’h

  1. I love the pictures. And I know what you mean about the 24/7 cities. I grew up in Las Vegas and, wow, was it a shock when I moved first to Utah and then to Austin, TX. It’s unbelievable to me that things close at eight. Or for the weekend. What in the world??

  2. Glad you enjoyed your trip! And yes, the weather is almost always like that here. We never experience NYC weather along the coastal regions of NC, SC, and GA. It’s barely been blow freezing here in Wilmington this winter. I personally enjoy the cold, as it usually means no allergens. The trees are starting to bloom here, and so are my nasal passages. Ugh!

    I’m greatly enjoying the pictures! Keep ’em coming. :)

  3. Yay, you’re back! Did you know that I missed you? I did. Anywho, I made the indian dish and B thanks you immensely. Also, I love the fact that your first three posters names start with “J”.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the South, now you just need to come West and take a jaunt to Houston. I’d give you a personalized tour!

  4. Rosanna

    I’m not really sure who the creator of this site is but… can I say I love you?!?! I was just surfing the web as any college student would and came across your wonderful site. From your marvelous photos, exquisite food recipes (which I have yet to tackle), and your humorous blogs, I can absolutely say that I’m Smitten with your Kitchen (site)!!

    -New fan

  5. My hubbo and I took a debris-free vacay last New Year’s (2005-06) from our home on the MS Gulf Coast. It was an impulse trip based on a spot I’d seen about the Mansion on Forsyth Park, where we ended up staying. So needless to say, I’m thrilled to see that you stayed there too. When you called for recs, I almost posted about it but figured at such a late date, you’d already booked your digs and what would be the point in gloating about somewhere you’d not get to experience, but now I can say with a clear conscience, MAN that place is awesome. I’d totally go back and just remain within its four walls for the entire trip. I came home and redecorated my bedroom to resemble our room there. I’m not nuts, I promise. Just surrounded by total destruction on every side of me after the storm and the beauty of that hotel soothed my soul. I just wanted to drink it up every single day. My bedroom was a white box but no longer. I just wish I could buy one of those beds. My homemade version is no comparison. Weren’t they gorgeous?

    Also loved Mrs. Wilkes’. And wandering around the city. We took a totally hokey ghost tour one night, which was fun but cheesily so. We also liked Gryphon Tea Room where we had hot scones and tea. Even the hubbo liked it and it’s totally not his thing.

    I enjoyed your photos very much. We have pictures of that same fountain in Forsyth Park, but mine don’t even compare to yours. I hope I can learn how to wield my new SLR so effectively. Speaking of which, did you venture into the coffee shop at the end of the park called the Sentient Bean? I went there for coffee a couple of mornings before the hubbo awoke because it was way cheaper than the hotel and was also local. Cool SCAD student hangout. I should have posted about it, but I just remembered it. Hope I’m not gloating pointlessly.

    We did not go to Charleston, but loved Savannah so much. The relaxing trip must have been healing because about 9 months later my daughter was born! Ha!

  6. Ping

    Hi, I’m from Singapore, came across your blog by recommendation of a friend. I was in Savannah on holiday last year and liked the quaint little town. Love your photos! Wish I could cook and take photos like you! Am currently looking for some good recipes for pistachios as I have a big bag of them that needs to be used. Do you know of any recipes you’d recommend? Thanks in advance! :)

  7. So nice to have a respite from NYC — I was there last weekend, and the cold/wind were bitter in a way that rural Rhode Island is not (though “technically” it was colder here). Have not been to Savannah and Charleston for many years, since college days. Nice to revisit through your photos and restaurant notes.

  8. Erin

    Hi, I’ve read your blog(s) for quite a while now, but I don’t know if I ever commented. Anyway, I was born in Charleston and lived my whole life in SC until I moved to NC almost 2 years ago. I’m always amused when people discover our blue laws and cultural standards with stores being closed on Sunday and all. I guess I’m just so used to it. Liquor stores in SC (always labeled ABC stores with 3 red dots on the building) close at 7 pm every day, and they aren’t open at all on Sunday. You can’t even buy beer or wine at the grocery store on Sundays. Thus, when I moved to NC, I was thrilled that liquor stores stay open until 9 and you can buy beer and wine on Sundays after noon! In SC, on Sunday they even have to rope off parts of Wal-Marts and Targets to keep the things you are allowed to sell before noon separate from the rest of the merchandise. I think it’s all very silly to hang on to such traditions from so long ago, so I’m sorry you had to miss out on parts of two beautiful cities because of it. I’m glad you enjoyed our weather, though! It was 31 here this morning, and I shivered during the whole drive to work!

  9. I grew up in SC, my sister lives in Charleston, and my best friend lives in Savannah. I, unfortunately, moved North to the horrid winters. The last photo of an azalea flower on the pavement makes me want to cry. March has always been spring and flowers for me, yet I sit inside with snow covering the ground outside. Sob.

  10. Larry

    Hey – welcome back. You were missed. Am ambivalent about your reaction to Elizabeth’s – I totally agree but sorry you wasted a meal. “Hate to say I” – you know the rest!! Not sure who gives it the rave reviews. Glad you liked Mrs. Wilkes – quite a trip, isn’t it? Photos look good as usual. Am planning on a new DSLR and the wife says a new camera won’t get you photos like that – she has something you cannot buy!! Damn!!

  11. Abbey

    I’m so glad you took my suggestion and made it out to Mrs. Wilkes!! I had the same gut reaction as you when I saw the line of tourists, but boy was I happy once I sat down and smelled all the great home cookin’ coming my way. :-) It was definitely a highlight of my trip to Savannah a few years back, and part of the fun is all the people you meet at your table. I actually had the daughter of the original Mrs. Wilkes sit at my table!

  12. Amelia

    Lovely to see you had such a great time. And I’m so, so glad you tried Peninula Grill. And I remember the pain of odd business hours in the south — my favorite restaurant in Atlanta was only open for lunch 4 days a week, so even though I lived down the street I almost never made it.

    However, in my opinion? There is absolutely NO NEED to beat yourself up for missing Tybee Island. While some of the barrier islands are amazingly beautiful — like Cumberland, with the turtles, or Jekyll, which is very empty and has lots of weird crumbling-down buildings just off the beach in some spots (both of which are also a couple of hours further down the coast than Savannah) — Tybee is not one of those. It’s more of a common tourist destination, dirtier, and more crowded than the other islands. So cross that regret off your list!

  13. Definitely good eats in the Low Country. I remember standing at a table near Charleston and eating freshly grilled oysters as quickly as the grill-masters mate could shuck them.

  14. thank you for the virtual vacation in these glorious pictures, and your thoughts on charleston and savannah… it’s been ages since i’ve been to savannah and never to charleston, and they are both so high on my list! thanks for the reviews + recommendations too. hope you’re not too cold up there…

  15. Your pictures look absolutely stunning! Living just a few hours from both historic Savannah and Charleston, your post makes me want to put things aside, and just make a weekend/day trip to these wonderful places!

  16. Sounds like you had a great time. As for everything being closed on Sunday, welcome to small-town-South. We recently went to lovely Oxford, MS, on a Sunday afternoon and found only one of their many wonderful restaurants open. It’s just our way, apparently. That is, unless you want to eat at Chili’s or Taco Bell. And, if you’re like us, you’d just as soon pass on those and eat junk out of your own pantry.

  17. Alan Takeda

    As a new follower of your blog, thank you…for the wonderful articles, the great recipes and, of course, your wonderful pics. Nice holiday, eh?

  18. deb

    Janssen — Indeed. Not exactly a service-oriented city, flooded with conveniences. Ah, well. Next time I’ll avoid the South on a Sunday.

    Jenifer — Aww, I’m glad you liked the dish! Now I did go to Ft. Worth one for a wedding. Everything was so big! An onion ring the size of my head, I swear. But, I’d love to get to Austin, one day, perhaps.

    Rosanna — Thank you.

    Rachel — Oh sweet! Someone else in love with that place. The last time I loved a hotel that much, it was in New Orleans in May of 2005, in a Kimpton hotel I now realize has closed or been sold. That makes me very sad.

    Ping — Haven’t cooked much with pistachios, but you can never go wrong with a brittle, toffee or spiced nut mixture. March 8, 2007

    Tammi — Definitely good for a future weekend trip. We try to get to random cities sometimes, to hold us over for the vacations that we really, really want to take but are huge financial hits. Like Russia. Argentina. Cyprus. Sigh. We’re thinking about hitting the Pacific northwest this summer now, driving down from Portland through Seattle to Cali. Though I’d still rather go to St. Petersburg… I digress!

    Erin — I think it must take a splendid amount of patience to deal with such red tape. As someone who’s day of rest is NOT on Sunday and who would not dare expect the rest of the world to rest on the same day, I find it outrageous. I’m always surprised it’s not questioned more often, and has just become accepted as fact. NYC just recently (2 years ago, I think) allowed stores to sell booze on Sunday, so nobody has an excuse to show up empty-handed to a Sunday dinner party now!

    Larry — We had not intended in any way to go to Elizabeth’s. But when we reviewed our dinner options that were actually open on that night, it was thin pickings. Tapas, Italian and some sort of Asian fusion (I think) sounded like stuff we can get in Manhattan any day. I wanted something more original, and I’d seen a good mention of Elizabeth’s on Chowhound. Ah well. At least 50% of us liked our meal.

    Abbey — Thanks for the suggestion. I lost track of who suggested what, so didn’t know who to thank. It really was adorable, and so humble despite the crowd. The line, btw, moved very quickly.

    Amelia — Good to know about Tybee. Ever the New Yorker, I was confused that there was NO WAY to get there without a car. No shuttle? No ferry? I always forget, too, that in the rest of the country, everyone owns a car. Among our 12 closest friends, there is not a single car.

    kevin — I was bummed we didn’t make it to Hominy Grill! We were going to go for our last lunch, but I just couldn’t take another big meal that day. I needed salad, fresh fruit. We ended up at Fast & Furious (Guilard et Maliclet? I forget the French name). The coffee was fantastic (though can be easily repeated at home), the food, oookay. Did the trick though.

    Jocelyn — Nope, Savannah and Charleston for a long weekend. (We’d completely forgotten about Steve’s thing when we booked it. D’oh!) We’re going to Playa Del Carmen in April. I just couldn’t hold off that long to see the sun.

    Jennifer — Yeah, we shoulda known. Though I do find Paula Deen charming, I had no interest in going to her restaurant. But, with so few options, we tried to check it out on Sunday. Line around the block, only open until 4, no reservations and a buffet to boot! I couldn’t do it. Maybe next time. ;)

  19. darkfoxx

    If you ever get to go to Tybee (and you really should). Stay at the Savannah Beach Inn. Innkeeper Anne and her husband are awesome. I suggest the Marshall Suite. It’s at the top of the house, and it’s relaxing & fabulous. Eat at the Sundae Cafe. (Anne knows where it is). Don’t be fooled by how it looks. Last time we went (sadly, last April), it was in a strip and was obviously a renovated quickee-mart. The tuna steak with the smoothest, most velvety ginger and cinnamoned sweet potato spectacularness made me dance in my seat.
    Vinnie A Go-Go’s is great for pizza in Savannah. Paula Deen’s is vastly overrated. Why oh why did we wait an hour?! I chastised myself for the rest of the trip for buying into the hype. The Pink House was delectable. There was a decent quick sandwich joint above market square, too….

    Thanks for the blog. It’s inspiring. I can’t wait to get back to Savannah.

  20. courtney

    Glad the trip went well. It sounds beautiful. I would like to make it up there sometime. I think our next trip will be back to St. Augustine, which this post reminds me of. Alot of tourists, but also alot of great stuff if you don’t get stuck with them. Plus some really pretty architecture, and the ocean. But I may be a little biased, because that is where we got married.

    If you ever make it to St. Augustine I have a couple of places for you to try (like a $7 crab cake meal that had the best cakes I have EVER tasted!).

  21. We’ve had sunshine in Northern California for the last week, so I feel lucky. Oh, but those amazing pictures have me craving something that the suburbs just cannot provide: TEXTURE! LIFE! Uhm, anything NOT a chain store! So, thank you for the yes “virtual vacation”. And welcome back!

  22. Ah, St. Petersburg – that’s where i was born and grew up – it’s a fantastic city and SO SO painfully beautiful, especially if you travel to the neighboring estates like Peterhoff or Pavlovsk! You should absolutely go – perhaps during June’s white nights when the sun doesn’t set and the weather is accomodating!

  23. Welcome back, Deb, you´ve been missed. Both Charleston and Savannah look dreamy by looking at your pics, which shows the south has a lot to offer after all (I only visited Forth Worth and Tulsa and wasn´t particularly enchanted).
    And don´t think for a second that you can mention Argentina in passing and not have me drive you crazy explaining that it´s not expensive at all (except for the plane ticket that is, which still, must be 600 dollars if you get a good deal), but once you get here, everything is cheap, especially food, and of course, I can help you out to find good hotel deals and great places to eat. So no excuses, missie ;)

  24. Jelena

    So pretty and awesome! Thank you for sharing somewhere I’ll never probably visit. I’m more of Europe type girl. I was in France last year at this time, now I’m in freezing Canada :(
    I feel really jealous that Spring seems to have arrived everywhere but here and New York. It was snowing really badly Friday (it was even a snow day) and Monday. I like winter, but I’m wishing it was over already. Thanks for bringing a little Spring to me!

  25. E

    As Amelia said, don’t worry about missing Tybee Island; I think it must be attractive to only tourists (as is Myrtle Beach). If you ever make it back down here again, check out Cumberland, Jekyll, or even St. Simons. Jekyll has a lot of the historic charm of Savannah because it was once a historic getaway for the wealthy. Cumberland is great–think historic buildings, wild horses, 20 foot dunes…

    I am so used to blue laws and towns practically shutting down that it doesn’t affect me. Living in a college town, I have witnessed students sprinting to the nearest gas station to get beer before midnight on a Saturday! I took my first trip to NYC last year and was so amazed that every store always seemed to be open. I guess the culture shock goes both ways. I’m glad you enjoyed your trip!

  26. oh how lovely to escape the coldness we’re having and go somewhere warm! i haven’t been able to do that this winter. and the horrors of biting into raw ginger!! i absolutely HATE that.

  27. Oh, do come visit Austin! We just moved here a year ago and I LOVE everything about this city. The weather is beautiful, cool buildings, fabulous resturants, and just a generally fun place to be. I promise, you’ll love it.

    And commenting TWICE on one entry is huge for me. Like I might need to go take a nap or something.

  28. Glad you’re back and that you had a great trip. Too little time in Charleston girl!
    There is a great bakery in Savannh, “Back in the Day Bakery”, i hope you went there, Cheryl and Griff are gems. Elizabeth can be a touch and go, agreed. I am glad you enjoyed P. Grill, it is also a touch and go. I guess this is my big issue with my city: lack of consistency. But I guess it is the sameeverywhere.
    Don’t feel bad, today it is cold and rainy.

  29. deb

    Helen — I was DYING to do to Back in the Day Bakery. You have no idea how strong my obsession with old-school bakeries is. (Oh wait, you guys probably do.) Anyway, it’s open Tuesday through Saturday. I learned this on Sunday morning. I almost cried — we could have gone on Saturday! Fine, I did cry that.

    Cruelty of cruelties, today the NYTimes ran a piece on 36 hours in Charleston, which highlighted two more things I regret missing: SNOB and renting bikes. $15 for 3 hours! See, a good thing about not being in NYC!

  30. Shelly

    Deb I’m wondering if you’ve heard of a site called iStock? I’m sure you have with your photo savvy and all. I bet you could make a bit of extra money by selling some of your photos there.

  31. Shelly

    Sheesh, I’m on a roll here today, sorry to take up so much space Deb, but since you mentioned my home town… Seattle… just thought I’d put my two cents worth in. You actually start in Seattle, go through Portland and on to Cali. If you do make the trip, make sure you do it in summer. July is really nice especially a 4th celebration on a beach in Washington. You could hit heaps of rain if you go any earlier. In Seattle make sure you see the Pike Place Market and the “flying fish”. If you have a chance, take the ferry to Bainbridge Island and time permitting, go to Vancouver Island, that way you can say you went to Canada as well.
    The coast road through Oregon is amazingly breathtaking, don’t miss it! And California, you can’t miss the Redwoods, a drive through there on a sunny day would be the best part of the whole trip!

  32. When we lived in North Carolina, we took several road trips to Savannah and Charleston. In fact, we always went to Charleston in April for the flowers. These cities will always be special to me. Thanks for reminding me of them with your beautiful photos.

  33. Bannister

    I live in Savannah, and your review of our fair city is spot on. Since Elizabeth turned the restaurant over to the employees several years ago, it’s been riding on reputation rather than results. Paula Deen probably gets as many tourists as Tybee, but it’s the same stuff kitsched up as my grandmother used to serve on Sundays, but without the poor jokes. We seem to have decided not to have winters anymore and although the plants are confused, everyone else seems happy with it. Next time you visit, you need to experience a low country boil, AKA Frogmore Stew for the South Carolinians, and some real Southern soul food at a place I know of that hasn’t been discovered by the tourists, which I will reveal to you before your next trip. Come back and stay longer.

  34. charlotte

    gorgeous photos!!! these sure capture the lighting and feelings experienced during the beginnings of spring with perfection!

  35. jenniegirl

    Hey! Don’t knock Sandra Lee…yes I know she can’t really cook, likes graham cracker-lined pie crusts too much…but she’s the ONLY famous person from my alma-matter-The University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse!!! :) Some of her cocktails are pretty yummy actually. She learned to drink in Wisconsin. The land of beer.

  36. Hi! For some reason this nine-year-old post showed up in my inbox 16 minutes ago! While it is true that I first experienced good food (for the first time in my life!) in Charleston — I went to boarding school there in 11th and 12th grades — I’m sure that’s not the reason that this post was suddenly magnetically attracted to my email address. (I thought that your webmaster should be alerted, because who knows who’s receiving what!)

    I did read through the entire post. It’s fascinating to see how your blog has evolved over the years! And back then you were childless… so many changes! The one constant: your wonderful photographs.