There are two things I like to do more than anything. I like to travel and I like to experience regional cuisine. What better way than to kill two birds with one stone in a city that offers food tours?
Recently while visiting Savannah, I embarked on such an adventure through Savannah Taste Experience. They offer several variations and I chose The Famous and the Secret East Side Food Tour. Knowing it was a 2 ½ hour afternoon walking excursion, I rationalized that the tastings planned at six different restaurants would be counterbalanced by the calories that I’d burn walking. The tour was a very relaxed, enjoyable stroll through the East side of Savannah’s historic district and I by no means carried a pace that would shed any amount of poundage. Who was I kidding? Nonetheless, I found the tour to be an optimal way of getting accustomed to the area and listening to historical and anecdotal stories of the homes, gardens and squares around the city.
Our tour guide met us outside The Pirate’s House, established in 1753 close to the Savannah River, it is rumored to be the oldest restaurant in town. There they serve local seafood and other hearty favorites dressed in pirate guise and salty dog attire. To our group’s delight, we were served a good sized portion of the Pirate’s House Award Winning Honey Pecan Fried Chicken, crispy fried chicken with a drizzling of honey-doused pecans. It was quite a combination and from my vantage point seemed akin to the southern favorite, Waffles and Fried Chicken. We were served the equivalent of a shot glass full of some alcoholic grog whose recipe seems to change daily. The nip was a fine jolt to move us to the next destination on the tour.
Between each stop our tour guide pointed out spots of interest with historical significance that really filled the gaps between our feastings. Next we made our way down a nondescript alley to find Wall’s BBQ which I gathered was a coveted barbeque and soul food joint only known to locals. It was not visible from any street and seemed only to be snuffed out by following the scented trail of sweet, smoked Carolina swine. This place was by no means a looker, nothing fancy at all, but the pulled pork sandwich we were served was something to write home about. Don’t come here looking for ambiance, but do come with an empty stomach and you won’t be disappointed.
The next stop brought us to 17Hundred90 Inn, an historic inn featuring southern cuisine. We were led to the bar area and heard stories of the handful of ghosts that inhabited the Inn. The most recent and notable tale is that while visiting Savannah, Miley Cyrus insisted on staying in a room rumored to have apparitions. Since the time of her stay, Miley has been off her rocker and the Inn’s employees smile and swell with pride taking credit that her antics are a direct result of their resident ghost. Apparently the Inn’s website claims that CNN.com has mentioned them as a favorite haunted spot in Savannah. Do you see where I’m going with this?
I digress, here we were served a specially made, crab salad styled baguette, not featured on the menu. Honestly, I can see why it’s not on the menu. It wasn’t appealing and salted with a heavy hand. This didn’t bother me at all since I was in close proximity to the bar and was told that we can order alcoholic beverages and walk with them to our next destination. My mind quickly shifted to which cocktail would be most savory and the fact that Savannah has very lax drinking laws. I believe my heart might have skipped a beat upon learning that to-go cups were perfectly acceptable. I began to see wonderful possibilities for the days ahead.
Our fourth destination was Fire Street Food, a hip, little Asian fusion boutique restaurant. Here we were each served a spike of Grilled Shrimp Skewers, three succulently grilled seasoned shrimp skewered with onion, bell pepper and carrots. Very tasty indeed. So much so that two days later I returned to try their Gang Keowon (Green Curry). I ordered it with tofu and it came with a deliciously, creamy green curry sauce, green beans, onion, bell pepper, squash, basil and bamboo shoots over white rice. An order of sake made it a very enjoyable lunch.
Our next stop brought us to Zunzi’s Express for which a line outside was forming 20 deep. Heralded as a spot with a mixture of Swiss, Italian, South African and Dutch influences, Zunzi’s is strictly take-out. Our tour guide ushered us to a nearby square where we found park benches to sit and wait for him to return with carriers filled with quartered Godfather Sandwiches, emphatically described as being able to “whack an appetite”.
The sandwich was simple, it was roasted chicken infused with a slight Jamaican jerk-style flavoring, piled high atop a rib of romaine and wedged into a soft hoagie bun. The optional sauce that made this sandwich truly amazing was Zunzi’s famously homemade “Shit-Yeah” sauce. I kid you not, that is the name of their branded sauce. Imagine the fun I had repeatedly asking for a tad more of the “Shit-Yeah” sauce. This was my license for acceptable cursing among a polite audience. And I had more fun than an eight year old.
Feeling rather satiated from the equivalent of a full lunch, our last stop returned us back near River Street to Savannah’s Candy Kitchen. Hello…. Heaven! We were each presented with not just a hacked off piece, but a whole Pecan Praline – the item most identifiable with the store and the region. A few days later I returned and purchased four pralines which cost me in the double digits, but were so worth it.
The walking culinary tour is a great way to sample local fare, meet fellow visitors and enjoy the day taking in the sights, sounds and aromas of the city. If you take this particular tour, I dare you not to say “Shit Yeah”. You can book your adventure with Savannah Taste Experience by calling 912-221-4439 or visiting www.SavannahTasteExperience.com