May 2013


Resurrected from the ashes of Gary’s Bistro, the sister restaurant to “Local Republic” has emerged with a pared down menu and a focus on locally sourced meats and produce. Staff tell me it’s been open about two months, and the chef of Georgia Pine, Scott Smith, has Local Republic roots.

I went for lunch on Mike “Gadget Geek” Stock’s suggestion. We met at the bar and moved to a table. He ordered a reuben, I ordered the trout special. As appetizers I ordered a pickle plate and Mike ordered octopus. I added an extra side, some collards.

pickles.

pickles.

octopus.

octopus.

One of the biggest reubens I've ever seen.

One of the biggest reubens I’ve ever seen.

Trout special. Excellent fish, as good as anything I had in Savannah over the weekend.

Trout special. Excellent fish, as good as anything I had in Savannah over the weekend.

Everything was good, no stinkers in the lot. The pickles were tasty and subtle, the octopus had a hint of spice to it. Collards were tender and hit the spot. My fish was as good as anything I had while near the Atlantic coast, and Mike’s reuben was the king of sandwiches, in terms of size.

I’m told the menu is a work in progress, so expect more changes. But what I’ve seen so far is promising, and gives me hope this restaurant will stand to the big three of this region (Local Republic, Graft, Three Blind Mice) and lose nothing in the comparison.

The Georgia Pine
1250 Scenic Highway, Suite 1240
Lawrenceville, GA 30045
(770) 978-1800

The Georgia Pine on Urbanspoon

Note: Mike’s take on this meal can be seen here.

This is an area I’ll probably never complete in any real sense. Places like Churchill’s Pub, Kevin Barry’s, Molly McPherson’s Scottish Pub, and the Distillery pop up on “best of” lists with some frequency, but I never made it to their locations. Many of the eateries I have already reviewed (Dub’s Pub, The Cotton Exchange, B Matthews) have entirely functional bars. What we will be talking about briefly is Moon River, advertised as the only brewpub in town.

Moon River strikes me as a little troubled. The beer is good, the staff are notably indifferent to customers, sleepwalking through their jobs. Receptionists seem unable to find or see customer seating, even when it is in plain view. Bartenders forget to offer menus to customers. Staff are polite and cordial, but only that, and that’s really the issue here. No one wants to be the client in this old joke about Rogerian therapists.

I suspect staff issues in Moon River are new, as you can see a pattern of bad reviews, harping on staff, beginning in the spring of 2013 on Urbanspoon. It has gotten bad enough to affect the Urbanspoon ranking. A 74% rating is relatively low for an eatery with Moon River’s aspirations.

Moon River has a solid wit.

Moon River has a solid wit.

The drafts, such as they are, tend to be sweet. That’s probably an issue more for older drinkers than anyone else. Moon River wants to attract young drinkers. Who cares? If you need bitter, you can always try Moon River’s IPA. What I did try was their brown ale and their wit, both good solid beers.

The beer is good enough to recommend the restaurant. I’m hoping the staff issues are a passing phase, and not endemic to the restaurant itself.

Moon River Brewing Company
21 W Bay St
Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 447-0943

Moon River Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Biryani House is a small, neat Bangladeshi eatery just west of the Highway 29 – Indian Trail intersection in Lilburn, in a small strip mall south of the road, next to a halal grocer. This kind of small store is becoming a pattern along Indian Trail, and finding time to look into each one a little tricky. These are restaurants that, because of their small size, allow the patron a chance to get away from the steamed foods of Indian buffets. What you get here is freshly prepared. And if you have a preference – mild or spicy – places like this can accommodate you.

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Biryani House features counter style service.

Biryani House features counter style service.

These are the ideal spots for chicken 65. Anything fried, that needs to be hot coming to the plate, will be best prepared in a South Asian restaurant of this kind. And the chicken 65 here did not disappoint.

A good chicken 65.

A good chicken 65.

Unusual in this dish are the spices and aromatics that accompanied the meats. The spicing was relatively mild (even though I asked for spicy) but grew on you as you ate. This was one of the better chicken 65 dishes I’ve had in Atlanta, good enough to go back and order take out.

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I had beef kabab as well, unusual in that they used whole meat instead of ground beef. Spices were found in a layer outside the meat. I didn’t know going in the restaurant was Bangladeshi, so I wasn’t expecting anything other than generic IndoPak foods. But I’ve been surprised with every dish I’ve tried so far – not a bad thing really.

Staff here are friendly, and easy to talk to. I had no problems asking for additional spice on my chicken 65, for example.

Biryani House
535 Indian Trail Road
Lilburn GA
(770) 638-1626

Biryani House on Urbanspoon

One of the first sights when headed to River Street, especially if you walk from, say, MLK drive to Bay and then onto River Street, is this eatery embedded in the cobblestone walls of Savannah.

Entrance to Cobblestone Cafe.

Entrance to Cobblestone Cafe.

The Cobblestone Cafe, where I ate in my last trip, has decent food and in our experience, entirely respectable, responsive waitstaff. It is, however, expensive, and those prices leave folks with the feeling that the cafe is something of a tourist trap. On Urbanspoon, of 53 Savannah restaurants rated as breakfast sites, it is ranked 53rd.

We liked it. You may not like the prices.

A better deal is a restaurant on Bay Street, B Matthew’s Eatery. It is respected, winning or placing in Best Breakfast awards pretty routinely. Those of us who have seen a bistro or two will be immediately familiar with the layout and find it something of a mainstay for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It is much further east than Cobblestone, but if you have enough energy to walk along River Street to Savannah’s Candy Kitchen, then the stairs heading upwards, towards Bay Street, just east of the Kitchen put you within an easy walk to B Matthews.

Can get more than breakfast here. Essentially a modern restaurant. If  B Mathews were transplanted into Decatur Ga, no one would blink an eye.

Can get more than breakfast here. Essentially a modern restaurant. If B Matthews were transplanted into Decatur Ga, no one would blink an eye.

When we went, we were told there would be about a 40 minute wait. Clever positioning of tables led us to getting seated in 15 minutes instead. I like the staff here, aware and responsive to customers and their needs. Working with us while handling 3 parties well in excess of 12 people each was appreciated. It’s a smaller restaurant. Those three groups used up the majority of tables in the place. It has bar seating (where we eventually ended up), brick walls, black wooden roofs, and track lighting.

Breakfast options are reasonable and flexible.

Bay Street Scramble.

Bay Street Scramble.

Mayme's Omelette.

Mayme’s Omelette.

The Big Salad. Terrific balance in  this salad. It may have been the best of the breakfast items that day.

The Big Salad. Terrific balance in this salad. It may have been the best of the breakfast items that day.

I had an omelette, my wife had a salad, and my daughter had their well regarded Bay Street Scramble. All the main items were 9 dollars or less, and drinks and other extras entirely reasonable. I’d go back – plan to actually – to B Matthews, and I’d have no problem having three meals at a place this well run.

Cobblestone Cafe
130 West Lower Factors Walk
Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 231-0701

Cobblestone Cafe on Urbanspoon

B Matthews Eatery
325 E Bay St
Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 233-1319

B. Matthew's Eatery on Urbanspoon

Notes: The blog “Outside the Den” has a visually appealing review of B Matthews.

This Memorial Day we headed out to Savannah, not having been in ages (in fact, the last Savannah trip we took predates my last camera). It was an emotional necessity. After arriving, I pretty much ate and collapsed, sleeping hard almost all of the night. I want to compose my thoughts and offer specific suggestions in a couple follow up posts, but for now, I’m trying to sort through thoughts and such and talk about more general issues in terms of a Savannah trip.

Sights and sounds unlike most American cities.

Sights and sounds unlike most American cities.

If you’re looking for a cheap place to stay near Savannah, your best bet is out by the airport. Hotels close to River Street tend to charge around $200/day during the peak (summer) season. You can beat this in part by coming off peak (e.g. February and March), but I can’t promise you any bargains anymore. The inexpensive hotel I used to use is now a grassy field.

Of course, with a 4 hour drive from Atlanta to Savannah, Savannah is suitable for a one day tour. Drive in, fight for parking, and leave, either to home or parts north and south.

If you want places to eat that appeal less to the tourist and more to the foodie in you, the walk along Bay Street will be more accommodating than River Street itself. Yes, there are bargains along River Street but you have to look. Nice seafood places tend to run high 20s to low 30s for their fare, and after having great experiences in Tybee Island and indifferent experiences along the River (the Cotton Exchange being a welcome exception), best to save your seafood dollars for a jaunt towards the Island.

I highly recommend the Discovery Map rendition of Savannah, and you can get one in advance here. Don’t click on the state. The Savannah map is in the dropdown below. If you’re already in Savannah, you might check out Dub’s Pub, because that’s where I picked up my copy of the map. Another resource is the work of Michael Karpovage, a Roswell GA resident. His Savannah Historic District Illustrated Map“map of Savannah is available on Amazon.com.

Connect Savannah is a tabloid format publication that appears to mirror Creative Loafing in many regards. When we arrived their “Best of Savannah” issue was on the news stands. They have a web site, and “Best of Savannah” has a prominent place on their front page currently.

Almost completely over the top are the candy stores along River Street. If you have a child from age 6 to 60, it is very hard to resist Savannah’s Candy Kitchen or River Street Sweets. These have become must stops when we show, and when my daughter was little, she cried so hard when we were trying to leave, it took us another half hour to get home.

Yes, well known Atlanta foodies with small children, I’m waiting to hear about the response when your youngsters see the place.

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The collection of children's books here is phenomenal.

The collection of children’s books here is phenomenal.

Bookstores: There is a spot called Books on Bay that deals in antiques. In particular, they are very interested in old children’s books and series. Things like old Oz books, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and to my once 12 year old mind, a surprisingly large collection of Tom Swift books of various and sundry kinds. I was a voracious reader of Tom Swift Jr and have always held a certain desire to read a few of Tom Swift Sr’s books. They have quite a few of these there. Yes, Grant Goggans, if you like comics, I suspect you could get lost in this store.

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Biggest surprise in Savannah? In many respects, It might been Dub’s Pub, also called Dubs, a Public House. It was near where we were staying, easy to access via stairs and an alleyway. They are advertised on Urban Spoon as a gastropub, though it was hard to tell when we went. They were down to only tacos when I arrived. Their beer selections are good, however, and they sell beer flights. A flight is 5 different selections of beer, 4 ounces each, all for a reasonable price. I had never had Tybee Blonde before, and sandwiching that between a Bells and a Allagash wasn’t so bad at all.

Pork and shrimp tacos from Dub's Pub.  The shrimp, if I recall, had a delightfully spicy bite to it.

Pork and shrimp tacos from Dub’s Pub. The shrimp, if I recall, had a delightfully spicy bite to it.

The tacos at Dubs were really good. The vibe is more that of an upscale sports bar, with some quality food. I didn’t eat enough to pass judgement on “gastropub or not”, but nothing I saw or had would lead me to think otherwise.

It was nice enough that on a quiet day, I’d not have any issue taking my family to Dub’s.

Savannah’s Candy Kitchen
225 East River Street
Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 233-8411

Savannah Candy Kitchen on Urbanspoon

River Street Sweets
13 East River Street
Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 233-6220

River Street Sweets on Urbanspoon

Dubs a Public House
225 West River St
Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 200-3652

Dubs a Public House on Urbanspoon

PS – Savannah Red reviews Dubs in an article titled “Low Tide and Zombies at Dub’s Pub“.

Shorty’s was an impulse try one evening when my wife wanted something new in our repetoire. This is a restaurant whose reputation is heavily influenced by Jimmy, who reviewed it in Eat It Atlanta’s pizza tour. In his review of the restaurant he says:

Everything was in balance though. The dough wasn’t soggy. There was a noticeable amount of sauce. You could taste the mozzarella. And the pizza with toppings tasted fresh and didn’t weigh down the pizza.

I’m mentioning this now because this comment has set my expectations of Shorty’s for a while.

And having set the scene, I’m going to diverge for a bit and talk about Shorty’s plates. They have small plates, tapas inspired, and large plates. One of the large plates has 4 falafel and those caught my wife’s eye. Turns out, this was the best thing we ate that night.

Crunchy. Delightful.

Crunchy. Delightful.

The falafel were crunchy and delightful. The restaurant in general has a good eye for ingredients and tremendous creativity in terms of their various plates and pizza combinations, pizza names for that matter. What I have never been able to do is duplicate the eating experience as in the Jimmy quote above.

Great ingredients. Hilarious names. Ordinary crust.

Great ingredients. Hilarious names. Ordinary crust.

What I get in a Shorty’s pizza (I’ve been three times, twice to the Tucker location and once to the Decatur location) is some crisp around the edges and a soggy mess in the middle. It’s frustrating. You get the impression they know about good crisp crusts, but the pizza chefs, when I’ve been there, couldn’t execute. In terms of quality, I’d say that Hearth Pizza Tavern has a better crust and is far more consistent. And it makes me want to do this to their pie sometime, to see if it’s recoverable.

So I recommend this spot with some cautions. The inventiveness and creativity of the menu makes it worth a trip, but be warned, I’ve yet to see the crust and pizza that Jimmy thought so much of.

Shorty’s Pizza
2884 N Druid Hills Road
Atlanta, GA 30329
(404) 315-6262

Shorty's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Shorty’s Pizza
3701 Lawrenceville Hwy
Tucker, GA 30084
(770) 414-6999

Shorty's Pizza on Urbanspoon

We had never had it before, even though Iron Age, the Korean BBQ with a sense of humor, has slowly become one of the options in Duluth for us. They take your left over meats and fold it into their rice mixture, and cook it right on the pan, on your own table. Once it starts, you can even see the rice steam.

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Hints of steam coming off the rice can be seen in this photo.

Iron Age is truly a unique experience, and if you have daughters, they’ll appreciate the character of staff here. The non stop KPOP on the big screens doesn’t hurt either.

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