Savannah restaurants

Enjoy Southern staples and one of the best bar programs in town at Cotton & Rye. (Photo: Courtesy of Cotton & Rye)

Eat + Drink

From Lowcountry to Lofty: How to Eat Your Way through Savannah’s Best Bites

Savannah is known for its culinary pizzazz — but you don’t necessarily have to have deep pockets to enjoy the best dining experiences the Hostess City has to offer. On your next stay in this Southern belle, be sure and hit up these top restaurants in Savannah, ranging from tried-and-true traditional to hot-off-the-press newcomers.

Cotton & Rye

With soft wooden décor and shiplap walls standing in sharp contrast to the moody subway tile lining the bar, it’s easy to imagine this new restaurant as the bank it once was (the small room tucked away in the corner was the vault). It’s also one of Savannah’s freshest new restaurants, with a friendly staff, a simple menu of Southern staples and one of the best bar programs in town.

Start with the lavish Sausage & Cheese Board — the restaurant grinds its own meat — and consider ordering the Crispy Oyster Loaf, mussels in beer broth or fish of the day.

You’ll strike gold with the dessert, literally, if you save room for the house-made candy bar. Akin to the tastiest Twix you’ve ever tasted, this signature dessert combines milk chocolate, shortbread and caramel and is dusted with gold leaf.

Leopold’s Ice Cream

Savannah restaurants
Overindulge at Leopold’s. (Photo: Kristin Luna)

Three brothers landed at Ellis Island prior to World War I, found their way to Savannah and opened an ice-cream parlor in 1919. Today that establishment still stands, though it shuttered mid-century for nearly 40 years until one of the founders’ sons, Stratton Leopold, returned to his roots.

In 2004 the Hollywood producer (“The General’s Daughter,” “Mission Impossible III”) and his wife Mary left the West Coast to reopen the beloved ice creamery. It still bears many of the original fixtures — like an old soda fountain, marble countertops and a phone booth — as well as memorabilia from Stratton’s four decades in the film industry.

Though the Broughton Street parlor specializes in scoops and sundaes (pro tip: order whatever Girl Scouts cookie flavor happens to be on the menu), it also serves up soups, sandwiches, salads and other baked goods. Keep your eyes peeled for Stratton; when in town he’s often spotted scooping cones behind the counter.

Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room

The first thing you’ll likely notice about Mrs. Wilkes is the line that snakes its way down West Jones Street — sometimes even an hour before the restaurant opens its doors at 11 a.m. each weekday. But don’t be intimidated; this former boarding house has plenty of room for everyone (though do arrive early).

For $22, you’ll get a full-on Southern feast, served family style around a table that seats 10 people.

With a menu that changes daily and might feature fried catfish, cornbread dressing, mac and cheese and/or sweet potato soufflé, this indulgence should be on every bucket list, whether you’re a Savannah native or just dropping in for the day. Even President Obama dined there while passing through.

Note: Neither reservations nor credit cards are accepted.

Back in the Day Bakery

Savannah restaurants
You’ll want to be present at Back in the Day. (Photo: Kristin Luna)

As its name might suggest, this James Beard–nominated bakeshop owned by Cheryl and Griffith Day embraces all things retro by repurposing vintage tools and design elements to weave together an attractive space outfitted with a hodgepodge of shabby-chic décor, many items culled from Cheryl’s own collection.

Located south of Savannah’s historic district, the roomy café has been drawing crowds for 15 years and has become a destination in and of itself; it’s also the ideal spot to while away an afternoon with a good book and a latte in hand.

Sweet treats like cookies, cupcakes, banana pudding and hand pies may be the bakery’s specialty, but don’t overlook the lunch menu of savory bites, like a rosemary chicken sandwich or a build-your-own grilled cheese.

Elizabeth on 37th

Savannah may be on the brink of a dining boom, but there’s still room at the table for quintessential classics like Elizabeth on 37th, which has been delighting patrons for more than 30 years.

Originally opened in 1981, this midtown mainstay occupies a circa-1900 mansion and prepares coastal cuisine with distinct Savannah flavors, such as a red rice with Georgia shrimp, accompanied by Half Moon River clams, sausage, grouper and okra.

For $90 you can try a little bit of everything via the seven-course tasting menu. Don’t overlook the wine menu: Elizabeth’s cellar is more than 10,000 bottles deep, roughly 250 of which are available at any given time.

Where to Indulge on Your Savannah Dining Tour

savannah restaurants
(Map Design: Niege Borges)