When Don and I visited Saint Simons Island last year, we hoped to find a local favorite for lunch.
Then we learned about this place, with the comfy name. We found out it had been spotlighted on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, so that made the decision easy. We arrived close to 11:00, since we heard the place gets a big lunch crowd.
Once a Gas Station?
We'd heard this yummy little "dive" had once been a gas station. I love well-worn buildings that are cleverly converted.
But when we pulled up, the building looked too darn fresh and cute to be old.
I don't usually complain about places being too clean.
But where was the charm of the old gas station?
At least there were a lot of fellas that filled up the bar stools. Maybe they were talking cars or the price of gas.
Actually I stopped complaining about this new diner pretending to be old, when I learned about the fire. In 2010, not long after Guy Fieri filmed his piece for Food Network, the original Southern Soul burned to the ground. It had indeed been a gas station. Luckily the cooks and staff got out in time and they were able to rebuild.
There were plenty of picnic tables outside, but it was too cold and windy. We snatched an inside table right next to a young mama and her baby stroller. Another table of dining girlfriends yakked and giggled nearby.
This was clearly not a place where you get a medal of dining bravery. But that's okay. We were there for the good food reviews as much anything.
Stew and Sandwich!
Don was eager to give the "Pig Sandwich" a try. The pulled pork and coleslaw was sweet and crunchy, with lots of options for sauce.
I was eager to try the Brunswick stew. I'd heard about the famous food from a Georgian a year before. My little Styrofoam container was packed with smoked meat, tomatoes, butter beans and corn. It was indeed yummy.
I'm the last one in my family to tell you which BBQ sauce to choose.
When we've had our own sauce tasting gatherings, I end up drawing pictures on my score sheet. But I will tell you, I like the name Red Swine Wine best.
Even though the tables and stools gave the diner an "eat and get going" feel, there were some homey touches.
Yes, there were pigs and goats and that always gives me a boost! Maybe I'll visit again.
I learned about this place from my sister's blog, but it also seemed to be getting some Yelp attention when we visited last January.
The tiny place was off the beaten tourist path, so we never would have stumbled across it. We heard there was often a wait, so we arrived about 9 on Saturday morning.
I have a feeling the cold weather may have also slowed down the crowds, a bit.
Warm and Cozy Inside
My blurry photo shows how packed the place was by 9. There was quite a bit of serious eating going on.
And quite a few picking up carry outs, as well. There was a lot of movement behind that counter!
There were only about 4 tables and 4 booths, so we were lucky to be seated. Our table was near where the food action was taking place.
About 9 employees bustled around near the sizzling grill, cooking, carrying or hollering out orders. The coffee tasted good on a cold morning, but there was only powered creamer. That's okay. Our meal made up for that!
Biscuits and Gravy
I ordered the biscuits and gravy, since that's what everyone raves about! What a surprise to have these heavenly biscuits with a brown, sausage gravy!
The non-creamy gravy, with sausage and savory seasonings made me feel I was enjoying a little Thanksgiving, actually. Works for me!
Shrimp and Grits
Don is not a grits kind of guy, but how could he resist. Narobia's gets one of the best ratings for soul food, so he couldn't go wrong.
I loved the bites I stole... lots of grilled onion and green pepper, along with shrimp! I just wish the place hadn't been so busy so I could have asked a question or 2. I sure didn't want to slow the place down!
By the time we finished our meal and gave our table over to others, a light snow was falling.
It was a fun moment when all the customers and some staff looked out to see the big flakes. I didn't exactly capture the snow in the photo, but it felt like the perfect winter morning for a big breakfast.
Night 3 in Savannah
Last January, Don and I spent 3 days exploring old Savannah. Our last day was drizzly, but it only added to the character of the waterfront and buildings, like the Savannah Cotton Exchange.
By evening, we were in a wandering mood. One of those times neither one of us could make a good decision.
The weather grew chilly and few were around the touristy City Market area.
The giant ice cream cones didn't lure us in as much as the copper kettle hanging over the door. The idea of candy actually cooking, sounded warm.
Don posed with the colorful candy and we bought some pralines and other goodies and then, we wandered more.
Crystal Beer Parlor
We shivered in the dreary weather and headed towards this old brick building on West Jones.
We had 2 good reasons to give the Crystal Parlor a try. First of all, it was within walking distance of our small hotel. That's a huge plus. And we were told it was a place where locals hang out and that can be a good thing.
Gerken Family Grocery Store
In the early 1900's this was a family run grocery store, with the family living upstairs. It wasn't until 1933 that the Mannings bought the place and turned it into the Crystal Beer Parlor.
It's rumored that the Parlor operated a speakeasy during prohibition. That may or may not be true, but we do know the place was well loved by locals, who came for 10-cent beers and 30-cent grilled burgers!
It was a Friday when we arrived, so things were already hopping.
Obviously a lot of people had come straight from work. It felt a little like the bar in Cheers.
Don and I were able to grab 2 seats at the bar.
The red vinyl booths were all taken and the long wooden bar felt welcoming enough.
Beer at the Bar
Don made use of the fact we were at a beer parlor. Most of the people around us were drinking beer, but there was quite a bit of feasting, too.
The hamburgers looked wonderful. I learned later, that many consider them the best in Savannah.
I love a bar or restaurant with lots of old photos. One image reminded me of my brother's old cartoon drawings and it gave me a very silly reason to strike up a conversation with the ponytailed man sitting beside me.
After he left, a nurse took his seat and we talked about her life in Maine and what it was like to move to the south 15 years ago. It was nice that people were talking with each other and not staring at cell phones for a change.
I went on a little exploring mission after a while and found the Monroe Room, with lots of old photos. Monroe Whitlock and "Smitty" Smith were well loved servers at The Parlor for over 45 years.
What does that tell you when a restaurant names a room after an employee? And I also loved this photo of lyricist, Johnny Mercer with the young boy... who looks very much like Don as a kid.
Savannah is very proud of their Native Son, Johnny. We found his image on park benches and plaques here and there. I'm guessing he was a fan of Crystal Parlor back in the day.
I'm feeling really bad now, that we didn't end up trying one of those burgers or some She Crab Soup. We failed on our last night to have any real dining adventure, but we did find good atmosphere.
Here is the impressive wooden door where we entered Boar's Head Tavern, last January.
The building was just a minute walk from our hotel, which was also in a restored cotton warehouse on the Savannah Riverfront.
From Low to High
We walked by the corner restaurant a number of times during our stay.
The stone path from the river, took us right by the green and white awning each time we headed towards the main road above the bluff.
It was hard not to think of deli meats with a name like Boar's Head, but we were eager to give the place a try.
The place may have been a tavern since the fifties, but the brick walls and beamed ceilings brought back the feel of the cotton warehouse days, many years before.
I was glad to see there was a boar mounted on the wall. There was a reason for the name... besides deli meats.
It was too dark to see the view of the river out the windows, but we were entertained by our bartender and the other guests instead.
The couple beside us, told us about recently seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland and some other travel stories. We had nothing to top that, so we asked our bartender about some history. As she cupped her hands around a mug of tea, she actually did have quite a bit of history to share.
A Drink and History
Our bartender fixed Don this retro looking drink and told us about Chef Philip Branan, who bought Boar's Head some years back
She explained how the building (a portion of it was built in 1780) used to be owned by many different businesses, which can get pretty complicated. Chef Philip started his career working in Savannah restaurants at age 15. Evidently he was trained at The Culinary Institute in NY, before returning to his roots in Savannah.
One of 3 Rooms
The tavern dining room had a view of the kitchen, but I didn't get a good glimpse of the chef.
It was an odd arrangement with tables and captain's chairs that could have come from a 1970's Red Lobster. And then there was the chandelier hanging from exposed beams.
The back room was the coziest, but a large party was filling it for a while.
After they departed, we got to roam around and study the view of the river and ballast stone and brick walls.
Don found some decor he liked.
Lots of reminders of the ships that once carried the cotton away from Savannah.
So we got to find out if the food was as good as we'd heard. It actually was pretty amazing.
Our very sweet server, Daniel gave us lots of suggestions. We ended up with chicken Caesar salad, incredibly rich spinach salad and the most amazing platter of grilled mushrooms.
Great Food & Curious Atmosphere
I will always, remember the excellent food and the somewhat quirky atmosphere. I'm actually glad it hasn't been spiffed up with trendy tables to accent the stone and brick. I'm glad it felt low key and comfortable... of course we were there off season.
Mostly I'm glad we traveled the stone path to reach the stairway to the street ... or we might not have come across the cozy place! Gotta love Old Savannah!
Don and I were determined to find this market last January, when driving through Georgia.
I have no idea what our GPS issues were, but we were guided to a sketchy neighborhood, where 7 men stood outside a liquor store, while police car lights flashed.
We were glad to know there had been an error. We were 18 minutes off course, but eventually found the Market on US Highway 82.
The building lacked glamour, but the trucks hinted at hungry workmen... who know good food.
BBQ and Meat Market
The main focus in the market was the case with barbecue!
The food is what we had heard about.
There were lots of meat options, that smelled pretty heavenly... chicken, smoked wings, ribs, pulled pork and brisket...
I so hope I got this right. I think Corey is the grandson of the original owner. His dad, Gary Jr. is in the blue.
They both greeted us with Southern hospitality. Evidently this was an old grocery store that turned into a meat market in 1968. I love a business with family history!
And I love some good decoration, as well! There were a lot of pigs tucked here and there. As you can see there was also a pheasant and a nativity scene. Interesting.
Of course there were shelves of barbecue sauces and rubs. That's what we should have been looking at.
I'm not good at naming color shades, but those are 2 mighty fine colored walls.
I just didn't expect snazzy colors and artwork, when we pulled up to the Market. And family tables! Gotta love.
BBQ and Stew
Don is the barbecue lover, so he was in heaven with his ribs and brisket. I on the other hand was especially excited about the Brunswick Stew.
In 2015, Don and I met a man from Georgia, while visiting Guatemala. He told us all about this stew, packed with meat and veggies. It was very thick and yummy, especially on chilly January day.
We could have purchased some bread or sweets for the road, but we just told our pig friend good bye and headed down the road.
It was definitely worth the stop... even with our major detour.
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.