When we talk about food in Savannah’s Historic District, more times than not you hear “Oh, what a great space that is” or “I love that building.” That is part of the charm. Obviously, with a city as old as this one, there are countless old warehouses that have been converted to this, that or the other. Sometimes, the location is a gift shop. Other times, it’s office space that you never get to see the inside of. Sometimes, however, there is a restaurant in a particular location that you can walk in, sit inside and enjoy. Enjoy the food, enjoy the history, enjoy charms that Savannah’s history has to offer. Vic’s on the River is certainly one of our most popular riverfront dining spots. In my book, a great meal is obviously part of the deal, but the history in that building undoubtedly part of the charm.
Belford’s of Savannah is another such space. Built in 1902 for Savannah’s Hebrew Congregation then sold to W.T. Belford in 1913. It was designed by the same man who designed Savannah’s spectacular City Hall. The space went on to become Belford’s Wholesale Food Company. Today the restaurant sits in one of the best locations for an outdoor meal in the city. Inside the charm oozes out of the original brick walls.
Tourists flock to Belford’s in large part because of that location, but the locals generally shy away. Do we enjoy it? Of course we do. Some of the best breakfasts I’ve had in Savannah I had at Belford’s. The crab cakes are wonderful, as well. However, you never hear anyone talk about Belford’s when they are asked about Savannah’s best. They realize that and they are hoping to change public perception.
Stepping Things Up
Chris Adgate tells a great story about his interview at Belford’s. He and his family had been in the Fort Myers, Florida area. He was working at a country club but wanting to expand his horizons a little bit. Ironically enough, he’s a Jacksonville native who spent some time coming to Skateboard shows at Savannah’s Civic Center in the 1980’s. As is usually the case, once you experience Savannah, you typically never forget it. He did not. When he got the call that he’d be brought in for an in person interview, he was elated knowing just how wonderful an opportunity this could be. He strung two days off together and flew to Savannah, prepared a 5 course meal at 8am the next morning for his potential bosses, and waited to get the word. He was hired on the spot. His response?
“This is great! But my airport shuttle is picking me up at my hotel in 15 minutes. I gotta go!” Like Cinderella at midnight he raced to his room, threw his stuff in a bag and made his way back to Fort Myers, already making plans in his head to move to Savannah.
“They told me they wanted to step things up” Chris says, about the vision and direction management at Belford’s shared with him. “Savannah’s culinary scene is growing, we all know that.” “There is so much potential here with this location and this staff” he adds.
Now it’s a matter of putting things in place.
As is the case with any new Executive Chef, they see some things they like on the menu, they see others that they don’t. They are sometimes told what is an ‘untouchable’ on the menu (In Belford’s case it’s the Crab Cakes) and they begin a process putting their paw prints on the operation. Chris has been doing that for a few months now. A complete new menu is expected late July. “We are going to roll some dishes out as specials here and there.” he tells me. “We are going to get the staff up to speed on the proper way to be efficient with these dishes before we go to the full blown new menu.” Hard to argue with that. Yes, I did ask Chef Chris to throw me a bone. “What can we expect?” I ask. “Well, I’m still kind of working on things.” (Of course he is….). But he did mention a “Tuna with avocado salsa, jasmine rice cake” as something we might see soon.
At the same time, Belford’s is getting a makeover. No, Robert Irvine isn’t coming in with his band of merry sledgehammer-wielding marauders, but there are enhancements on tap. There is talk of changing some sight lines and underscoring the locations strengths. It’s already a beautiful space, but a little polish never hurt anything now did it? All of these changes should be coming together in the next few months.
We are definitely looking forward to Eating and Liking.