Strolling through Downtown Savannah is one of my favorite pastimes. I can easily spend hours wandering from Taylor to Tattnall, Park to Price – and more often than you’d think to be possible I pass places of culture or cuisine that I have somehow never visited, the Jepson Center for the Arts being one of those locales, along with its new café. I had heard some wonderful rumors about the café since its “reboot” and was anxious to give it try. A Wednesday afternoon with indecisive fellow strollers and frequent dining partners provided the perfect opportunity.
The Jepson Center is stunning. The foyer alone is worth a visit, but tucked away upstairs and to your left is the café, and it is well worth the flight of stairs, I promise.
A traditional café style setup awaits you as you enter. Menus are placed for you to peruse before ordering at the counter. Immediately you will notice this is not your run-of-the-mill southern café menu. The dishes offered are a wonderful mix of European fare and Southern flair. Warm naan, pulled pork, and housemade fettuccine on the same menu doesn’t make me angry.
My companions and I have a problem when we grab a “lite lunch” together. Somehow that translates into two or three appetizers, three main courses and, at least, two desserts. This was no exception. A glass of rosé or two? Yes. Definitely, yes.
Our food arrives quite promptly after we grab a table and WOW – the presentation alone is stunning. Each dish is beautifully presented and certainly not small. The Roasted Garlic Hummus ($7) is creamy and ingeniously finished with an olive tapenade. The Tuna Poke ($11) is everything tuna should be – sashimi grade and finished with nori flakes, soy sauce, cucumber, lime, macadamia nuts, rice, and avocado upon sesame strips. The textures and flavors complement each other so flawlessly that we all stop talking to just enjoy. The deviled egg of the day is simple, light and finished with blue crab, therefore I shamelessly eat more than my fair share while adding loud “oooohs” and “aaaahs” to the chorus of our munching.
Then the Savory Crepes ($13) arrive and all bets are off. Duck confit, goat cheese, Mornay, local greens, and a fig confiture have never looked so delightful. That awkward moment where a dish is so beautiful that you second-guess actually eating it settles on my companions and me with a noticeable silence. After fifteen or so agonizing seconds, my friend finally snags a bite. Bliss is the easiest way to describe her expression. I dive in and second her emotion – this dish is simply sublime. Almost dessert like in its richness with perfectly prepared duck, I will be back for this dish alone. The Jepson Club Panini ($11) also adorns the table. The strange mix of flavors intrigues me. I grew up with pulled pork having spent my childhood in Tennessee and North Carolina, and never in my life have I seen it paired with avocado, or turkey for that matter. Turkey, avocado, tomato, Angel’s Pulled Pork (yum!), gruyere, and roasted garlic aioli make this sandwich one of the most interesting I’ve tasted in quite some time. This dish is accompanied by your choice of side, and when the gentleman at the counter offered a daily special of Seafood Chowder with Bacon, I wiped the tears of joy from my eyes and agreed to his suggestion. That gentleman is now one of my favorite men in Savannah. I would eat this creamy, perfectly salted, warm cup of happiness every day for the rest of my life.
Needless to say, our attempts to conquer all of these dishes were thwarted by our retreating appetites. We sheepishly skip dessert with a promise to return in the near future. Every bite was good and some were exceptional, the prices are reasonable and the atmosphere is lovely. The Jepson Café is now my new favorite lunch spot in downtown Savannah. Hands down. Go see for yourself.
Eat It and Like It
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