As someone who just moved back to Savannah after being away for fifteen years, I am BLOWN AWAY by all the new growth in this area. I am amazed at the development on Broughton Street (whether you agree or not) and am really hopeful that like Jesse says, Savannah is becoming a true contender for towns to visit that deliver not just southern food, but really good, high quality fine eating.
I can’t remember how I came across Cohen’s Retreat, but the few people I asked about it…the story was shrouded in history, in transformation and rebirth…so of course I was intrigued. At the time, the website was only one page, with a picture of the building and its lovely logo, only adding to my curiosity and anticipation. Happy for me when I got the green light to make this my first Eat Squad piece.
I can’t begin to speak about the food without speaking about the experience of being at Cohen’s. The word Retreat accurately begins to describe the vision for this once home for aging men, open until 1996, with its expansive footprint of five acres off of Skidaway Road, the fact that it’s set back from the road and you drive up onto the property, thick with the majestic moss draped oaks, feels more like you could actually step back into time. Add to that, that it has an unassuming exterior; you really don’t know what you’re getting yourself into until you step inside the front doors. Its fate was uncertain until two local women, Colleen Smith and Karen Langston, saw the vision of an artistic haven for the senses, and so began its transformation to what it is today.
Cohen’s is like a woman, unable to be defined by one thing. She is an artist studio with sixteen artist cottages, a restaurant (we’ll get there, I promise), a retail shop (called the Brown Dog Market), a reclaimed reception/event space called Art Tank . On the grounds is a plot for a teachable garden, and an annex building which is being used a photography studio.
But what about the food Kerilyn?
Okay…enough swooning for what you’ll experience, but let me say up front that the food is just one aspect of why this space is actually called a retreat. This is a place you go when you are not rushed, where you want to really TASTE you’re food, not gobble it down over a work lunch hour, and enjoy spending time with your company.
After my friend and I sat down, I was greeted by one of the servers who, you could tell, felt very strongly about how good the food we were about to eat was, and was happy to give you her Top 5 list of what to eat on the menu. We happily listened and followed her lead. My friend got the Cast Iron Shrimp Tacos and I ordered the Lobster & Corn Chowder and the Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad, after being assured that these two dishes complimented each other nicely. I was curious if I too, would come to the same conclusion.
The dining room was busy but not packed, and we were able to enjoy our conversation while waiting for our lunch to arrive. When our food came, the attention to detail on the plate made our anticipation of what it tasted like even greater. The chowder was light but with a lot of depth of taste, a nice balance of corn and lobster without the typical heavy cream base, and it actually did compliment the fresh handmade mozzarella and ripe heirloom tomato salad. With the balsamic drizzle and dash of salt with each bite, you almost want to eat both the soup and salad at the same time. Giving the shrimp tacos a try, I was also pleasantly surprised at their composition. The mix of vinegar in the slaw and the seasoned taste from the cast iron, it was a welcomed pairing. We lingered over our food, enjoying each others company as much as the meal, knowing we were getting something from the dessert menu.
I got the Key Lime Pie and my friend opted for the Chocolate offering. Typically I would go for the chocolate dish being a hard core chocoholic, but having just eaten a lunch on the lighter side, I knew I wanted to keep dessert similarly light. Thankfully I was pleased with my decision as the key lime pie was rich but not overpowering. Not overly lime-y, it still left you wanting to lick your spoon to take in its smooth tart texture. I assure you there was nothing left when I was done. After getting a couple of bites, I decided the chocolate cake/torte was a bit heavier than I was ready for this afternoon.
We were satiated but not stuffed, thankfully not feeling like we needed a nap. Not to mention that I asked to meet the chef, Kirk Blaine and as he sat down, his passion for his career and what he and his wife, Ashley, are doing as partners in Cohen’s, was so obvious. As a local yet working for some of the most illustrious chefs in his career, he really is proud of what he is undertaking at this time of his life, and his excitement of where Cohen’s is headed was truly an infectious conversation, leaving me just more in love with what is happening here.
Trust me, whether you are reading this as a visitor to Savannah, or having been here a long time…GO, spend an afternoon, mosey around the shops and take in a meal at Cohens Retreat. This is a re TREAT for the senses.
Photo Credit: AdLib Photography