A quick show of hands on how many of you are old enough to remember when Whole Foods Market opened her doors in Savannah? Yes, I am being silly. It wasn’t all that long ago. Many of you, however, do remember when Whole Foods opened. It was considered a major victory on Victory Drive. Opening day was like Disney World in there. Savannah was growing up. She was starting to show the maturity (food wise) that a lot of larger cities enjoy. Within a week the obsession turned to Trader Joe’s Market. And really hasn’t let up.
There is going to come a time in this town when the opening of a new business doesn’t lead to celebrations in the streets. I do believe we will see the day, soon actually, when a big name chef will make an official announcement that he or she is coming to Savannah and the news won’t run through the city like we just won Powerball. That day will come. It’s not here yet.
Sean Brock and Husk making it official in Savannah a few weeks ago is a big deal.
The rumors had been flying around town for a couple of years now. Of course, everyone was in denial. I’m told it wasn’t a done deal until sometime early in 2016. The building at 12 West Oglethorpe was purchased by a local contractor and was in the process of being restored to its original beauty. There were some informal talks with potential tenants, but Neighborhood Dining Group (Parent Company over Husk) President David Howard was the first to get serious about occupying the space. Eventually there was an agreement and now the work is just about complete.
Savannah is in for a treat with this property. I got a tour of the 10,000 square foot 3 story building last week. It’s going to be gorgeous. Attention to detail has been at a premium on this restoration. The contractor was meticulous in digging up old photos to make the new space as close to the original as possible. Glass for Skylights have been recreated, fireplace mantles and heart pine flooring. Whatever they didn’t have trim their walls with, they had made. By hand. Just so they could get an exact match to the materials that have survived over a 100 years, tons of rain and a massive fire in 2009.
The first thing you will see when you walk in the front door on the first floor is the kitchen. Dining rooms on either side and a huge staircase to the 2nd floor. There will be more dining space on the 2nd floor, some with beautiful views of the street out front. The room to the back of the 2nd floor, I’m guessing is going to have people talking around here for quite some time.
The room directly behind the original house with entry only from the 2nd floor is going to be the bar. I didn’t measure, but we are guessing 25 foot ceilings with original windows along the back of this “Grand Hall” of sorts to almost match that height. There will be about a 10 foot raw bar on one end, sconces on walls, chandeliers, booths for dining and a huge centerpiece of a bar area. Backlit booze behind it almost floor to ceiling. Modern Art work from SCAD on display. What I saw wasn’t even close to finished, but I will say now this will be the most beautiful bar between Charleston and Miami. If there is a prettier one, please show me.
I had an extended chat with Sean Brock about coming to Savannah. He tells me he’s purchased over 100 cookbooks about food in the South and this immediate area. “I’ve got a lot of research trips set up that I just cannot wait to get on the ground and go document with a recorder and a camera. Going to places like Sapelo and record those voices and be inspired by it.” He’s already planning excursions to nearby Sapelo Island and as many farms as he can get to. “Things that stick out to me are, for example the sausages. The Austrian and German influence. The Scottish dishes. The Greek dishes. West African. It’s just been fascinating.” he said.
“The stance toward rice and grits is more hominy based than just ground corn. Different rice dishes that I haven’t seen in Charleston. Which is great because it’s one of my biggest passions, the Carolina Rice Kitchens. You can hear my entire conversation with Sean Brock by clicking here. Our new podcast is called “Shuck It!”
Tyler Williams has been named Chef de Cuisine here in Savannah. Williams was most recently at Woodfire Tavern in Atlanta. “I’ve known Tyler for a long time. When his name popped up on the database of applicants, I knew. I just knew it. Man that’s the greatest feeling.”
Husk Savannah is scheduled to open December 4th.