The most common question I ask when talking to a chef for a column or a TV episode of “Eat It and Like It” is, “What is your favorite dish on the menu?”
I can never get a straight answer. Never. The reality is, they wouldn’t put an item on their menu if they didn’t love it, right?
Typical answers are, “Well, it depends on my mood, depends on season.” I don’t get many straight answers. Part of the gig, right? Now, I actually get it.
Shoe? Meet other foot.
I’ve probably been asked ohhh about 25 times since September, “What is your favorite restaurant in Savannah?”
“Well, it depends on my mood, season, what I am looking for,” I say. “Do I have friends in town?” And on and on and on.
There are so many great meals in Savannah, so many places to Eat and Like or Eat and Love very much.
Enter Restaurant Week: the twice-a-year celebration of Savannah’s best. It’s a celebration because it gives you the opportunity to try them at a very reasonable cost.
Three courses for $30 at a good number of Savannah’s best restaurants? Nothing short of an incredible deal.
You can find a list of them at dining.savannahnow.com. I won’t go down the list — if you enjoy dining out in Savannah, then you know all about them and probably have a favorite. It’s impossible to pick one because you love so many, right? Tough, tough choices if you were only to pick one or two places to enjoy during Restaurant Week.
Well, I am going to do it.
Alligator Soul opened on Barnard Street near Broughton in 2003, headed up by Hilary and Maureen Craig. Five years later, Christopher DiNello became a partner and executive chef, and there’s been no looking back. I got to meet Chef Christopher back in the fall, and I gotta tell you, the man was pretty intense. Not in a bad way, at all, but you can just hear the passion for what he does in the way he talks about it.
I meet chefs all over the South while shooting “Eat It and Like It,” and just like any other profession there are different personalities. A good analogy would be actors. Sometimes you meet Robin Williams, sometimes you meet Robert DiNiro. Each of them exceptional at what they do with completely different approaches. Chef Chris is definitely in the DiNiro camp. Focused, engaging, very personable and a nice guy. That absolutely carries over into every bite you take when you are in his restaurant.
The menu at the Soul, as they like to call it, is fairly traditional, but aggressively non-traditional. Does that even make sense? Yes, you will find shrimp and grits, wonderful scallops, beef tenderloin, and all the usual suspects you will find anywhere else, but what tends to jump out at me are their “exotic” offerings. On any given night at Alligator Soul you can have yak, antelope, kangaroo, ostrich and on and on. You can find the list online — alligatorsoul.com — and it is quite impressive. It is diversity at its Southern finest. and definitely worth trying if you have the opportunity.
Two times in the past few months we have been in and were offered an antelope stew complete with okra and stewed tomatoes. Another time we were offered a “Wellington” type puff pastry stuffed with guinea hen, bison and ostrich. I had never had anything like that before, and if you weren’t told it was “exotic” you’d never know either.
Unbelievably good. Every time.
Don’t be intimidated by any of this. Alligator Soul isn’t some odd place with odd offerings, it is only a portion of the menu. The more traditional offerings that I have had (including a duck jambalaya this past weekend) was p.e.r.f.e.c.t. in every sense. They even take care of vegetarian guests. I’ve seen it happen. A lot of times a restaurant will treat a vegetarian like a second-class citizen when they order. Alligator Soul does not. Everyone gets the same amount of love and attention.
Restaurant Week is growing — the names on the list of participating restaurants Jan. 25-Feb. 3 continues to get more and more impressive. It’s nice to see. Also nice to have the community support it during what would otherwise be a “slow” season in Savannah ahead of Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day.
I will be eating out and saving some money in the process. Three courses for $30 is pretty tough to beat at any of the places taking part. At Alligator Soul and a couple of others, it is an absolute steal — and a must try.
Here’s hoping you do.
• Blowin’ Smoke BBQ on MLK is going bye bye from that spot. The popular spot on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is changing hands. I am told a group of out-of-town investors are going to try their hand in the same location — headed up by the same folks who operate Taco Abajo on Broughton Street. Let’s hope they can make it work and give that downtown corridor the shot in the arm it needs. I am told that Blowin’ Smoke will be moving to a new location in Savannah soon. They are shutting down on MLK on Feb. 23, then relocating to the old Sol spot on Habersham in the Victorian District. They’re hoping to have the doors open on Habersham by mid-March.
• At least something else is going into that space. No word yet on what will become of Sammy Greens. The popular slider shop on Abercorn Street recently shut its doors quietly with an announcement on Facebook. Their website is still working as of this writing, but they are definitely closed.
• Ronald McDonald House is looking for participants in their annual Battle of the Bakers competition. Do you enjoy baking and raising money for great causes? Give them a call: 912-350-7641.