The changing landscape in Savannah gets discussed quite a bit, especially when it comes to food and the number of new restaurants in the area. Sometimes though, change doesn’t come wrapped in pretty ribbon cuttings with celebrity chefs in tow. No, sometimes change on the food scene means some places are going to shut down. Sapphire Grill, a member of Savannah’s “old guard” of restaurants, has closed ending a 20 year run downtown Savannah.
There was a time in Savannah when Congress Street felt like the center of the universe. Aside from Broughton and River Streets of course, Congress was probably downtown Savannah’s busiest street. Long before the eye-sore parking garage came down to make room for what is now Ellis Square. City Market was always a draw, but the number of bars and restaurants along Congress made it almost the center of activity in Savannah. The Lady and Sons eventually anchored the corner. Sapphire Grill was already there.
Chef Christopher came down from Philadelphia once upon a time and set up shop. He told us once he wanted a small place and wanted to know everyone that came in by name. Undoubtedly he accomplished that. Some years ago the catering arm of his business took off, literally. Sapphire Grill has been responsible for a good bit of the ‘in-flight’ catering that goes in to the high-end airplanes that fly in and out of this region. Over the course of time, the catering became a larger and larger part of what Sapphire was doing. Behind the scenes of course. That will continue.
“I couldn’t do the 120 anymore.” Nason told us, referring to the number of hours he was regularly working every week. “The catering is doing great. That will continue.” he said. Nason added the restaurant space will still be there, but only available for private events. “I have 12 booked already.” He said. The space is currently for sale, but there is no rush to get rid of it. Catering and private events will be the order of business going forward at Sapphire Grill.
The memories continue to pour in on social media. There is a lot of culinary talent in this city that -if they have been here that long-can count Sapphire Grill among their stops. “Chris is an extremely talented chef. I learned more in those 4 and a half years than I did in cooking school for sure.” said Brandy Williamson, Executive Chef at Daniel Reed Hospitality, which includes Local 11ten and Public Kitchen and Bar. “I loved my time there.”
So the big question that remains is why? A popular opinion will be that the space was about 10 years overdue for a makeover. Dark rooms with neon signs out front have a way of making millennials think Tom Cruise might be inside spinning cocktail shakers over is head. That younger crowd will also tell you Sapphire Grill had no real social media presence to speak of. Like it or not, that is part of the deal these days. With every successful restaurant opening in this city, the slice of the pie gets smaller. Fighting for your share gets harder.
One thing I am prepared to say is that the food wasn’t the issue. I never had a meal there that was nothing short of amazing. To a man, Christopher Nason was one of the most respected culinary talents in Savannah. He was one of the first people we asked to appear on our TV show 5 years ago. We didn’t think he would, but he did. Even if he did remind us how lucky we were that he was taking the time for television.
See you on TV,