Imagine the outrage when one of the most popular lunch spots in town closed? You could count the number of jaws dropping across town when word started to spread that SOHO South Cafe -an eclectic cafe on Liberty Street near Bull was closing it’s doors. Once word trickled out that the Daniel Reed Group, owners of Local11ten and Public Kitchen and Bar were the new owners, there was hope that it wouldn’t change too dramatically. Multiple cries could be heard “Don’t get rid of the Tomato Soup!”, they said. “They’d better not drop the grilled cheese off of their menu!”, was heard as well. At first there were rumors. Rumors of something big. Rumors of a game changer in Savannah. We waited and watched the build out at the old SOHO. Hoped it would be something new and “cool” but also keeping the original concept in place. When I asked around early on, I was told “It will stay the same, but it’s getting a makeover.” Fair enough. Well, now the curtain has gone up, and Savannah is in for a real treat.
The new SOHO South Cafe is now open in that same spot directly across the Mellow Mushroom on Liberty Street. What a beautiful space it is. The old retail area up front where previous owners sold greeting cards and books is now gone. Replaced by a full liquor bar. The mix and match tables and chairs in the dining room? Still there. Enhanced by a much more open space in the dining room, adorned with chandeliers here and there and my favorite part, a giant clock. It hangs right smack dab in the middle of the dining area. “We needed something to fill in the space”, says Jamie Durrence, Managing Partner of Daniel Reed Hospitality.
Durrence has been very busy the past couple of years. The Public Kitchen and Bar across the street from SOHO hadn’t been open very long before the move was made to acquire the space across the street. There were bigger plans in mind, but going smaller at SOHO was the best fit for the current marketplace. “I like to stay ahead of the curve when developing new concepts”, Durrence tells me. “There are some things we’d still like to do. It could take two years. It could take twenty. Who knows.” All of that, I’m sure depends on the success of this new space in the heart of the Historic District.
Back inside SOHO South Cafe a lot of what you knew to be on their menu is the same. “We wanted to pay an homage to the old SOHO”, Durrence says. “But kind of a new chapter.” The new look is the same but warmer and more trendy. Less “hodgepodge” and more-for lack of a better description “big city cool.” (My words, not his). There is a definite lunch time feel inside during the day, but the plan, I’m told, is to have wine glasses and table settings for the dinner crowd to make it look more elegant. But still casual. “It will definitely give the room a pop at night.” Durrence says.
Executive Chef Brandy Williamson is in charge of the menu, as she is at Local and Public. “We have a little bit of everything from our restaurants”, she says. “We took 70 percent of what SOHO was doing, tweaked it and putting it right back out.” She cites pesto as an example. “They bought it”, she says, referring to previous owners. “We are making it.” They still serve SOHO’s signature Tomato Soup “same recipe”, Brandy says. But her favorite item on the menu is the Monte Christo Sandwich. I’ve never had it, but I knew it from the old menu. “It’s the same one”, she says. All the way down to the powdered sugar. Her Chef de Cuisine is Patrick Gilpin, formerly of Blue Turtle Bistro.
Upfront at the bar you can expect the usual suspects to be poured, but there will be a creative craft cocktail menu. “Our Bar Manager came over from Jazz’d”, Jamie says. “We’ve just have some basics now, but we are going to develop a great creative bar menu.” The space will support it. From custom made bar stools “Made in Ohio, I think”, he says, to the floral wallpaper they put up in the bar area. There is a definite “grandma’s house” feel to SOHO, but with an elegant streak. As is the Daniel Reed Hospitality way. I have to say, I haven’t eaten so much as a cracker there yet, but I love the space already. Comfortable and very inviting. The kind of place I see in a lot of other cities around the South in our travels for our TV show, but had yet to really see here in Savannah (with a notable exception at B. Tillman). They nailed it and I’m sure the food will follow suit.
The menu will evolve, as any menu does in a new restaurant, but don’t panic. Those staples will remain. You can have salads, soups, sandwiches at lunch and at dinner time upgrade to seafood, steak or pasta. They will even have a Sunday Brunch, by reservation. Which will keep you from waiting out on Liberty Street for a table. Check out their menu right now online at www.sohosouthcafe.com. Shoot me a line if you check them out, but I won’t be surprised at all if you Eat It and Like It.
See you on TV.