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By Peter Kupfer

SAVANNAH, GEORGIA , 6 OCTOBER 2007—For a small, somnolent southern city, Savannah has a surprisingly sophisticated dining scene. Amid the gracious old homes and oak-shaded squares in the city’s Historic District are a number of first-rate restaurants. Two of the best are The Olde Pink House, which occupies a stately Georgian manor near Reynolds Square, and 700 Drayton, housed in a magnificently restored Victorian mansion opposite Forsyth Park – the park made famous by John Berendt’s best-seller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil .

If you’re looking for a slice of old Savannah, The Olde Pink House is the ticket. With its intimate, candle-lit dining rooms adorned with antiques and fireplaces (which, thankfully, were not lit – Savannah in late September is still as warm and sticky as a hot-cross bun fresh out of the oven), one can easily imagine dining here with Sherman’s generals during the Civil War (which, according to local lore, they did).

Seafood, we were told, was the thing to get at Pink House, and we were not disappointed. She-crab soup served with a generous dollop of sherry, a Low Country specialty, was creamy, light, and flavorful. Unfortunately, it was also lukewarm at best. I rarely send a dish back to the kitchen, but if there’s one thing I cannot abide it’s cold soup (Vichyssoise and gazpacho excepted), so back it went. When it reappeared the soup still wasn’t steaming hot, but it was warm enough to bring out the sweet richness of its components.

An entrée of pan-seared sea scallops with wild greens was superb. The scallops were plump, moist and cooked just right. Other winners were the scored flounder with apricot glaze – light, crispy and scrumptious – and black grouper stuffed with blue crab and a sweet Vidalia onion sauce. Two side dishes, both southern specialties, are also worth noting: Hoppin' John, a tasty concoction of rice, onions, peppers, and black-eyed peas, and fried green tomatoes – lightly breaded and slightly tart. 

The service at Pink House was as warm and welcoming as the ambiance. As we were finishing our meal around 10 p.m. a young woman and her infant son strolled in and were seated at an adjoining table. It seemed like an unlikely hour for a young family to be dining out, until we realized that the diners were the wife and son of our waiter. It’s that kind of down-home place.

If the Pink House offers a taste of the Old South, 700 Drayton embodies the New – hip, sophisticated and eclectic. Housed in a meticulously restored Victorian mansion furnished with a stunning collection of contemporary art, it’s the kind of place that would be perfectly at home in the trendiest precincts of New York, San Francisco or London. The downstairs dining room is furnished with dark wood tables and leather chairs set off by sheer, white floor-to-ceiling drapes and bright orange chandeliers and credenzas. The upstairs lounge, with its faux antique furnishings, dark banquettes, dramatically lit modern art, and Bosendorfer grand, is perhaps the most stylish place in town for a cocktail (although, at $10 a pop, it’s also one of the most expensive). A rooftop terrace overlooking Forsyth Park is the perfect spot to spend a sultry Savannah evening.

Unfortunately, the food at 700 Drayton – at lunchtime at least – did not always live up to the exceptional ambiance. A lime-and-whiskey marinated grilled snapper was moist and succulent, and a blue-crab salad served on toasted sourdough with melted Swiss cheese was yummy. But a blue crab, tomato, and avocado salad with butter lettuce, fennel and burnt honey mustard dressing was disappointingly bland and the pulled pork sandwich was doused in a cloying barbeque sauce.

Regardless of where you dine in Savannah, a good way to cap your meal is to stroll over to Leopold’s on Broughton Street, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor with cast iron chairs, marble-topped tables and homemade desserts. The coffee chocolate chip was the most intense coffee-flavored ice cream I have ever tasted and the raspberry packed a punch as well. But skip the lavender ice cream – it was a pale, tasteless berg.

The Olde Pink House
23 Abercorn Street
Savannah, Georgia 31401
(1) 912 232-4286

700 Drayton
700 Drayton Sreett
Savannah, Georgia 31401
(1) 912 341-0700

Leopold's Ice Cream
212 East Broughton Street
Savannah, Georgia 31401
(1) 912 234-4442

Peter Kupfer is a former editor on the National / Foreign desk at The San Francisco Chronicle. His freelance articles on the arts, travel and technology have appeared in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Asian Art News and other publications. He last wrote on Documenta 12 from Kassel, Germany for

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