We were up early. It was time for my twice yearly blood work and our doctor also wanted to check Don’s, its been some time since Don’s had his checked. Because we both were required to fast beforehand, we wanted to be at Labcorp when they opened. Once that was completed we felt it was the perfect opportunity to have breakfast at Clary’s Cafe. Fans of the movie/book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil will recognize the name. It’s a popular diner with tourists, girl scout troops and locals alike. Clary’s has been a Savannah tradition since 1903. The restaurant was well known even before it was featured in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, although the restaurant does capitalize on that reputation by posting photos of its famous diners, Clint Eastwood, John Cusack, Lady Chablis, John Berendt, and others, on the wall. John Berendt and Lady Chablis are still regulars there.
Breakfast patrons tend to favor the Hopple Popple, scrambled eggs with salami, potatoes, onion and green peppers, or the pecan waffles or pancakes most. There is another menu item that caught our eye too, The Elvis. The Elvis breakfast consists of thick sliced sourdough bread stuffed with peanut butter and bananas sprinkled with powdered sugar. Don and I both chose the thick Belgian style waffle filled with Georgia pecans and topped with Georgia honey. Clary’s is not stingy with their pecans. It was very good.
We spent the remainder of our day back at Skidaway Island state park trying to stay cool by lounging in the shade with our Kindle’s and sipping iced mint tea.
Up early again just not quite as early as yesterday. We had an appointment at the local Ford Service Center. The truck was due for an oil and fuel filter change. Next on our agenda was a visit to City Market. City Market is highly touted as a place one really must visit while in Savannah. Well, we weren’t impressed with it at all. In fact I didn’t even bother to take any photos. But since we were within walking distance to Leopold’s we decided to pop in and cool down with a couple scoops of their homemade ice cream.
Leopold’s Ice Cream is a Savannah staple. It was founded by three immigrant brothers from Greece. The brothers learned the art of candy and dessert making from an uncle. They then perfected their formulas for ice cream and opened the parlor in 1919. Much of the interior decor is original including the soda fountain and all of its accouterments. I learned that Tutti Frutti is the most popular flavor, especially with Savannahians and one Savannahian in particular, the song writer John Mercer. It is said he wrote the song Tutti Fruitti about this confectionery delight.
Refreshed anew, we walked through Emmet Park stopping by the Old Savannah Cotton Exchange and Washington Guns.
Emmet Park is located on a bluff that overlooks River Street and the Savannah River. It’s a large village green with numerous historical markers and monuments.
The Cotton Exchange, circa 1887, was built during the time Savannah was a major exporter of cotton. In its heyday over 2 million bales a year were shipped from this seaport.
Washington Guns are on permanent display in Emmet Park. The bronze canons, captured from the British during the American Revolutionary War were presented to Savannah by President George Washington after he visited the city in 1791.
A quick stroll down River Street again had Don wanting to stop in at the Candy Kitchen to purchase more chocolate pralines. With much prodding by me he did manage to pass by without entering. I couldn’t bare to listen to him lamenting about all that caloric intake again. Onward we marched to Morrell Park to see the Waving Girl statue. The statue was erected to honor Florence Martus, daughter of a Fort Pulaski sergeant and unofficial greeter of all the ships that entered the port of Savannah from 1887 until 1931. Florence would wave a handkerchief at the sailors by day and at night, a lantern. According to legend, she never missed greeting a passing ship in her 44 years on watch.
By this time we were hot, thirsty and ready to return to our air conditioned home on wheels. With temperatures expected to stay in the 90’s until the weekend, we’re putting off any more sight seeing until then.
( More on City Market later )
Feeling guilty about leaving Tucker at home so much, we spent the day with him at home. Don cooked steaks and Polish potatoes, a favorite family recipe, on the firepit grate over a wood fire. As usual he cooked it to perfection.
Everyone touts Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room as the quintessential dining experience in Savannah. In a simpler time, boardinghouses were de rigueur. Most small towns had them. A place where traveling salesmen, working class laborers, school teachers and the like could get an affordable, clean room with two square meals a day around a communal dining table.
In 1943, a young Mrs.Wilkes took over a boardinghouse in the Colonial Historic District of downtown Savannah. Her goal was to make a modest living offering lodging and home cooked Southern-style meals and hospitality. Mrs. Wilkes is no longer with us but her family continues to run the business in the same manner as Sema Wilkes did for 59 years.
The restaurant is only open Monday- Friday from 11 AM until 2 PM. Everything we had read on this place strongly suggested we arrive early, at least one hour ahead of time. If you should choose to eat here, heed that advice, seriously. We were in line an hour and 15 minutes before opening and there were already others ahead of us. It didn’t take very long for the line to run down the block.
The dining room is located in the lower level of the three level boardinghouse. Between the two large rooms 70 people can be comfortably seated at a time around 7 large oval tables. Once everyone was seated, the host said a blessing and the passing of platters and bowls began. The menu varies daily and seasonally but one thing you can count on being served is Mrs. Wilkes recipe for Southern fried chicken. Other meats that may be offered are sausage, beef stew, or meatloaf. In addition to the chicken today we had beef roast and pulled pork. And the sides, oh my goodness, we must have had a dozen or more. We had fried cabbage, macaroni and cheese, butter beans, black-eyed peas, rutabaga, squash, white rice, brown gravy, mashed potatoes, candied yams, dirty rice with red beans and sausage, collard greens, okra and tomato succotash, macaroni salad, green beans, baked beans, cornbread dressing and the flakiest, lightest biscuits I’ve ever tasted, all washed down with sweet tea, what else! All served family style. It didn’t stop here, oh no! For dessert we had to choose between peach cobbler and Southern-style banana pudding.
Don had been apprehensive about sharing supper seated around a table with 8 strangers but he admitted afterwards that he had a wonderful time. We met 3 lovely ladies originally from New York that now call Florida home, a very engaging young lady from Savannah and her friend from Toronto and a couple from Ohio. The conversation never lagged. We highly recommend that anyone coming to Savannah for a visit. make it a priority to dine at Mrs. Wilkes.
Before driving back to the campground we walked down the tree lined street admiring the architecture of the old homes then strolled the next street over to visit Pulaski Square. Named for Casimir Pulaski, a Polish immigrant who died a hero in the Siege of Savannah in 1779. Many beautiful old homes surround the square, some in the Italianate style, some in Greek Revival, some row houses. What drew us to it though was the Azaleas. A profusion of pink flowering Azaleas. We sat for a moment just soaking in the scene, then made our way back to where we’d parked the truck and headed home.
Come dinner time tonight, we opted for a simple salad. We’re still sated from our afternoon meal.
Here’s lookin’ at you kid…………………..