When Savannah’s summer days turn into sultry nights, these four basement-level restaurants can help you beat the heat. Each of these hot culinary destinations offers an upscale date night or girls’ night out vibe and serves some of the finer food and drinks in Savannah, yet fights off our high summer temperatures thanks to cool, below-ground addresses.
Before everyone started talking about farm to table, the chefs at Alligator Soul were already committed to using only fresh, locally sourced products and house-smoking their meats. Now, executive chef Christopher DiNello treks out to Savannah River Farms regularly to obtain some of their entrées, like the roast pork — a honey and rye-encrusted pig served with candied rhubarb and stone ground grits. To match the elegant spin on Southern cuisine, Alligator Soul founder Hilary Craig used his experience developing movie sets to create a romantic, subdued space in a cellar with beautiful exposed brick that makes you feel special for being in the know about this Savannah gem.
Jazz’d is a classic yet modern underground destination for fabulous martinis and cocktails and more than 35 wonderful small plates for sharing. A curving bar at the entrance accentuates the swanky vibe and, behind it, wine is stored visibly in small drums inserted horizontally into the partial aluminum wall. Exposed beams, low lighting and vibrant artwork complement the piano, jazz, or Sinatra pouring from the local and traveling musicians who perform here on most evenings. Go crazy and order the Tapas for Two — your choice of soup or salad, four tapas and two desserts — so you can get your lamb, empanada, scallop and escargot fix all in one sitting.
The Olde Pink House is one of the most popular restaurants in Savannah for lunch or dinner, but in the basement, a dinner-and-cocktails-only hidden spot is filled with locals and savvy visitors who don’t want to wait for a table on the main floors of this 18th-century mansion. It’s not hard imagining the revolutionaries who made grand plans in this private locale, while today’s patrons enjoy the full menu of delicious selections (such as pan-seared salmon, a braised pork shank with pineapple glaze, caramelized onion and sweet potato ravioli and much more), cozy fireplaces (rarely used in Savannah’s climate), and live entertainment. With only a smattering of two-person tables and a few pieces of sumptuous leather furniture, seats here fill up fast.
Recently, Churchill’s Pub transformed its wine cellar into its own entity: Winston’s Wine Bar. It houses only enough seating for 70, making it a perfect spot to avoid the crowds and enjoy the 150 bottle wine menu at your leisure. The owners also introduced a new small plates menu especially for Winston’s that affords plenty of great pairing options, including several charcuterie combinations and four cheese boards — the most unique being the Ploughman’s Board: imported English cheddar, double Gloucester, celery, Branston pickle, boiled egg, pickled onion and crusty bread. After dinner, check out the rooftop bar for a nightcap. Embrace the locale and order the Georgia Pie (with Southern Comfort, Malibu rum, peach schnapps, orange juice, pineapple and grenadine).
Photo Courtesy of Nichole Barrali Photography