I grew up in the South. Georgia, in fact. My parents still live in the same small-ish town where my friends and I roamed around on golf carts (it’s a thing where I’m from), and went out on the canoe too late at night. Do I have an accent? Only when I’m reeeeally tired. Do I miss the South? Sometimes. It’s complicated. I’ve lived out West for almost 14 years, and this is where Mark and I have built our life. I’ll tell you what isn’t complicated though, I definitely miss Southern food!
Nana was a Southern Cook. She grew up on a farm in rural Georgia during and after WWII. I imagine there were not many places, if any, to go out to eat. I have no idea what grocery shopping entailed. I don’t really know how she learned to cook. I wish I could ask her. Cook she did, though, and she was my first introduction to Southern food.
Now, Southern food can mean different things to different people. Barbecue, fried chicken, pimento cheese, collard greens, creamed corn, pound cake, divinity, coleslaw, mac and cheese, the list goes on and on. Our family went to visit my parents a couple of weeks ago. We went to Hilton Head Island (the beach!!!!), and Mark and I snuck over to Savannah for a day. and got to sample a smattering of Southern delights.
Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room
Look at this!!!! You want to know the crazy thing? This is a lunch portion FOR ONE. I’m pretty sure one person would keel over and die after eating all of this. They would die happy, but die nonetheless. I’m so glad I did some googling and heeded the advice to only order one portion. This could easily feed four people.
In the non-covid-times, Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room serves lunch to groups at communal tables. This being the covid times, it’s all to-go, which I actually preferred. I’m not super stoked about eating with strangers (sue me), but an awesome picnic? I’m down. Also, the price is right. It’s $25 per portion (again, the picture is ONE PORTION), and we got an extra drink and banana pudding, so our grand total was $33. So. Much. Food.
The experience was a 10/10. You order from a lovely, very chatty lady, then they call you when your food is ready. Our wait was about an hour, so we toured a mansion in the meantime. You know, Savannah stuff. Then, we picked up our food, parked ourselves at a table outside and chowed down. Let me give you a tour of the food.
Fried Chicken, More Fried Chicken, Creamed Corn, Mac and Cheese.
The fried chicken was so, so good. Some of the best I’ve ever had. It was light, crispy, and very juicy on the inside. The seasoning was on point, and you could tell these are people who have fried A LOT of chicken. The creamed corn was my favorite side. It was seasoned very well, pleasantly salty, and sweet from the corn. Mark really liked the mac and cheese. I would give it a 6/10.
Potatoes au Gratin, Red Rice, Dressing and Gravy, Field Peas.
The potatoes au gratin were pretty good, but I think they are mis-named. They were fairly dense and garlicky, not creamy like I was expecting. The red rice was very smoky. I actually was unfamiliar with red rice. Maybe it’s a low country thing, or maybe I’ve just been living under a rock. Could be either one. It had some smoked sausage in it, some bell pepper, and I assume the red color comes from tomato that goes in the broth as the rice cooks.
Do you know the difference between dressing and stuffing? Stuffing is cooked inside a bird, dressing is baked in a pan. Now you know. The dressing was good, but nothing I hadn’t had before. The field peas were not my favorite purely because I do not personally like squishy dumplings, a la chicken and dumplings. I know, they may never let me cross the border into Georgia again.
Sweet Potato Casserole, Corn Bread and Biscuit, Banana Pudding, Coconut Pound Cake.
The sweet potato casserole was not as sickly sweet as others I’ve had, which I appreciated. The corn bread was good. Very good, really, but it was upstaged by the biscuit. I’ve never had a biscuit quite like this one. The texture was so, so soft, almost cake-like, but savory. It was buttery and delicious.
If you’ve never had Southern banana pudding, you are missing out. This one was great. I carried it around and snacked on it after we left the restaurant. It was cold (which was sorely needed. The day we were there, it was pretty hot in Savannah), creamy, and sweet. Perfect.
The pound cake took me by surprise. It doesn’t look special, but it is. It was so soft and light. I’m not sure how they did that in a pound cake, but they did. The coconut flavor was light and refreshing, and it had a nice glaze on top. This was Mark’s favorite part of the meal.
I should mention that technically you “only” get 3 sides per order, plus the cornbread, biscuit, and pound cake. In the spirit of Southern Hospitality though, they were giving people extra sides left and right. It was pretty great. We technically ordered the potatoes au gratin, mac and cheese, and creamed corn. I love yellow and orange food, what can I say? The rest was thrown in.
It was so fun to try all of these Southern classics at once, and in such an iconic Southern city. If you find yourself in Savannah, Georgia at lunch time, try out Mrs. Wilkes for a great sampling of Southern treats.
Here are some pretty shots of Savannah, just cuz.
I think we should do at least one recipe re-creation from Mrs. Wilkes. What should we do? Let me know what you’d like to see in the comments! Smooches!