Locals rarely eat at the Savannah  institution called the Pirate’s House (20 E. Broad St., 912/233-5757, www.thepirateshouse.com , lunch daily 11 a.m.–4 p.m., dinner Sun.–Thurs. 4–9:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 4–10 p.m., $17–26), known primarily for its delightfully kitschy pre–Jack Sparrow pirate decor and its dependably pedestrian food. Still, the history here is undeniable: One of America’s oldest buildings, built in 1753, the Pirate’s House hosted many a salty sea dog—though perhaps few actual pirates—in its day as a seamen’s inn. And any place that rates a shout-out in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island has to be worth a visit.
The rambling interior of the old house, each of the 15 dining rooms with its own different nautical flavor, just adds to the general air of jaunty buccaneer insouciance. “The Captain’s Room” is allegedly where shipmasters would shanghai unwary men to complete their chronically short-handed crews. Supposedly a tunnel from there goes all the way to the river, the better to transport the drugged kidnapping victims. The “Southern Buffet” each day 11 a.m.–3 p.m. features the Pirate House’s signature honey pecan fried chicken.
Very few restaurants on River Street rise above tourist schlock, but a clear standout is Vic’s on the River (16 E. River St., 912/721-1000, www.vicsontheriver.com , Sun.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., $22–40). Hewing more to Charleston -style fine dining than most Savannah  restaurants—with dishes like wild Georgia shrimp, stone-ground grits, and blue crab cakes with a three-pepper relish—Vic’s combines a romantic, old Savannah  atmosphere with an adventurous take on Lowcountry cuisine. Note the entrance to the dining room is not on River Street, but on the Bay Street level on Upper Factor’s Walk.