For a falafel fix, travel well off the beaten path to Al Salaam Deli (2311 Habersham St., 912/447-0400, $5–10). The signature falafel at this humble little storefront is big-city quality, and the gyros are almost as good. While it’s not in the most elegant of neighborhoods, Al Salaam—run by a family of Jordanian expatriates—has a devoted local following, and deservedly so.
Before there was Paula Deen, there was Elizabeth Terry, Savannah ’s first well-known high-profile chef and founder of this most elegant of all Savannah restaurants, Elizabeth on 37th (105 E. 37th St., 912/236-5547, daily 6–10 p.m., $25 and up). Terry has since sold the place to two of her former waiters, Greg and Gary Butch, but this restaurant has for the most part continued to maintain her high standards—though, frankly, there have been a few complaints from those who think its heyday has past.
In a beautifully restored Victorian mansion just outside the historic district, with its own lovingly tended herb garden and emphasis on local suppliers, Elizabeth on 37th continues to be—a quarter-century after its founding—where many Savannahians go when the evening calls for something really memorable. Executive chef Kelly Yambor uses eclectic, seasonally shifting ingredients that blend the South with the South of France. Along with generally attentive service, it makes for a wonderfully old-school fine dining experience. Reservations recommended.
A fairly new darling of local foodies is the aptly named Local 11 Ten (1110 Bull St., 912/790-9000, www.local11ten.com , Tues.–Thurs. 6–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 6–10:30 p.m., $22–39), just off the south end of Forsyth Park . Its wide-open dining room has a great view of the streetscape, adventurous cuisine (the handiwork of Memphis-born Keith Latture), and a cute bar—each proven big attractions. Try the hanger steak with a side of Vidalia onion rings.
The coffee at The Sentient Bean (13 E. Park Ave., 912/232-4447, www.sentientbean.com , daily 7:30 a.m.–10 p.m.) is all fair-trade and organic, and the all-vegetarian fare is a major upgrade above the usual coffeehouse offering. But “The Bean” is more than a coffeehouse—it’s a community. Probably the best indie film venue in town, the Bean regularly hosts screenings of cutting-edge, left-of-center documentary and kitsch films, as well as rotating art exhibits. When there’s no movie, there’s usually some low-key live entertainment or spoken word open mic action.
Though it’s primarily known for its sublime sweet treats, Back in the Day Bakery (2403 Bull St., 912/495-9292, www.backinthedaybakery.com , Tues.–Fri. 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.–3 p.m., $7) in the Starland Design District at the southern edge of the Victorian District also offers a small but delightfully tasty (and tasteful) range of lunch soups, salads, and sandwiches 11 a.m.–2 p.m. Lunch highlights are the baguette with camembert, roasted red peppers, and lettuce; and the caprese, the classic tomato/mozzarella/basil trifecta on a perfect ciabatta. But whatever you do, save room for dessert, which runs the full sugar spectrum from red velvet cupcakes, lemon bars, macaroons, carrot cake, Cosmopolitan Cake, Nana’s Pudding, and my favorite, Omar’s Mystic Espresso Cheesecake.
For a quick Starbucks coffee or a panini, stop by the Forsyth Park Café (912/233-7848, daily 7 a.m.–dusk, later on festival evenings) located in what was once the circa-1920 “dummy fort.”