A Weekend in Savannah
For Independence Day weekend, my wife and I took a road trip from metro Atlanta to Georgia's coastal gem, Savannah. This deep South city has many reasons to visit, and one of those is the selection of wonderful restaurants the town boasts. We managed to have excellent meals at several good restaurants, including three which were returns to restaurants we enjoyed on previous trips. In this post, I will discuss our two dinners while in town. In a subsequent post, I will cover our breakfasts.
The Juicy Seafood: Good food but MESSY
We arrived in Savannah late on Friday. We discussed where to eat and decided it would be easier to find a place before we checked into the hotel. Seafood was a popular choice so I pulled out my phone and consulted Yelp. I found a positive review for The Juicy Seafood which was located on Abercorn Street directly across from Oglethorpe Mall. Being in the "suburbs," this would be logistically easier for parking than had we found something downtown. I apologize in advance for limited and low quality photos. I did not take any outside shots because it was pouring rain when we arrived. Inside, we were glad to be out of the car and ready to dig in, so patience for my picture-taking was limited!
When you walk in, you notice that nearly every inch of the wood walls are covered with scrawled comments, notes, and sketches. We did not have a chance to look through these in the waiting area because we were seated immediately. The writing covering the walls continued throughout the restaurant including in our booth. Unfortunately, another thing that stood out to me beyond the playful graffiti was the restaurant's smell. It was not a bad odor, per se, but was a strong cleaning fluid type of scent. While not to the degree of being unappetizing, the scent bothered me throughout the meal.
The restaurant's primary offering was a low country boil with various seafood options, including combos, boiled with potatoes and corn in your choice of flavors and spices. The menu included king crab legs, snow crab legs, blue crab, shrimp with heads, shrimp without heads, crawfish, mussels, clams (seasonal), baby clams and lobster tails. Once you selected your seafood, you chose your flavor between cajun, lemon pepper, garlic butter or all of the above. Finally, you could customize the heat of the dish: non-spicy, mild, medium and hot. More traditional fried dishes were also available.
As a lover of shellfish and low country boils, I loved the menu and ordered shrimp and crawfish, seasoned with cajun and hot spiciness. My wife went with shrimp. After placing our orders, the waitress soon returned with our drinks in paper cups. She also left plastic gloves and bibs. You know if you have to get suited up, you are about to have a fun meal!
When the food arrived, it was presented in a way I had never before seen. Steaming plastic bags were brought to the table, Inside was the seafood in an oily, highly seasoned liquid. This was a pretty straightforward meal - open the bag and start cracking shells! The shellfish was very good, with excellent spiciness and flavor, though a bit more oily than I would have preferred. The potatoes were cooked just right and, coming from the bag, shared the seasoned flavor. The corn was a bit soft for my tastes, but still good and very flavorful. The biggest issue was not the food but the presentation. Despite being in the plastic bag and using the plastic gloves, my hands as well as the table top were soon covered in a sheen of oil. While I have no problem digging into this type of meal, cracking shells by hand and eating corn on the cob, this was far messier than I would like simply to eat dinner.
Overall, I liked The Juicy Seafood, though I can't say I liked it enough to put it into the rotation of restaurants I frequent when in Savannah. The food was fine, but the absolute mess that is made as well as the odd odor of the restaurant were both off-putting. While I won't tell you to avoid The Juicy Seafood, I will say you can get a similar dinner that is much better if you drive 30 minutes out to Tybee Island and check out The Crab Shack. That is what we did the next afternoon for a late lunch/early dinner.
The Crab Shack - Nothing fancy but oh-so delicious!
Before my recent visit, I had been to the Crab Shack twice before and loved it. Ironically, friends recommended the place several years ago, but when I looked into it, I felt it seemed too touristy and probably would not offer a quality dinner compared to other options in Savannah. I could not have been more wrong! The Crab Shack is actually not in Savannah proper, but rather is close to the beach on Tybee Island. You can drive there from downtown Savannah in just under 30 minutes. The restaurant takes up several buildings and includes a shop and alligator pond out front. The outside dining area - there is also a large indoor area as well - looks out on Chimney Creek. Because we were there between the lunch and dinner rushes, after checking out the alligators, we were seated quickly at a table on the deck overlooking the water.
We ordered Captain Crab's Sampler Platter which was sort of a deluxe low country boil. The low country boil on the menu only included shrimp, corn, potatoes and sausage. The sampler platter included everything in the low country boil plus snow crab, Jonah crab, mussels and crawfish. Simply put, this was a feast and I loved every bit of it. It was served on a large platter, wrapped in aluminum foil, that resembled a pizza dish. The waiter placed it on a raised platform in the middle of the table, which straddled a hole in the main table. Under the hole was a large trash can for discarding your shells.
I am not as big a fan of mussels as my wife so I left most of those for her, and she ceded most of the crawfish to me. All the seafood was perfect. The potatoes were perfectly cooked as well, as was the corn unlike the previous night. The sausage topped off the platter for me! All the food was well seasoned and, much more to my liking, was not swimming in oil. While you needed plenty of paper towels from the roll placed on the table, you did not need a protective plastic bib and gloves to eat dinner. Much more comfortable and not nearly as messy!
Overall, I give the Crab Shack two thumbs up, five stars, or whatever clichéd score you want to use. The food is delicious, the location can't be beat, and throwing shells into a gaping hole in the table is actually fun! It is worth the drive out from Savannah and I have gone on every trip since my first visit two years ago. I certainly plan to return the next time I head down to coastal Georgia!