From Nashville we headed for the ‘Low Country’, with a quick overnight pit stop in Atlanta to break up the journey to Savannah. In the short time we were there, we didn’t get much of an impression of Georgia’s capital, but it seems like a modern city that’s expanding pretty fast.
One thing we did get to check out was Varsity, which is (apparently) America’s largest drive in. I was pretty excited about visiting as it’s one of those old school places where they have people bring out your food and do the whole tray on the window thing. Unfortunately we were disappointed. Definitely go and check it out for the spectacle and atmosphere, but don’t go for the food. It was average at best. The burgers were no better than a basic McDonald’s hamburger, the fries were limp, and god alone knows what was on in the chilli on my chilli dog, but I’m not sure it was of this World. Bit of a shame really, because it’s a pretty cool set up.
After a 5-hour drive South East of Atlanta we hit Savannah, which was the first purpose built town in the US and is home to the US’s answer to Delia, Paula Deen. It’s a really pretty place, but as we arrived the heavens opened and it didn’t really stop raining for the 48 hours we were there. Yep, we managed to time our visit perfectly with the Low Country’s storm season. This being the case, we didn’t really feel like killing ourselves to get out there and sniff out Savannah’s more interesting food spots, so I don’t have that much to report, but we did have some really good Italian comfort food at a place called Leoci’s. Great prosciutto, mozzarella and lovely pasta. Just the thing when the hurricane nights draw in.
We were worried that we’d encounter similar conditions two hours up the coast in Charleston, but when we arrived it seemed like the clouds and winds had shot their load, and it was pretty pleasant, in a hot and sticky kind of way. Charleston is where the American Civil War started, so it’s steeped in history. But it’s also steeped in shrimp and grits. I’d got a small taster of this Low Land’s classic in New Orleans, but I had to get stuck into the real McCoy whilst we were here, and I got my fix at a great little place called Hominy Grill. For the uninitiated, grits are a America’s answer to polenta, but is usually white instead of yellow, and generally coaser ground. The grits I had at Hominy were creamy, slightly cheesy, with a tang of Tabasco and lemon, and served with lovely juicy shrimp, bacon and mushrooms. Serious comfort food. We also tried their fried green tomatoes, another local favourite, she-crab soup, and every Charlestonian’s beer snack of choice, boiled peanuts. Really good stuff.
Whilst we were in town, someone also recommend that we check out a cafe called Dixie, a no frills kind of place known for it’s tomato pie. When we showed up for a late lunch, they were closing up the kitchen, but typical of pretty much all the Southerners we met, the lady and chef who ran the place were very accommodating and let us sit down for a slice before they finished for the day. Made with a beautifully tender dough, and layered with heirloom tomatoes, cheese and basil, it was a really satisfying lunch, especially when served with a nice hunk of sweet potato corn bread. I’ve got to say that it wouldn’t win many awards for it’s looks, but it delivered where it counts. Hmmmmm.
Of course, one of these posts wouldn’t be complete without a mildly terrifying fried chicken experience, and Charleston managed to deliver one of these too, in the shape of Hannibal’s Kitchen. Another little shack, in the rougher North East of the city, we yet again got to sample one of Southern cuisines most famous exports. The chicken was probably the mildest we tasted. Really balanced seasoning, with a small hint of spice, not too dissimilar from the Colonel’s Original Recipe. Fried fresh (we had to wait 20 minutes) and served with sides of corn and collard greens, it was yet another quality feed in less than salubrious setting, even if my greens did come with an unexpected addition of an unidentifiable pig part. If you look closely at the picture below you can see something pink poking out. For a moment I thought it was someone’s thumb, but it was definitely hog based, but no idea from where on the animal. Answers on a postcard please.
So that was the Low Country. I’m writing this from a VERY cramped sleeper berth on the ‘Silver Meteor’ train to New York, New York, our final destination. It’s going to be bitter sweet.
Tags: Atlanta, Burgers, Charleston, delia Smith, Dixie, Dogs, Fried Chicken, Fried Green Tomatoes, Grits, Hannibal's Kitchen, Heirloom, Hominy Grill, Leoci's Tratoria, Low Country, Paula Deen, polenta, Savannah, She Crab Soup, Shrimp and Grits, Silver Meteor, Stone Ground, Tomato Pie, varsity