Lunch may very well be Savannah’s best meal. The city is teaming with lunch spots that offer filling and flavorful meals at reasonable prices. Those craving authentic Southern cuisine should put on their comfortable shoes and claim a spot in the long line that forms outside of Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room every afternoon. The wait is worth it: once inside, you’ll be seated at a family-style table with other guests, where you’ll feast on beef stew, biscuits and a rotating selection of classic Southern sides. For delicious Southern food in a more intimate setting, head over the Café Florie, which features killer fried chicken and equally delicious sandwiches and salads.
Some of Savannah’s best lunch spots are located in the Starland District, just outside of the Historic District. The eponymous Starland Café, located in a converted Victorian house, boasts a great selection of paninis and salads. Just a block away from Starland Café is Back in the Day Bakery, an eatery which originally gained notoriety for its mouthwatering desserts and homemade bread. Today the bakery is just as famous for its sandwiches as it is for its cupcakes, and for good reason: homemade pimento cheese and bacon-onion jam are just some of the flavorful ingredients in Back in the Day’s unforgettable sandwiches.
For those willing to travel a little farther for lunch, there are several great choices, including Toucan Café in Midtown and Driftaway Café in Sandfly. These two restaurants are favorites among locals, who repeatedly patronize the establishments for their fresh, flavorful cuisine.
Wright Square Cafe
Located just off Wright Square in the heart of the Historic District, Wright Square Café is the perfect place to stop whether you need to satisfy your sweet tooth or want a quick, delicious lunch. First and foremost, Wright Square Café is a chocolatier, offering a mind-blowing selection of handmade truffles from around the world. But don't pass up the cafe's nice lunch menu, which features Wright Square's signature wraps, sandwiches, soups and salads, plus an array of freshly made side items. Wright Square is a perfect choice for those who don't want to overindulge; many of the items can be ordered in smaller portion sizes. (912-238-1150)
Located in the trendy Sandfly neighborhood near Isle of Hope, Driftaway Cafe serves up seafood in a cozy atmosphere that features a surprisingly lush landscape with a quaint stream. The restaurant boasts a great selection of appetizers, including a fantastic tuna tartare, an ahi seared tataki-style tuna with black and white sesame seeds, diced cucumbers, scallions and a cucumber wasabi cream sauce. The sandwich menu has a variety of choices, including spicy tuna tacos, a Gullah oyster sandwich and a fried, grilled or blackened grouper sandwich. Driftaway also offers a number of classic coastal dishes, including pistachio encrusted salmon, pan roasted salmon and a seafood combo platter with flash fried butterflied shrimp and Gullah fried oysters. There are plenty of sandwiches, salads and entrees for meat eaters, making Driftaway the perfect choice for groups with differing tastes. (9123030999)
Soho South Cafe
Housed in an ultra hip converted mechanic's garage, Soho South Cafe is equal parts art gallery and restaurant. The lunch menu features soups, salads, quiche and a large selection of sandwiches. There are plenty of traditional choices, such as the monte cristo and club sandwich on a croissant, plus several signature dishes, including a jumbo lump crab cake sandwich on a griddled challah bun and a modern grilled cheese sandwich with gruyere, cheddar, smoked gouda and pimento aioli. Sunday brunch at Soho is a must and boasts a mouthwatering menu with freshly made omelets, grilled brioche French toast, Belgium waffles, shrimp and grits, and more. After you eat, take time to browse the eye-popping artwork that adorns the restaurant's lobby and interior walls. (912-233-1633)
Green Truck Neighborhood Pub
Green Truck Pub is a favorite among locals for its outstanding burgers made with grass-fed, all natural beef. From the Rustico, topped with goat cheese, balsamic caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and basil to the Whole Farm featuring bacon, cheddar and a fried egg, there's something for even the most discerning burger aficionados. But you don't have to be a carnivore to have a great meal at Green Truck. The restaurant has a nice selection of vegetarian options, including a veggie reuben, adult grilled cheese sandwich and a variety of salads. Mindful eaters will appreciate Green Truck's commitment to using locally sourced ingredients and its house-made condiments, including its ketchup and pickles. ((912) 234-5885)
This popular takeout restaurant boasts an eclectic menu thanks to the Swiss, Italian, South African and Dutch heritage of proprietors Johnny and Gabriella DeBeer. The couple has created a delicious and reasonably priced menu that blends flavors from these and other countries, with standout dishes including a cottage pie with ground beef, a vegetarian curry stew and homemade lasagna. But perhaps Zunzi's is most famous for its sandwiches, namely the Conquistador, a baked chicken breast served on French bread and topped with lettuce, tomatoes and Zunzi's special sauce. The tangy and hearty sandwich received national attention when the Travel Channel's Adam Richman named it one of the top three sandwiches in America on his show Adam Richman's Best Sandwich in America. (912-443-9555)
Back In the Day Bakery
This rustic bakery, located in the trendy Starland District, has garnered national attention for its old fashioned cupcakes. But the sugary, moist, beautifully decorated cupcakes aren't the only treats worth trying. From the delectable banana pudding (arguably the best in Savannah) to the simple, subtle lavender bars to the dense, chocolaty star brownies, there is a confection sure to please even the most discerning palates. But you don't have to have a sweet tooth to find an excuse to visit Back in the Day. Several sandwiches, all served on homemade bread, demonstrate that Back in the Day has mastered the art of savory just as well as sweet. The standout sandwich, hands down, is the bacon-onion jam Panini, featuring gooey sharp cheddar cheese and an insanely decadent and delicious house-made bacon jam. ((912) 495-9292)
An oasis in the middle of an otherwise forgettable commercial district, Toucan Café has been drawing a steady crowd of locals for more than 15 years. The vibrant décor is accented by a toucan motif that is present in just about every nook and cranny. The food, which runs the gamut of influences from Greek to Caribbean to new American, is equally vibrant and brimming with flavor. Less adventurous eaters will find entrees such as the lamb gyro and Greek burger with feta, both accompanied by crispy, piping hot hand-cut fries, while those craving more exotic flavors will be pleased with selections including jerk tilapia with black beans, rice, mango salsa and cilantro and wasabi pea encrusted tuna with parsley mashed potatoes, snow peas, red peppers, cucumber relish and balsamic syrup. Some of the best dishes are available on the daily specials menu, which take advantage of seasonal items and local seafood. (912-352-2233)
Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room
When President Obama visited Savannah during his first term, he ate at only one restaurant: Mrs. Wilkes' Dining House. It's no wonder that the Commander in Chief chose this Jones Street staple, which has been serving family-style meals for decades. With platters of fried chicken and dishes of butter beans, red rice, collard greens, mac and cheese, and candied yams freely flowing around the 10-person shared tables, Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room promises great food and equally great conversation from fellow diners who have come from near and far to experience Southern cuisine at its finest. The selection of dishes rotates but is available on the restaurant's website for those looking for specific items. (912-232-5997)
Tucked away on a residential street in the heart of the Starland District, this charming café features some of the best soups, salads and sandwiches in town. Diners order when they walk in, then seat themselves at tables in the sunny café, which is a converted Victorian house. Starland, which uses locally sourced ingredients and fresh-baked breads, puts unique twists on traditional lunch items, infusing them with intricate layers of flavor. Favorites include the Tomato Thai Soup, which can be ordered a la carte or with a wedge of goat cheese and grilled cibiatta, and the Greek Asparagus Panini with artichokes, feta, grilled onions, fire roasted tomatoes, hummus and pesto aioli. Salad lovers are sure to enjoy the Kitchen Sink, which includes asparagus, marinated artichoke hearts, green apples, red grapes, golden raisins, sliced dates and crunchy noodles, among other ingredients. ((912) 443-9355)
About Amy Pine
Amy's thrilled to have the opportunity to share her love of Savannah with the world. A Savannah native, Amy has more than 15 years of experience as a writer and editor, and her work has appeared in numerous local, regional and national publications. Prior to launching a freelance career, she was executive editor at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she served as editor of the college’s alumni magazine. Amy received a B.A. in English and communications from the University of Pennsylvania. She's currently putting the finishing touches on her young adult novel, The Girl in a Picture Frame.
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