The restaurant scene in Savannah has never been brighter. You can't go wrong with any of these fine eateries.
Clay Nordan

Sapphire Grill
It doesn't get more touristy in Savannah than City Market. So we were surprised to discover the elegant, sophisticated Sapphire Grill right on the outskirts of Touristville.

Chef and owner Christopher Nason offers an incredible dining experience; the substance lies behind the restaurant's pizzazz.

We enjoyed such entrées as cracked coriander Muscovy duck breast, foie gras, and mango with golden potato-shallot pancakes. The steak lover will rave about the Sapphire Towering Caesar Salad accompanied by a 10-ounce Prime tenderloin barrel.

For us, Christopher's crowning achievement was the Sapphire Chocolate Terrine. Try to visualize layers of white chocolate- sun-dried cherry brownie, white and milk chocolate mousses, cocoa meringue, and milk chocolate buttercream.

If your Savannah budget allows just one night to splurge, this is the place. 110 West Congress Street; (912) 443-9962. Dinner entrées: $23-$32.95.

Elizabeth on 37th

A culinary landmark in Savannah since 1981, Elizabeth on 37th still occupies a Victorian mansion in the center of town, and its reputation is very much intact.

Founded by executive chef Elizabeth Terry but operated today by chef de cuisine Kelly Yambor, Elizabeth has always incorporated into its creative offerings such Lowcountry favorites as black-eyed peas, greens, grits, ham, okra, and shrimp. Fortunately for their current clientele, that tradition continues unchanged.

We savored a black-eyed pea patty with greens and curry cream, a roasted local shiitake and oyster mushroom entrée, and a perfect pan-fried flounder with a crab cake made just right. The winner among the dessert selections was a triple chocolate cake with fudge icing and chocolate sauce.

We visited on a busy Saturday night, but the staff and kitchen seemed to handle the crush with grace and efficiency. Be advised that Elizabeth does not have much parking, so you may need to arrive a few minutes before your reservation in order to find a spot on the street. 105 East 37th Street; (912) 236-5547. Entrées: $24.95-$31.95.


The Olde Pink House

Another Savannah culinary institution, The Olde Pink House, is the most Savannah-esque restaurant in town. It occupies a classic 18th-century Georgian mansion right on beautiful Reynolds Square in the heart of the city. You can't miss it from the street. It's a handsome pink, naturally.

We found the service slow and inattentive, but there were several items on the menu to recommend. The Caesar salad comes with crispy cornbread fried oysters. The shrimp-and-country ham appetizer with grits cake is a nice start, and among entrées we tried were the grilled lamb loin and jumbo sea scallops. The Chocolate Oblivion torte was a fine ending.

While not the best dining experience Savannah has to offer, The Olde Pink House definitely offers its patrons a true sense of the character of this unique city. 23 Abercorn Street; (912) 232-4286. Entrées: $14.95-$24.95.

Georges' of Tybee

No. That's not a typo. The apostrophe in Georges' is in the right place. That's because co-owners George Jackson and George Spriggs have capitalized on their common first names and added Georges' to their repertoire of successful Tybee Island restaurants.

Unlike its sister, the casual North Beach Grill, Georges' offers a more uptown atmosphere in this coastal setting. Graced by elegant art on the walls and picture windows, this is just the kind of place a discerning vacationer might seek out for a relaxed, intriguing dinner.

Our friendly and attentive server started things off with warm fennel-sourdough-rye bread that is made fresh here daily. And the Georges' signature soup of crab, sweet corn, leeks, artichokes, and thyme was a nice prelude.

Among the appetizer options offered by head chef Robert Wood, we savored a terrific blue crab-and-Granny Smith apple salad dressed with crème fraîche and horseradish on a bed of lettuce. The buttermilk-drenched shrimp rested atop an amazing relish of sweet corn, ham, and cherry tomatoes and were accompanied by a goat cheese-topped potato croquette.

Georges' had no trouble accommodating the vegetarian in our group with a medley of fresh vegetables accented with an imaginative puree of sweet corn and Vidalia onions.

Other entrées included seared yellowfin tuna, sautéed black grouper, and an especially delicious tomato-basil linguini with shrimp, crab, lobster, spinach, artichokes, and garlic tossed together in a light bourbon cream sauce.

With a little room left for dessert, we shared an almost flourless chocolate torte with chocolate whipped cream and strawberry puree and a remarkable roasted banana cheesecake with palmier (caramelized pastry).

Although it's a 30-minute drive from Savannah out to Tybee Island, a memorable evening and meal await you there. 1105 East U.S. 80, Tybee Island; (912) 786-9730. Entrées: $18-$28.


Firefly Cafe

Savannah's 22 shady squares set the stage for the city's many enchantments. On Troup Square, the funky Firefly Cafe provides its Saturday and Sunday customers with a fine brunch menu and the option to soak up some charm at tables under umbrellas that overlook the square.

Start with their delicious Famous Virgin Bloody Mary. (The sale of alcohol is prohibited on Troup Square.) Then turn your attention to the main event.

We enjoyed the Eggs Benedict with Crab and Grits, the Blueberry-Corn Pancakes, and the Make-It-Your-Way Omelette.

There's also a crabmeat-and-spinach omelet on the menu along with a Greek omelet. An old-fashioned corn hoecake makes an unusual offering to complement the usual grits (excellent) and hash browns. The service was fast and friendly, and the food was prepared just right.

You'll be hard-pressed to find a spot that's more relaxing for an easy fall weekend morning in Savannah. 321 Habersham Street (on Troup Square); (912) 234-1971. Weekend brunch entrées: $5.25-$9.25.

45 Bistro

There's a lot going on in Savannah these days, and the resurgence of Broughton Street is an obvious indicator of a renewed local spirit.

45 Bistro is located within the beautifully restored Marshall House Hotel, right on Broughton. There's a direct link here to 45 South, a longtime stalwart in the pantheon of Savannah's finer restaurants that's still going strong in its own right.

We chose a chilled cucumber-yogurt soup to start and found highly commendable the pan-seared black grouper over eggplant caviar served with a red pepper reduction and truffle oil. The Grand Marnier banana spring rolls with créme anglaise was without question one of the more remarkable desserts we experienced while exploring Savannah's dining scene.

Patrons can enter from a separate entrance on the street or from within the hotel. Situated in an atrium with a glass ceiling courtyard, the restaurant boasts a relaxed, spacious atmosphere that sets the tone for a memorable meal downtown. 123 East Broughton Street; (912) 234-3111. Entrées: $15-$28.

Il Pasticcio

There's something about the white tablecloths and well-set glassware that tells you quality and style lie just beyond those large plate glass windows at the corner of Broughton and Bull Streets.

Once inside, your impression will be confirmed by the trendy decor, lively open kitchen, and general sense of patrons out on the town and having a good time.

Here you'll find Savannah's most exquisitely prepared Italian fare. There are exceptional pasta dishes such as the Fettucine al Frutti di Mare--pasta sautéed with shrimp, scallops, mussels, and clams in a spicy white wine sauce.

Entrées include chicken, veal, lamb, pork tenderloin, filet mignon, and an intriguing array of seafood dishes. The wine list is quite extensive and provides wonderful opportunities for enjoyment and experimentation.

Following dinner, if you are so inclined, you might want to check out Après, the nightclub just upstairs that caters to the disco set. 2 East Broughton Street; (912) 231-8888. Entrées: $14-$35.

"Savannah's City Market" is from the November 2003 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.