We ended up having dinners at A.Lure, The Grey, and the Olde Pink House, brunch at B. Matthews Eatery, and two lunches (!) at Kayak Cafe.
Kayak Cafe: we lucked into this place right after we arrived in Savannah, and enjoyed our lunch food so much that we went back again two days later. The setting, in front of a health club, is a bit odd, but the tacos and salads were delightfully fresh/healthy/tasty. We were happily surprised that there was a full bar, and even more happy to taste some of the cocktails, which were excellent and packed a real punch. On our second visit, our server was extremely good and even went so far as to offer proactively to run separate checks for all six of us, including splitting the cost of a shared appetizer six ways, etc. A great choice for lunch.
A.Lure: a shambolic start to our visit, as the hostess initially told us that she didn’t want to seat us when we arrived 10 minutes before our reservation, because she had just seated another party in our server’s section (??). She then told us to get a drink at the bar, which didn’t have enough seats for our group of seven. Six of us managed to get situated and order drinks, and then about three minutes later, the hostess came over and said we could sit down (all of five minutes had elapsed since she’d originally declined to seat us). Then the bartender insisted that we pay for all of the drinks at the bar instead of carrying the tab over to the table, which was ridiculous, but we all scrambled around and paid for our drinks before being seated. I spoke to the manager immediately about the nonsense, and rather than apologizing, she said the hostess had done the right thing and also contradicted her bartender by saying that of course we could have taken the bar tab to the table. Not a great initial impression.
After that I was on high alert, but thank goodness, our eventual server was very friendly and competent. The food was quite tasty, although for those who order the shrimp and grits, be aware that you will be served what is essentially a bowl of cheese sauce with some shrimp and a little bit of grits in it. The winning entree at the table seemed to be the “peas and carrots” dish, which was actually scallops. The biscuits in the bread basket were also very nice. Wine list is good. I would recommend this place for dinner, as the food was quite fine, but just watch out for the hostess.
B. Matthews: cheerfully accommodated a day-before change in our brunch reservation from a table of seven to a table of nine, and very cheerfully and competently served that big group once we arrived. The brunch dishes were reasonably interesting, although we were very disappointed that Georgia law would not allow us to have alcohol with our 11 AM meal! I had fried duck with waffles and was very happy with it–the portion was not overwhelming, the duck was well-cooked, and the honey dijon sauce was tasty and not cloyingly sweet. Our waitress was fantastic and everyone enjoyed their food. Overall a winner, not gourmet, but very well executed.
The Grey: I was a bit worried about the service here after reading several negative reviews, but in the event, we were completely happy with that aspect of our meal. We were even happier with the food, which was really superb, and quite creative. The “yard bird” (roasted chicken) was a particular standout, and I loved my veal sweetbreads and my Carolina rice with squash and sunchokes, but really everything was pretty amazing. We liked the fact that we could order smaller dishes, which then allowed us room for dessert. The lucky two of us who ordered the sweet potato pie were absolutely blown away by it–light as a feather, and just stunning. This meal was by far the highlight of the trip, so much so that we went back for another piece of pie after dinner elsewhere the next day!
Olde Pink House: fulfilled every bit of my low expectations. We arrived about ten minutes early for our 6:30 PM reservation and were asked to wait to be seated (is this a Savannah thing??), but at least this time we could wait outside on comfortable benches. Once seated, at a round table that was too big and discouraged conversation, the chaotic service began. Our waitress didn’t want to take our food order along with our drinks order, although we were ready to give her both, which was odd. No bread showed up on our table, although other diners were given some, so we asked for it and then had to re-ask for it after ten minutes went by with no delivery. (Asking for a refill of the bread basket later in the meal also ended up with first zero, then two baskets from two different servers a while later). Although there are seemingly dozens of servers running around the place, our water glasses went unfilled for long stretches, and empty dishes were not removed from the table promptly. Most aggravatingly, plates of food brought into the dining room by black-clad (and uniformly black) runners sat on trays next to the table for many minutes before white-clad (and uniformly white) servers showed up to set them in front of diners. The inefficiency and the jarring racism of this ridiculous service protocol were very striking.
Food-wise, my impression upon looking at the menu online was that the food would be pretty dull and unimaginative, which it was. I did think from reading online reviews that it would at least be well-executed, which it wasn’t always. I sent back my side of collards, as they were inedibly salty, and asked for roasted asparagus instead–and then was rewarded with a dish containing exactly three spears of asparagus. (Seriously, guys?) My companions were generally satisfied with their proteins, although almost all of the accompanying sides (boring mashed potatoes, overcooked vegetables) were left on their plates.
The Olde Pink House was a quite disappointing experience–I’d thought it might be closer to our meal at Hall’s in Charleston last year, but although that place was also a tourist-filled place with a fairly pedestrian menu, at least the food at Hall’s was very well made and the service was top-notch. In Savannah, not so much. To be avoided.