CREATIVITY EXISTS in places we sometimes forget to look. Like in our interpersonal communication skills, in juggling multiple jobs while chasing that degree, or stretching that last twenty bucks the entire week.
We are some creative beings. One of my favorite places to observe a person’s perspective is on a plate.
The presence of tradition in food transcends time and gives people a peek into a window of not only where someone is or where they’ve been, but also a glance into the culture that helped mold their personal perspective.
I love documenting the energy shift in our city, and the creativity, ingenuity, and entrepreneurship of the locals who are invested in seeing things change. Savannah’s tourism has continued to grow over the years, but in the near future I see a shift in why more people are visiting our city. This time, our exploding art and food scenes will be the catalyst for the wave.
Having restaurants that help us shape the newest layer of our culture are pivotal in what our future will look, feel, sound, and taste like. We, as a collective, shape that narrative with the decisions we make regarding where we spend our money.
When we, as locals, get a moment away from our daily lives to treat ourselves, are we caught in the programming of going to the same places the tourists saturate downtown? Or do we consciously spend money in the places built to cater towards us and our future?
If your answer isn’t the latter, we should probably get some coffee, because I’ve got some places I recommend you check out.
With that being said, there is a place in particular that fortunately for me opened in my neighborhood over a year ago, and is a perfect example of the type of spot that will help us establish our new culture.
Sly’s Sliders and Fries is a hole-in-the-wall spot in the Thomas Square area that brings an atmosphere of customer service, great food, and is coated in creativity. I got a chance to speak to one of the owners of this delicious spot, Matthew Baldwin, about what it took to create a place like this, and what he thinks is the key to not only his restaurant’s success, but to the success of Savannah’s food industry.
Coming from North Carolina with a culinary background, Matthew came to Savannah and was inspired to open his own place. He and his business partner opened Sly’s Sliders and Fries, as they saw an opportunity to have their hand in shaping the future of Savannah’s food industry.
After learning a few lessons about biting off more than they could chew, like most small business owners they were able to settle down and focus on refining and polishing the restaurant they had in front of them. And you can taste the intention and creativity in every bite.
“I’m happy to say, it feels as if our community has embraced having us here,” Matt says. “We’ve been fortunate enough to be welcomed without spending any money on marketing, as word of mouth and social media have been the major vehicles for our customers to find out about us.”
Which I personally feel is usually the best route towards finding out where the real food is. We locals take pride in the restaurants that embody great food with a great atmosphere; and if you ask, we usually tell you where to go.
Sly’s has a resilient team, who pump a lot of food out of small space. But despite the uphill battles they have faced as an up and coming small business, they have pumped all of their energy into the menu and execution of the food.
Matt explains, “Coming into this with a culinary background allowed us to focus more on the food, and gave us the opportunity to elevate the ideas we had for our food. It’s why our kitchen is 80 percent from scratch, and why we try to remain as fresh, local, and authentic as possible.”
Most people don’t grasp how important the sourcing of ingredients, and the weight it pulls in the flavor of a dish. At Sly’s, each and every slider and dog on the menu tells a story of the ingredients, and paints the picture of a flavor profile from a specific place in time.
I was blown away at the accuracy, intention, and flavor in each item. First off all, if you live in Savannah, go get yourself some Angel’s BBQ before this classic spot leaves our city forever. And if you want a small sample, try the “Lil Angel” slider at Sly’s, as the barbecue comes from Angel’s.
“That’s Nacho Dog” is a Sly’s take on a some loaded nachos on a mini dog. I would also suggest “The Pawful Falafel” or “The Shroomwich” if you are vegetarian and are interested in some truly delicious sliders.
But by far my favorite slider has to be the “Banh U, Banh Mi” which consists of tempura shrimp, pickled daikons and carrots, with cucumbers and cilantro mayo. Perfect amount to choose from, and at only three dollars a pop, you could grab a big handful with some loaded fries without going over twenty bucks.
Matthew, like a lot of us, is enjoying watching Savannah grow and become a city that is a large food culture to brag on.
“We are in the middle of an influx of local restaurants, and I mean how could you not be excited for what is to come?” Matt says. “Hopefully in five or six years we will be riding the crest of that wave like everyone else.”
Those restaurants focused on bringing the best of the best to the locals, will be cemented in stone when our food industry helps build another subsection of our tourist market. Knowing where these places are and seeking out the next one is the way we should be thinking when we decide to spend our hard earned dollar.
Spend it locally. Spent it intentionally. Help create that local economy that will bring the change in community we all want to continue to see. Let’s keep stirring that pot, people.
Sly's is at 1710 Abercorn St.