On the one hand, you have a very passionate and creative segment of the scene that is all about pushing the culinary envelope. It's one reason why our pop up dinner scene has become so vibrant and why restaurants like Common Thread and Late Air are thriving.
On the other side of the coin-and it is still by far a majority in this city-are the people who loathe the thought of seeing ingredients they can't pronounce on a menu.
I recall a comment from my friend Marcia some years ago when I told her that a new restaurant was coming in to downtown. She said "It's not going to be one of those fancy places that is constantly trying to outdo everyone else, is it?"
"Can't someone just open a Cracker Barrel downtown?"
Of course, I rolled my eyes and told her what I thought of her comment. Unfortunately that cannot be printed here. But I did hear her and I knew what she meant. Most importantly, I knew just how many people in Savannah agreed with her 100 percent.
The challenge a lot of restaurants face in the heart of downtown is to walk a fine line between delicious and modern and familiarity. We've discussed it here before. One relatively new restaurant on Broughton Street thinks they've got a good formula.
Dottie's Market Savannah just started new dinner service a couple of weeks ago. They opened back in March and have already become a staple in the downtown Savannah lunch scene. The food is fabulous. The full house on any given weekday will tell you that I'm not alone in that sentiment. The seafood gumbo alone should go on one of those 'soon to be world famous' plaques somewhere.
Where this whole story comes together is the fact that Dottie's-named for co-owner Ericka Phillip's grandmother-offered dinner service early on. But they offered multi-course chef tasting dinners.
Now, for the first time, they are offering an a la carte menu and they know what the masses want. They are just doing it better than almost anyone else.
"I know I'm required to say this, but I'm really excited about dinner," is how Ericka put it. "The first time I tried it, it was almost like I was sitting in my grandmother's home."
I never visited her grandma's house, but I understood exactly what she meant when I had dinner there last week. There are BBQ ribs, fried green tomatoes (served with Pimento cheese and fried bologna)!!! Pork cracklin's, johnny cakes with sage butter and more. A lot more.
There's even a smoked eggplant dish for the vegetarians that could end up being their most popular dish, once the word really gets out, of course.
Dinner started with slices of their house made rustic bread-which is
outstanding-and a dollop of carrot butter. These eats were over the top good and for good reason, they are cutting no corners at Dottie's.
Executive Chef and Co-owner Chris Meenan's background is fine dining, but he's enjoying applying that to regular casual-ish comfort foods.
Last week, I watched him in action. While he is putting out Italian beef sandwiches and cobb salads, he's back there going through a three-day process of slow cooking that gumbo I mentioned earlier.
It is all happening from scratch and the proof is in every bite.
"We put a lot of energy into what we are doing." Chris says. "Its a tremendous amount of production. All the breads, all the pastries."
It's all delicious and Ericka-who primarily focuses on the front of the house-likes where it is all going.
"Right away we've found some locals-regulars-who appreciate what we are doing," she says.
It's not going to be long before everyone else finds it as well. Try Dottie's new dinner menu. You will not be disappointed.