Just before noon on a breezy blue-skyed Sunday, diners were once again sitting at sidewalk tables on Habersham and Harris, catty-corner from what is arguably the most stunning of Savannah’s squares.
For now, the awning still says ‘Fox & Fig’, but on Jan. 24, Annette Baik and Jae Kim opened Urban Deli and began serving their own scratch-made sandwiches, salads, soups, and drinks in the property that was the home of the popular vegan café until this past December.
“We love Savannah,” said Baik. “We always said, ‘When the time comes, when we have the chance, let’s move to Savannah,’ and this just came true.”
In a relatively blink of an eye, the husband-and-wife team sold their restaurants and their home in Fernandina Beach and transported their successful sandwich shop concept to Troup Square.
“We moved in November, and I started renovations. The entire process took about two months,” Kim said this past Sunday, just their fourth day of service.
The couple expects that Urban Deli will operate under a “soft opening” umbrella for the next two weeks with a more widely announced grand opening in mid-February.
“We’ll just try to get all the kinks out, get everybody in sync, before St. Patrick’s Day,” said Kim and laughed knowingly. “That’s our plan.”
FROM 904 TO 912
For more than a decade in Fernandina Beach, Baik and Kim owned and operated 4th Street Deli, and their Area51 Korean Grill was open for the last three years. In essence, they took what had worked on 4th Street for ten-plus years and reopened it on Harris Street.
The menu numbers a dozen protein-based sandwiches, comprising the classic roster of any credible deli, plus another half-dozen vegan options.
What catches the eye when folks first walk in, though, is the cornucopia of composed salads, fifteen chromatic bowls of every imaginable veggie, many of which were standard at Baik and Kim’s former shop. All clearly labeled, some are vegetarian, some vegan.
“I came to the United States when I was sixteen,” Baik recalled. “My parents had a deli in Crystal City (VA). Back then, a salad bar was a big hit. Because they could not speak English, I worked there to help them out.”
“That’s where I learned everything,” she added, crediting her mother for some of the recipes, notably the kimchi. “Then I kind of tweaked it and added my own things.”
At Urban Deli, the potato salad and the broccoli salad have already been hits.
“Surprisingly, people have really liked the Asian coleslaw,” Baik said happily of her spin on the Southern staple, dressed with sesame oil and paprika and enriched with crunchy ramen.
Many of her sandwich recipes have also made the journey northward, and the turkey bacon has remained a “big hit,” as well as the roast beef with brie and chunks of marinated mushrooms.
The $15 sandwich & salad combo is the way to go, and the portions of both are ample.
For any sandwich, diners can choose from white bread, wheat, multigrain, marble rye, French rolls, ciabatta, and croissant, and Auspicious Baking Co. is providing pastries as well as the vegan bread options.
Baik’s has added homemade vegan chicken and tuna salads, and knowing that they were filling the Fox & Fig space, she and Kim are offering four familiar items to satisfy former F&F fans: the veggie burger, the chipotle mac, the avocado toast, and the breakfast sandwich.
“I don’t want to disappoint them,” she said with a chuckle.
Kim said that the current 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. hours were chosen to follow Fox & Fig’s format, for the sake of its former customers, though an “adjustment” might be made once Urban Deli establishes its own presence.
CUTE CORNER CAFÉ
Baik and Kim found this special property back in August. They called the agent, visited the location, and fell in love. So began a whirlwind life change. The couple signed the lease in early October. They closed down Area51 and let Kim’s sister take over 4th Street Deli. At the end of October, they sold their Florida home and made the move up 95 two weeks after that.
Once they were Savannahians, Kim general contracted all of Urban Deli’s interior renovations, which were largely cosmetic: plenty of tile and paint plus new furniture.
The resto’s interior is even cuter with pops of color everywhere and light throughout. The wooden bartop seats take full advantage of the Habersham Street view, and both bay windows open up and brighten up the English basement.
Exposed toffee-peach bricks look like original architectural pieces but are, in fact, salvaged brick veneers cut from 1800s houses in Chicago that Kim had installed.
The kitchen left by the Foxy Family befit what Baik needed, but the front counter featuring the array of her salads is a new addition built by Kim. Glossy jade vertical tiles cover the entire back wall as well as that bespoke case. There is seating inside for at least two dozen comfortably, including the round table for four beneath the Harris Street window.
“Everybody really loves the color combination,” Kim said humbly of what looks every bit a modern sandwicherie, rather the eastside counterpart to Anita Deli Sandwich.
Baik is all smiles in her new space, saying that both the seating area and kitchen are far bigger than their former deli.
“I feel really good, so grateful,” she said.
During their years down the coast, the couple made a habit of driving up to Savannah every couple weeks simply to enjoy the city’s dog-friendly walkability, the weather, and the trees.
“We just love it here so much, especially our dogs. They love to walk here,” Baik beamed, making ‘love’ a long word.
“They’re my kids,” she said of Pauli (12) and Juni (10).
“We’re so grateful to have our spot here, especially to be next to the church. I feel so blessed to be here,” added Baik, seemingly unaware of her cleverly pious pun.
Urban Deli (321 Habersham Street) is open daily (9 a.m. to 8 p.m.)