Drive too quickly down Barnard Street and you're likely to catch a scream of color from the orange awning and neon green of Café Florie, a Savannah favorite since December 2011. It beckons both regulars and Florie virgins alike.
Following a few driving maneuvers that I'd be disinclined to confess, my comrade and I were back on Barnard, finally. Overzealous for experience and graced by the cool of Savannah in the seventies we ditched the truck and rambled onward unsure of what awaited behind the bamboo shoot siding and screen door of this soulful shack.
The screen door opened with a bellowing breeze, the aroma of homemade everything billowing around us. We silently took our seats gazing around the cafe attempting to take stock and fully appreciate every aspect of the interior, from the "Gullah Living" art hanging in the farthest corner to the photos of owners and cousins Theo Smith and Latoya Rivers hung alongside photos of family.
As we sipped our water and read through the menu, a Caribbean soundscape bled in from the back, properly pairing the cool tempered climate of the day with sounds of salsa and la cumbia. "Flashback" doesn't begin to describe the nostalgia I felt as the warmth of Barranquilla pervaded my senses.
With the music infiltrating and smells ensnaring it was time to order our food. Allowing my friend to order first, I was placed in that familiar situation of trying to slim down the possibilities of what to eat, and avoid blurting out my true desire of "I'll take one of everything."
Awaiting our food we turned to our cups of Perc coffee, delving and dabbling in conversation attempting to define the true mark of an artist and whether or not our definition mattered at all.
As the conversation turned towards defeating the bureaucracy that plagues and permeates all spheres of contemporary life, I began to take note of the incredibly small, yet intimate interior that I found myself in. While the idea of sharing small quarters might turn away some who prefer their personal space — whatever that is – I relished in the closeness of the cafe.
An elderly couple admiring works conveying "Gullah Living".... a party of three avidly conversing... and my party of two seated near the window... it became apparent that intimacy appropriately reigns supreme in this familial feeling café.
With the arrival of our respective meals — a tuna melt and the Saturday special — my powers of observation dwindled and refocused on the task at hand, finding a way to make room for an unanticipated serving size that drew a "Well damn" from the both of us.
In effort to avoid too much gushing, I'll simply say that my turkey wrap, with avocado, onion and lettuce, had enough bacon to make an envious BLT acknowledge defeat as the "go-to" meal for a hefty serving of that inexplicably delicious meat.
As the meal wound down with the spice of homemade hot sauce intensifying, we asked for our bill and another cup of coffee to jolt us out of the wonderful comatose state we found ourselves in. With the stylings of smooth jazz filling the restaurant and the aroma of coffee exciting my mind, I couldn't help but notice that the man in the red sweater — whom I'd been seated near during the meals entirety — beared an uncanny resemblance to the younger Theo Smith in the photo above me, red sweater and all.
Only upon departure did I discover that the facilitator of my experience and co-owner of Café Florie had been seated next to me. Maybe it was my food-induced inebriation, or the nostalgia of days past that compelled me to politely interrupt Theo so I could express my gratitude, not only for the food, but for the overarching experience.
While everything at Café Florie is homemade, and honors the mantra "From farm to table," I can't help but think that it was the feeling of family that ensnared and won over both my heart and mind.