THERE ARE certain restaurants that could be designated cornerstones of Savannah’s food scene. For a BLT salad you go to the Olde Pink House, for ice cream it’s Leopold’s, and for decadent oversized baked goods, specifically for me the caramel roll, Gottlieb’s Bakery is the choice.
At least that was the way until a few weeks ago, when Gottlieb’s decided to expand their repertoire to include brunch on Sunday and dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.
The second I heard, I zoomed over to check it out. I visited on a Friday evening, and sat down to chat baked goods with Laurence Gottlieb while his brother Michael Gottlieb cooked dinner in the back.
The rest of the patrons filled the side of the shop where Laurence bakes, sitting at the actual tables where he rolls out his dough on every early morning. Eating at this table provides an experience that allows you to daydream of kneading, twisting, and filling pastries while you eat.
In the back sits a modest kitchen in which Michael impressively cranks out dish after dish for the influx of patrons that fill the family shop.
The fourth generation Gottlieb brothers re-opened the more than 100 year-old bakery and brought their own experience and tastes to the table.
“We are slowly incorporating old school bakery products into the mix as well as having fun creating new bakery items based on inspiration from old family recipes,” Michael elaborates.
The two work together like peas and carrots—Laurence the baker and Michael the cook. With their powers combined, the resulting food is well thought out and prepared exquisitely.
Most locals know and love the institution that has been Gottlieb’s Bakery, so speaking to the quality of their food didn’t require many questions on my end; the reputation speaks for itself. I was, however, curious to learn why the family bakers decided to expand to dinner service.
Michael explains, “Dinner was brought on by our desire to showcase our passion for food influenced by bakery products and ingredients found around us. Baking is our second calling (well first really as we grew up in the bakery), working in kitchens serving fun foods is where Laurence and I both started in our careers.”
Just as surprised as I was to learn about the ever growing and changing bakery, I was surprised to find a well rounded menu. You’ll find anything from fluffy gnocchi coated in pesto to an earthy roasted mushroom burger.
Michael educated me on how bakers with a lifetime of experience go about creating a savory dinner menu:
“Laurence and I talk about weekly bakery production and see what items, doughs or desserts will be floating around and then the menu is created based on those influences. We also look at seasonal products that are coming into play and showcase those based on our menu writing experience,” he says.
To create each recipe, old or new, the process is simple according to Michael:
“The dinner and brunch items are based on our love of food, travel and past work experiences. We enjoy a free flowing menu that incorporates foods from all over. Currently we are having fun creating and paying homage to our favorites and the challenge of recreating a dish that would normally cost $30 plus in a more formal setting but figuring out how to serve the same quality at a $15 - $17 price point,” he says.
I started with a shareable dish, the Foie-nut. For this rich starter a warm sticky sweet donut is served with seared Hudson Valley foie gras. A hint of texture is added to the outside of the velvety delicacy.
The salty/sweet combination is finished with a sprinkling of nuts and a sticky sauce. Foie and doughnuts is what chicken and waffles wants to be.
It is the right time of year to find soft shell crab featured on the brand new menu. Gottlieb’s offers theirs spewing over its bun.
The bread—tender with a chewy outside—was the perfect vessel to deliver the meaty flash fried soft shell crab. As you bite into the sandwich, the expertly baked bread gives away just enough to let the crab shine. The finished sandwich had all the textures and flavors of a stellar deli sandwich but with a salty fare flare.
The Grilled Charleston Cheese Curd Sandwich was recommended to me, probably because it is one of the more unique items on the menu. Creamy curds are paired with a spicy sweet apricot horseradish and floral herbed olive oil. The dish comes together like an upscale sandwich version of that pepper jelly covered cream cheese party dish that so many locals make.
In lieu of staple Savannah shrimp and grits, the brothers serve red fish over creamy grits with basil and a corn cream. The fish is well seasoned, cooked delicately, and serves as the perfect counterpart to its base of custard like ground southern corn.
The mushroom burger will make you forget meat. A gigantic slice of mushroom is layered with charred onions and sharp melted cheddar between the same handmade bun that serves the crab.
The best part of my meal was how warm and welcoming the Gottlieb duo was. Their hospitality truly pays homage to the legacy that is the Gottlieb family.
The restaurant does not have a liquor license, so don’t forget your favorite bottle (or two) of wine to pair with your meal. You can replace the empty space in your bag with a take home box full of fritters, cookies, and danishes.