DURING MY four year college tenure, my course load required completion of a marketing class.
One of the important principles of marketing is to never rely on word of mouth, instead opt for instituting a marketing plan. And while as a business owner that very well may be true, as a food writer nothing can be further than the truth.
Word of mouth is something that I follow and trust (especially in Savannah where most news worth hearing travels fastest that way). If you do not have the love of your town and locals are not talking about your food, then you shouldn’t be reading about it.
When I have multiple people go out of their way to tell me about a place that they love to frequent, I instantly add that restaurant to my list of places to share.
JThomas Kitchen is one of those stores that locals kept bringing up, so I decided to head down to the location myself and find out what all the fuss was about. Owner and Chef Joshua Thomas was kind enough to tell me his story and of how JThomas came to grace our Southern town.
His culinary journey began in Savannah, where he was born and raised, working with his dad at a local restaurant. He spent a lot of time in many Savannah restaurants before receiving his own classical training through culinary school.
“I said this is what I want to do, so I went to Johnson & Wales and got a bachelors degree. I hopped around and worked for some really great chefs that have taught me alot,” Chef Thomas gladly told me.
When he returned to Savannah, Chef Thomas furthered his career and opened his highly successful catering business—JThomas Catering & Events. Eventually, as space become available, Chef Thomas decided to expand his business to include a lunch counter with soups, salads, and sandwiches.
It was no surprise that lunch service was a huge success, so Chef Thomas expanded again, and now his business includes a restaurant with dinner service.
So how does a Chef approach his dinner menu after running a successful catering business for so long? Chef Thomas explained it to me without hesitation:
“Our menu is kinda fun, what we have done is taken simple food and made it really good.”
Everything I ate during my visit was just that, extremely well executed dishes by an expert hand. Chef Thomas wasn’t wrong either—the menu is really fun.
Although Chef Thomas’ approach is simple, his menu has something for everyone. He elaborated, “You can come in for dinner and get anything from bolognese to a hamburger, but we are doing it the old school way by grinding the meat, seasoning it and patting it. We make the pasta, make the sauce, and using the classical french techniques that we were taught in school.”
I insist that you go straight for the Chicken ‘In’ Waffles. Chef Thomas offers guests his take on classic Chicken and Waffles dish by putting the chicken inside of the waffle.
Brined and sous-vide chicken is flash fried in waffle batter then served floating on a cloud of whipped maple syrup that has the consistency of marshmallow fluff. To round out the flavor, the dish is finished with a smoked paprika oil.
You will be satisfied with any main course that you pick, so try one and come back another day to try something different.
The Braised Beef Shoulder is slow roasted for two full days before arriving at your table. You could look at the tender hunk of meat and it would fall apart.
The beef tastes of nostalgia from your mother’s slow cooker, yet is refined with a slathering of sticky sweet root beer syrup and foundation of silky whipped potatoes. Scattered about, your fork will find an array of roasted vegetables like green beans, carrots, and potatoes, just like you would find at the bottom of any home cooked roast.
Red Snapper was the Fresh Catch the day I stopped in for my meal. To ensure the filet of fresh fish is served with an extra crispy skin the kitchen removes its skin then hard sears the filet at a very high heat, which creates its crunchy outside.
Inside, the giant steak of red snapper remains juicy and delicate. The generous portion of fish is served resting on top of a hill of creamy risotto that is peppered with roasted corn. To finish the dish, a heaping pat of scampi butter is added to balance the lean fish on your palate with a little fat.
Chef Thomas recognized the desire of Savannah locals to find a good steak on the menu. He has include three essential cuts, a filet, new york strip, and a ribeye.
The USDA Prime Beef Filet is served steak house style, sizzling hot with just the right amount of butter resting on top. Unlike many steak houses, Chef Thomas takes the time to well season his steak which adds to the steak’s crust which is created through proper cooking techniques. My favorite part of the dish was his use of an extremely unique black cherry demi-glace that was deeply rich.
You get a choice of Chop House sides with each steak. Every single option includes the same finesse used for all of Chef Thomas’ creations including Gouda Mac and Cheese. Need I say more?
Dessert may be the hardest thing to choose. The rows of baked goods behind the store’s glass display cabinet that sits in the dining room is staggering. Cookies, cakes, and bars are just a fraction of the items you will find on JThomas Kitchen’s overflowing bakery counter.
Beyond the food, the most impressive aspect of my visit was watching Chef Thomas interact with the influx of patrons that called him by name, all while he was cooking in a busy kitchen.
Watching Chef Thomas greet so many patrons as if they are old friends confirmed that everything I had heard was true, and it screamed Southern hospitality. I promise my confirmation had nothing to do with the enormous amount of food I devoured.