New spirit at the New Georges'

George Spriggs

WHEN IT COMES to reincarnation, I’ll put my faith in George Spriggs over Shirley MacLaine any day.

Two months ago, Spriggs quietly opened The New Georges’ of Tybee, in the former site of a recently departed fine dining favorite—Georges’ of Tybee.

Spriggs’ vision of New Georges’ is to capture a niche between his laid back, unencumbered-by-air-conditioning North Beach Grill and the white tablecloths of the “old” Georges’, which closed New Year’s Eve. The closing also marked the end of Spriggs’ partnership with Georges’ of Tybee co-owner George Jackson.

With New Georges’, Spriggs has put an upbeat, down-home spirit into the “body” of his former restaurant. The white tablecloths are gone, but the New Georges’ dining experience is mighty fine.

“It’s a refined southern bistro menu,” says Spriggs. “They’re recipes people will recognize from growing up — my version of them.”

Okay, so my late grandmother Helen Gunn would never have prepared sauteed flounder with Pernod, or cured and roasted duck with ratatouille. But even with an updated spin, the classic meatloaf with mac-and-cheese and collards transported me back to Sunday after-church sit down dinners around her table. So did the salad of the day—a tower of Davis tomatoes, Vidalia onions and cucumbers with just enough vinegar.

My grandmother’s frugal side would have appreciated the price points. Entrees run from $9.50 to $20.95, with most firmly in the middle of the range. And I think she’d also give her seldom-offered approval to the dessert I chose — cheesecake with a hint of banana and ginger.

Among the reincarnation of things at the New Georges’ is the return of Spriggs to the chef role, after a hiatus.

“I came out of the kitchen at the North Beach Grill in 2005,” says Spriggs. “At Georges’ I do have a head chef but I am back in the kitchen.”

At Spriggs’ side on the line is Chef J.J. McFarland, whose resume includes Atkins Park and McKendrick’s Steak House of Atlanta. “Having George in the kitchen gives me his ideals and values that he wants me to carry over,” says McFarland.

Along with the new chef, Spriggs has pulled together an amiable team of servers and bartenders recruited from the old Georges’ and the North Beach Grill, as well as a few new faces.

Spriggs’ reincarnation plan seems to be working. On a recent Saturday night, after declining the hostess’s offer of a table, I was greeted three times on my way to taking a seat at the bar, the ideal perch for a solo diner. Soon after ordering, a high school acquaintance and another friend pulled up. As former regulars, who admit they miss the old Georges’, they are already fixtures, and fans, of the new place.

Still a work in progress, this Sunday, New Georges’ will change things up a little more, opening the doors for a prix fixe brunch. Spriggs and his team are kicking around the idea of a late night menu, possibly once beach season officially begins.

“We’ve come up with something that appeals to a wide variety of people,” says Spriggs. “So far the response has been really nice.”

The New Georges’ of Tybee

1105 East Highway 80, Tybee Island(912) 786-9730Open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner and Sunday for brunch.

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