I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

In which I explore the culinary side of Savannah

This is the line waiting to get into a restaurant called Mrs. Wilkes.

Some things -- not many, in my opinion -- are worth standing in long lines for, and I wouldn't put most restaurants on that list. But multiple people told me I had to eat at Mrs. Wilkes, and because it's only open Monday through Friday (and only between 11 am and 2 pm) yesterday was my only chance to go. I got there at 10, and there were probably about twenty people in line already. I was seated shortly after the restaurant opened, and by noon I'd stumbled back out into the Savannah heat, lighter by $25.00 and heavier by approximately 25,000 calories.

This is Southern cooking, served family style, and though technically it's all you can eat, the concept is meaningless here. There were two main dishes -- fried chicken and barbecued pork -- and what is reported to be 22 side dishes. I didn't count; they were already occupying every square inch of space on the table when we sat down, and though dishes got passed around, it was impossible to try everything. I did try collard greens and creamed corn and mashed potatoes and rice and gravy and cornbread dressing and sweet potatoes and biscuits, and possibly a few other dishes I'm forgetting. I did not try the lima beans or the okra or the coleslaw or the cornbread muffins. What was in the other dozen or so dishes I never sampled or even saw, I couldn't tell you.

It was all good, some of it very good, but I realized early on that every bite of collard greens, however delicious, was taking up room in my stomach that should be assigned to fried chicken or biscuits, which were both pure heaven. The chicken managed to be both crispy and juicy, and the biscuits were light and crumbly and buttery and salty and the fact that I only managed to eat two of them is something I expect to regret for the rest of my life.

Yes, there was dessert -- peach cobbler with a tiny scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yes, I somehow managed to finish it.

So was it worth standing in line for an hour? Absolutely! Great food, and a fun experience. Would I do it again? Well....maybe.

The problem with this authentic Southern cuisine is that you're eating it in the South. And walking through heat and humidity that were both in the 90's with a stomach full of fried chicken and peach cobbler almost erased my enjoyment of the experience. The twenty minute walk back to my hotel ended up taking more than two hours because I kept having to duck into stores and museums to cool off.

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