There’s been a lot of talk around here lately about new restaurants, new developments and growth downtown and beyond.
The structure at One West Victory and The Florence will undoubtedly do wonders for the Southern end of the Victorian District and the Victory Drive corridor going forward. And The Grey, which I wrote about in this space last week, is going to give the MLK corridor exactly what it needs when they open in the old Greyhound bus terminal at 109 MLK Blvd. Pacci Savannah is one of the prettiest restaurant spaces in a city in need of some nips and tucks.
They are coming. Slowly but surely, we are going to look a lot less like 1985 and more like 2015. All of that said, I thought I’d go ahead and share this story with you now while the experience was fresh in my mind.
Another member of that “Class of 2014” in Savannah may be the next one to open, perhaps in early fall. But I already got to eat there.
“Hey! How’d he do that …” you ask? Half a tank of gas, a compass and voila!
39 Rue de Jean is set to open in the new Embassy Suites hotel on West Oglethorpe near the bus terminal. French bistro by any definition, it is already one of the most popular hangouts for locals in the bustling foodie metropolis we have a couple of hours to our north.
Yes, that would be Charleston. They’ve been there for 14 years and are still going very strong. Holy City Hospitality is the restaurant group that owns it and several other Charleston eateries. They are also associated with the Embassy Suites here and are putting the newest sister property in its ground floor, with outdoor seating on Oglethorpe. You can already see the canopies out there now if you drive by.
If you follow us regularly at www.eatitandlikeit.com (shame on you if you don’t) then you know I previously reported that a standalone Starbucks is coming to that block, as well as an Irish pub. Good times on the west side, indeed. But back to the grub.
We knew we had a few days in Charleston in mid-July shooting for our new season of “Eat It and Like” (coming Sept. 14) so we figured it was a perfect opportunity to visit Rue de Jean and get a small peek into what Savannah is going to enjoy once the doors open here. I actually have a good friend in Charleston who’s been trying to get me to try it for well over a year, but with so many good choices in Chucktown, it’s impossible to get everywhere. This time, there was no escape.
“The biggest complaint they get up there is that it’s too loud,” says Jon Massey, food and beverage director at the Embassy Suites here in Savannah. “It’s going to be a great place to come, have a good time.
“Glass of champagne and mussels maybe for the lady and a classic steak frites for the gentleman,” he adds. “This is definitely going to be a great place to hang out after work.”
Judging by the looks of the space in Charleston, I have to agree.
“It’s a cut and paste,” he says. “It’s worked there for 14 years; we aren’t going to change anything about the model.” Fair enough.
Those mussels he referred to? Simply amazing. They are offered in six different flavors ranging from bacon bleu cheese in white wine broth and garlic to pistou — garlic, basil and olive oil.
Yes, a pesto broth over the mussels. I’ve had something like that before, but this was over-the-top good. I’ll spare you the play-by-play of the menu items we sampled — stuffy food snob we know I am not — but the mussels deserved a spotlight.
All the items we tasted were very good, as well. I will add that their burger (of which I merely had one bite) is already one of the best in Savannah, and they haven’t even gotten here yet.
Keep that one in mind.
The wine list is very well put together and they even have a sushi bar inside. Yes, kind of odd to get a set of chopsticks with a French café logo on it, but it works. There’s a good bit of something for everyone.
The common sentiment around Charleston (and trust me, I’ve spoken to dozens of people about the subject) is that Savannah is coming along with its food scene but they are still 10-15 years behind Charleston.
Some of them will even have you think their JV team would beat our varsity squad by a touchdown.
They’ll never say that, it’s just a feeling I get when I gush about our growing food scene. Fair enough.
They’ve been so far out in front for so long, it’s easy to not take Savannah very seriously. I have no problem with that.
But the key to building a stronger team?
Add some of the champ’s players.
Charleston’s 39 Rue de Jean isn’t going anywhere. But some of that magic is about to become a player right here in Savannah.
I’ll definitely keep you posted on their progress as they near an opening.