I typically don’t eat Southern food at home in Northern California. You just don’t see shrimp and grits on many menus. But when in the South, it is a must to do as the Southerns and devour collard greens, okra gumbo, black-eyed peas, biscuits, fried chicken, cream corn and seventeen other Southern specialties.
Lucky for me, I only had to go to one restaurant in Savannah, Georgia to do just that, Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room.
Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, a former boardinghouse, has been serving homestyle Southern cooking in a family-style setting for 68 Years.
You will always find a healthy line of hungry patrons wrapped around the front of Mrs. Wilkes. That’s a good sign.
It is family-style dining and each customer is seated at large tables for ten, shared with strangers. You will not be served until your table is full, which could be torture at a slower restaurant, but not here. Getting to know your neighbor should be done quickly, because you will be sharing your dishes with them within five minutes.
That’s part of the experience and just plain fun.
Before you and your neighbors get to delve into any heavy conversations about important life events, you are served 22, yes TWENTY-TWO, Southern specialties.
There are no menus, if there was you would just have ordered ‘one of everything’. Not wanting to miss out on trying all of it, I put a sampling of each dish on my plate. Proof that twenty-two items can fit onto one plate.
It would be easier to tell you what southern food was not on the table that day instead of listing the things that were, from candied yams to corn muffins to sweet tea.
Just because I hadn’t shoved enough food in my pie hole, we were served (and I ate) banana pudding for dessert. I have no willpower.
In the end you scoop up your empty plates and take them into the kitchen yourself, handing them directly to the dishwasher, cutting out the middle man, the busser. I may have to incorporate this smart business concept into my restaurant.
The Bottom Line
If you are looking for a trendy restaurant with pretty plate presentation, go somewhere else. But, if you want a unique Southern experience where you feel like you are in someone’s home, Mrs. Wilkes will treat you right.
Now take me back to the Dresser Palmer House. I have some digesting and porch sitting to do.
Have you ever been to a Southern family-style restaurant? What is your favorite Southern dish?
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Disclosure: My meal was sponsored by Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, but all the words I write come straight from my, sometimes distorted, mind. Just as it should be.