Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Four Nights in the Garden of Good and Evil

Following our visit to Atlanta and Turner Field, and a brief stopover at my cousins’ place just outside of Greenville, South Carolina—the former hometown of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson—KJ and I ventured down to Savannah. A charming and historic port city on the coast of Georgia, Savannah lies at the mouth of the river that shares its name. It also has a unique history of interesting, and sometimes eccentric, people and mysterious circumstances.

Forsyth ParkOur first night in Savannah, we wandered around town, getting the lay of the land. The city’s historic district is comprised of 24 squares, although three of these were all but destroyed due to development in the 1950s. Unlike in Boston, where a square is really just a chaotic maze-like intersection, Savannah’s squares are basically miniature parks. Most of them are shaded by Spanish moss covered live oak trees, and many feature fountains and/or statues as their centerpieces.

The next morning, we visited the Mercer House, which was less than a block away from our B&B. The home was built by the great-grandfather of Academy Award winning lyricist Johnny Mercer (“Moon River”, “Days of Wine and Roses”), who was also the co-founder of Capitol Records. The Mercers never lived there, though, but antiques dealer and Savannah socialite Jim Williams—the central character in John Berendt’s true-crime murder story Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil—did.

Speaking of Moon River, and since a trip to a new area wouldn’t be complete without tasting some locally brewed beer, the afternoon brought us to Savannah’s one and only brewpub. Moon River Brewing Company’s Wild Wacky Wit is an ordinary, but refreshing, orange peel and coriander-spiced Belgian-style wheat that went well with our lunch on a hot and sunny day. Their Savannah Fest is a German-style fest beer with medium malt character and a nice hop/malt balance. It was most enjoyable, though, due to the fact that Savannah’s lack of an open container law allowed me to get it “to-go” in a plastic cup and consume it while walking around town.

Our second night was not without incident. After much indecision about where to go to dinner, we ended up at a place whose menu did little for me, at least partly due to my distaste for seafood. We opted to just have a drink there prior to moving on, but not before I proceeded to let a pint glass slip out of my hand and knock over KJ’s drink in the process, spilling the majority of both drinks on my lap. The waitress replaced both drinks—mine was a SweetWater Georgia Brown—but considering the state of my shorts, we decided to dine at Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

The SweetWater Georgia Brown was unimpressive, as are most American brown ales—with the exception of Brooklyn Brown—it seems. This one, though, was oddly over-carbonated but with virtually no head retention. Five Guys, on the other hand, was easily the best fast-food hamburger I’ve ever tasted. This was my first visit to the Washington DC based chain, and I left there hoping they have plans to open more locations than the three that are within 20 miles of Boston.

A trip to the south just wouldn’t seem right without some barbecue, and our third night was highlighted by a visit to a place called Blowin’ Smoke. Besides having a great bottled beer list—although I opted for a Dale’s Pale Ale, a rare microbrew in a can—this joint featured the best Kansas City Ribs and green beans I’ve ever had. Their pulled pork, fried pickles and mac & cheese were boast-worthy as well, and the Dale’s—a strong ale that perfectly straddles the line between pale ale and IPA—was the perfect complement.

Bonaventure CemeteryOn our fourth, and final, night we re-enacted a memorable scene from the aforementioned book—well, sort of—by driving to Bonaventure Cemetery with a couple of cocktails, and drinking them while sitting on the grave of writer Conrad Aiken. Now, before you jump to the conclusion that this was a disrespectful act, I should tell you that Aiken’s gravestone is built in the shape of a bench, and he had it made that way for this very purpose.

Aiken’s successful life and career as a poet and writer of short stories was despite a tragic childhood. At 11 years old, the Savannah native found the bodies of his dead parents, the casualties of a murder-suicide committed by his father. He was subsequently raised by relatives in Massachusetts, returning to Savannah later in life, where he lived out his final 11 years.

Overall, our trip to the 13th colony was one of my best vacations in recent memory. That, of course, had as much to do with the company as with the places we visited, although that’s not to say that I don’t wish I was still on the streets of Savannah, drinking a beer from a plastic cup or a vodka and tonic from the styrofoam variety.


  1. Open containers allowed? I love it. Have I ever told you about my tangle with Plattsburgh's open container law?

    Now that you have had ribs and beans from Blowin' Smoke, you must venture to Rochester for Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

  2. I would love to hear about your Plattsburgh experience Casey. I recall you mentioning something about Dinosaur BBQ on your site.

  3. Exams were all finished and dorms closed the next day at noon. We headed into town for one last night. After the bars closed, many kept their drinks as we flushed out to the city streets. Take one guess who was the only person nailed for open container. Of course I put up a little resistance. Yeah, I did time behind bars for open container. I think my housemates bailed me out an hour later. Needless to say, the judge threw out the charges and returned the bail.