SAVANNAH, Ga. -- It goes without saying that The Lady and Sons is one of Paula Deen’s favorite places here. It’s the restaurant that propelled her to her first cookbook and to Food Network stardom. It’s also the place where the careers of her sons, Jamie and Bobby, were launched.
The Deens don’t work out of the restaurant any more — well-trained managers and staff take care of that — but you’ll find their food sensibility and Southern hospitality throughout the three-floor facility (http://ladyandsons.com) that serves 8,000 people a week in the heart of Savannah’s Historic District.
You can order off the menu or hit the buffet and try a little bit of everything. A server wanders the restaurant to deliver hoe cakes and cheddar biscuits that are worth the carbs. For a break from the usual comfort food, try the asparagus sandwich ($9.99). If you’d rather take a lesson from the healthier side, try the Salmon en Papillote ($19.99) under the “Not My Mama’s Meals” heading. People with other dietary issues will be happy with the gluten-free flourless chocolate torte or sugar-free cheesecake ($5.99 each).
But her own restaurant isn’t the only thing in Savannah promoted by the queen of the Food Network. Deen is the first to tell you that she loves her adopted hometown, and shopkeepers all over town will rave over their good-hearted favorite customer.
In fact, Visit Savannah officials say they’re not sure how many of the city’s 12 million visitors in the past year came just to be in the city where Deen lives and works, but she’s definitely a popular draw.
“No matter what time of year or day of the week, there’s a line out the door of her restaurant, The Lady and Sons,” said Calli Arnold, public relations assistant at Visit Savannah. “They had a book signing there, and people were lined up around the block.”
Three separate tour groups offer Paula Deen tours that will take visitors to her restaurant and the one she operates with her brother on Tybee Island as well as some other Deen-related stops.
We decided to forget the tour guides and Internet bragging. We went straight to Deen herself for her 10 favorite places in the city where she lives, works and shops. The next time you’re in need of a laid-back East Coast get-away, try this beautiful coastal Georgia city and do it Paula style.
• Globe Shoe Co. It really is true, Stuart Weitzman’s are a girl’s best friend. Smack in the middle of one of the main drags through Savannah’s touristy Historic District, this shoe store is packed to the brim with flats, wedges and pumps by this high-quality shoemaker. You’ll also find cute shoes by Via Spiga, Ugg, Vaneli, Sam Edelman and Gentle Souls, which just might be the most comfortable brand of shoes you’ve never heard of. P.D. rarely heads into the Historic District any more because it’s too filled with people who will stop her for an autograph or photo — and she’s a just girl who can’t say no. You’re more likely to see her assistants in there collecting shoes for her to try on. Ask for Paula’s favorite shoes, and a bevy of clerks will surround you with stacks of boxes and smiling faces.
Find it: 17 E. Broughton St., Savannah; 912-232-8161
• The Paris Market. Owners Paula and Taras Danyluk travel the world and fill their eclectic shop with goods they think Savannah residents and visitors will believe they can’t live without. It’s not all from Paris, but store manager Christina Giddens explains that the couple try to capture the elegance of Paris and an Old-World sensibility. You’ll find Savons de Marseille blocks of olive oil soap ($11.50 each) and tidy cotton bags of imported lavender. Downstairs you’ll find a sprinkling of antiques and even vintage sacred items such as an old church altar, Madonna statue and Santa Rosa candles from Mexico. Local artists rotate their artwork through the shop.
Find it: 36 W. Broughton St., Savannah; 912-232-1500; www.theparismarket.com.
• Toucan Cafe. This whimsical restaurant with walls painted eye-popping shades of lime green, canary yellow and fuchsia boasts a menu with many flavors. You’ll find Caribbean flavors in Jamaican jerk chicken ($15) and a touch of Greece in its Hellenic chicken stuffed with spinach and feta ($16), but you’ll also find Southern staples like mashed potatoes ($3), coconut layer cake ($5.50). You just might want to take home a jar of Sweet Savannah Mustard Vinaigrette ($5.25 a pint) or house-made garlic pickles ($5 for a pint).
Find it: 531 Stephenson Ave., Savannah; 912-352-2233.
• One Fish Two Fish. This shop exudes “coastal cool” with its eclectic inventory of trendy jewelry, LouenHide handbags, Pine Cone Hill linens, Archipelago Botanical bath and body products or Mariposa glossy pewter serving and entertaining pieces. And you’ll fall in love with the cute honeybee embellishments on the straw or fabric handbags by Bosom Buddy Bags.
Find it: 401 Whitaker St., Savannah; 912-447-4600; www.onefishstore.com.
• Habersham Antiques and Collectibles Market. If you’ve watched any of Paula Deen’s Food Network shows or read her food and entertaining magazine, you’ve surely seen the wares of this Savannah antiques mall and its inventory from more than 70 dealers. While you’ll see a little furniture and plenty of old china and Depression glass, this market’s specialty is mid-century era goods. You’ll find vintage aprons and linens and an entire room of ‘60s-era clothing from hats and straw bags to brightly-colored frocks. Out on the main floor of the mall, you’ll see evidence that a dozen years ago the facility was the Smith Brothers grocery store — old meat hooks hang from the ceiling, dangling chandeliers and light fixtures. Mall manager Lynn Rahn says Deen visits often with family and friends because it’s one of the few places where tourists let her be. “Paula loves old vintage things that take you back. I think she’s running out of space — she needs to build another house,” said Rahn, laughing.
Find it: 2502 Habersham St., Savannah; 912-238-5908; habershamantiquesmarket.com.
• Green Truck Pub. The crew at the Green Truck Pub, just a parking lot away from the Habersham antiques mall, makes simple food from scratch, sourcing as many of their ingredients as they can locally. Their grass-fed beef, pastured pork and free-range chicken are all raised in Georgia. They buy their coffee beans from a guy with a roastery a few blocks away. Produce is selected at the farmer’s market at nearby Forsyth Park. Popular menu items include the Rustico burger with goat cheese, balsamic caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and fresh basil that they grow in their backyard garden ($10) and The Whole Farm, a bacon-cheddar burger topped with a fried egg ($12.50). And don’t forget the amazing hand-cut fries with homemade ketchup ($4). Behind the bar are six revolving taps and an interesting selection of about 30 craft beers.
Find it: 2430 Habersham St., Savannah; 912-234-5885; www.greentruckpub.com; closed Sundays and Mondays.
• Seventh Heaven Antiques. This low-slung building on Skidaway Road is easy to miss driving by, but you’ll want to make a U-turn for this stellar shop loaded with early American furniture, china and jewelry. Its odds and ends range from a math book from 1878 ($5) to an Italian Palumba accordion ($125), not to mention a variety of clocks. Shopkeepers here know Paula’s taste; they say she’s bought a number of things here, most recently some Canton blue china (circa 1850) and colorful Majolica dishes (circa 1870).
Find it: 3104 Skidaway Rd., Savannah; 912-355-0835; www.antiquesinsavannah.com.
• Ele Restaurant. For a more elegant dining experience take a drive out of Savannah toward Tybee Island to Ele Restaurant, where chef Sean Thongsiri — who learned to cook from his mother and grandmother in Laos — delivers Asian fusion food that’s as pretty as it is tasty. The most popular dishes are Pad Thai ($14.95) and curry chicken ($14.95), but don’t overlook the Kobe steaks or Wagyu filet mignon with lobster tail ($69.95-89.95). And because the Savannah College of Art and Design lends an artsy edge to the city, a revolving display of local artwork graces the restaurant’s walls.
Find it: 7815 U.S. Highway 80 E., Savannah; 912-898-2221; www.elesavannah.com.
• Sundae Cafe. Fried green tomatoes make numerous appearances on the lunch menu of this family-owned island restaurant: straight up as an appetizer or on top of salad ($9.99), a BLT ($8.49) or even a burger ($7.99). They amp it up for the dinner menu with Southern favorites that capitalize on local catch: seafood cheesecake ($9.95), shrimp and grits ($17.95) and a variety of other seafood ($7.95-$29.95). Paula’s favorite — or so the waitstaff says — is the double-cut pork chop ($18.95). Deen has included the restaurant’s recipes for Succotash, Apple Chutney and Buttermilk Biscuit Blue Cheese Bread Pudding in her Cooking With Paula Deen magazine.
Find it: 304 First St., Tybee Island; 912-786-7694; www.sundaecafe.com.
• Davis Produce. If you’re on your way to Tybee Island and want some fresh fruit to take to the beach, stop where the locals get the freshest produce. Or just grab a bag of boiled peanuts or a jar of salsa or pickles to take home. You can’t miss this produce stand on Talahi Island, at Quarterman Drive and Highway 80 East.
Find it: 7755 U.S. Highway 80 E., Savannah; 912-897-0802; www.facebook.com/Davis-Produce.