Tuesday hubby and I decided since we were going to be super busy in the upcoming months that we’d take a couple of days and head to our beloved Savannah and The Dresser Palmer House. Unfortunately neither of us has been feeling great. Seems that while we were in Virginia, #3 was home sick and I guess she slept in our bed while we were gone because she left us a little present in our bed…. A VIRUS! So, we both ended up sick.
I was so sick on the way to Savannah that I actually slept almost the entire way. I think I woke up for a few minutes but even “awake” I was more or less in a daze. We got to Savannah right before the evening social at the Inn so we had perfect timing. Just in time for a nice glass of wine and a little cheese and crackers and then hubby was ready for Churchill’s Pub. He didn’t get to go last time we were in Savannah so he made sure I knew he wanted to get his bread pudding on so we walked down to Bay Street. He had a green tomato BLT and I had Steak and Ale pie which was good but EXTREMELY rich and hearty so I couldn’t eat much of it. Of course hubby got his bread pudding and was a very happy man.
It was funny that while we were on our way to dinner we just happened to walk by this tattoo parlor and hubby was glancing in the window and said “Isn’t that your old boss sitting there?” He had his back to the window so I wasn’t positive but it sure looked like him so I walked in and sure enough it was him. We invited him to dinner with us but since it was such short notice he already had plans but invited us to lunch the next day. He asked if we had ever been to Mrs. Wilkes and we both looked at each other and shook our heads and he said “You have to eat there. Meet me outside the front at 1 and if there’s a long line I’ll sneak you in the back!” He told us where it was and how to get there.
The next morning after breakfast we decided to walk by to see if we could find it on our way down to the riverfront. We were told to “Walk down to Whitaker, take a right, walk down to Jones and take a left and you can’t miss it!” Boy, they weren’t kidding! It was only about 8 or 10 blocks from the Inn and mind you the place doesn’t open until 11 and it was only shortly after ten but as we turned the corner onto Jones the line was already almost to the end of the block! We were dumbfounded.
We went ahead and did our walking/shopping and got back right before 1 and the line was probably 30 or 40 people deep to say the least! As we stood in line waiting we discovered from return guests and regulars that once the line starts moving, it moves pretty quickly. They seat people 10 to a table and if you are by yourself or with a couple of friends, no need to worry. You will NOT eat alone. They will seat people at your table until it’s full! Family style dining with complete strangers! It was pretty cool.
According to what I was told (and the website: http://www.mrswilkes.com/index.html) Mrs. Sema Wilkes took over a boardinghouse in 1943 with the goal of offering affordable housing and good home cooking to her boarders. By the time she had closed the boardinghouse the locals and tourist alike were still coming for her down home cooking. After one visit I can see why!
We were waiting in line out front when Jeff walked up and waved us to the back of the line and told us to follow him. I almost felt like a spy or secret agent on a covert mission as we followed him around the block to the back door and in through. I almost felt guilty bypassing all those people who had been standing there for an hour or longer waiting to get a seat…. But not so guilty that I was going to go back out and join the wait. No sirreebob! I was a little afraid that one of the cooks was going to lasso us and drag us out into the street for those waiting mobs to pelt us with raw potatoes or something but thankfully that didn’t happen.
Mrs. Wilkes’ great granddaughter actually came over and greeted us and guided us to a table where 4 other guests had just sat down. Then the feasting began. They load the table with platters of fried chicken and meatloaf and big family style bowls of beef stew and veggies. Almost the entire table top is covered with either your plate and glass of tea or the steaming hot bowls brimming with yummy veggies. I am not exaggerating when I say there were at least 15 or 20 bowls of veggies covering every surface of the table.
Everything is passed counterclockwise around the table. It’s almost like a symbiotic dance. Everyone grabs a bowl, takes a spoonful and then passes it to the right. It works well until someone takes too long and then things start to back up and you lose track of what you have tried and what you haven’t … not that you could possibly try EVERYTHING on the table although I think hubby gave it a valiant try!
I know I’m leaving some things out but from what I can remember we had: biscuits AND corn bread, fried chicken, beef stew, barbecue, red beans and rice, dirty rice, cucumbers, beets, lima beans, green beans, squash, okra, okra gumbo, succotash, potato salad, mashed potatoes, candied yams, rutabaga, mac n’ cheese, black eyed peas, and collard greens. I only got a small spoon and I don’t think I even tried half of it. And when you finish they bring you dessert! Banana pudding and peach cobbler! It was really good. It was a little price I thought for lunch…$18 a head but it’s only open from 11 to 2 and I guess you only live once, right? But hubby and I didn’t have to pay (THANKS JEFF!) so it was SO worth the price for us!
Had I known how much food there was, I definitely would NOT have eaten breakfast that morning, especially one of those good old “Southern” breakfasts that they serve at the Inn. All in all… if you are in Savannah and are looking for a great place to fill up for lunch I whole heartedly recommend Mrs. Wilkes!