Saturday, March 23, 2013

Olde Pink House - Savannah

The Olde Pink House Restaurant is located at 23 Abercorn Street in Savannah, Georgia 31401 (912-232-4286).
It has a 4.5 rating on Yelp (one of the banner restaurants when you do a Savannah Yelp restaurant search) and is rated #7 out of 470 restaurants in Savannah on Trip Advisor. I was really looking forward to this meal, the third restaurant in our journey to experience the best of lowcountry cuisine (see both Hominy Grill and FIG in Charleston), but both Judy and I came away disappointed. I guess maybe our expectations were too high, or perhaps it just did not fare well in comparison to FIG, which was so wonderful.

The restaurant building is fun and distinctive. It was built in 1771 by James Habersham, Jr., a cotton factor, and one of the few buildings in Savannah to survive a fire in 1796. The house was originally stuccoed white, but the underlying soft brick bled into the stucco to create the pink color for which it is now known.
His father, James Habersham, Sr., established the first successful transatlantic shipping business between Georgia and England. With his earnings, he bought about 15,000 acres of land and developed extensive rice plantations. He was also acting governor of Georgia in the early 1770s and died in 1775. Sr.'s sons got involved in the revolutionary movement and two of his sons, John and Joseph, served in the Continental army. James, Jr. helped finance the war, but did not actually fight. The home apparently was used for secret meetings in the effort for independence and our waiter mentioned that many of the colonial hierarchy, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, had been visitors. All three of Sr.'s sons were appointed to the Confederation Congress in the 1780s and Joseph was appointed postmaster general of the United States by President George Washington in the 1790s and John was port collector for Savannah. James Habersham, Jr. is rumored to have hung himself in the basement in 1799, distraught over his wife's death, which makes this a popular building for ghost hunters who want to encounter his restless, wandering spirit. From 1811 to 1865 it was headquarters for the Planter's Bank, the first bank in Georgia. It also was used by Union general Zebulon York, one of Sherman's underlings, as his headquarters in 1865 during the Civil War. 

It was quite dark inside and I didn't want to use a flash, so my pictures are not as clear as I would like. As an appetizer, we got the goat cheese stuffed artichoke fritters with red pepper and honey mustard sauces. 
A small, whole, artichoke was inside. It was not completely soft and did not blend well with the other ingredients. I hardly noticed the goat cheese. Although others on Yelp describe them as delicious, they did nothing for me. I let Judy have the extra (third) piece. 

The waiter recommended the "BLT," fried green tomatoes & sweet bacon with black pepper thyme buttermilk dressing. This was the best item we ate. We ordered one and they split it on to two separate plates, one for each of us. So if you double what you see in the picture, that was the one appetizer, a very generous portion. 
There are two large slices of fried green tomatoes (the only time I've liked fried green tomatoes), fried smoked bacon topped with brown sugar, green leafy lettuce and thin buttermilk dressing. Aaron Sanchez, a celebrity chef, selected this items to be featured on the Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate." I wouldn't go that far, in fact, I would put two items we ate at FIG in Charleston, just the day before, above it: the marinated razor clams and the chocolate-hazelnut budino. 

Judy ordered what the waiter termed their "signature dish," the crispy scored flounder with apricot shallot sauce. 
It is mentioned and raved about in a number of Yelp and other reviews. One reviewer says it was "possibly one of the best fish dishes" he'd ever had. Others say the sweet taste "overwhelms the flavor of the fish." I've had scored fish on a number of occasions and it does make it much easier to eat. I've also had crispy sole on several occasions which had similarities. For me, the sweet apricot flavor was too much. I think it might be better if it had about one-third or one-half of the amount. Although it was better than my fish (see below), it was still a little overcooked. 

The flounder also came with Geechie Boy grits (made by Geechie Boy Market & Mill on Edisto Island in South Carolina) and collards. 
That was the next best item we had. These were by far the best collard greens and grits I've had and I probably ate more of this than Judy did (and it was her dish). The grits were a little sweet and the collards nicely spiced. I could be happy with a meal just using these two items. Now that I've found where the grits are made, I may have to order some. 

Another popular dish is the crab stuffed black grouper, white wine lemon sauce, mashed potatoes and mixed beans. There was a moratorium on grouper in the local area, so they were serving this same dish with striped bass. 
I got it and was quite disappointed. The fish was over cooked and the crab really did not stand out. It was not what I would expect from a 4.5 rated Yelp restaurant. From a Denny's or an Applebee's maybe. This dish probably has a lot to do with my overall disappointment with the restaurant. The mashed potatoes were good so far as the insufficient sauce covered them and the beans were fine. 

I ordered a side dish of sweet potatoes with pecan vanilla butter. Surprisingly, I was disappointed with this dish as well. 
I would have preferred more sweet potatoes and less pecan vanilla butter. It was really more a dessert dish. 

Given the significant number of good reviews it has received, I would be inclined to write off my experience to my having a bad day, although Judy felt much the same way I did. If we were to get back to Savannah, I would not be inclined to go back to this restaurant, unlike the two we visited in Charleston that I would look forward to re-visiting. 


  1. I also thought it was overpriced. The atmosphere, however, can't be beat. We were in the newly added on "ballroom," and it was a stunner.

  2. Wow. My husband and I loved the restaurant! BLT salad was fabulous and the shrimp and grit appetizer great. Everything was superb but the best part was ambience in cave downstairs and service was impeccable. Staff bent over backwards! Loved it!!

    1. Sometimes restaurants have bad days, as do their guests. Perhaps they, or we, or both were having an off day.