Johnny Harris, Savannah, Georgia

Recently someone asked me if I had been to Savannah, and I answered with a hearty “YES!”. I stayed there on my Georgia road trip in 2005 (also see earlier posts here and here) and was quickly charmed by the town, with its lovely tree-filled streets of historic homes, its riverfront setting, and with my lodging choice, the Thunderbird Inn, which was restored by the Savannah College of Arts and Design (SCAD).

Thunderbird Inn 1
Thunderbird Inn 2

 

Johnny Harris restaurant is located in Savannah on old U.S. Highway 80, which before the Interstate Highway System traversed the entire country from San Diego, California, to Tybee Island, Georgia (much of the old highway still exists in San Diego County and is a great time-warp drive that I highly recommend). Named after the founder who opened a small barbeque shack in 1924, the restaurant opened at its current location in 1936. Johnny Harris passed away in 1942, but his partner Red Donaldson took over the restaurant and it’s still run by the same family.

Johnny Harris 2

The main dining room is a large circular space with a high domed ceiling with illuminated “stars”, a bar in the center (above photo), gorgeous partitioned wooden booths below a mural around the outer wall, and tables and chairs in the space between. A lot of people could eat in this room, but when I went for dinner it was pretty quiet.

Johnny Harris 3

plenty of privacy in the wooden booths

The restaurant has a diverse menu but it specializes in barbeque. I had their “famous” fried chicken & BBQ pork combination plate. The meal was served with a small bowl of a South coastal specialty, Brunswick Stew, a traditional tomato-based meat and vegetable stew, wedge fries, homemade dark bread, and coleslaw. The highlight was their tangy barbecue sauce. It was so good that I brought home a bottle of the stuff.

Johnny Harris meal

If you are ever in Georgia, a visit to Savannah is a must. It has some of the charms of New Orleans but without the party atmosphere. And when you go you should visit Johnny Harris. The BBQ isn’t the best in Georgia, but eating good food in such a beautiful, classic dining room makes it worth a visit.

Why not do a U.S. Highway 80 road trip across the country from San Diego to the Atlantic coast in Georgia? I pretty much guarantee you will have a better time warp experience than you would driving most of Route 66 (mostly swallowed up by I-40). Take out your road atlas and look it up. US 80 is pretty much intact across the eastern half of its route across the country. In Georgia and Alabama it exists far from any interstate highway, which I have found helps to preserve old places (restaurants, motels, etc.) because they don’t have the competition they would near an interstate where chain motels and restaurants pop up like weeds. In Mississippi, Louisiana, and east Texas it closely parallels I-20 but it still exists separately. West of Dallas it was merged into I-20, though it probably exists in most towns and cities as “Old Highway 80″. Road trip! Let’s go!

Johnny Harris
1651 E Victory Dr, Savannah, GA 31404
(912) 354-7810
Open Sun-Thu 11:30am – 9:30pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am – 10:30pm

Trader Vic’s, Atlanta, Georgia

To continue on Le Continental’s 2005 road trip through Georgia, we come to Trader Vic’s at the Hilton in downtown Atlanta, There are only four Vic’s left in the U.S. since newer locations in Palo Alto and Chicago closed recently:
Emeryville, CA (opened in 1972 and my favorite, of course, because it’s the first one I went to and it’s near my home),
Los Angeles (a beautiful newer location which opened a couple of years ago),
Portland (a brand new location that I visited last May, that has some of the best decor of any recent Vic’s), and
Atlanta
(which opened in 1976 and is the best of all the U.S. locations as far as the decor).

Trader Vic's Atlanta, photo taken by The Jab in 2005

Like many other Trader Vic’s, the bar is fine, but to really experience it you must dine in the dining room. The decor here is classic Vic’s, with lots of Polynesian art and artifacts, tikis, and tons of bamboo and tapa cloth. Every inch is covered except for the large windows which look out on tropical gardens.

Order a Mai Tai or the Trader Vic’s Atlanta specialty drink, the Peachtree Punch, some Cosmo Tid Bits, and soak in the wonderful atmosphere. For an entrée I recommend something from the wood fired oven.

Trader Vic’s
Hilton Atlanta, 255 Courtland St NE, Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 221-6339
Open Mon-Sat 5:30-10:30 (bar closes at midnight)

The Colonnade Restaurant, Atlanta, Georgia

In the fall of 2005 I took a road trip from Nashville to Chattanooga, and then through Georgia, spending time in Atlanta, Macon, Augusta, and Savannah, then seeing the great Okefenokee Swamp before continuing to Florida for the annual Hukilau tiki event. In this and the next couple of posts I will recap some of the restaurants and bars I visited on the trip.

Georgia has a lot of great home cookin’ “soul food” places, and Atlanta is no exception. My favorite during my visit was The Colonnade, which opened in 1927, then moved to its present location in 1962 and is still going strong. In the 80s they expanded (and it looks like they remodeled then), adding a full bar with fireplace.

The Colonnade Restaurant

The decor is nothing very special, but the food is. Everything is homemade, including the salad dressings, sauces, desserts, and their famous yeast rolls, the best dinner rolls you will ever eat! Seriously, they are so fluffy and flaky and they melt in your mouth.

Colonnade's iceberg wedge salad with Thousand Island dressing, yeast rolls, and sweet tea

They are especially famous for their juicy fried chicken, so I ordered that of course. On the menu you have 32 different side dishes to choose from, including such classics as tomato aspic and Waldorf salad. I wish I was more hungry so I could have tried several of them, but I ended up with just one. A great choice though – sweet potato soufflé, which was recommended on Jane and Michael Stern’s Roadfood.com, and was creamy and delicious. The fried chicken was some of the best I ever had. Mmmmmmm!

Colonnade's fried chicken and sweet potato soufflé

This place was very popular when I went, so you may have to wait. The service was friendly and efficient, like most places in the south that I visited.

The Colonnade
1879 Cheshire Bridge Road, Atlanta, GA 30324
(404) 874-5642
Open Mon-Thurs 5pm-9pm, Fri 5pm-10pm, Sat 12pm-10pm, Sun 11:30am-9pm