It's a beautiful month in the neighborhood.
Have you realized how much of a melting pot Savannah is? There are a lot of people laughing right now, but think about it: October offers a huge variety of food festivals in town. All of which do a very nice job.
Fiesta Latina on River Street is some of the best fun you can have on River Street if you like salsa and Latin dance music. There's the Savannah Greek Festival, and of course, Shalom Y'all in Forsyth Park every year.
For the record, because I am asked all the time: Cuando me preguntan, yo digo que soy Cubano. Tengo familia en Miami, todos Cubanos, pero tambiÃ©n tengo familia en Nueva York. Todo PuertorriqueÃ±os. Puro Boricua.
My dad and his family are from Havana. My mom was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico. I was raised in a "Cuban" household in Miami, so when I am asked, I say I am Cuban. However, I sport the best of both worlds in my book - especially when it comes to the food.
About two or three times a year, I will get a craving for the flavors of my childhood. Of course there's the roast pork, black beans and rice, fried bananas and all that good stuff, but there is also Arroz con Gandules - which is Puerto Rican-style yellow rice with pigeon peas.
I'll spend half a day making all of those great dishes, then spend the next week eating the leftovers. By the end of the week, I'm sick of them and it's back to my normal diet. For the better part of the last 18 months, I've been hearing about a Puerto Rican restaurant on Savannah's southside. The name? Puerto Rico Restaurant. Yeah, a little lacking on originality, but in a city not accustomed to the type of cuisine they serve up, "Mofongo Grill" wouldn't have exactly had customers lining up out the door.
I finally got to try Puerto Rico Restaurant a few days ago and have to say, I enjoyed it. As is the case with any restaurant, some dishes are better than others, but the flavors were spot on. The Cuban Sandwich (yes, in a Puerto Rican restaurant) was as close to authentic as I have found in this area. For the record, a real Cuban sandwich is roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickle and yellow mustard. That's it.
Freelancing is most certainly allowed, but when an original is done well, they are tough to beat.
The Tripleta, a Puerto Rican sandwich consisting of beef, ham and chicken, was nicely done, as well.
My friends who were dining with me enjoyed them. I ordered fried pork chunks with onions and yellow rice. Funny thing about that was I had to take a phone call while our lunch was being made and stepped outside. The smell coming from the inside was nothing short of phenomenal. It was making my mouth water standing in the parking lot.
Truth be told, it was good, not great, but certainly worth a try if you are feeling like stepping out of your normal routine and enjoying a taste of the islands. Much like I will do this month.
After lunch I got to thinking about how much great food will be out there to enjoy in October.
River Street vendors will tell you Fiesta Latina on Oct. 12 is among the largest down there. I was overjoyed at the turnout down there last year. Great food, greater music and a celebration of culture.
The Greek Festival at St. Paul's is always a huge draw, because the food is authentic and delicious.
Shalom Y'all is very popular in Forsyth Park coming up on Oct. 27. Get there early and expect to line up for food. It is worth the wait.
Not to be left out is the Italian community. The Columbus Day weekend celebration is upon us, and they do it up right. Fundraising golf tournaments, guest speakers and a special mass at The Cathedral honoring Christopher Columbus.
Oh yeah, the food? Their dinner is a private event (sorry) but I am told they really turn it out every year, and let's face it, the Italians know how to Eat and Like.
By now you probably know I don't do traditional restaurant 'reviews.' Our Eat Squad handles that every other week, but I do like to tell you where you'll find a few bites that you will enjoy. Puerto Rico Restaurant was good, and any of the festivals I've mentioned are good, as well. Step out of your circle and try the others this month.
The most wonderful time of the year is just a heartbeat away - no reason why we can't start Eating and Liking a little early.
Enjoy, and see you on TV!Quick bytes
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The popular CafÃ© Florie on Barnard Street closed abruptly this week. I spoke to Theo Smith, the chef/co-owner of the tiny eclectic spot, and he tells me there were some creative differences between he and his business partner/cousin. He plans on getting everything in order and re-opening by mid-November.
If you missed it last week, our Eat Squad reviewed The Bier Haus in downtown Savannah. Take a look right now, as well.
Season 3 of "Eat It and Like It" rolls on. Don't forget to set your DVR (or VCR if you have trouble catching up) for 7:30 a.m. Sundays on WSAV.
Consider this your semi-regular reminder to buy your tickets to the Savannah Food and Wine Festival. Don't get left on the outside looking in. Some events are close to selling out, and there will be a last-minute rush. Take a look at the lineup at savannahfoodandwinefest.com and click, click, click.