This next story comes from the “don't believe everything you hear” department. Unless, of course, you can confirm it in a few different places. Especially when it comes to the world of food and beverage. Everything is a moving target in the restaurant industry. Nothing is done, well, until it is done.
As evidence, I share the first words I ever heard about the new hotel going up on Drayton Street at McDonough. It is called the Perry Lane Hotel. By every account, including my own, it is going to be gorgeous and a crown jewel in the heart of the city.
A few years ago, in a very informal setting, I was chatting with a friend who was telling me about that hotel. I knew it was coming, but at the time, I knew nothing about it. I was told it was going to be a nice hotel with not much on food and beverage. I figured it to be a nice property offering continental breakfasts. No harm, no foul.
A little over a year later, last October to be exact, I was at another networking function when someone suggested I meet the new chef at the Perry Lane Hotel. Chef? Seriously? Yes, seriously. Ten minutes into my chat with Executive Chef Andrew Wilson that night, I realized how off base the original information I got was. The Emporium Kitchen and Wine Market inside the Perry Lane Hotel wants to get in the mix as one of the best restaurants in Savannah. Yes, on Day 1. Emporium Kitchen and Market is set to open May 30.
Pressure? Of course not.
Since that meeting last year, I've had the pleasure of talking to almost everyone involved in making this restaurant what they hope it to be. A few weeks back I was invited to sit in on a menu tasting for the owners of the property. I walked away thinking if they can execute their vision here, this will be an exceptional addition to Savannah's food scene.
What kind of food? That's an interesting question. I've asked it a couple of times. The best description I got was from Peter Karpinski, co-founder of the restaurant group behind Emporium Kitchen and Wine Market. It's a concept they first developed in Fort Collins, Colo. He called it an “American Brasserie," and once you see the space, you will see that it fits. As does the menu.
A lot of the talk the day of our menu tasting surrounded the desire to source everything as locally as they can. Nothing really new there, as most of the best restaurants in this area are already doing so. This menu, though, will be different than most of what you will find here in the city. Oysters, of course, and seafood, but you will also find classic steak frites, a burger and much more with a French influence.
My favorite item we tasted was the Roasted Barbecue Oysters — delicious oysters topped with a dab of Bourbon Smoked Jalapeno Butter. I could eat a few of those every day; they were that good. The mussels and French fries were outstanding, as was the Atlantic Flounder en Papillote.
Clearly, the menu is skewing French, but it is important to understand this isn't exclusively a fancy French restaurant. The bar is quite large and will feature an extensive cocktail program. All of it with almost floor-to-ceiling glass facing the energy outside of the one-way traffic on Drayton Street, and McDonough's Pub across the street. It's a great spot with great vistas if you love the city. This should be fine dining in a very comfortable atmosphere. There is nothing stuffy about it.
I had one competing restaurant owner who is aware of what is going on inside of Emporium Kitchen and Wine Market tell me, "They've got a chance over there." Was I surprised to hear that? Absolutely not. That has been my biggest takeaway from what I have learned about this brand-new space.
The talent they have assembled in that building is excellent. Chef Andrew brought in Jhunery Battung as his Chef de Cuisine. Jhunery has stops in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Sonoma on his resume. Their pastry chef was delayed in arriving in Savannah because she had been hired last fall to work with the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. Also on board, last but not least, Savannah favorite Lauren Teague (formerly of 22 Square and Atlantic) handling banquets and other culinary events.
Leadership in the kitchen is in place. All that's left is to swing open those doors.
See you on TV,