Who was it that once said, "If you're not progressing, you are regressing?"
Frankly, I have no clue. Someone a lot smarter than me I'm sure, or maybe it was a meme. Who knows these days? Regardless, the point is well made. If you aren't moving something forward, then you are standing pat. Stand pat long enough and you will eventually find yourself at the back of the line. I don't always speak in hopscotch, but the shoe seemed to fit this week, so I wore it. Clear as mud? Perfect.
It's all perfectly clear to Brian Huskey, a guy who doesn't typically use five words to describe something when only three will do.
"We're excited," he says.
"The B" as it is known to a good many locals, has been a model of consistency over the years, especially its brunch - routinely one of the best in the city. Ultimately, while a good number of locals have supported B. Matthew's Eatery, its location on Habersham and Bay streets in downtown Savannah screams "tourist" for anyone looking for somewhere to eat. A common problem for those who consider it too far of a drive from the outer reaches of metropolitan Savannah. I'm gathering now that making a drive from anywhere will be less of an issue once word gets out about the makeover B. Matthew's got during the fall. One look at the facelift and it would be hard not to share in Brian's excitement.
"We've owned the entire building for about three years," Brian tells me. "The original plan was to make this into prep space and additional kitchen and storage areas. But once we peeled all the way back and saw the brick up here and how beautiful it was, we started talking about making better use. So we added a bar."
B. Matthew's always carried a good bit of historic Savannah charm. Brian tells me his deed reads "oldest tavern in the South." Whether that is factual or not, who knows? He talks about the kind of things that were found inside the walls during previous remodels. Single high-heeled shoes and even a "dance pole" have been found buried in the walls there. It kinda makes you wonder, huh? Some Savannah old-timers tell me that location was a spot called The Lamp Post, complete with poles and dancing girls. Clearly, some were left behind.
The brick walls and wood floors have given us a great look at what this space may have looked like once upon a time. Plenty of spaces in the city carry those old-school charms, but B. Matthew's was a bit unique. The makeover gives this downtown historic space an absolute "uptown" feel. The original dining room downstairs at B. Matthew's looks fantastic with new lighting and an overall freshened-up look, but it's what they have done with the upstairs area that may have people pouring in.
The two main rooms on the building's second floor now serve as a dining room and bar, respectively. The brick was exposed and re-pointed on both sides and white stools were placed at the bar. Original wood beams pulled out of the structure's interior were cleaned up and repurposed as shelves. The detail is colonial Savannah with a power wash, a glowing white coat of paint and a cocktail. It's beautiful.
Obviously, there are drinks available upstairs. Food is available as well. Nothing fancy, no additional concepts. It's the same menu you can find downstairs, for food and drink. That said, it's the flexibility that Brian thinks may pay off the most.
"We can use this space for private functions," he says. "We've already had some groups come through who thought it was a perfect spot for a holiday party. And it doesn't interfere with dinner service downstairs."
A new staircase was built right in the middle of the existing space downstairs for easy access from inside, but the staircase out front on Habersham Street now allows exterior access for larger groups, which is a big selling point for people in search of privacy, like celebrities.
"When their people call, they want private access, which is understandable," Brian says. Yes, it has happened and no, he's not telling who it was.
Obviously, the Huskeys didn't give B. Matthew's a makeover to get Hollywood A-listers in there. It is Savannah's A-list they are looking for. When asked if the growing food scene in Savannah was a prime motivator, he says, "Sure, plus the hotels going up."
He says this as he points East on Bay Street, where the very popular Brice Hotel sits two blocks away, not to mention a new Homewood Suites a stone's throw down Bay. Add to that the existing Marriott Riverfront property and this new look B. Matthew's stands to be the first spot those hotel guests may end up looking for a meal, if they choose something other than Italian food at Pacci Savannah inside of The Brice.
We didn't talk money, but it is fair to say a large chunk of change went into this work. Little by little, the Huskeys have almost completely transformed the space from the bakery they purchased in August 2006 into one of the prettier spots in the city. A diagonal door facing the corner was added years ago for curb appeal, and now the interior has really been polished up for a very nice pop.
The food is as good as it ever was.
"Brunch is just crazy," Brian tells me. No surprise. It is one of the best spots for brunch in Savannah. Dinner presents some staples like a steak, scallops or a catch of the day, but there is enough variety as well with duck confit, pork cheek or a lamb shank. B. Matthew's isn't a touristy Savannah fried shrimp house, but then if you've been there, you knew that already. The funny thing about B. Matthew's is they've been so steady for almost 10 years now that sometimes you forget they are there.
The Huskeys are certainly keeping busy. Not everything they have touched has turned to gold. Their Blue Turtle Bistro concept midtown was short-lived, but adjusting on the fly is another key to success. They shuffled the deck, moved a few things around and wound up with an incredibly successful 5 Spot in Habersham Village. And they aren't finished.
"We are going to take a closer look at Blowin' Smoke soon," Brian says of his barbecue restaurant on Habersham in Savannah's Victorian District. "I think there is a lot more we can do with that space."
An expansion and more development of their catering operation, he tells me, isn't far behind. A concession trailer or food truck could be in the works down the road. Certainly nothing concrete, but when you own and operate several restaurants in any city, you need to keep looking ahead in order to avoid falling behind.
Now you can add "The B" to that list.
See you on TV,