It would be easy to try to say Mir Ali is quietly "doing his thing" tucked away behind a bank building on Wilmington Island. It would also be wrong.
The man behind Lili's Restaurant & Bar is regularly among the first to get mentioned whenever someone who knows Savannah asks about a place to eat outside of downtown. Lili's has a solid following. How do we know he's doing it right?
"Ninety percent of our guests are repeat customers and local," Mir says. "Sometimes we'll get a tourist who will read something on Yelp or another website and will come out for brunch, but we are supported by locals."
Clearly, he's doing something well. Well enough to attract the eyes of a television production company that works with the Food Network. "They emailed me earlier this year. Asked if I'd like to be involved. I said, sure, why not?"
The show Mir was a part of is called "Bite Club" hosted by Tyler Florence. It's a new concept Mir compares to the very popular "Chopped."
"It is a competition, but you are actually judged by your peers from here in Savannah," Mir says. They shot the episode at Little Duck Diner on Ellis Square.
Joining Mir on the adventure were Savannah's Neil Youngblood of East End Provisions and Ken Brown of Sisters. They were the Savannah group. Also involved were Amanda Russ of Pomodori on Hilton Head Island and Orchid Paulmeier of One Hot Mama's on the island as well.
Mir couldn't go into too many details about the show, but ultimately six contestants draw straws. Some are judges and the others compete against each other. By the end of the one episode, we know the winner. There is no weeks-long, dragged-out drama. He also can't tell us who won, obviously. You will just have to watch.
Amanda was equally as thrilled about the experience.
"It was one mind-blowing and thrilling, difficult day," she says. "I'm so glad I got to participate in it."
"It was fun. It was a very long day," Mir says. "We staged at the old Sapphire Grill space across the street from Little Duck. Tyler Florence was very nice and down to earth. He lives in California now but he is originally from this part of the country.
"Tyler was funny. It was fun. It was competitive, but it wasn't stressful," he says.
"Bite Club" is certainly not the first national television show to pass through Savannah. It seems as though there is someone from the Cooking Channel or Travel Channel here multiple times a year. This year alone, everyone seems to be enjoying their 15 minutes of fame, from The Pirates' House to Savannah Seafood Shack to Gerald's Pig and Shrimp.
Does it make a difference in business?
"Free marketing is always great. We will get some traffic, I'm sure," Mir says. "Who knows, if the show gets good ratings, we may even do it again."
"That's the $64,000 question," Amanda adds. "Who's to say, but I'm OK with it either way. Our cup runneth over here at Pomodori. We are very fortunate."
That's where you come in. You can tune in to the "Georgia Peach Lamb Slam" episode of "Bite Club" on Food Network at 9 p.m. Sept. 13. The episode will also re-air at midnight Sept. 14 and 3 p.m. Sept. 16.
See you on TV,
WATCH THE SHOW
"Bite Club" airs on Food Network at 9 p.m. Sept. 13, midnight Sept. 14 and 3 p.m. Sept. 16.
• Surprising news in midtown with the closing of very popular Sugo Rossa, an Italian eatery in the Twelve Oaks Shopping Center. You can read more at eatitandlikeit.com.
• White Whale Craft Ales on Bull Street near Duffy will be offering some munchies at 6 p.m. Sept. 14 with guest chef James Levens of The Diplomat. So they will be good munchies. Beers promise to be good as well. Call 912-358-0724 for ticket information.
• Speaking of tickets, our Beers and Bites event coming up Oct. 23 will be a huge hit. Four chefs, four beers, one great price. Go to my site for more info and tickets.
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