When we moved to Savannah four-plus years ago, I hoped that I would never again have to wear a jacket and gloves.
Snow? Not a chance. So much for that brash ambition after The Great Savannah ‘Snowstorm’ of 2018, I guess.Get Savannah arts and culture news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our morning, afternoon and Dine newsletters
Still, having lived in Baltimore for the two decades prior, my wife and I do enjoy and greatly prefer the ‘fall’ and ‘winter’ weather climates here, even if this time of year always finds us both missing the 90s - the temperatures, not “The Macarena” and flannel grunge.
Sweat beats snow any day, which I continually contend to my entire family up in Rochester, N.Y., who had over a foot of snow already last week to go along with record-low temperatures. You might as well just kill me with the shovel.
Part of me does not mind breaking out the quarter-zips and my ‘dress’ jeans for nice meals out once the sun starts setting before six o’clock, and my wife and I try our best to be intrepidly European by dining al fresco as Fahrenheits fall even here in the Coastal Empire. Fifties are tolerable, and many local restaurants have those handy electric heaters or propane patio fires that sufficiently soften the winter chill for an hour or two over a nice meal.
The first Savannah sojourns of ours came during Marches and Decembers, so we initially got to know the city under cloudier and cooler skies. In 2013, we became immediately enamored of The Public Kitchen & Bar, a special restaurant that remains among our favorites for a cozy cold-weather dinner.
Thankfully, The Public’s fall-winter menu has seen the return of the autumn linguine ($16), a downright perfect pasta dish that tastes like fall. Just enough manchego-parmesan cream sauce enfolds the al dente linguine and is further flavored by sautéed butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, red onion, and chopped pecans. Delicious and full of both flavor and color as is, we always splurge and add the salty, seared, and sliced chicken breast. For a grand total of $21, you cannot find a tastier fall pasta entrée.
If you order your own portion, you will have leftovers, which is another win, and you can take my wife’s word that the Saveurs du Temps pinot noir pairs nicely.
With a coy smile, Executive Chef Brandy Williamson called The Public’s autumn linguine a “simple dish,” though the execution and construction belie her modest description. The sprouts are blanched and the butternut is roasted so that both are bite-sized and ready for the made-to-order preparation, tossed into a pan with the onions and pecans before the cream, cheeses, and pasta join the party.
The true sign of the dish’s quality is that the sauce does not seize up around the linguine, even after a good half hour. Unlike many alfredo-ey pastas, even those served at nice restaurants, you do not have to scarf down this entire portion because it never congeals into a noodle clump thanks to the sautéed vegetables that keep the entire entrée silky throughout.
I could eat this dish once a week and have even tried to duplicate it at home: doable but save yourself the trouble and go to The Public.
A SPECIAL CORNER OF SAVANNAH
As dusk darkens, the streetlamps along Bull wake up over the steady but languid evening traffic. Between five and six o’clock during the fall and winter months, this little corner of Savannah is even lovelier, the lights glinting through the trees in the garden median on Liberty.
Though it takes up a relatively small footprint, The Public offers three distinctly different dining spaces, each with its own sense of place: the intimately lit rez-de-chaussée main room that also houses a chic ten-seat bar; the super-snug lowel level with exposed brick and Astroturfed walls; and plenty of sidewalk tables along both Bull and Liberty that offer the quintessential Savannah outdoor ambience.
Whether seated inside or out, The Public is a place to while away two hours people-watching between sips and bites. For Savannahians, this is your relaxed and casually classy Tuesday or Wednesday night out destination. Show up at seven o’clock on a high-season Saturday and you might as well go on a hunger strike - which is a great ‘problem’ for a restaurant to have.
The staff has always been friendly and professional, proved once again the other night as Steven had the kitchen graciously split our shared autumn linguine into two bowls without so much as a wink. The music is always great, ambient alt-mod-progressive-techno that is just loud enough to be heard without intruding on a couple’s conversation.
No matter the time of year, the appropriately sized menu has at least three dishes that you will have trouble deciding among. Happy Hour at The Public goes until 6 p.m. from Monday to Thursday and features a healthy carte of select wines by the glass ($6), martinis and specialty cocktails ($6), and select bottled beers ($4).
A PERFECT AUTUMN NIGHT OUT
Because our dog, Alvie, was still with us when we made four ‘scouting’ trips to Savannah, we always found ourselves in a pet-friendly VRBO on Jones Street or not far from, so The Public might have been the first eatery we strolled past. A few years and many meals later, the charm of this Daniel Reed property, opened in October of 2012, has not faded a bit, and this favorite of both locals and tourists still ranks with the new wave of restaurants that have elevated the downtown dining landscape in the last four years.
In many ways, The Public was the prototype, serving this kind of great food at these reasonable prices in this kind of unique and alluring atmosphere before there was such an abundance of great restaurants here.
At least three times before spring comes, put on your warmest sweater and favorite jeans, head to the corner of Bull and Liberty, and treat yourself to the autumn linguine. If you do not have room for dessert right then and there, stroll slowly around Chippewa Square and end the night with a brownie or a slice of anything at Gallery Espresso.
That, food friends, is a perfect autumn night in Savannah.