Since we moved to Savannah, each February has found us systematically surfing YouTube, watching whatever videos we can find of the musical line-up for the Savannah Stopover Music Festival, which will celebrate its tenth edition this coming weekend.
My wife dutifully lists each band and artist, and we take turns calling up tunes on the web and then making our marks next to each attending act, ranging from a star by ones we really want to see to an ‘X’ for those that are definitely not our cup of musical tea.
For us, any bands that sound remotely like Phoenix, Foals, Roosevelt, Tokyo Police Club, or Pete Yorn get the star, and each year, we ride our bikes downtown and stroll from venue to venue in hopes of finding another fave-in-the-rough.
In the Stopovers we have attended, we loved Ra Ra Riot’s opening night headline performance in 2016, having already been big fans, and we ‘discovered’ Lawrence the following year, both shows in the peerless Ships of the Sea Museum garden.
Also in 2016, we steeled our wills to stay up past midnight - a big ask at this point in our lives - to see French Horn Rebellion play at Club One: totally worth the oldsters’ agony the following morning.
In addition to all of the music, there are so many great aspects to Stopover’s set-up, one of the best that the venue map always offers a veritable downtown walking tour between shows. Though this year’s footprint is a bit more widespread, do not panic: great food is never more than two blocks away from any of the stages.
Whether hours on your tapping feet have earned you a schmancy sit-down meal or you just need a quick take-away before the next set starts, trust these restos for some Black Eyed Peas, Bread, Cake, and Korn.
A little west of Congress (SHIPS OF THE SEA MARITIME MUSEUM, SERVICE BREWING CO., CONGRESS STREET SOCIAL CLUB)
The northwest corner of Stopover 2020 numbers three performance places, all within a ten-minute walk. Save yourself the wait, the aggravation, and the letdown you will pay for at certain curiously beloved spots for Italian food and pizza that are right across the street from the Ships of the Sea and just another block away in City Market, respectively. Leave those for the tourists.
Instead, slip out the back, Jack, into the SOTS rear lot, which again this year will be home to a few local food trucks, including Yoshi’s on Thursday night and BowTie Barbecue and Burrito Royale, recently rolled out by Chris Dickerson (Squirrel’s Pizza). Service Brewing, playing hosts to nighttime acts on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, will also have food trucks onsite.
Conveniently located between Service Brewing and Ships, The Alida Hotel can be a posh refuge for everything from a casually classy sit-down to drinks and snacks. In the kitchen at ground-level restaurant Rhett, Executive Chef Jason Starnes and his team are cooking up everything on the signature menu as well as the specialized cartes for The Trade Room lobby bar and The Lost Square rooftop bar. The list of potent potables is limitless, and splitting the house-made ricotta and the Southern spreads board will get you through your next show.
For more modest bar grub that is gastropub quality without any pretension, Dub’s is far better than ‘River Street’s Only Sports Pub’. The fries are fantastic, as is the pimiento cheeseburger. Beers abound, and Dub’s is open almost as late as the final chords will be played at Stopover’s northwest venues.
If you want to eat before the later evening entertainment amps up, grab a counter seat at The Grey Market; nosh on an order of the potato wedges and sour cream or up the ante and devour the disco wedges. Not even a half block away, The Ordinary Pub serves great pub food and creative cocktails until midnight every day except Sunday. Loaded fritter tots are your shareable, and any of the burgers beat most.
Spudnik is the spot for wee-hour cravings. Nothing on the inventive menu is over $10, and this local potato palace is open until 3:30 a.m. on the festival’s three main nights.
Another safe bet for quick and affordable sustenance in that neighborhood is Toasted Barrel, which is open until 11 p.m., has a happy hour on Thursday and Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., and even has its own live music every Friday night, in case you are up for more tunes while you eat.
Reward yourself for watching eight straight hours of performances on Saturday night with a slice of anything at Lulu’s Chocolate Bar, open until 1:30 a.m. If the line there is too long, stroll around the corner to Better Than Sex, which is a southeastern chain and is open not quite as late but is still a sweet way to end the day.
Local Staples (CLUB ONE and THE JINX)
The shows at these two Stopover stalwarts are only on Friday and Saturday nights - and I mean nights: nothing starts before 9:30 p.m. While you may bide your time and renounce your palate at any number of places between the two, grab-and-go a Cornish pasty or a chicken curry pie at Pie Society before they close up at nine.
Right next door to The Jinx, Orale Tacos+ is open until 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and has a special late-night menu of authentic tacos and elote (Mexican street corn). Just around the corner, Full is open until three and grills up the gamut of late-night post-show fare: burgers, dogs, wings, fries, rings, and fried spicy mac & cheese balls.
Between acts, stop into The Coffee Fox for a Mexican mocha or an iced horchata latte to see you through the final numbers of Palm Palm and Illiterate Light. And get an espresso brownie or a Hello Dolly Bar.
Off the Beaten Path (TRINITY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH and EL-ROCKO LOUNGE)
El-Rocko will host three mid-afternoon shows on Saturday, which calls for either a late lunch or an early dinner at Tequila’s Town. You will be in and out and full in no time, and you will savor superb service and fantastic food for one of the cheapest bills in all of downtown Savannah.
At the humbly majestic Trinity Church, performances are finished by nine o’clock on both Friday and Saturday nights, so eat early at Tequila’s Town or treat yourself to something special in Husk’s second-floor bar. After the two Trinity shows on Friday night, head upstairs at Husk for a couple hours of raw bar delicacies and drinks.
El-Rocko’s own bar can certainly slake your adult thirst, as can the aforementioned The Coffee Fox, The Ordinary Pub, and Toasted Barrel, all also proximate to the two Telfair Square venues. Once the bands have called it a night, Alley Cat will still be open and will definitely be hip and hopping if you need a liquid encore.
Up Top and High Class (PERRY LANE HOTEL)
In addition to an exclusive VIP sunset concert at Peregrin Rooftop Lounge on Friday evening, two bands will play at The Wayward, one on Thursday night and the other on Saturday evening, and that Drayton corridor has become a victual vein for all kinds of cuisine at every price.
Without cutting-and-pasting my recent column on Savannah Book Festival food suggestions, allow me to reprise verses of the comestible virtues of Gallery Espresso for salads, sammies, and anything sweet. Fire is right there on Chippewa Square for cheap Asian street eats, and nestled beneath Perry Lane Hotel is Green Fire Pizza for al fresco pies and wings.
Just over Liberty Street, Hitch is open until midnight seven days a week and is more than reliable for finger foods and bevvies. Split orders of fried green tomatoes, served with pimento cheese spread ($8), avocado fries ($8), and cheesesteak egg rolls with beer cheese dipping sauce ($9). Add a side of their house-cut chips and top the night off with a bacon brownie ($8). You have earned it.
Also open until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, The Diplomat Luncheonette has its usual array of delicious $10 ‘all day & all night’ sandwiches plus $7 late-night bites: pigs-in-blankets, fried rice, and dumplings du jour. Now that sounds like what we all want to eat after three days and nights of listening to live music. And if you do not want to walk anywhere after seeing shows at The Wayward or Peregrin, eat and drink right there or head downstairs to The Emporium.
This coming weekend, great music does not have to be the only food of the soul. Great food can be, too.