Has Savannah, Ga’s The Olde Pink House always been a tourist trap? [classic article]

So. I pause to sigh, as I will be doing a lot more during the course of my article. I planned my trip to Savannah, Georgia for months, complete with big, long road trip from Baltimore. I researched the restaurants and had my heart set on going to a “fancy Southern” restaurant. I wanted to get dressed up and have a memorable experience, so I made reservations at The Olde Pink House. Well, it was memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. As a foodie, I’m embarrassed that I picked this place.

The restaurant is in Savannah’s only 18th c. mansion . . . no other older homes because y’know, something about a guy named William Tecumseh Sherman and the War Between the States. Because the mansion is so large, they’re able to divide it into several sections: a very casual bar in back, a piano bar downstairs and other spaces.

We were seated in the main dining room, the “fancy” part. I briefly attributed it to our being all dolled up for the evening. But soon, a not-super-young (I know they knew better) German couple was seated at the table next to us. He was wearing — I kid you not — Adidas track shorts from the ’70’s, a wife-beater and a towel around his neck! She was wearing something similar. I couldn’t stop staring and glaring. I looked helplessly over to the hostess station. The menu at The Olde Pink House is rather pricy; people definitely consider it a special occasion place. I couldn’t believe — and especially since they had other seating options — that the restaurant would allow this to happen. I mean, was there no dress code? Even if they didn’t want to require ties, still . . . this was the South! (War is) Hell, this Damned Yankee thinks they should require bow ties and seersucker suits for men.

Often, when I’m ordering all over the map at a restaurant, I don’t order full bottles of wine, but rather have them pair a glass with each course, according to their expertise. Well, my server — not a kid, mind you — didn’t know a thing about wine. Neither did he send any kind of sommelier to the table. We were left to our own devices. The server wasn’t particularly attentive the rest of the evening, either.

I was there in warm weather and it’s cooler weather now; the menu has changed somewhat. Their items are mostly upscale Southern with a toe-dip into some Asian flavors. There was no amuse bouche, which is surprising at a restaurant trying to be at a certain level.

The fried chicken livers were not gamy, so that was good. They had a fried chicken crust and were almost like sweetbreads. It was garnished with crisp-fried spinach.

Since it was broiling hot out, I opted for a watermelon-arugula salad with goat cheese. I sigh again. And, once again, picture the atmosphere of elegant mansion, Miss Tamar all dressed up in her pearls and Southern finery. Big ol’ slabs of watermelon — don’t take my word, look at the slideshow — practically needed a steak knife or buzz saw to be cut down to (bite) size. It was all pretty much thrown onto plain, basic restaurant china. Not dainty or appetizing at all.

“Crispy Half Duck, Black Vinegar BBQ Glaze, Season Fruite & Vegetable Crepes” seemed like it would be interesting, but it wasn’t seasoned well. Also, it was inexplicably garnished with brunch fruits, which would be much more at home on a pancake plate. The veggies were terribly overcooked and limp. Absolutely none of the flavors went together. I wasn’t trying to eat any more of it, but I think it was pretty skimpy for an entree dish.

The fried oysters weren’t as fresh tasting as those I can get in the Chesapeake Bay area. At their prices, they should have been.

As part of what should have been my fancy evening out, I ordered what turned out to be the most expensive dish on the menu: Crispy Fried Lobster Tails with Sweet Chili Dijon, Bacon Buttermilk Whipped Potatoes and Butter Beans. The lobster was tough and the potatoes really were flavorless. Again, unimaginative plating, thrown together . . . not cool for a $35 entree.

We definitely were in rare agreement to skip dessert.

We peeked around the mansion — thus, discovering the different spaces. Downstairs has a cabinet with rare, historical artifacts they’ve found on site. The piano bar scene was lively . . . but we had had enough.

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