Monday, April 7, 2008

The Lady and Sons: Yay for Southern Cooking

So last week, I went to a conference in Savannah, where I not only got work done and presented some papers, but I got to spend a lot of time with Lindsey and Alexis, two of my best friends that I met at Auburn and that now teach in South Carolina. We three have similar interests that make us a dangerous trio: we're all communication folks, we're hot, we like the beach, and we love good food.

So, Savannah was definitely the place for us. We got our nerdiness on at the conference, and even came up with an idea for a panel for next year. We made a trip out to Tybee Island, and would have stayed longer had it not been so windy/cold. And, we ate, and ate, and ate some more of Savannah's wonderful cuisine. We had really nice tapas at Jazz'd Tapas Bar, good sushi somewhere I can't find on google maps right now, famous seafood at The Crab Shack on Tybee Island, and, of course, lunch at The Lady and Sons. This restaurant is what I'll focus on for this blog.

Now to actually eat at the Lady and Sons, one must plan and prepare in advance. If any of you are planning on making the trip, here's what we did that worked. The restaurant starts taking reservations for lunch and for dinner at 9:30 a.m. One cannot just show up at 9:30 and expect to get in, though. I arrived on Saturday morning at 7:45 to stand in an already forming line. Before I got in line, I ran to Panera (which is just around the corner) and got a coffee and bagel to eat while standing in line. I would advise this strategy, and would also suggest bringing a book, crossword, or sudoku to keep you busy, but I entertained myself just fine by talking to the nice guy in the Harley Davidson hat and the Michigan lady standing behind me. Lindsey came to join me after she woke up. Which brings me to another crucial suggestion: if you go "out" the night before, as we did, have a "designated diner" to stay sober enough to wake up in time to get in line at Lady and Sons by 7:45 a.m.

So, we go back to the restaurant at our reserved time with Dr. Brown (who was very generous and even treated us to lunch!). It was still chaotic outside and required me to stand really close to the poor, overworked name-takers to make sure we didn't miss our place in the cattle call. But once we walked into the restaurant, it was surprisingly calm. The atmosphere was much better than I expected, and I expected greatness! We ate at a bar table on the upper floor of the restaurant, in a quiet corner.

I don't think I can describe just how amazing the food was. I'll be honest - I thought, "a buffet? Can food really be that good if it's out on a buffet?" One bite of her spare ribs with barbecue sauce, which was the first thing I bit into, was enough to shut that little voice up. People keep asking me what I eat, and I rattle off a laundry list. I ate: fried chicken (the best I've ever, ever had, and I have some damn good fried chicken cookers in my family), creamed corn, macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, turnip greens, green beans, a hoe cake (yes, a whole one, that I can tell was cooked in a cast-iron skillet and was perfectly crispy on the outside), a cheddar-garlic biscuit, and banana pudding. Dr. Brown said that the gooey butter cake was just as freaking amazing as Paula says they are on her show. To top it off, I chugged two of the best glasses of sweet tea I've ever drank. The little mint garnish was so lovely. Y'all know I am a health nut most of the time, but let me tell you: the pounds of butter and grease I consumed at that one meal was well worth the time it'd take to run it all off. And, it inspired me to fry some chicken this summer.

Back to trying to describe how good the food was: it was spectacular. It tasted like Momma Charlie's Sunday dinners. Any of you out there who have a Southern grandmother who could/can cook like Momma Charlie (my dad's mom), then your mouth is probably already watering at the thought of a big, heavy, coronary-attack-inducing meal. There is something so honest, delicious, and artistic about the home-taught, non-pretentious, generations-old-cast-iron-skillet-created meals that show up, still, every Sunday, in homes across the South. If you aren't fortunate enough to have a Southern grandmomma (or two, like me, jackpot!), your Southern grandmomma has passed away, or, God forbid, you are from "up north" and don't know quite what I'm talking about, then go ahead and book a ticket today to Savannah just to visit Lady and Sons. Eating there was truly an experience, one that will make you long for home or search out a friend from somewhere in north Alabama who has a grandmother that you can befriend in hopes of getting invited over for Sunday dinner.

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