By Kristina Isle Vetter
Savannah is considered to be the gem of the South for many reasons. We have an incredible historic district that runs an impressive span of the city. Our “downtown” being larger than that of most cities. The old Victorians, Edwardians, Craftsman, bungalows, and hideaways column our area making their way through time. Forsyth Park stretches beyond Gaston and into the Victorian District, following Bull Street into Midtown with the quintessential moss-drenched oak guiding you into Southside. You know it, you’ve seen it. But have you wandered off this path before? I’m guilty, like most, of being a creature of habit. We tend to repeat things for ease. In doing so, however, we miss out on the ultimate comfort: discovering a new spot to eat. A new home, even if only for an hour or two.
Truly, what is better than finding a new coffee shop to improve your morning? A new dinner joint to go for date night, or a ridiculously quick, affordable place to grab lunch? To do this, though, we have to look to the outer edges, deep in cuts that we don’t usually go into. Here, we’re going to let you in on what we’ve found. These spots blew our collective little minds away, making us kick ourselves in irritation. We don’t want that for you. Ready? Let’s dive in.
First up, Bewon Korean BBQ off of US80-E. Up the road nearing Pooler through Garden City, the back way. Plan around the traffic at rush hour and you are golden, my friends. In this strip mall, you’ll find Bewon. A truly authentic Korean BBQ restaurant with a focus on family-style dining. In that regard, you have the grill-top option or the table service. I recommend going for the grill-tops. Even if you have zero clue of what you’re doing, the servers will help you navigate the mechanics. If you can work tongs, you can participate. The menu items are numbered, going from kitchen prepped to traditional table grill prep. To start, a must is the kimchi pancake. It is well worth the extra at the beginning of the meal. Savory, crispy, with just enough sour to cut it. The dipping sauce is light and a nice compliment to bring out more of that kimchi punch. Grill-side, I would go with the beef bulgogi and then something fatty like the garlic pork belly or marinated short ribs. If you’re worried about spiciness levels, you can always ask for an adjustment. However, I would not classify this as a spiciness that builds or overrides your taste buds. Gochujang is our main flavoring here with a perfect balance of sweet heat. Fret not on burning your tongues, but don’t be shy to ask. The best part about Korean BBQ is the richness balanced with the fresh and fermented. There is something magical about the movement of meats on the grill, sneaking bites of your various side dishes of kimchi or fish cake, pouring yourself a cup of tea, and constructing the perfect bulgogi lettuce wrap. It’s energetic and lively, but homey. All customizable, all wonderful. Pro-tip, get a pot of tea. It is the perfect aid in the digestion of this enormous meal. Not feeling grilling? No worries. The Korean fried chicken is bonkers good with a batter that seems like it couldn’t possibly stay crispy, and yet it does. Side dishes still included, you’re looking at a giant dish of wings. Perfect for sharing if you wish. Understandable if you don’t. Price-wise, it’s a decent bill that is more than fair in comparison with your portions. Table for two on a date, appetizer, grill-side (two meat order recommendation), and tea will run you around 60-75$. Side dishes refill. It’s a splurge, but it’s well worth it on a day when you’re feeling a little down. To sing the praises of the owners and staff here, their entire focus is family. Unlike Mr. Diesel, however, this reflects genuinely in their service and attention to detail. It is a welcoming place. The above barely scratches the surface of what’s available to you. There is even a secret menu—VIP member status. It’ll take me a year to discover it all and I can’t wait. Go, ask questions, take a few friends and explore the menu. I’ll probably see you there. Promise to wave between bites.
Our next spot is in Garden City, off of Main St. A sleepy strip mall with a Salvadoran gem. Pupuseria Jireh boasts an impressive selection with authentic fare from El Salvador. Not sure what that looks like? Well, neither was I. What made this interesting was the subtle differences in the preparation of plantains, bananas, yuca, and tamales. It’s all the things you’ve seen from Central America before, but tweaked and honed in generations-old family recipes. Pupusas, similar to arepas, are thick griddle cakes made from corn or rice flour. Arepas act like a pocket for its fillings, whereas pupusas are closed with their ingredients finely shredded inside. Pupuseria Jireh split up their options between cheese bases and meat bases. The cheese options include add-ins like pumpkin (adding a vegetal sweetness with a touch of spice), and my personal favorite: queso loroco. Designated as an edible vine flower, this Spanish herb lends a slight bitterness that balances perfectly with the saltiness of the queso. All of the meat options are winners, with the table favorite being the carne (steak). An absolute must is the Yuca Frita con Chicharron. It’s an appetizer with yuca/cassava fries (crisped on the outside, soft on the inside) and fried pork belly with a gently sour purple cabbage made in-house. On top, you have a homemade red tomato sauce that is lovely and fresh. Similar to salsa, but not quite. I love adding their homemade habanero sauce. Tropical and bright, bringing just the right amount of heat. It acts as a sort of top note to the meal. It’s on the side at your table to add as you wish. The rice and beans are perfectly savory and warming. The plantains/bananas, in all versions, come with a variety of dipping sauces and add-ons to create distinct flavor combinations. I would highly recommend grabbing a fresh mango juice to drink and tuck in. I love that the kitchen is open for you to see and the servers are knowledgeable and efficient. The music is perfect to set the atmosphere as fun. You will be dancing while you eat. Again, this menu is vast with a lot of options. Price-wise you’re looking at a dinner for two at an average of 35$ if you order a la carte pupusas and an appetizer with the aforementioned mango juices. To be clear, we didn’t even get to the soups, breakfast, or main entrees. You can approach it in a myriad of ways when dining, but my advice is to get the appetizer, a few pupusas, and an entree to split. Again, here, your portions are generous and reflect more than fair pricing proportionally if you choose to do a large meal. But, the added bonus here is that you don’t have to.
Stay tuned for more, and in closing—happy eating.