Southern cuisine philly style

Nestled in the Art Museum district is one of Philly’s best kept secrets. Just as mysterious as that special ingredient in your grandma’s sweet potato pie, Savannah Soul Food Bar, 1836 Callowhill St., is a

Nestled in the Art Museum district is one of Philly’s best kept secrets.

Just as mysterious as that special ingredient in your grandma’s sweet potato pie, Savannah Soul Food Bar, 1836 Callowhill St., is a cozy retreat that serves up soul food with Northern sophistication.

More than three years ago, the establishment first appeared as Martini’s, a lounge where clients could sip on drinks at the bar or bust out moves on the dance floor. It soon became known simply as Savannah’s, slowly making the transition from sultry nightclub to chic restaurant.

In 2002, owner Halima Anderson and her partner Ralph DelPrete created what has now become one of the few soul food restaurants in Philadelphia.

African-American owned and operated, Savannah’s has something savory for everyone. Couples, families, friends and business partners from diverse backgrounds can all share the experience.

One can easily be deceived by the large “S” painted along the outside of the restaurant that continues to give it the feel of a hot night spot.

The mood immediately shifts as you walk through a dark entrance and step into what looks like a late August sunset.

Candles dimly light the room and bounce off sunflower yellow and sunburst orange colored walls and lush carpeting. Patrons can sink into mauve, velour banquette or intimate table seating in the dining area, which seats up to fifty people. There is a large black and white print of Billie Holiday overlooking the dance floor. The neo-soul sounds of Vivian Green, India Arie and Kem, as well as R&B favorites from Babyface, Teena Marie and Al Jarreau pour from elevated speakers. Original three-dimensional artwork by local artist “Phenomet alle” and intricately designed mirrors line the walls.

Savannah’s ambiance illuminates the perfect backdrop for a lazy Southern afternoon.

The menu at Savannah Soul Food Bar presents an array of tantalizing appetizers, soups and salads, side orders and entrées for your taste buds.

Appetizers range in price from $9 to $17 and the proportions are fairly large compared to other restaurants. A popular appetizer called The Taste of Savannah ($17) can stand alone as a separate entrée. The varied sampling of Southern delight consists of Savannah wings, ribs, catfish whiskers, barbeque shrimp, grilled cornbread and potato salad.

The chunky, yet velvety Crab Chowder Soup ($8) and House Salad ($7) topped with a sweet and tangy ginger sesame dressing are favorites among the soups and salads.

Macaroni and cheese, curried okra, yams, cornbread and three bean salad make up just a few of the delectable side orders that range in price from $4 to $6. The over spiced collard greens ($4) however, does not quite capture the Southern tang.

The Callowhill St. Chicken and Waffles ($16) is an entrée that incorporates crispy, Southern fried chicken with honey mustard on the side, massive Belgian waffles topped with warm maple syrup and collards.

Sophomore Chalet Willis places the dish on the top of her list.

“I’m a Southern girl at heart and the chicken and waffles hit close to home,” said Willis. “Tastes just like how grandma used to make them.”

In the “From the Grill” section of the menu, clients can choose from dishes like the Black Bean Chicken Chili ($14) served with grilled chicken breast atop a bowl of black bean chili and white rice, Barbequed Pork Chops ($18) marinated in the restaurant’s special sauce served with mashed potatoes and collards, or a sixteen ounce T-Bone Steak ($25) served with sautéed mushrooms, peppers, and onions, mashed potatoes and wilted spinach.

The twenty-one and older crowd can enjoy cocktails like “Dizzy Gillespie” and “Lady Billie Holiday” named in honor of jazz greats at the bar tightly snug in the front of the restaurant. Cocktail prices range from $7 to $9.

Savannah’s has a mellow atmosphere where you are served up finger licking and lip smacking soul food with Southern hospitality. Diners who want to experience an evening of great music and cuisine should definitely try this restaurant.

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Dana L. Oliver can be reached at

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