People who know the visual arts don’t have to be told about the pleasures of Savannah. The city’s architecture is a delight, the proliferation of small squares each a mini-vacation, and the presence of the Savannah College of Art and Design an ever-increasing factor in giving the city continued vitality. Rather than tearing down old buildings, they have repurposed many around town and use them, spreading students and energy in many places. No edifice complex for them.
I spent an afternoon in Savannah, a fast visit to SCAD and some riding around to rubberneck with the daughter Formerly Known As The Apprentice Eater driving. I hit the SCAD bookstore, too – and realized there’s no bookstore quite like a bookstore for a school like this. We had lunch at another SCAD establishment.
Should Gryphon be called a tea room? For many, the phrase evokes quiet preciousness and a feeling of department stores in the 1930’s. It’s on one of those lovely squares, Madison Square (hello, New Yorkers!), an old pharmacy with big windows, lots of wood and lots of room. There’s stained glass, including mortar-and-pestle representations, and a tiled entrance with the original owner’s name.
Open for lunch, Sunday brunch and late-afternoon refreshments, the menu includes entrees as well as salads and sandwiches. I succumbed to the Southernness of it all and had a pimiento cheese sandwich. We’re not talking Kraft spread on Wonder Bread here, naturally. Yes, properly home-made style pimiento cheese, topped with caramelized onions and crisp, very smoky bacon. The menu said it came on jalapeno cornbread. It didn’t look like a skillet cornbread, but rather a yeast bread that perhaps had cornmeal as part of the flour ration. The jalapeno was pretty much unnoticeable, but it would have been superfluous. Toasted to a farethewell, although certainly not burnt, it combined the crunch of the bread with the softly oozing cheese mixture, the sweetness of the onions and the snap of the bacon to make a fabulous sandwich. The other entree was an individual quiche with tomato and spinach, an excellent pastry whose custard filling wasn’t overcooked and thus not watery.
The green salad alongside the quiche showed a little tarragon in dressing the tender leaves. My potato salad, described as French, didn’t have an oil and vinegar dressing, but rather a creamy one, quite acceptable, just surprising; I admit when I think French potato salad, I assume a vinaigrette. We asked for some of the asparagus as a side, which came pencil-thin and carefully cooked. A bonus was the frozen fruit salad with the quiche, a mini-muffin cup’s worth of whipped cream and berries.
We succumbed to red velvet cake with a cheesecake filling – purely professional interest, you understand – which was rich and moist. Red velvet is a good backdrop to rich cheesecake; to me, it’s a relatively bland cake by its very nature, so it worked well here, especially the visuals. We also saw one of those three-tiered servers go by with teatime-type things, although it wasn’t on the lunch menu.
Gryphon is not really a Ladies Who Lunch sort of place. The guests included a few students, some couples and, yes, groups of women. The server was a young woman from Nigeria who was a student at SCAD, and an absolute delight. It’s not a fast-food place, but one never felt neglected.
There are tables for outside dining, to enjoy the neighborhood. When you leave, note that there’s a shop across Bull Street that sells items the students have made, along with other selected pleasures. And then cross into the square and look up to the top of this delightful building and enjoy that, too.
337 Bull St., Savannah, GA
Lunch and later, Mon.-Sat., Brunch Sun.
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Poor