Boozing with Bell:  We March to the Sea for Shenanigans!

Mike Bell chronicles his recent trip to Savannah

Mike Bell
May 20, 2020 - 9:44 am
Savannah, Georgia, USA bars and restaurants on River Street at twilight

Sean Pavone/Getty Images Plus

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Heard things were loosening up in one of my favorite spots. So, I took a road trip to Savannah this past weekend. And it was great. Had a blast. 

Live your best life; I've adopted that credo. Just like when I had dinner at The Palm in Buckhead last month when restaurants were first allowed to open. No issues.

Just like the 10 previous Saturdays of golf I've played, going back to March before "the lockdown" started. No problems on the links, other than my slice.

The Covid-19 Pandemic has turned all of our lives upside down. We all did our part to flatten the curve by social distancing and many people continue to lay low and stay at home.

We all sheltered in place to ensure healthcare workers and the hospital systems wouldn't be overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients.

I posted 40 nights of videos of me and fellow Midtown residents saluting first responders and healthcare workers on the front line each evening at 8 p.m. 

But once we were allowed access to more non-essential services, I jumped at the chance. 

I can see eyes glazing over already... Hey Bro where's the Shenanigans in this blog?  

Yes, I do want to get on to the current condition of Savannah's bar & restaurant scene and what Pandemic pub crawling is like. But I feel obligated to get the Coronavirus discussion preamble out of the way first. 

Less someone feel I'm pushing an agenda...

My only agenda is and always has been ME having fun. Without hurting anyone else.

As I mention on the radio, I take every issue on a case-by-case basis. 

If exercising free will makes me some kind of half-ass, free-will Libertarian, well alrighty then.

I'm a 51-year-old man-child. I love my wife, my job and my life and believe me I don't want to wind up in a hospital over a ribeye or a Manhattan. But I do think there should be some kind of middle ground in discussing how we can get on to living our best lives without endangering others.  

These are scary times, no doubt. We're also unfortunately living in strange, polarizing times where sadly it seems half the country hates the other half's guts. The last thing that should ever happen in a health crisis is for it to be politicized. Too late for that.

I hope we can find some common ground based on common sense. A place somewhere between the doom-and-gloom hysteria and those in denial of the crisis. 

And if you take the time to look at the numbers from The CDC (feel free to round up) maybe you'll find a level of acceptable risk you can live with, as I have. I know there are warnings of the virus reigniting and worries about a second wave. There's also theories that gradual engagement will help to create a herd immunity.  Not claiming to be an expert, I read the same stuff you guys do. But if the experts keep moving the goal line, what are we supposed to do then, hunker down ‘til Christmas?

No one is telling you to do anything you don't feel safe doing. That said... let’s talk about my trip. 

Made great time blasting out of Midtown at 7. Man do I love those express lanes on 75 South, like your own private Autobahn! Made it to The Hampton Inn on Bay Street by 10. We were meeting two other couples (one drove from Charlotte the other flew in from Ohio) who like us were stir crazy and looking to do some boozing. 

Not every bar or restaurant was still open. Some were closing at 8, others at 10. The Rusty Rudder down on River Street was open ‘til Midnight so that's where we headed. We'd need a roadie for the walk and where better to start than Wet Willies. A card table was positioned outside the front door and a man in a mask and gloves had one of those non-contact laser thermometers. Once we were cleared, two of us were allowed in at a time. I grabbed a White Russian with a Captain Morgan floater (tastes like coffee ice cream, get 'em in Key West all the time). Becky opted for the The Monkey Shine, a banana daiquiri with a floater as well. Advice to Millennials, don't rush into marriage. Wait ‘til ya find your wing-woman! For the record the wives set up this trip.

My buddies Tom and Dustin and their wives had arrived earlier in the day so they were on fumes but rallied.

We arrived at Rusty Rudder and had to wait for a few folks to leave before we could be admitted. Following protocols they were limited to 1/3 capacity it seemed like.  

I have to admit it was kind of freaky to walk into a bar that had a nice 20- and 30-something crowd just doing their thing like any normal weekend in months or years past. 

We hadn't seen that many people in one place in nearly three months. It took some mental adjustment after all the social distancing we've been conditioned to follow.

It took a while to get the drink orders in since the bartenders were set up at assigned stations. They were all wearing masks and gloves likes everyone else we encountered in the service industry during the weekend. And man were they were happy for the business. A Tito's & soda with a lime presented separately in a plastic condiment cup with a cover on it. I'll take it! 

We met some folks from up and down the East Coast along with the hard-charging locals. For many the trip to Savannah was their first chance to get out of the house in months as well. Janet from Virginia said aside from trips to Food Lion or out for more supplies for home-schooling their kids, this was her "first taste of freedom."

We kept it going ‘til after midnight then stumbled back to the hotel. For folks who've never been to Savannah, watch your step on those cobblestones they can be treacherous even before you start imbibing.

The Hampton Inn was following the CDC and State guidelines. A Plexiglas shield separated customer from manager at the front desk, all the employees wearing masks. Housekeeping stays out of your room until your stay is over. So you make your bed. Fresh towels are left outside your door in a sealed plastic bag. The breakfast downstairs was single-use, grab-and-go. The pool was under construction at our hotel and others in Savannah had not yet opened their pools. Call ahead if that is important to you!  

When we checked out we noticed a dude wearing a tank on his back and mask and goggles using an electrostatic sprayer in the room after the staff had finished cleaning it. 

After a good night's sleep it was breakfast at 2 Cracked Eggs, my favorite brunch spot in town. Since they were following protocols and space between tables was maintained a usual, 20 minute wait tuned into over an hour. So we spent the time talking with our friends in the shade of a big oak tree with Spanish moss looking down on the river. With the view of the old converted warehouses and giant container ship passing by there's a lot worse ways to kill time while your tummy starts rumbling. 

Gigantic biscuits, great portions, outstanding spicy Bloody Mary's it was worth the wait. The White Trash Hash special my pal ordered was a pile of goodness that defies description, I went with Crab Cake Benedict. Amazing! Sarah our server gets a medal for dealing with our crew. 

Boozing with Bell, food from Savannah
Photo Credit: Mike Bell/RADIO.COM

We walked off the big brunch with a trip to Moon River Brewing. They have a liquor bar if ya don't want to try their many great flavors including the tasty IPA called Swamp Fox. My wife, who is not a big craft brew fan, got by with their chick beer called Yoga Pants. Ha! The beer garden was spacious enough for everyone to grab a picnic table. One of the servers told me the rules from the State right now mandates 10 people per 300 square feet, so they had plenty of room. 

Later we walked over to City Market. Four blocks of cool shops, galleries, great bars and restaurants. For many locals this is the better option than the touristy feel of River Street. The street is closed off so you can bar hop or window shop.

Many of my old favorites no longer exist in Savannah. I used to hang at Kevin Barry's Irish Pub on the river with my cousins, the Hogan’s, at least once a month back in the day.  It’s been sold and a trendy new spot is going up in its place. 

Mike Bell, Boozing with Bell
Photo Credit: Mike Bell/RADIO.COM

The Grey, my favorite restaurant in town was closed, not sure what their Memorial Day Weekend plan is, so call ahead. We didn't make it to Treylor Park or Ordinary Pub, another great spot. Hey there's only so many hours in the day. Many of the rooftop bars are open too, but call ahead to make sure what the hours are and what the capacity limits are due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Tubby's Seafood had a good crowd and is always a good time.

We didn't make it to Tybee Island on this trip, but my cousins tell me Sand Bar and almost everything on the beach is open. 

We had two great dinners. Saturday night at Ruth's Chris and Sunday at The Chart House. With some of my locals favorites not open past 8 p.m. steaks at Ruth Chris was the only option for a 9:30 reservation. Mathew our server and the staff did a fantastic job dealing with a party of eight (split into 2 tables per protocols). 

Yeah, Drunk Larry and his wife drove up from St. Augustine to join in on the day-drinking Saturday. Larry is the living avatar of Family Guy's Peter Griffin, the greatest wingman ever. I was introduced to Larry back in 2000 by the late, great Craig Sager. We spent Sunday afternoon pounding cocktails in the shade across the street from Lizzy's Burger Bar & Grill. We'd get up and waddle over to River St. to pick up the rounds to go since open container is always allowed in Savannah. Hats off to Zach the barkeep! We met lots of folks strolling around the town. Some wearing masks, some not. Everyone happy to get a weekend in that restored some sense of normalcy.

Sunday night after rinsing and repeating our pub crawling we enjoyed a seafood spectacular at The Chart House. Same deal: masks, gloves, tables spread apart. Fantastic service. The boys all opted for blackened swordfish that was money. Their crab cake apps were so good we doubled down. 

What a great weekend! Savannah never disappoints and the hospitality and enthusiasm from all the servers and owners was a welcome change from getting a dirty look for not wearing a mask on Peachtree. The world is starting to open up.
 
We may not agree with the how, why or the when of it opening up, but if we follow all the protocols can't we at least see what happens when we put our toes in the water?  

Be safe, but live your life! 

The views and opinions expressed here are entirely those of the author and do not express the views or opinions of WZGC-FM or Entercom.