I am thoroughly ashamed to say that this was my first visit to Little Savannah, even though it’s never been farther than 2 miles from anywhere I’ve lived in Birmingham.  In fact, it’s literally a few blocks away from my current home in Forest Park.  So it’s obvious to say that I was very excited to finally step foot in one of our city’s best places to eat.

It had been a busy day at work the evening I went to eat dinner at Little Savannah, so I took along my coworker Misty to treat us both.  The first thing I did when I entered the restaurant was visit the painting that my high school art teacher, Staci Jacks, had hanging in the back room.  I’ve known it was there for years and years, so it was almost like seeing an old friend for the first time in ages.  It brought back a lot of memories.

I think we were the first ones in the place when we arrived around 5:15, but it quickly filled up before our main course was served.  I would highly recommend getting reservations if you want to come during peak dinner hours, because the Little Savannah is relatively small.  We were lucky to arrive early enough, otherwise we may not have gotten a seat.

Misty and I both partook in the Birmingham Restaurant Week special, a three course meal for $30 each.  Our first course was a salad with butter leaves, goat cheese, fried walnuts, sliced malus and pyrus topped with a lemon vinaigrette.  It was fresh & tangy.  About this same time we were served our specialty drink – the Batida.  This was a very interesting cocktail, and you’ll understand why if you look at the ingredients in the photo below of the menu.  It’s hard to explain it, as I’ve never had anything like it before.  It had a peppery bite, with a tangy finish from the balsamic reduction drizzled on top.  You will have to try that one out for yourself.  Our main course was one of my favorite southern treats – fried catfish with stewed tomatoes and okra.  It was crispy and cooked to perfection.  Even as great as that was, my favorite course was desert (as usual).  We both had our own rum glazed butter cupcake with Crème anglaise… and oh my stars it was good.  I’ve dreamed about it every day since!!

Thank you, Clif Holt, for taking the time to answer the questions below about your restaurant.  

How did you come up with the name Little Savannah?
Well, there are two perspectives: first, the word Little. The space is narrow and seating is intimate-small and filled with the sense of community. The second part, Savannah, is my daughters’ name, and also the name of my favorite Southern city in America.  Ultimately, I feel that Little Savannah is the epitome of southern culture, where a handshake or a hug are customary necessities as we are all family here.

What do you think makes your restaurant different from others in town?
First, our size allows us to source the freshest products daily-I just don’t have, or want a massive refrigeration or freezer unit-this entails a lot more effort on our part, but I feel this is the right way to showcase the things local farmers have worked so hard to produce.  Secondly, hospitality, which goes without saying-as every member of our team goes the extra mile for each guest.  Thirdly, comfort-one requirement that I have (in jest) is a ‘no coat/no tie’ policy, which is meant to bring a sense of relaxation to the end of a busy day or week for guests.  I tend to avoid or oppose any snobbish or pretentious environment by focusing more on providing a comfortable and happy environment for those who come to see us.

Do you enjoy being in the Forest Park area?  What do you love about this neighborhood?
The feel of strolling through this neighborhood is like no other-YES I thoroughly enjoy Forest Park.  This is the only neighborhood that I know of in Birmingham where our neighbors will walk to our restaurant for dinner or a cocktail-how awesome is that? I have always been intrigued by history, and this neighborhood is full of this city’s diverse character and rich history.  Our neighbors know and socialize with their neighbors-I love the community for that.

What is your main concept behind this restaurant?
Indigenous Southern is a term I dreamed up to answer that question-I am not one to categorize anything, and often elaborate the concept using the phrase ‘Mood Food’ which describes the ever-changing cravings that I have from day-to-day. The season; however, is definitely our driving force-a tomato in February is not part of our plan-tomatoes taste best when they are naturally occurring.  In a nutshell, Southern cuisine that is as local and seasonally available as possible, minimally prepared then presented at its best.  Our cocktails are artisan crafted with the same detail, each uniquely styled within the season.

I know you try to use all local ingredients.  Will you elaborate on the process?
The concept of using “all” local ingredients is still a way down the road.  I seek the best, freshest ingredients possible-just because a cattleman harvests beef down the road a little piece, doesn’t mean that I will automatically serve his steaks.  I am very particular about what I will eat and what I will serve.  Local doesn’t necessarily mean better, and I will work with anyone locally who is willing to improve the quality of his or her products.  Our farmers are open to ideas any suggestions, in fact, all of the farmers I work with will try growing different things to diversify their offerings for us-especially if I source seed for them! I have learned a lot about varied farming practices over the years and am intrigued to learn more alongside the folks that are fortunate enough to be a farmer instead of settling on a career as a doctor or lawyer.

What things have you learned about Birmingham while being a successful restaurant owner?
Success is defined in many ways-simply achieving a goal is one of the clearest definitions that I focus on.  I see the number of people visiting Dr. Pepper Place Market or the Eastlake Farmers Market on Saturday mornings continue to grow-that is a huge success for us.  The community that supports its local farmers and businesses, supports its local economy-and strengthens our community in so many ways.  I am grateful for a community that supports us in achieving our objectives.

Inside Little Savannah

Birmingham Restaurant Week Menu

A painting in Little Savannah that my high school art teacher did. 🙂

Batidas (see menu above for ingredients)

Cornmeal battered Alabama catfish with creole stewed tomato & okra

Run Glazed Butter Cupcake (WOW)