First of all, I have to point out this is my 1000th Road Tips post. For a hobby, this has sort of taken on a life of its own.
One of the big reasons Cindy wanted to go to Savannah was to eat at Paula Deen's restaurant, "The Lady and Sons". Well, it turns out that Paula Deen has quite the cottage industry in Savannah, including a second restaurant on the way out to Tybee Island called Uncle Bubba's Oyster House (see map). It's named for her younger brother, Earl "Bubba" Hiers whom she cared for after their parents died when he was a teenager and Paula was in her early 20's. While Paula Deen owns the restaurant, Bubba manages the place for her.
I'm always sort of leery of high profile restaurants and whether or not they'd be up to snuff. We asked one of the ladies bartending at the Hilton DeSoto whether she thought Uncle Bubba's was a good place to eat. She said, "Well, I've never eaten out there, but I hear it's OK."
We locked in the address to Uncle Bubba's Oyster House on the Hertz NeverLost and took off east of Savannah on the highway to Tybee Island. I'm guessing that Uncle Bubba's had to be relatively new (it wasn't - it opened in 2004) as the NeverLost system tried to get us to turn left on Bryan Woods Road rather than go right. I'm glad I saw the restaurant off to the right and over-rode the NeverLost, which, had I let it continue, would have gotten us lost. Well, not lost, but it wasn't taking us to where we needed to go. (I've found over the years that Hertz doesn't update their NeverLost systems all that frequently.)
We pulled up to Uncle Bubba's and encountered a nearly full parking lot with a ton of people milling about in front of the building. Cindy went in and found that there was about an hour wait for dinner. Since we'd eaten earlier rather late in the afternoon, that was fine with me. We found a couple seats at the bar and I ordered up a couple beers for us - Sweetwater 420's.
The place was absolutely packed. We had to remind ourselves that it was Memorial Day weekend and Savannah was a popular destination for many people in the Southeast. But the wait for a table also gave us time to look around the place.
The interior of Uncle Bubba's is open and airy with a lot of wood paneling throughout. The tables and chairs are vintage 1950's diner-style furnishings. With a wood floor, lots of glass windows that look out into a Georgia low country bayou and a high ceiling that looks sort of industrial, it can get rather loud in the place.
One of Paula Deen's television programs, Paula's Party, is filmed at Uncle Bubba's. There's a beautiful outdoor seating area that features a number of cats lazily milling about the covered dining area. All in all, it was a pretty cool place.
The bar area was actually kind of nice with a square bar and high-backed retro chairs. I was looking for something a little more strong than a beer to drink. Something a little more "Southern and Summery". I ordered up a lemonade and a Bacardi Limon. The bartender said, "I don't have lemonade." I looked at him like he was from Mars. EVERYONE has lemonade! He suggested I try a sweet tea and Bacardi Limon. He said, "Let me know what you think."
Well, I didn't think much of it. I don't drink tea, for one thing. Secondly, "sweet" was the operative term as there seemed to be so much sugar in the drink I almost went into a diabetic coma. I had a couple drinks and asked the bartender for another beer. He said, "Didn't like that?"
I said, "No, not really. I'm not much of a tea drinker and it was way too sweet for me." So he gave me a Sweetwater 420 on the house. He said, "I'm not going to charge you for the drink, either." And he didn't.
While we could have eaten at the bar as a couple a few years older than us did while we were sitting there, Cindy has some sort of an aversion about eating at the bar. Me, I'm an old hand at it. But Cindy said, "This is the kind of place where I want to sit in the dining room. If we have to wait, we have to wait." It wasn't much longer after that when they called our name for us to get a seat.
They took us to a corner table in the far back of the dining area which afforded us great views of the bayou out back of Uncle Bubba's. We were both given a menu and we took a quick look at everything they had to offer. And it was a lot.
The first thing that pops out at you are the appetizers which features Uncle Bubba's signature char-grilled oysters. They take oysters and grill them half-shell side down until they're cooked through, then topped with cheese, butter and garlic. We'd never had anything like that before, we've always just ordered raw oysters on the half-shell. But Cindy wanted to try the char-grilled oysters, so we ordered up a half-dozen. For good measure, I also ordered a half-dozen of the raw oysters on the half-shell.
The waiter, a young kid who was pretty personable (almost too personable as he seemed to be carrying on long conversations at his tables when his other customers needed refills or something taken care of), also told us of a special that evening - their "Catch of the Day." It was a fresh Shawhee fish, grilled and served with cole slaw and Savannah red rice. (Now, I don't know if Shawhee is the name of the fish or not - I asked him what it was called again and he said, "Shawhee.") He said it was a light fish not unlike a North Atlantic cod, but was caught in the local waters. Cindy thought that sounded good and ordered that.
I went with a pound of the peel and eat boiled shrimp. And for good measure, I thought I'd try a cup of Uncle Bubba's gumbo.
Not long after we ordered our food, the char-grilled and raw oysters came to the table. From the first bite of the char-grilled oysters, we were in heaven. I finished two and when our waiter brought my cup of gumbo to the table, I said, "We need another half-dozen of these. Can we just get charged the dozen price versus the half-dozen price?" ($12.99 versus $7.99.)
He said, "Absolutely, sir!" I liked the waiter. He was a good kid.
While the char-grilled oysters were out of this world, the raw oysters were some of the best I'd ever had. When the waiter came back with the second half-dozen char-grilled oysters, I asked him if these were local oysters. He said, "No, sir. These are from Louisiana. We get 'em flown in fresh, sometimes on the same day they're brought into port."
Well, I don't know if he was bullshitting me or what. But all I knew is that they were big, meaty and flavorful.
And I also have to say that Uncle Bubba's gumbo was top-notch. It had large chunks of shrimp, chicken and andouille sausage in a very spicy tomato-based broth. I should have gotten a bowl of the gumbo, but I was ready to dive into the shrimp.
The boiled shrimp and Cindy's fish showed up at the table soon after that. Cindy's grilled fish was light and flaky, and it didn't have a fishy taste to it. She was happy about that. She said, "This is truly fresh." She declared the cole slaw at Uncle Bubba's as "OK" and she liked the Savannah red rice, which is really nothing more than a southern style red rice recipe consisting of a tomato base, with bacon bits, onions, green peppers and some seasoning mixed in.
How was my shrimp? I was in heaven. The shrimp was lightly seasoned with some cajun spices and they were big and meaty. I hungrily devoured a pound of the shrimp and seriously thought about getting another half-pound to satiate my appetite for a seafood overload. But I didn't. And I'm glad I didn't. I wouldn't have had room for Uncle Bubba's famous Key Lime Pie.
It was well past the 9 p.m. closing time when the waiter asked if we wanted to try the Key Lime Pie. I said, "Well, if you're trying to get out of here..."
He said, "Oh, no. I'll be here for awhile. Do y'all want one piece or two?"
Cindy said, "Bring us one piece and a couple forks." She laughed and said, "If it's as good as you say it is, we may just have to get a second piece."
About three minutes later, he brought out the piece of Key Lime Pie. It was - in a word - outstanding. Some of the Best Key Lime pie I'd ever eaten. And it was SOOOOO rich! Oh, my God, was it rich! But it was just unbelievable. We found the recipe for it on line. You can click here to get it. It's very similar to the Key Lime Pie I make, except they make the pie shell from scratch and use a LOT of butter in doing so. But we've found that Paula Deen uses a ton of butter in everything.
After dinner we walked around the outside area looking at the bayou and the covered outdoor seating area. We took a look at a number of the old Hiers/Deen family pictures along the wall and then decided to head back to the hotel. Cindy suddenly realized that she had forgotten her jacket at the table. She went back and it was gone. She went to the hostess stand at the front of the restaurant and asked if anyone had turned in a jacket. The girl went to look and she came back and said, "No, ma'am. I'm sorry."
Cindy was disgusted. "Why in the hell would anyone steal a jacket in a place like this," she asked to no one in particular.
And almost as soon as she said that, our waiter came in from the outside, carrying her jacket. He said, "Oh, THERE y'all are! I thought you guys left already. You left this at the table and I was out in the parking lot looking for y'all."
And he handed a somewhat embarrassed Cindy her jacket.
I was worried that Uncle Bubba's was kind of an over-rated, touristy restaurant. But I have to say the food was great, the service was very good (even though the guy did dawdle at tables a little too long), and the people were helpful and friendly. It was a little expensive (over $100 bucks with a tip), but, hey! We're on vacation! It was a great first meal on our first night in Savannah. And we even saw a 4 foot long alligator on our way back into Savannah! We were truly in the South.
(Update - April 2014. Paula Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers, abruptly closed Uncle Bubba's citing an opportunity to develop the waterfront property. However, Uncle Bubba's was the center of a sexual harrassment suit that led to allegations of racial discrimination against Deen and her brother which, in turn, started to crumble Deen's empire. A spokesperson for Deen declined comment when asked if the lawsuit was tied to the restaurant's closing. It was reported that Deen did not tell the employees before the closing of the restaurant and that severance checks were handed out to restaurant staff in the parking lot when they arrived for work on April 3.)