AS THE culture of our city continues to grow and flourish, we will see a lot of new people with new concepts and new ways of developing ideas that we might not have been exposed to yet.
These fresh methods of execution a lot for new perspectives that will provide the juice we need as a city to keep our bus rolling forward. Alongside these new concepts, establishments, and people, will reside the older ones that have put this city where it is today.
And although at most times I have been more than disappointed with the C-Port's lack of enthusiasm for its local community, there have been some gems over the years that have given us a light when in most areas we didn’t have one.
In my eyes, this small handful of restaurants and bars, especially the personnel deserve a lot of credit. It’s easy to sell out to what our city has designed as the way for our local economy to be successful. But that lack of personality is the reason why up until recently, locals didn’t feel heard or the perspective taken into account.
We’ve had to just adjust to the exploding tourist market, and SCAD’s fluctuation through the school year, and sort of pick up the pieces during the off seasons. It is in those moments, when we can really see, and taste, the establishments that have been dedicated to serving the local community for the long haul.
One of my favorite local spots happens to be Blowin' Smoke, located on the outskirts of downtown. This place has been a local favorite of mine and many others for years now, and they are fresh off of renovating their building, as well as streamlining some of their menu items.
I sat down with one of my favorite chefs in Savannah, Neil Youngblood. We talked about some of the changes he made at this neighborhood favorite. Barbecue and tacos, how can you go wrong?
Neil, a native of Alabama, left his hometown in search of a culinary arts education, landed in Savannah to study at Savannah Tech, and after eleven years has yet to leave.
“School really afforded me the opportunity to play with some ingredients that I know I wouldn’t normally be exposed to,” Neil says.
After working at a range of restaurants in Savannah as he climbed the ladder, he approached the Gaslight Restaurant Group who gave him a chance to show them what he was made of.
“I was interested in pursuing barbecue, and the group asked me how I felt about making tacos, and honestly the rest is history,” Neil says.
From that moment, he was given a semi-worked canvas, which he was able to make his own. Like every chef's dream, Neil had the opportunity to be creative and put together a menu that represented pieces of himself, while tying in elements of Savannah and the restaurant group.
“For a while it was just me in the kitchen with a pen and a pad, designing a tasting. It all began with a version of Tex-Mex, then we dived into what we really wanted to focus on, which was barbecue and tacos,” he says.
And when we spend time digging into the menu, we find nothing but gold. For example, the fried pickles are definitely the best I’ve had in town. Such a simple concept, but to get the batter and seasoning done correctly is easier said than done.
The apps round out with some wings with some delicious flavor profiles, like Garlic Parmesan, their signature barbecue, and the Georgia Summer.
Wiping my forehead for round two, the menu allows you to go in a couple different directions. If you are looking for some delicious Georgia barbecue, Blowing Smoke has some plates you need to try.
Beef ribs, brisket, smoked pork butt, or a plate that contains all three; they have what you need if you are in the mood for some barbecue. The seasoning and sauce it what makes good barbecue, and their technique is on par with some of the best barbecue I’ve tasted in the South.
Now if you want to enjoy some tacos, I believe this is where a lot of the creativity shines through. From some traditional local ingredients we’re used to eating in tacos, like brined chicken breast strips, carnitas, and chorizo, they interpret these ingredients on their own terms, and it is absolutely delicious.
Then they lean into some non-traditional tacos like their falafel taco, their smoked pork belly, their brisket, and even some jerk flank steak. All of which are out of the box, original, and full of flavor.
There is even a dessert taco on this menu. I love the creativity and thought put into developing this menu.
To bring it all home, it is this influx of passion and creativity that will continue to help us define our culture as locals here in Savannah. I
It is chefs like Neil that actually care about retention, and owners so can see past the tourism, and understand the value of the local community. Let’s keep stirring that pot, people.