IT WAS only last month that Netflix announced that its award-winning documentary series Chef’s Table would feature local Savannahian and prized chef Mashama Bailey and her business partner John O. Morisano.
The episode, premiering next year, is set to tell the story of how the two created the Savannah’s The Grey, and how Chef Bailey is the first African American woman nominated for and a finalist in the runnings for the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast.
Chef Bailey ventured all the way down to Savannah from New York after connecting with Morisano, the brain behind the revamp of the old Greyhound bus station that now holds The Grey.
It goes without saying that The Grey and the team behind The Grey have helped put Savannah on the culinary map—finally! Chef Bailey showcases local ingredients and culture while bringing in inspiration from global influences.
The Grey houses two seating areas, each with their own menu, yet both offering patrons one of those dining experiences that you don’t forget.
Morisano is also from New York, so the idea to bring Savannah a third concept from The Grey team originated as he sat at a lunch counter in his home state.
“I went to a place in Washington Heights, a Dominican lunch spot, and I was like Savannah needs something like this,” he told me as we chatted at a high-top in his bustling new store front.
After visiting the one-of-a-kind new location, I couldn’t agree more that Savannah had a hole that is now filled by The Grey Market.
The concept of The Grey Market is simple—part store with high quality food related products and part restaurant with a food counter where you can perch and eat your lunch. Morisano explained the concept to me perfectly:
“Everything about this is a little familiar to Mashama and me, sort of like the bustling lunch counter with people almost throwing food at you.”
As for the bodega side, the thought was to aid those that work downtown and may need to stop into a store to grab one or two items.
You can also forgo stopping in to grab one or two items you forgot to pick up for dinner, and grab an entire precooked dinner created by The Grey. The market offers grab-and-go dinners (for an extremely reasonable price might I add) that usually features a meat, two sides, and bread.
“We tried it on the first night and it sold out immediately,” Morisano said, referencing the popularity of the family meals. Some of the items Morisano and Chef Bailey are considering featuring with the take-away meals include baked pasta, pork tenderloin, whole roasted fish, meatloaf, ribs, and fried chicken.
“All of the products that are in the market we [the Grey’s team] use. When we were talking about dry pasta, there was only one dry pasta in [his] grandmother’s Italian kitchen. Everything is picked that way,” Morisano explained describing the process of selecting products available for sale in the market.
Modeled after a true New York food hall counter, the menu is divided into breakfast, after 11 a.m., 4 p.m. to close, and all day items. You will also find baked goods and fountain sodas.
Also, the bagels are a big deal. “They are straight up New York bagels. Our baker is from New York, from the same borough of New York City I grew up in,” Morisano told me. I asked Morisano about why they chose New York style bagels over the rest.
He said, “in a way we don’t have a choice, we are all New Yorkers and do not know any other kind of bagel.”
Keeping true to The Grey’s northern roots, lox is offered alongside the bagels that are baked fresh daily. Chef Bailey’s version of lox is beet cured and served alongside cream cheese, red onion, and watercress.
Every single baked good, available in the store and both restaurants, is baked in-house on the top floor of the new marketplace.
I was told by Morisano that their NYC, a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, is another menu item that is 100 percent authentic to the big city. A true NYC bacon egg and cheese is served on a kaiser roll, and not a bagel or toast like so many southern versions.
“One of the thing Mashama and I knew had to be on the menu was a New York bacon egg and cheese,” said Morisano after I mistakenly asked if their version was served on a bagel. He told me you can get the sandwich on a bagel, but the true New York way is on a kaiser.
The Sizzlin’ Smoky Pig is a sandwich, on the All Day side of the menu, based on one of the original menu items served at The Grey, the Sizzlin’ Smokey Pig. It was pork served sizzling in a cast iron skillet with a cracked egg on the top. The new version features smoked pig, pepper relish, and a fried egg all served on a kaiser roll.
I asked Morisano what he personally picked to feature on the menu:
“I was interested in seeing how Mashama could take some of the things we cooked over at The Grey and use that as inspiration for doing things here...I was really interested in connecting the DNA of The Grey with The Grey Market.”
The Grey Market has a list of approximately thirty wines that was curated by the wine and beverage director Caleb. Per Morisano, “there are more fun and big wines here, we are not limiting ourselves to the old world wines like The Grey.”
So far The Market has hosted a few impromptu wine tastings, and plan on hosting more at the standing counter.