Updated: Sun, 06/30/2013 - 14:04

CITY TALK: Feeling welcome at Zunzi's 2 in Savannah

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On my first visit to Zunzi’s 2, I was struck by the comfort of the interior.

Sure, the restaurant had been open for less than 24 hours when I dropped by, and the staff was still getting used to things.

But it seemed obvious that the second location had captured the welcoming spirit of the original – the bustling hole-in-the-wall at 108 East York St.

Zunzi’s 2 is just a few blocks away at 9 Drayton St. in the space last occupied by Isaac’s. Before that, the historic building was the original location of Churchill’s Pub, which is thriving on Bay Street.

Click here to view Spotted® photos from the grand openings of Zunzi's 2

The building was obviously home to a variety of businesses before that, including a private boxing club. The space still has the bar that was used for decades in Grand Central Station before being shipped to Savannah more than a century ago.

With limited seating alongside the adjacent parking lot, the original Zunzi’s is largely limited to daytime hours and a takeout concept.

But those limitations didn’t keep owners Gabby and Johnny DeBeer from garnering national attention last year when their Conquistador sandwich was a finalist on the Travel Channel’s “Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America.”

Zunzi’s 2 opens for weekend lunches but won’t open until 4 p.m. on weekdays, which will minimize the competition with the original location. Plus the new spot features table service and a full bar.

For this new venture, Gabby and Johnny have been joined by co-owner Ben Bowne, who showed me around the new space.

“Everything is pretty much reclaimed,” Bowne said as he pointed out the use of wood from an old farmhouse, chairs purchased from another restaurant and booths made by Southern Pine Company from salvaged material.

Some entering the building for the first time might not even know about the upstairs deck, but it’s a relaxing spot – freshly
painted and planted – with a great view of the dome of City Hall.

When we got back to the bar area, Bowne noted the vibrant works by artist Chris Maddox: “We’re trying to make it a gallery space.”

And there’s music. Johnny DeBeer and Bowne will be playing regular early-evening sets, and other acts will appear as well. Zunzi’s 2 has a hybrid license, so at 11 p.m. the restaurant will convert to more of a bar atmosphere with a small dance floor.

The menu will be pretty much the same as the original location. I’m sure that’s a welcome relief to the Zunzi’s lovers out there, especially those who have limited chances to eat there during the day.

For more information and updates on performances, check out the Zunzi’s 2 page on Facebook.

 

Dining local at 22 Square

I also had dinner last week at 22 Square in the Andaz Savannah hotel on Ellis Square.

When a friend suggested we give it a try, I didn’t even immediately recognize the restaurant’s name. 22 Square just doesn’t seem to get mentioned as often as other fine downtown establishments.

Part of the problem might be the simple fact that the restaurant seems secondary to the hotel itself.

Unlike 45 Bistro at The Marshall House, there’s no separate entrance to the restaurant from the street. A significant marketing campaign and live entertainment have lured locals to the Aqua Star at the Westin, but there has been no big promotional effort to get folks to 22 Square.

So we had the dining room pretty much to ourselves on a stormy evening last week.

Which was just fine.

The street-level windows look toward the bustling public space of Ellis Square. It’s a great spot from which to admire the square’s diverse architecture.

The simple ambiance of the dining room seems a good fit for the menu, which relies on locally sourced ingredients.

We started with a platter of fresh and pickled vegetables from Walker Organic Farms in Sylvania ($7). Served with hummus and a deviled egg, the starter was practically a meal in itself.

I followed that with a rich and interesting entrée of crispy pork from up the road in Brooklet, pumpkin ravioli and Brussels sprout leaves ($17).

22 Square’s drink menu struck me as a little pricy, but I’d go back in a heartbeat for the food. The breakfast menu looks tempting too.

There’s a larger story here of the farm-to-table movement, which has gained steam in recent years with the promotion of fresh, locally sourced ingredients. It’s a trend we’ve been mentioning off and on for years here at City Talk.

And it sure is good to see so many of Georgia’s growers and farmers increasingly acknowledged on restaurant menus.

22 Square opens for dinner at 5 p.m. every night of the week.

 

City Talk appears every Tuesday and Sunday. Bill Dawers can be reached via billdawers@comcast.net and http://www.billdawers.com. Send mail to 10 East 32nd St., Savannah, Ga. 31401.

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