Mrs Wilkes Dining Room – A Taste of Savannah
The old boarding house at 107 West Jones blends right into the neighborhood. What sets it apart from the others is the line of people that snakes from the front door down the block and around the corner. Mrs Wilkes Dining Room, a Slice of Savannah Life Served Up For Lunch! This is part of Savannah’s folklore and history. It’s not a lunch for the sake of lunch. That can be had anywhere. This is about Southern hospitality, eating with strangers that become like family for a short time and wonderful Southern food and plenty of it.
The line starts forming before 10 in the morning with the doors opening at 11 am and closing at 2 pm. Get there early for a shorter wait time. The later you get there the longer the line gets and the longer the wait is as well. They are gracious to accept anyone that is still waiting by 2 p.m.to be seated and fed. But 2 pm is the cutoff in line.
We were led in to the side dining room, beyond the main room that had a handful of tables that seat 10 people each. My host and I were sat at a table with 8 others at the table, folks from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey and Canada. Heavy eating, light conversation made for a family style atmosphere at our table.
Mrs Wilkes started running the kitchen in the 1940s and though she’s passed on, her passion and cooking can still be found throughout the dining room. When we sat down, 24 bowls and platters of food were waiting for us. Two of the platters were filled with some of the best fried chicken I’ve tasted in Savannah. The other 22 dishes were all assorted; corn muffins, collard greens, okra succotash, mac and cheese, cheesy potatoes, and whipped sweet potato mousse. The steamed rutabagas put my mom’s turnips to shame. The food’s light and easy, not over salted or spiced. It truly is simple and plentiful Southern food.
I’ve read reviews where people said it didn’t compare to someone’s mom’s cooking, and that may be so because we all know our moms are the best cooks. I think Mrs Wilkes’ menu rivals any mom be it fried or family who’s ever fed me hands down. This meal isn’t just about the cooking, it’s an experience, a slice of life in Savannah. Home cooking in a family environment. For the people who line up for this buffet, the cash only price of $20 is secondary to them.
I would gladly return again and again if my waistline could afford the extra pounds. And when family comes into town, going to Mrs Wilkes is a necessity. I’ll admit standing in line isn’t my idea of a good time, but my philosophy for Mrs Wilkes is “early in line, early to seat, early to eat, and plan on a late dinner!”
Over the years there have been quite a few celebrities that have dined at Mrs Wilkes. Among the most recent noteable guests are: the cast of Magic Mike XXL in 2014 and President Obama in 2010 as well as Gregory Peck, Kate Smith & Robert Duvall. The experience at Mrs Wilkes has been covered by Esquire magazine, the New York Times, wmagazine.com, and back in the day, David Brinkley’s evening new program. Needless to say, the reviews have been positive for years! You owe it to yourself to put Mrs Wilkes on your bucket list.