by Diana LaSalle
The Sentient Bean
13 E. Park Avenue
At the south end of Forsythe Park
parking on the street and across the street at Forsyth Park
Atmosphere: Remember the Sixties?
Menu: Vegetarian breakfast & lunch
Adults Beverages: None
Service: Patience required when busy
Wired Status: Reliable WiFi
Community: Live music, films, readings
Dings: Cash only—ATM on premises but it will cost you $3
Located at the south edge of the Historic District, The Bean is a favorite for locals, students and the occasional tourist. We saw a visitor to Savannah - who obviously shopped at Starbucks - go crazy with this place saying to her husband "this is a real coffee shop!" It has an offbeat and slightly worn atmosphere that makes it a comfortable place to hang out by yourself or with friends. It’s set up with good wireless access and has plenty of outlets so if you want to crack open your laptop this is a good destination. Fare-wise, even if you’re not a vegetarian (which is all they serve) the breakfast burrito, black bean quesadillas and salads are very good. Watch out for the brownies though, they’re addictive! Smoothies also share the drink menu with the usual coffee and tea offerings, but what makes the Bean unique won’t be found on the menu. Owner Kristin Russell, who traveled Central America before she set up her place, has stayed true to the best tradition of coffee houses by also offering a venue for local artists of every ilk. The eclectic entertainment it hosts several nights a week ranges from spoken word readings, Indy songwriters and obscure (and often laughably bad) films, A newsletter and website keeps the community up to date on happenings. Every town needs a place like the Bean and we’re glad it’s here. If you’re in the park, stop by, or make it the final destination of a nice walking tour of Savannah.
234 Bull St
Atmosphere: Eclectic and cozy
Food: Lunch, light bites, breakfast breads and sweets
Adult Beverages: Wine
Service: Sometimes slow, but always friendly
Wired Status: WiFi available but not always reliable
Extras: Nice little retail offering, rotating local art
When Julianne Davis moved to Savannah to be near her SCAD student daughter in the early 1990s, owning one of the best coffee shops in town wasn’t even a twinkle in her eye. The former manager of a Thoroughbred farm in Florida she just liked hanging out at Gallery Espresso. As often happens with fate, one thing led to another and she bought the place. We’re glad she did. Billed as the oldest coffee house in Savannah, this Historic District gem, is a lovely place to take a break or hang out and watch Savannah amble by. The red umbrellas outside and the assortment of old furniture, brick walls and wood beams inside give a cozy and inviting feeling. Rotating local art adds to the atmosphere that is very much Savannah. At any given time you’re likely to find a mix of students, tourists, locals and business types congregating. Evenings are quieter than days if you want a more tranquil setting.
On the menu they have the usual coffee offerings along with a few nice surprises. If you’re looking for a jolt, order the Turkish coffee. It’s not the super high test variety that kept me up for three days in Istanbul, but I wouldn’t drink this past midmorning if you’re caffeine sensitive. For tea drinkers, this place is a real find. Their selection of loose and bagged teas, many of them from France, is outstanding. From their take-home tea section, check out their Nuwati Herbal teas designed to cure what ails you. With names like SeeLess’OMe for appetite control and Share My Blanket which is supposed to provide energy for lovers, reading the labels is as much fun as drinking the tea. They also serve Italian soda, root beer floats, and a nice selection of wines—lovely with their cheese board. Eats include fresh salads, sandwiches and black bean soup along with yummy sweets. Just watch out for some of the chairs and small couches. A favorite pastime is watching them swallow up unsuspecting newcomers!
The Metro Coffee House
402 MLK Boulevard
Atmosphere: Young, energetic, clean and cool
Food: Sandwiches, vegan and carnivore choices
Service: Attentive and friendly
Wired Status: Some of the best WiFi in town
Community: Live music
Savannah is a college town and every college town needs a place that students can call their own. Ours is the Metro. Owned by Marc and Trudi Boese, SCAD graduates themselves, their vision was to create a place for students to gather, study, express themselves and feel at home. They did a great job. It’s got plenty of space, it feels comfortable as soon as you walk in the door and on music nights, it has the energy you’d expect from a creative, twenty-something crowd.
The menu caters to students as well. Fairly priced sandwiches, both vegan and meat-packed are offered along with Pop Tarts, Hyper-caffeinated “Shock Coffee” and Tylenol. To accommodate those late night study/cram sessions The Metro stays open until 2AM every night.