Crystal Beer Parlor
Savannah is a town full of interesting stories, and one of them has to do with The Crystal, a Depression era restaurant at the corner of Jones and Jefferson that somehow managed to transition to The Crystal Beer Parlor so soon after Prohibition was repealed that many speculate they’d been secretly selling illegal hootch all along. It was a rowdy place back in the day where no respectable woman would be seen, with spittoons, cigar smoke and rumors of gambling.
The building’s history goes back even farther. In the early 1900’s, what was to become the Crystal Beer Parlor opened as Henry Gerken Family Groceries. It was operated by a young Julius Weitz with his parents and siblings, who all lived upstairs over the store. The family was very active in Savannah Jewish religious, educational and recreational organizations. The building was sold in the early 1930s to William “Blocko” and Connie Manning, and the story goes that Blocko operated an illicit speakeasy during Prohibition.
Blocko in fact spent sometime in the federal pen for bootlegging, and supposedly shared a cell with one of Al Capone’s gang. When Blocko was out of prison and back at The Crystal, Capone himself is said to have paid him a visit there in person to offer him a job, which he politely declined.
Today, 83 years after it first opened, The Crystal Beer Parlor has managed to turn itself into a welcoming, homey spot beloved by locals and visitors, where Savannah’s history festoons the walls in the form of framed magazine articles and newspaper pages, maps, movie posters, Johnny Mercer sheet music and photographs, and an old wall menu recalls when hamburgers were 30 cents.
There’s still a lively bar, and The Crystal Beer Parlor serves a long list of craft beers, many of them brewed close by, in Savannah, Athens, Alpharetta, Atlanta and Charleston. They also feature “Beers of our Fathers,” where you can take a sipping trip down Memory Lane: Iron City Beer, Genessee Cream Ale, Pabst Blue Ribbon (the “ribbon” refers to its win as “America’s Best” at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893). Happy Hour is 4 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Seating is at cozy booths, family tables and one banquette that can seat a crowd, so The Crystal Beer Parlor is an ideal place for great food with family and friends in a relaxed, unfussy atmosphere (large groups are welcome but may be seated at several tables). And, boy, is the food great. Just a few highlights: the Gawgia Cracka Nachos are a sweet, delicious pile of barbecued smoked pulled pork on crispy tortilla chips, topped with cheddar cheese, diced onion, pickled jalapenos and chopped dill pickles.
The au Poivre Burger: a grilled burger studded with cracked pepper, topped with a green peppercorn brandy cream sauce & grilled onions. CBP offers a variety of burgers, including bison, lamb and veggie.
Any of their melt-in-your-mouth super-fresh seafood, including shrimp, oysters, flounder and Baked Southern Deviled Crab. Their rich, delicious Crystal Crab Stew is to die for, and their take on Shrimp & Grits is a Low Country classic.
Looking for a Southern favorite? Their fried green tomatoes are panko-coated, fried golden and served with a horseradish cream sauce.
And for dessert? How about an Abita Springs Root Beer float or the Gawga Peach Cobbler (billed as “Best in the State,” although it may be best in the entire South).
Pro tips: they aren’t a regular menu item, but if the Sweet Chili Duck Wings are one of the specials next time you are there, snap them up! Crispy on the outside, tender and savory inside, tossed in a sweet and spicy glaze. You’ll want to lick your fingers and plate clean. Also, CBP doesn’t take reservations, so in season and weekend evenings there can be a bit of a wait the later it gets, but it’s worth that wait and you can fill the time sipping a drink from the bar and checking out pictures and stories about Savannah on the walls. If you’re waiting in the hallway by the old (disconnected) payphone, however, and it starts ringing? Don’t pick up! Crystal Beer Parlor is just a little bit haunted.
The Crystal Beer Parlor is located a 301 W. Jones (Google it the first time – it can be a little hard to find), with convenient parking. (912) 349-1000. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.