Nobody goes away hungry from Mrs. Wilkes
Bill Cooke

Neighbor Grover sez you may party in hell, but you’ll be the barbecue. P egaroo and I have just returned from a five-pound vacation to the Deep South where those folks do know how to put on the feed bag.

Our trip was to Savannah, Georgia, and a chance to visit granddaughter Kennedy Cooke-Garza, a junior at Savannah College of Art & Design. SCAD has made many footprints on that city. The “campus” (not a campus at all) is scattered over Old Town in many historic buildings, restored/renovated into college facilities. One of SCAD’s many majors is architectural restoration. Kennedy is posting nice honors as a conceptual art major (PawPaw's brag).

Savannah is Old South personified. Suffice to say, we're glad Gen. Sherman didn’t see fit to burn it down, as Union forces were prone to do.

The ‘spread’ at Mrs. Wilkes in Savannah just goes on and on. 
Reporter/Bill Martin The ‘spread’ at Mrs. Wilkes in Savannah just goes on and on. Reporter/Bill Martin Savannah abounds in wonderful eateries and we hit those that specialized in seafood—except for one that I'm going to dwell on here.

Our research, plus tips from our hotel staff, told us not to miss a meal at Mrs. Wilkes boarding house. It’s not really a boarding house, but serves its meal like one—family style—11 a.m. until 2 p.m. There is a waiting line, but standing in line 35 minutes went by quickly as we visited with tourists from all over. The couple behind us were from New York City. A couple ahead of us were natives of New Zealand.

Those in line enjoy watching people exit the building after their meal. “It’s worth the wait,” they’d say, rubbing their midsections and waddling somewhat.

Inside the building, we were seated at a table with eight others. We were in one of two dining rooms, each containing several big tables with seating for 8 to 12. Our table was already covered with bowls of smoking hot “sides,” and the fried chicken and pulled pork arrived before we could get our napkins stuffed in our collars.

Here are the sides:

• Green beans
• Pinto beans
• Baked beans
• Lima beans
• Butter beans
• Black-eyed peas
• Collard greens
• Succotash with okra
• Butternut squash
• Mashed potatoes
• Sweet potatoes
• White gravy
• Brown gravy
• White rice
• Dirty rice with sausage
• Mac and cheese
• Mac and cheese w/tomatoes

• Sliced cucumbers with salt
and vinegar
• Cornbread muffins, biscuits
and stuffing.
• Dessert? Banana pudding or
blackberry cobbler.
• Pitchers of sweet or plain tea.
Every dish was delicious. We
were at that table for a solid hour,

I recalled a boarding house, Shipley's, where I ate lunch and supper during my North Texas State College days in the late 1950s. Cost was $40 a month. My job as campus sports editor paid $60 a month. Long time ago.

Mrs. Wilkes cost was $19 a head. As I paid at the register, I told the man (possibly the owner) that I had a 6-foot, 5-inch, 175-pound son-in-law (sports editor Bill Martin) who had eaten there and was coming back in July. “You probably lose money on him,” I joked. He looked up from the cash register, sized up my 5-9 frame and the 5-2 Pegaroo, and said with a smile: “That's okay. I made money on you.”

Mrs. Wilkes is an experience. The “locals” we encountered gave it thumbs up and “don’t miss.” And now, so do we.

Savannah's Old Town contains dozens of one-block squares filled with huge oaks, monuments and historical markers. Those shady parks—and their benches—came in real handy on our full-bellied, wobbling 15-block walk back from Mrs. Wilkes to our hotel.

As you might guess, it was nap time when we got there.

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