Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Feelin’ Good Again with Old School Beers and Burgers

Crystal Beer Parlor
301 West Jones St.
Savannah, GA

Crystal Beer Parlor is an important part of what makes Savannah one of America’s best cities.

You never know what you’ll bump into as you stroll through the spooky Spanish moss-draped squares and narrow side streets of the “Haunted City”.

There always seems to be some exciting hidden discovery around every cobblestone corner.

Like Crystal Beer Parlor.

I’ve been exploring the historic district of Savannah for years and never even heard of the place until I happened to stumble into it on a side street somewhere between Pulaski and Chatham Squares.

And it’s not like Crystal Beer Parlor is some Johnny-come-lately joint recently opened by some relocated Yankee entrepreneur for the hoards of tourist masses.

The place has been serving beer and burgers since 1933 – and brags that it was one of the first bars in America to open after the repeal of Prohibition.

Back then, beers were a dime and burgers a quarter.

Thanks to seven decades of central bank fiat currency printing, the prices are a bit higher today. But I’m guessing the quality of the food and beer selection has improved too.

Crystal Beer Parlor lives up to its name – and proves that you don’t have to have 200 taps to qualify for outstanding beer selection.

The back wall behind the bar is lined with about 20 taps of exciting, unusual and hard to find fresh microbrewed beer.

For example, Sweetwater Brewing out of Atlanta has become fairly prevalent at bars with decent beer selection throughout the South. But it is almost always the 420 – a standard American pale ale.

Getting your hands on a frosty mug of Sweetwater’s much more interesting seasonal brews is like scoring a young hot female TSA agent to fondle you at security. I suppose it’s theoretically possible – but it never seems to happen.

That’s why I was so excited to see Sweetwater’s Festive Ale on Crystal’s beer list.

This is a beer drinker’s beer. Dark, strong and heavy, with just a touch of cinnamon, Festive Ale lives up to its name. At nearly 9% alcohol by volume, it is definitely a sipping beer.

Not for beer chugging contests.

I tried another top notch hard-to-find winter brew, RJ Rocker’s First Snowfall, out of Greenville, South Carolina.

Lighter in color and body than the Sweetwater, First Snowfall was like pumpkin pie in a glass, with nutmeg and cloves

And what self-respecting, patriotic beer-drinking Suit could resist a pint of Brew Free or Die IPA from California’s 21st Amendment Brewery?

I felt like I was striking a blow against the imperialist federal nanny state with every sip of this hoppy, powerful beer.

Fitting its retro-style ambiance, Crystal Beer Parlor even has a menu of “Beers of our Fathers – the Beer Your Dad Used to Love”, including Stroh’s, Rheingold and Genesee Cream Ale (a favorite of Suit757’s dad).

But unless you happen to be a Ninth Century monk, man can not live on beer alone. Fortunately, Crystal Beer Parlor offers some top notch bar food.

My crab stew to start was chock full of lumpy crab meat. A bit sweeter than most she-crab soups I’ve enjoyed, this version certainly didn’t skimp on the crab. I found the meat of an entire crab claw buried under all that creamy goodness!

Better yet was the bacon cheese burger.

I know this might sound somewhat shocking coming from Suit757, but I hesitate ordering burgers in restaurants. No matter how you order it or how much you plead with your waitress, you just know the burger that comes out of the kitchen is going to be charred, dry and overcooked.

Burgers are one of those food items that almost always taste better when you grill ‘em to your own liking. As Robert Earl Keen once said, “There is nothing like your own backyard.” (I have a theory that every experience in life can be derived from a REK song.)

But Crystal Beer Parlor’s burger was love at first sight.
As soon as I saw the pink juices staining the sturdy bun, I knew this was a burger done right. Perfectly pink medium – just like I ordered it.

Juicy, greasy deliciousness.

Always on the look-out for something different, I ordered “Ocilla Slaw” on the side.

Named after a small South Georgia town in Irwin County, Ocilla Slaw is shredded cabbage, peppers and onions mixed with a sweet vinaigrette. More sweet than vinegary, Ocilla Slaw went down perfectly with my slab of dead cow and luxurious microbrewed beers.

A big juicy burger, crab stew, Ocilla slaw and three high potency beers later, I stumbled out of Crystal Beer Parlor excited. And full.

Excited that no matter how many times I return to a fantastic city like Savannah there is always something new to discover. Even if that something “new” has been around since the dark days of prohibition.

Savannah and Crystal Beer Parlor are parts of what make being a Suit in Strange Places so much fun.

“The road goes on forever…and the party never ends.”

Rating: Bought the Shirt!

Crystal Beer Parlor on Urbanspoon


  1. Great review! I'm a slaw man and the Oscilla is one of my faves. I've eaten at the Crystal Beer Parlor about 3,000 times and always come out too hammered to write much about it. If you come through again--try the buffalo burger. If you get a minute,check out some of my Savannah restaurant reviews here:

    1. Thanks! I loved your review of of your mother-in-law rendezvous at the Millhouse, an I-95 Suit757 favorite. Massive quatities of cheap beer and a Library of Congress menu -- you summed it up perfectly.

    2. I think you mean the Bison Burger! Either way, it's my favorite :]

      Also try the Gawgia Cracka Nachos!!! They are DAMN GOOD! :]

  2. I really enjoyed reading your review of my family restaurant Crystal Beer Parlor. My cousins John and Paul Nichols re-opened Crystal Beer Parlor after it had been closed down for several years and it warms the heart to hear people speaking of it so highly! Next time you go, check out our family tree of photos in the Monroe Room!