Hello, everyone and welcome to Let’s Read An Old Menu! This is another in a weekly series looking at restaurant, hotel kitchen, and lunch counter menus from the 19th and 20th centuries. Sometimes things will be familiar, sometimes they’ll be weird. But one thing you can count on is that they’ll almost always have cottage cheese on the menu, and they’ll almost never actually explain what’s in anything.
Yarr, what be our vittles?
The Pirates’ House, Savannah, GA, circa 1966!
Is The Restaurant Still There? If not, what can we find out about it?
It sure is! The Pirates’ House is a major landmark and has a lot of history for us to cover!
The Pirates’ House, which is the oldest standing continually-occupied building in the state of Georgia, is located in Trustees’ Garden, established in 1734 as an agricultural experimental garden by James Oglethorpe, Georgia’s first colonial governor. The first peaches and cotton in the history of the South were grown there, as were, less successfully mulberries and grapes (Oglethorpe had hoped to raise silkworms and make wine.) The experiment having served its purpose, a small house on-property built for the gardener was later renovated into an inn, the Herb House. The Herb House was a major hangout for sailors and according to legend pirates built tunnels underneath it to smuggle drunken or drugged men out to the coast and impress them into their crew. The owners of the Pirates’ House today claim that Robert Louis Stevenson was inspired to write Treasure Island after visiting the Herb House during his time living in the US– certainly Savannah is mentioned in the novel as the location of Captain Flint’s death, and as a marketing gimmick the modern restaurant has been claimed to be haunted by Flint.
The Trustees’ Garden, including the old Pirates’ House (as it had come to be known) later came into the ownership of the Savannah Gas Company and was slated for demolition, until Mary Hillyer, wife of the company’s president, took an interest in renovating it, partnering with local restaurateurs Herb Traub and James T. Casey. Upstairs was a jazz club, Hannah’s East, operated by Ben Tucker, founder of the Coastal Jazz Association and Emma Kelly, a prominent singer. Hannah’s East closed at some point in the 2000s and the upstairs area is today a gift shop for Pirates’ House.
Yup. We’ve got puns again.
$1 in 1966 = around $7.75 in 2019
The menu is fairly good old southern fare with a tendency towards seafood, certainly nothing I’d object to having. We see on this menu an interesting bit of ingenuity, a clip on one page to which the specials of the day could be affixed. Sadly the dessert menu may be lost to the ages. Of the items on this menu only four have survived the ages more or less unscathed: At lunch they still offer the okra gumbo, fried shrimp, and crab cake burger (though now with lettuce, tomato, and remoulade rather than coleslaw and tartar sauce), and at dinner they still have filet mignon (albeit with different sides). Quite a few menu items include blueberry muffins, which… fuck, that sounds amazing right now. I think I’ll have the chicken pot pie and a cup of gumbo.
Ah the days when wine lists were so short. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.