Recognized as the most romantic and elegant downtown dining destination, Charlatan Magazine chats with owner Maureen Craig about her late husband, the concept restaurant he considered his masterpiece, and the importance of celebrating each and every moment of life.
She weaves around the room like a tour guide daring you to forget their illustrious past. Alligator Soul, considered the finest restaurant in historic Savannah, originally opened its doors over 20 years ago from Chef Hillary Craig’s very own home. After serving three tours in Vietnam, and a subsequent 25 years in Canada’s Northwest Territories living virtually off the land, Craig migrated to Washington with a resolve to, very simply, celebrate each and every day of his life. And when he found his true love, Maureen, a New York City based Horticulturist, a fusion between her business sense and his love of entertaining was born.
They'd open their doors on weekends with a limited menu, and by 1997 established their first commercial restaurant near Seattle. By 2003, they'd expanded the concept to Savannah Georgia where a commitment to integrity and love of southern creole inspired cuisine coalesced into one of the best kept secrets of the south.
Chef Chris Dinello also cut his culinary teeth with a few eccentricities. Having apprenticed in the kitchens of a Buddhist Monastery, he was deeply influenced by the importance of balance. While Chris continued to honor many of the menu items of his predecessor, he’s introduced his own sentiment as well. The “Little Hilbo,” for instance, lives on as a house favorite, refusing to be retired by a still strong and loyal following. The Smoked Duck and Braised Lamb are new, and reach toward the current guest whose come on fevered recommendation. Current Executive Chef Stephen McLain ensure that wines are impeccably paired, desserts freshly baked, vegetables regionally grown and the Gevalia coffees will dare you not to linger by the fire.
I was struck by the botanicals that garnished my plate. Today the new rage in haute cuisine, it was nearly a quarter century ago now that Chef Hilbo began decorating his plates with edible florals even long before it was considered fashionable. A tribute, most undoubtedly, to the horticulturist who came into his life those many years ago; encouraged his talent, created his business, and continues to manage his legacy six full days a week.
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