The word seeped out about Savor gradually. Fans felt a little possessive about this cozy lunch place, and wanted newcomers to love it, too. It has bloomed into a dinner destination as well now, complete with beer and wine, but there's still that whiff of surprise about it: A place with bright colors and a progressive menu in a funky renovated setting - on West Morehead? Across from the Open Kitchen? With a view of downtown?
Lisa Burris and Lori Pearson own Savor and ran catering businesses in Charlotte before going in together on this. As it happens, Pearson's husband, Shane, was one of Burris' teachers at Johnson & Wales in Charleston.
They opened Savor in mid-June serving lunch only, and got busy quickly, says Burris: "We just opened the door and people came." Dinner has been slower, but their aim is the same for that meal, as they say on their Facebook page: to offer ingredients (local when possible) prepared "with integrity, flavor and soul."
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We felt that Southern-tinged depth in a hefty, moist piece of salmon over asparagus with a bit of char, plus green beans, brussels sprouts and carrots. We saw it in a daily special of crabcakes - fat, crusty, crab-centric, and the best I've had in a while. These came over "succotash": a term here stretched to include bits of potato and asparagus, but resulting in a rich, not kitchen-sink-ish, dish.
A plethora of other dishes show commitment to simple flavors, too: an interestingly smooth pimento cheese dip, hummus with warm pita pieces, a reductive salad with punchy vinaigrette, and perhaps my favorite: plump Carolina shrimp and andouille sausage-dotted gravy over substantial (but not too rich) yellow grits.
Area seafood reliably appears on the weekend specials list, as well. Savor considers the shrimp and grits a signature, along with a pan-fried, panko-crusted chicken breast at dinner, plus the salmon BLT and grilled meatloaf at lunch.
Desserts are Pearson's domain, with Bettie Lou's Coca-Cola Cake a stalwart in the lineup (rich, moist and comfortingly old-fashioned) and the enormous bread pudding, sans raisins, is worth a look. You can get cookies and bars to go, as well.
Walls of rough brick help Mandy Johnson's food art - done in vibrant lime and teal and red and orange, and helpfully labeled! - leap out cheerfully. Servers boast an equally warm, if not quite so bold, approach, chatting knowledgeably about each dish, making recommendations and steering capably.
The pace is a mite leisurely at dinner, appropriately for the place's name. So lean back a little in your gray chair, take in the view and do as you're told.