The Fat Radish philosophy is simple: Quality ingredients don’t need to be fussed over to shine.
The team behind the New York outpost of the same name opened a second eatery in Savannah this summer on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, beneath The Windrose Apartment Hotel. While the ethos is the same as its Lower East Side location — small-production local farms, five ingredients or less per dish — everything at the Hostess City location got a Southern twist.
“I felt passionately that the Southern palette is so interesting, and the farming communities so strong, that it fit very well with what we like to do,” partner Natalie Freihon says of the decision to open in Savannah.
For starters, there are the locally sourced dishes. Or rather, let’s call them specials, which is chef Nick Wilber’s favorite way to introduce and experiment with peak-season produce without changing the seasonal menu too frequently. That menu, by the way, is designed to encourage family-style sharing and a curated experience.
“The Southern palette is so interesting, and the farming communities [are] so strong.” —Natalie Freihon, owner
On a recent visit, the menu included grilled peaches with burrata and cured ham, a cucumber salad with fried oysters and a grilled grouper dressed simply with local tomatoes, along with specials showcasing shishito peppers, edamame and watermelon — all things that grow especially well in the Southern summer swelter. Come fall, customers can feast on late-season corn in custard or succotash. And Wilber can’t wait to get his hands on muscadine grapes — a discovery he made after moving to the region.
“When I had them for the first time last year, I think I ate a whole case,” he said. He has plans to roast the fruit with fennel, pickle it, create a fresh crudo sauce for raw snapper and substitute muscadines for oranges in a spin on duck l’orange: duck muscadine. And the grape craze won’t end in the kitchen: The restaurant’s low-waste bar program means left over muscadines could find their way into cocktails and syrups.
“The ethos is to be a community-driven restaurant, and so it needs to encapsulate what’s around it.” —Natalie Freihon
Off the menu, the space’s decor and vibe also got a Savannah spin. The Fat Radish flipped the signature root vegetable in its logo from red to green, taking a cue from the city’s signature foliage, which influenced the aesthetics throughout. Designed by founding Fat Radish partner and former co-owner Ben Towill and his wife Kate, who now run interior design firm Basic Projects, the restaurant’s sage-green walls meet potted palms, leather banquettes and classic marble tables, while alabaster sconces and wicker shades complete the lighting scheme. It’s a far cry from the industrial vibe of the Big Apple spot, housed in a former Chinese sausage factory, and that’s on purpose.
“The ethos is to be a community-driven restaurant, and so it needs to encapsulate what’s around it,” Freihon says.
High-minded design aside, The Fat Radish has a homey, no-frills feel — a place where a person can grab a beer and the bacon-cheddar burger with duck-fat fries. It’s also a service-industry hangout, reflecting the connections The Fat Radish Savannah team has made in the dining scene with people like Jason Restivo of Atlantic and Mashama Bailey and Johno Morisano of The Grey. The welcome they received let them know they were in the right place.
“I’ve never experienced such warmth from other restaurateurs,” Wilber said. “Everybody wants us to succeed, and everyone wants the scene to grow and blossom in the right way.”