This retro-cool restaurant is located in a 1930s-era Greyhound bus station painstakingly revived by two ex-New Yorkers. It dishes out what John Morisano describes as “Southern port city” cuisine and an approachable, Old World wine list, with over 20 by-the-glass pours.
Q&A with Executive Chef Mashama Bailey and Managing Partner John Morisano
By Alexis Korman
It seems that Southern cooking is becoming more prominent nationally, but what’s hot right now in the South?
John Morisano: Savannah’s food scene is nascent. We’re at the beginning stages of the kind of food culture that cities like Charleston and Atlanta have developed.
Mashama Bailey: It seems a lot of chefs are working away, and then returning South to open restaurants, bringing influences from those places back.
JM: One trend in Southern food, or maybe food everywhere, is the use of heritage and heirloom seeds and grains, like benne seeds.
MB: All the popular kids are working with seeds! Also, Southerners are deeply connected to food: there is a culture of fishing, of shucking oysters, of seeing chickens and pigs grow.
Tell us about The Grey’s take on Southern cuisine and wine.
JM: Mashama’s cuisine is definitely Southern port city: You can see influences from Italian cuisine, peasant French cooking and North African spices. The wine list is approachable, around 125 selections, and since we’re relatively new, we’re only now starting to cellar wines.
What was your approach to cultivating the wine list?
JM: I represent the street side of wine; my experience comes from years of drinking it. When we put the list together, we focused on the Old World; we didn’t want bold, explosive New World flavors to distract from Mashama’s nuanced cooking.
MB: We hold weekly wine seminars, so everyone has a point of view about wine, from servers to the kitchen.
What do you make of restaurants moving away from fine dining towards a more low-key approach?
JM: I still think there’s a time and place for traditional fine dining, but things are starting to have a casual feel. We don’t have a huge wine bible or stuffy wine service at The Grey. It’s more approachable: We get to know what guests like to drink first and then talk about Mashama’s dishes and go from there.
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