UPDATE 2018: SADLY, THE FLORENCE IS NO MORE AND THE GREY IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING THEIR HAPPY HOUR SITUATION. THE INFO 39 FOR RUE DE JEAN REMAINS ACCURATE.
When the city of Savannah was founded, it was meant to be a place where the poor and the debtors languishing in English prisons could begin a new, and purposeful life. That noble idea never quite came to fruition, and when it became a reasonably settled city men of means and money came across the pond and set up shop. Over time, Savannah, like its sister city Charleston became a fairly aristocratic place. Savannahians like to claim that Sherman didn't burn down Savannah because he found it so, overwhelmingly beautiful. The real reason is that there was a lot of money in the city that was more than willing to flow right into Lincoln's coffers.
The modern beauty of Savannah largely lies in the vestiges of that money and aristocracy, but when the South fell, and cotton with it, so did the fortunes of the city. Savannah as we know it today has precious little going on locally in the economy outside of tourism, and thus a great deal of poverty. The history of the place, and the reality of the current economic situation has given rise to a happy hour culture downtown that means that even the most snooty place (generally speaking) will have some kind of deal to try and get people through the doors before the typical tourist-centric prime time. Between the hours of four and seven, you can find all kinds of riff-raff in places where at other times only people in their finest Dockers and Sperries dare show their faces. I am among that riff-raff.
On a typical weekday, and even early on weekends in some places, you can get Savannah's best pizza, good oysters, one of the best burgers in town, and some pretty amazing fries for upwards of fifty percent cheaper than usual. Of course if drinking is your aim, just about every bar makes it difficult to spent twenty bucks without getting hammered. I, however, am all about the chow.
THE FLORENCE (5pm - 6pm)
Let's start with the Florence. One of these days I'll have to write at length about what is one of my favorite spots in town, but now it's all about the happy hour pizza deal. For ten dollars you can get a margherita pizza and two more bucks gets you a draft Italian beer. This is pizza Napolitana were talking, and they do it right at Flo's. They have a wood burning oven to get that scorched crust and perfectly melted mozzarella which you honestly can't find anywhere else in the city (well, there is a new place that makes some claims that I have yet to verify). I don't often pine for my Atlanta days, but I do get wistful thinking of Antico, Amazza, or any other number of places that do Napolitana right. Don't get me wrong, you can find some great pizza in Sav (for our money it has to be Screamin' Mimis) but this is artisanal in the true, best sense of the word. For ten dollars, you really can't do better.
THE GREY (4pm - 6pm)
The Florence is unfortunately ill-positioned in the city to make it a stop on a happy hour crawl. The Grey, however, is right in the heart of things and a perfect place to get started with a really great oyster deal. I love oysters, and will wax poetic on their briny wonders later because right now it's all about the half-off special in the "Diner Bar." The special more than makes up for the disappointment you will feel once realizing the name of the restaurant has nothing to do with Liam Neeson. The place has gotten a lot of national press coverage, and it truly is a beautiful specimen to just plop down for a cocktail at any given time. As for the food, we haven't done dinner yet and the lunch leaves a lot to be desired. A dozen oysters for around 12 bucks certainly goes a long way toward making amends for all the airs they put on. The Georgia born Harris Necks are the cheapest, and the Pacific coast blades will cost you a little more, but a nice mix and match wont run you more than twenty bucks.
39 RUE de JEAN (5pm - 7pm)
On to burgers and fries, non? 39 Rue de Jean is a Charleston import, but I can't really fault them for that. Anybody trying to class this joint up is welcome by me. They brought along with them what might possibly be the single best burger experience in Savannah, and it's not even close. Let me tell you about this burger. Firstly, during happy hour it is eleven dollars where normally it is fifteen. That is right in line with most places in Atlanta serving good burgers, and the "brasserie burger" as it's know at Rue is large enough that the wife and I actually split it. That's right, fat ole JFM actually split a burger once. It is ten ounces of a "custom grind" covered in truffle gouda, truffle aioli, and practically drenched in demi-glace. They sit the meat on bread they bake, which is soft with an incredible, baguette-like crust, and add a piece of lettuce for color and crunch. I love this beast.
Speaking of demi-glace, if you order the pommes frites they come slathered in the stuff too, as well as with shaved Parmesan, and it's wonderful (they go for six bucks for a big, shareable bowl). What itsn't so great is the oyster deal which used to be eight for a half dozen but went up to nine. They come from different places, and I don't think they have a dedicated or knowledgable shucker because, well, just look at these things...
Every time I've ordered oysters at this place they have come out looking like scrambled snot. I now just stick to the Grey, which is a better value anyway. There are other things on the happy hour menu, such as a duck sandwich, but I haven't gotten past the burger yet.
I hope that this list will grow with time, but so far these three joints are the best way to taste a little of high life in Savannah for as little cash as possible. In many ways, the happy hour deals at these three restos are ways to get the best this city has to offer. Buen Provecho, amigos.