EASTSIDE SAVANNAH LOCALS and Thunderboltians (if that’s a thing), have always enjoyed the normalcy of their staple restaurants as a sure thing when their bellies rumble at any time of the day. The spirit and vibes of "this side of town" are exactly what you would expect – hospitable and always consistent with no need for frocks or fancy attire.
For decades Coach’s Corner has served as a local watering hole and sports destination for Chatham locals. Despite hurricane force winds or even a pandemic, locals know that Coach’s doors are almost always open – even if the services were powered by a generator or offered with safely, socially-distanced take home grab bags. I personally have spent many uncertain afternoons during hurricane seasons at the table in Coach’s waiting out the storm. They have offered these locally loved services to the Thunderbolt residents and Savannahians for quite some time.
According to John Henderson, Coach’s operating partner, “March will be 30 years. There was nothing to ever shut us down. We went through many hurricanes, many ice storms, many floods. Back in ‘94 this whole place was under water. We stayed open to do everything to try to keep food going out to the people who needed it, and during the pandemic, that really proved to be a big thing.”
Despite the pandemic, Coach’s has been able to maintain its stronghold in the hearts of sports and food lovers alike. Unfortunately, not all local restaurants can say the same. I know I am speaking for myself and many when I say that it was devastating to hear the pandemic affect a local institution, and the biggest blow to any longtime Savannah resident was hearing of the closing of Larry’s Restaurant. That list of disappointed locals surely includes Henderson, who has visited the restaurant since he was a youngster.
Coach’s Corner has been a big fan of Larry’s Restaurant since the day it opened more than 30 years ago. So when Larry’s Restaurant announced it would permanently shut its doors, Henderson stepped up.
With just one idea (and a little planning), Coach’s Corner recently expanded their menu to include breakfast and help keep the memory of Larry’s Restaurant alive and the food of Larry’s available. Larry’s was one of those Savannah institutions that had a permanency on the community and its regulars.
Transforming into a breakfast spot
As I sat and ate my piping hot breakfast, Henderson told me his tale: “Mary, who was the manager over there, has been a good friend and customer because I was a customer of theirs forever – [for] thirty years or so. I used to go there with my father back when he was around. It was a great place for Shriners and friends we all knew.”
“Mary has been coming in during the pandemic since we were still open and they were closed, and a lot of conversation was made to whether they were going to open or not sic]. In the end they didn’t open. So, at that point we were considering going over there to open it back up. I did not feel like it was time to do another restaurant right now, at this point in my life, so we talked to the cooks and Mary and they decided they would come here.”
Being a long standing, fully functioning restaurant and bar, the new path for Coach’s was practically seamless. A new toaster oven and prep station was all it took.
“We hired two of the breakfast cooks, that were their core; and Mary who is the manager and one of their servers,” Henderson said.
The sports bar quickly transitioned into breakfast service because Larry’s staff already had what it took.
“I have always wanted to have breakfast here but never wanted to go into business against people around me,” Henderson said. “It was hard to be able to find people to come in at 5 in the morning to do that job. It is a different kind of person that gets up at five and comes into work in this business. Our business in the past has always been wings, and burgers, and fingers, and sports, and sometimes late nights.”
Coach’s breakfast menu is a concise version of Larry’s menu and includes all of the breakfast classics. There are a few less items, but the cornerstone dishes were kept.
I am partial to, and always order, a straightforward breakfast. Two eggs served with hash browns, bacon and toast. Coffee to start is always a prerequisite. You can have your eggs expertly cooked anyway you liked (except hard boiled) and have a choice of bacon, sausage patty, smoked sausage or ham.
For a bit of flare, you can take any of the above ingredients and have it served as a sandwich on a biscuit or toast. Skip the bread and order an omelet with veggies and cheese, meat and cheese or just cheese.
Specialty items include dishes like saucy savory smothered shrimp that is served with two eggs, biscuit or toast, and grits or hash browns. Classic hearty hamburger steak is served just the same, two eggs and your choice of sides. My favorite of all the specialties are the salmon patties, and, appropriately, fried is the only way to get them. At only $11.25 for the salmon, plus on the sides, you cannot find a heartier southern breakfast.
In 2021, Coach’s plans to extend their new breakfast hours to include weekends. The bar has always been stocked to the brim with a plethora of draft beer, wine, and liquor, so having a boozy Sunday brunch should come natural.
Henderson told me, “It will be more brunch style. We will also do the lunch items as well. We will probably start at 8 and go until about 1.”
Right now you can honor the memory of Larry’s Restaurant from 6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Monday through Friday – all you have to do is go see The Coach on Victory Drive.