5515 Waters Avenue 70th St.
"Savannah's #1 Restaurant"—that's what it said on TripAdvisor.com. I thought about that a moment.
We’ve got some truly special places here to satisfy your appetite—and many of them appear on the top of the lists on this popular website for those who want to know the best spot for good food, comfortable accommodations or which attractions are worth your time and money.
I’ve made it to #3 on their list of top Reviewers in Savannah, myself, so I like to take a look to see who’s inched their way up the lists and was, admittedly, surprised to see that “Joe’s Homemade,” a tiny little café off Waters Avenue made it to #1.
Not only that—but Joe’s Homemade was also voted “Best Caterer” in Connect Savannah’s Best of Savannah Readers Poll this year, for the very first time, and even catered the awards party.
Yes, it’s small, a neat little box snuggled between the popular Sweet Spice and Authentic Filipino Cuisine on 70th and Waters. When I’ve had an urge toward the more exotic cuisines I’d always noticed this unassuming spot while headed in for braised oxtail and plantains or shrimp-stuffed lumpia, and meant to check them out.
I ask the gentleman behind the counter, “Are you Joe?” and he gives a sweetly patient smile that shows he’s heard this many times before—“No, we’re all ‘Joe’ here! Just call the name and anyone of us will answer!”
This is Don Holland, the manager and social media whiz. “I talk to the customers and ‘Chef’ does the cooking—I’m not allowed in the kitchen!” he laughs.
“Chef” is Teddy ‘Joe’ Paskevich, who sits chatting with a soon-to-be-bride about her cake, making suggestions and going over drawings he’s made for the design. She is obviously pleased as punch with his work, and I decide to take a seat and peruse the menu.
Fresh salads with house-made dressings, sandwiches, Panini, soups and decadent desserts—fairly simple at first, but you quickly notice there is nothing ordinary about the food served here.
Neither Chef Joe nor Don started out in life with the idea of becoming caterers, but had developed the idea after retirement gave them time to nurture their other talents. They met a few years ago when Joe, tired of Florida and its intense heat, came up to Savannah during a vacation, and both happened to be strolling in Lafayette Square—and what else do two foodies talk about?
It was a subject they both wanted to explore more fully and thus the culinary partnership began.
“One of our great pleasures was holding a dinner party for friends—what could be better than looking over a table of happy people eating the food I’d prepared,” says Joe, almost wistfully. ”It gave me great satisfaction.”
What began as a personal interest transcended into a catering business that has garnered awards all over the city. Joe has a special skill that shows itself in every item on the menu.
“We give people what they want, but like to kick it up a notch!” The pesto, fresh made each day, features walnuts instead of the usual pinenuts, because they improve the flavor and texture. The salads are made with organic artisan greens and sandwiches feature Boar’s Head meats and cheeses, fresh rosemary & tarragon, roasted red peppers or basil pesto.
His lemon dressing is lovely and light—no mayo included—adding delicate flavor to the Victory Chicken Salad, which comes with two thick slices of a zucchini bread of exquisite and unusual flavor; it’s the most asked-for salad for a good reason!
The Ellis, a slow-cooked pulled pork sandwich in savory sauce is a must-have, even for a BBQ fan like me, and the white albacore tuna salad with capers, white cheese, dill and curry, with only the lightest hint of mayo, brings devotees in each week like clockwork.
Since the catering is 85 percent of the business, the café is small and intimate, but there is a discussion about opening a larger place downtown once a good spot is found.
I, for one, can hardly wait. To know that those exquisite baked goods are available throughout the day, and not just at lunch time, will be a major temptation—but one I look forward to!
The most well-loved dessert here is the German Chocolate Brownie torte, laced with toasted coconut and topped with cream-cheese swirls, that alone would be worth any trip.
Brides love Joe’s Homemade, and at least half of those who seek him out are Destination Brides—hopeful ladies from all over U.S. who want historic Savannah as the beautiful venue for their special day.
Any charity that deals with children or the Arts can always find their catering needs served well here, and Thanksgiving brings an incredible surge of orders from those who would rather have Joe prepare an exquisite repast than have themselves suffering all day in the kitchen.
They are small, but popular, becoming well-known in the area not only for their unique recipes, but customer service beyond reproach and an inventiveness that can lend sparkle to any kind of gathering, from huge museum events to afternoon tea.