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Moon River & Me
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A few minutes wait at a restaurant is a good thing. It sends two messages: That people enjoy being there, and that, all things being equal, the place is a success.

My stop at Moon River Brewing Co. last week found a 15-minute wait and a full bar. Brewmaster John Pinkerton has always been agood beer maker, and has continued to develop new labels - and draw a sizeable following for his limited production brews.

I started with Slo-vannah, 4.5 percent ABV Pale Ale that's the gentler cousin of the wildly popular Swamp Fox IPA. Slo-vannah is dry-hopped, which gives the beer plenty of hops character without being a citrus bomb. It drinks easy, and at this alcohol level is a good choice for a night on the town.

It paired nicely with a couple of appetizers: Leek and Goat Cheese cakes and Crab Cakes. The Leek and Goat Cheese Cakes were an exercise in texture - crispy breading on the outside and creamy melted goat cheese dotted with chunks of tender leek inside. It was a much tastier dish than I expected, and I gotta love when a course exceeds expectations.

The Crab Cake landed right on the line. Nothing extraordinary here - a pair of bargain priced ($8.50) crab cakes that lived up to their price tags - with more cake than crab. The dollop of black bean relish had seen better days and was going soft; the roasted red pepper sauce a good idea, but lacking much flavor.

The Black and Blue Burger lived up to the last burger I had at Moon River -- a big, properly cooked patty than was a meal in itself. I did not get much flavor from the blackening or from the very thin slice of gorgonzola cheese on top. Maybe a fistful of crumbles would make this burger look sexier and deliver more flavor. My side of onion rings was standard fare, but a well-cooked onion ring by any measure is a lovely thing.

The server was cheerful and full of great suggestions - she really knew the menu and the beers. She was attentive and made several trips to the table checking on drinks.

With a menu as large as this one, it relies on someone like a good server. There are going to be near misses and completes catastrophes with this many options, and your server should be your guide. Despite a near miss or two, on the whole Moon River Brewing Co. earns a hearty Prost! and a raised mug.

21 W. Bay St./447-0943

Clayton's Place is no longer ‘coming soon' -- it's here!

From the trivia department comes this little tale. Since moving to Savannah in 1998 I've been intrigued by the tidy little white restaurant at the corner of Barnard and Waldburg streets. Clayton's Place, according to its marquee, was "coming soon."

A couple of weeks ago, it arrived. I stopped in for a bologna, fried egg and cheese sandwich and chatted with owner Clayton Keys, a lifelong Savannahian who has painted houses for a living since returning from Vietnam - and dreamed of getting this place opened.

It's more neighborhood market than restaurant, but the dual purpose little joint fills a niche in the neighborhood. With a small selection of groceries and sundries - and a menu filled with sandwiches, hot dogs and convenience foods, Clayton's took me back to the neighborhood grocery of my childhood. It's a place where a kid can get an off-brand soda for a few cents, a place where adults can gather for a cool drink and a tuna sandwich to catch up on the news and a place where youngsters can learn life lessons from the experienced proprietor.

Clayton is part grocer, part short order cook and full time raconteur. It was a pleasant way to sit out an afternoon thunderstorm.

203 W. Waldburg St.

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