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Smokin', baby
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I eat lunch out several days a week, and my new favorite lunch joint is Sweet Leaf Smokery and Eatery. Sweet Leaf is located at the famous 606 Abercorn Street, former home to 606 Cafe, Good Eats, and a few other less memorable establishments.

Admittedly, it took me a while to warm up to the idea of a restaurant based on smoked meat, not being crazy about either “smoked" or “meat.” I was also kind of a Good Eats snob, and thought the idea of smoked stuff was lacking in gourmet appeal.

Well I’ve seen the light! The folks at Sweet Leaf have fused smoked meats, down-home side dishes such as collards and mac & cheese, and a to-die-for corn pudding with an artful eye and delicate touch. Nothing’s too fatty, too smokey, or cooked to oblivion.

The roasted veggies are what I aspire to with my own attempts at a shish kabob dinner: zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, carrots, cooked ‘til tender, slightly singed for a bit of that smokey flavor, and otherwise unseasoned, allowing the true flavors of the veggies to come through.

My co-worker, who never needs arm twisting to join me here, is addicted to the Cuban Panini. Try as he might, he can’t seem to order anything else.

My first love was the house salad with chicken. It’s a wonderful blend of salad greens, tomato, pecans, purple onion, and some other goodies and a light vinaigrette with a beautiful smoked and sliced boneless chicken breast . (It also comes with smoked salmon). This unlikely combination is uniquely delicious.

Not being big into meat, I’ve moved on to the plate of "4 Sides," where I found my new favorite, Granny Smith cole slaw, tart and crunchy. And of course the veggies and corn pudding.

Sweet Leaf has something to offer everyone -- from the vegan-friendly smoked tofu wrap and roasted veggie wrap to the “I gotta have a hearty lunch” with the 10-ounce bacon cheeseburgers, spare ribs, and chipped BBQ beef plate.

The construction workers from the nearby hotel site certainly seem at home here, as do the “let’s do lunch” crowd. It doesn’t hurt that the service is usually quick and very friendly, though things definitely seem to go more smoothly just before noon or after 1:30.

Can’t make it for lunch? Sweet Leaf is also open during dinner hours. In a smart move, they’ve kept it simple by serving the same well rounded menu from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily except Saturday and Sunday mornings, when they change it up a bit for brunch.

They even have a happy hour from until 7 p.m., offering a very nice selection of beer, wine, champagne and cider.

I’ve been to Sweet Leaf more times then I can count at this point, but have not ventured too far into the menu yet. I just can’t seem to get my fill of my current favorite savory dishes. I’m looking forward to diving into one of their hearty bowls of stew in the up-coming winter months.

It looks like Sweet Leaf is here to stay a while, so my co-worker and I will get a chance to finally move on through the menu to create what’s sure to be a long list of favorites. At our current rate this could take a long, long time.


Sweet Leaf Smokery and Eatery is at 606 Abercorn St. in downtown Savannah.