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Shrimp Factory ~ Savannah, GA

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Our very first meal in Savannah, GA was  on the mighty Savannah River, in the midst of an cotton warehouse, built in the 1820's. The historical riverfront drew us in on our first day in the beautiful city, and somehow, we found a parking space in the pleasantly bustling few days before Christmas. We parked for the day and spent the whole afternoon having the time of our lives exploring the wonders of the historical riverfront district.

Naturally, we were starving, so we headed across the cobblestone street and saw a sign for the Shrimp Factory and a chalkboard sign listing some gluten free foods. We entered and were captivated by heart of pine floors, captains chairs around big wood tables, and sitting in the midst of history for lunch. First impression reminded me of the original Disneyland, in California. For some reason, the area reminded me of the area around the Pirates of the Caribbean, not quite Blue Bayou and not quite Cafe Orleans, mix with Mark Twain's Riverboat ride and you have the Shrimp Factory. So, a part of the Disneyland of my childhood was sliced out of Savannah....very cool!

We were seated and scanning the menu, immediately began to realize that our Gluten Free trip to Savannah was going to be a challenge of epic proportions. Savannah is all about Southern Cuisine, lots of wheat....breaded and fried, fried and breaded, a little wheat to thicken here and a little wheat to add flavor and richness there, crab cakes of every kind, Banana Puddin, cakes, pies all swimming in wheat. Our first real Living History Sites GF trip was to Savannah...yikes!

That was fine, it was the Autumn Salad proudly written on the chalkboard out front that drew us in to the riverfront Shrimp Factory to begin with and we knew we could safely eat it. While talking to our fabulous server, Sara, who had a daughter that was gluten free for several years playing with a celiac diagnosis, we knew we were in good hands. She knew what was in the food, she knew what had wheat and deftly guided us through the menu. A few things were questionable and she headed back to the kitchen to double check and helped us knock a few off the list. We so appreciated her magnanimous personality and her level of care - it was a huge relief, when you are tired and past the point of starving! So crab cakes were out....sadly, as was 90% of the menu, but we happily settled on 3 items, Shrimp and Sausage Creole, Shrimp and Grits and the Autumn Salad that drew us in.

Sara darted off to bring us a round of unsweet tea (okay, so gluten free and UNsweet tea, we are weird as we traverse the South). Meanwhile, waiters walked past with sourdough bread....eeek. Let's quit this here gluten-free-thang and just eat the bread, it smelled so good. But we were starving. And totally gluten intolerant, so we stayed the course! Seafood can be a great gluten free option, but there are a lot of pitfalls, so beware of bisque, gumbo, deviled and baked, au gratin and even the pine bark stew. Never be afraid to ask your waiter and ask them to ask the kitchen!

Sara brought out our dishes and extra plates, so we could sample each dish. The Shrimp and Sausage Creole was safe, but not outstanding. Great option for a GF meal, but overall, the dish was bland  and not spicy or particularly flavorful for our foodie family that dabbles on the uber-hot side. Dave thought it tasted almost like Spaghetti-O's sauce, and the sausage had an odd sharpness to it - almost the twang of green bell pepper to the whole thing. The shrimp were good, but the sauce underwhelmed. Fantastic GF option, served over rice, simply not one of our favorites. Had we thought it through, we would have asked for some red pepper flakes or cayenne to take it up a few notches and it probably would have been much better!

Emily ordered Shrimp and Grits and we were ecstatic to eat it on the riverfront in Savannah! Shrimp and Grits sounded like the funniest thing on earth when we first read about it, but then I trolled the internet for recipes and began making it on a lark. Turns out it is one of our favorite GF "treat meals" and we even made it for family back home in California, when we visited this summer. Emily's plate was a small serving, with a few perfectly cooked, succulent and tender shrimp in a buttery saute. The grits were beyond yummy, creamy and delicious and beyond any that I have made. Oh creamy, luscious grits on the riverfront! The bacon was a little over crunchy and just pieces laid on top. It did not feel substantial, almost appetizer sized. Overall the Shrimp and Grits were quite good, just not as flavorful as we had hoped. (Admittedly ~ we put habanero pepper in with our shrimp, so we were probably erroneously expecting a spicier flavor)

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Turns out the winner at Shrimp Factory, surprisingly, was the Fall Salad with Salmon or Chicken! We chose salmon and it was one of the best salads we have ever eaten, hands down. Fresh, crisp field greens, cranberries and walnuts and the best balsamic vinaigrettes ever ~ not too sweet and not that cloyingly balsamic taste, but light and refreshing and utterly fabulous. A huge piece of salmon on top - slightly balsamicy crisp on top - totally tender and delicious inside. The Fall Salad delivered fabulously well and we could have had nothing but that and been in gluten free, field green heaven! Yummy. We would order it hands down, again, superb!

We finished our trip to the Shrimp Factory with the piece de resistance, the Bananas Foster Flambe, made at table! After watching it made for several other tables, smelling the melted butter caramalizing with brown sugar and then that flash of fire with the rum and double checking ingredients. Oh happy, we can actually eat a dessert in a restaurant day - Bananas Foster IS gluten free! Sara dashed off, wheeled out the cart, lit a fire and created a beautiful caramel sauce right in front of us! The smell is even more intense and wonderful at our table. She poured and flamed the rum and served this fabulous dessert over ice cream! It was pricey at $11.50, but the experience and having a gluten free dessert that was so beautifully done was worth it!

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Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our first GF meal on this historica riverfront in Savannah and highly recommend you ask for Sara, who was SUPERB and treated us with compassion, knowledge and care, navigating our gluten challenge! If we were to go again, we would go for the Fall Salad with Salmon and get another Bananas Foster Flambe at the Shrimp Factory in Savannah! We left full and happy after dessert and spent hours exploring the fun riverfront!

Shrimp Factory

313 East River Street

Savannah, GA

912.236.4229

http://www.theshrimpfactory.com/