If you’ve been a little slack in your cultural pursuits lately, you may not have noticed one of the most recent trends hitting the museum circuit—excellent restaurants serving up their own masterpieces alongside all those impressive works of art.
In Charlotte, NC, Haylcon has been making waves with its seasonal menu under Chef James Stouffer, and Bixby’s at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis was recently named one of America’s Best Museum Restaurants by Travel + Leisure. What’s remarkable about these restaurants is not only the creative way the menus tend to complement museum exhibits, but the consistent level of commitment to sourcing fresh, local ingredients, on par with what you might find at the trendiest of farm-to-table dining spots.
Newest on the scene is Jepson Café, of Telfair Museum’s Jepson Center in Savannah. Jepson has been around for a while, but only recently was reopened under the expertise of co-owners Michael Clee, Matthew Baldwin and David Hamer, who operate and run the Jepson personally.
“When we came into this we consciously decided to try to avoid in any way, ‘southern food….’ Honestly there are a lot of other people in Savannah that do southern food really well, so we wanted to capitalize on what we know and could do well, which is global cuisine. It’s an experience that you might not get anywhere else,” explains Hamer, whose travels abroad in places like Vietnam and Belize, and backgrounds in French and Hawaiian dining have shaped the eclectic international menu of Jepson.
“It’s not about competing with the other restaurants in town, its providing something that they can’t offer,” Clee adds.
With an airy, modern ambiance echoing the galleries next door and popular dishes such French-influenced Savory Crepes made with duck confit and goat cheese, or Tuna Poke, a Hawaiian style tuna tartar with macadamia nuts and cilantro, Hamer and Clee have a point. The space has an artistic, cosmopolitan flare you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in Savannah, and food that is singular in its style and vision.
“The food that we had in mind really fit this location very well. A lot of the food that we wanted to do, and that we currently do, is artistic in its presentation,” explains Hamer, “We feel that the efforts that we put into it is almost how an artist might approach a painting.”
An instance of food imitating art? Delicious.