NYT: Savannah’s Cafe Florie “suggests a new generation’s contribution to the future” of soul food

From the NYT on Friday, Restaurant Report: Café Florie in Savannah:

While the restaurant may be a newcomer to the city’s stately Southern dining scene, its familial and culinary roots there run deep. It was founded by Theo Smith, 49, and his cousin, Latoya Rivers, 35, whose grandmother raised her children in Savannah before moving to Hartford in the 1960s along with two sons and a daughter-in-law to start a family restaurant, Rivers’ Soul Food, which they operated until 1990.

Cut to about four years ago, when Ms. Rivers decided to move to her family’s hometown and start a business. She persuaded Mr. Smith, a culinary school graduate, to join her, using a sweet potato poundcake based on a family recipe from the 1950s as a lure.

The NYT has given considerable coverage to changing perceptions of Southern food, especially the movement back to traditional, non-processed ingredients. I have already complained about the South Carolina-centric nature of some of that coverage, so it’s really good to see this piece about Cafe Florie, which is at 1715 Barnard Street. Click here for the Facebook page.

I wrote a column about Cafe Florie back in January. From Cafe Florie combines the traditional and the innovative:

Traditional Southern cuisine has nothing to do with can openers but with using fresh ingredients, making do with what’s on hand and maximizing taste.

Rivers and Smith also spent plenty of time experimenting with new flavors, innovative twists and the occasional international flair.

Their family has deep roots throughout coastal Georgia, but Rivers’ father owned a restaurant for decades in New Jersey. Smith has worked and traveled all over the globe.

At their relatively new restaurant Café Florie, named in honor of two of their grandmothers, Smith and Rivers have drawn upon those varied backgrounds to combine the traditional and the innovative in ways that foodies won’t be able to ignore.

When I sat down with the cousins to talk about the restaurant, Smith described the food as “really simple, like how we eat at home.”

Well, I don’t know about your house, but the chicken salad at my place doesn’t end up perfectly flavored with currants or served on scrumptious slices of homemade bread.

And I’ve certainly never made Geechee puffs – light savory pastry balls served with fresh pesto. Or had iced tea sweetened with stevia and honey.