Spanish moss, weeping willows and magnolia trees line the roads of Savannah. | Photo by Courtney Sandora

Earlier this month, I spent a few days imbibing around Savannah, Ga., a haunted city where you can take a drink out on the street and legally enjoy it. The vacation fulfilled a line item on my Bucket List — to visit all U.S. cities where you can (legally) drink in the street.

I have no idea why that was so important to the 24-year-old me who first made the list, but I like to check things off, so, over the years, I traveled to New Orleans, Key West, Beale Street in Memphis and Las Vegas — all where it’s totally normal and encouraged to leave a bar with a cocktail and walk to the next.

There are more than 12 ingredients in the Chatham Artillery Punch. | Photo by Sara Havens

I brought along two of my best buddies to help explore and soak in everything the city of weeping willows had to offer. We did not go on an official tour or anything because we like to take the advice of locals and end up in places we don’t need to be.

One of those places was Abe’s on Lincoln, a dark corner of the earth our friendly bartender from a River Street tourist trap dragged us to.

She was a bit standoffish the first day we showed up at the Shrimp Factory and ordered the Chatham Artillery Punch, Savannah’s signature cocktail that boasts over a dozen ingredients. But when we returned the next day for another round, we became instant BFFs.

Abe’s was my kind of bar — dark, seedy and unpretentious. Some people who visit sketch the 16th president on a bar napkin, which then gets hung up on the wall for all to admire. It’s like the intersection of art, history and drinking.

My kind of bar | Photo by Sara Havens

One friend had her eyes glued to the Ohio State game, the other was discussing North Korea with an Army guy (she found out we don’t need to be worried — yet), and I was checking out the bar’s bourbon selection, which was quite small.

Not surprising considering it’s a rum town populated by pirates and art students.

Another highlight of our trip was an Uber ride out to Huck-A-Poo’s on Tybee Island, where there was a pirate fest going on. Turns out most of the pirates were on the other side of the island, but we still made an afternoon at this little beach dive bar drinking $2 Bud Lights and making friends with townies.

What else did we do? We ate our weight in butter at Paula Deen’s buffet (best mac ‘n’ cheese I’ve ever had), enjoyed butter pecan ice cream at Leopold’s, and tried our best to keep up with all the millennials who were packed into the bars.

It was a fun, restful weekend, and it was nice exploring a new old town.

But then … 

I returned home on a Monday morning and didn’t have to go back to work until Wednesday, leaving me with nearly two days to get crap done I’ve been putting off for months. One of those included a quick jaunt to St. Matthews for some cheap cheese and wine at Trader Joe’s.

One of my mall favorites in the ’80s

Full disclosure: I don’t go to malls. I loved them when I was a teenager, when they still had Orange Julius and Benetton, but now I avoid them at all costs. Mostly because of the looks I get when I walk into Forever 21. Yes, I know I’m far from 21, but don’t judge.

I’ve even been to the Mall of America, but now, my preferred America is outside the mall.

I love the historic part of St. Matthews and often sneak up Lexington Road to go to Coals Pizza, Gerstle’s and Saints.

But throw me onto Shelbyville Road near the malls and mega shopping centers, and I’m flopping around like a beached whale hoping someone pushes me back into my Highlands/Germantown pond.

“I can do this,” I said to myself as I drove up I-264 toward Shelbyville Road. “Wine and cheese. Wine and cheese. Wine and cheese. In and out.”

I figured because it was just another casual weekday afternoon, I’d be able to calmly drive to a store, grab some havarti and Old Moon zinfandel, and head home long before the rush-hour madness began. I was wrong.

As soon as my four tires hit Shelbyville Road, a Hummer nearly drove over my car. Soccer moms bobbed and weaved in and out of lanes trying to reach the stoplight two seconds quicker. I put my left turn signal on, gripped the steering wheel tight and prayed for my life.

A white Lexus and a black Mercedes SUV wouldn’t let me sit at their lunch table — I mean, let me in their lane. I tried to make eye contact and do the Southern wave, but people were just too busy. Meetings, soccer practice, pilates, Chick-fil-A — these people were on a mission, and I was a bug on their windshield.

Finally, after giving away my Twinkie and promising to do their homework for the rest of the year, I made it into the far left lane to turn into the Trader Joe’s parking lot. I prefer to park near Qdoba so I don’t have to deal with the continued madness of fighting over spaces with angry men in gym shorts.

As I put my car into park, I realized I had lost something. That cool, calm and collected zen buzz I achieved while on vacation had disappeared. And in its place was a bitter Betty who was ravaged by road rage and rude drivers.

I think even a Buddhist monk would lose his shit getting into that strip mall.

My blissful and gluttonous Paula Deen memories disappeared like a country biscuit after the end of a no-carb diet. | Photo by Sara Havens

After returning home with my wine and cheese, which I immediately opened, I vowed never to return. But that would be letting the bad drivers win and me losing out on cheap cheese, so maybe next time I’ll try a much later hour — like 9:30 p.m. Surely people won’t be in a hurry then, right?

Or maybe when UofL plays UK, I’ll sneak over for my snacks.

Luckily I stocked up, so I have at least until after Christmas when I have to return to strip mall hell.

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Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."