Billy the G.O.A.T.
Greatest of all time isn't a understatement when it comes to Billy Lee, a savannah restaurateur who has become a living legend among his friends, employees, and locals.
Something is hiding in plain sight. Imagine with us for a moment that a place you loved so dear, a Savannah institution, was harboring a stowaway for years. Somewhere you’ve been countless times, unknowingly drinking and enjoying the atmosphere, and just upstairs was a entirely different world, a portal to a bygone era. “Ninety-nine percent of the people that come into McDonough’s have no idea it exists,” says Billy Lee with a smirk, “and I kind of like it that way.” Lee is, of course, speaking about his almost 10 year old restaurant on the second floor of McDonough’s, Billy’s Place, and if you are one of the many who had no idea a restaurant even existed above McDonough’s, Lee is about to tell you.
In a world where post-modern minimalist restaurant styles are intermingling syncretically with rustic pre modern aesthetics, there are few restaurants still out there that aim to serve without pretension. We are so used to, these days, a smattering of tweezered morsels on a plate, bartenders with antiquated beards serving smoky cocktails, bare Edison bulbs dimmed to mimic gas lamps, or salvaged wood chopped up and reassembled to give an illusion of countryfied life. After a while it seems the atmosphere perpetrated in these restaurants overwhelms the actual food. Contrary to this, Billy’s Place is a shining example of why we venture out of our homes to experience the act of eating out. Step into the dining room and you are immediately greeted by the melodic sounds of a piano subtly gliding through the first refrains of Come Fly With Me and the smell of something rich in the air. The dining room, though small, is open and warm, with wooden plinths intersecting the space and helping to separate the bar from the main dining area. A few chairs line the piano. The decor is decidedly white tablecloth, but the kind where you feel comfortable leaving whiskey stains and the remnants of a time well had.
“Billy treats people like family and you can see it in the way he runs Billy’s Place.” — Nate Shaffer