This is part of our Wander South Georgia Week. Be sure to see our full list of our favorite recommendations, places, and trip itineraries from our recent Wander South Georgia road trip. While we spend most of our time wandering mountain peaks and chasing waterfalls, we have been itching to take our wandering spirit on a tour of South Georgia for a hot minute. Recently we got the chance to head south and explore the southern part of our great state. So we hopped in our car and headed south towards Thomasville with the goal of making it to Savannah in a week. We made stops in the Okefenokee Swamp, Saint Simons, Jekyll Island, Cumberland Island, and finally . . . Savannah. So buckle up and follow along. Be sure to check out our full Wander South Georgia Road Trip over on the Explore Georgia blog.
We recently sat down with Brad Syfan, owner of The Wyld Dock Bar in Savannah. If you are in Savannah and looking for a laid-back meal with good drinks, right on the water, this is the place.
Our new Meet The Maker series is a deeper dive into some of our favorite artists, creatives, small business owners, and makers in and around Georgia. So for this interview, our goal was to learn a little bit more about the person behind the business!
During our visit to Savannah, we knew we had to stop in and check out this place that was all the buzz with the locals, and we couldn’t have asked for a better recommendation. From killer tacos and drinks to a relaxed atmosphere right on the river, this place has it all.
WANDER: So tell us about The Wyld. What are you, where you are, why do you do what we do?
BRAD: The Wyld is a waterside seafood restaurant in south Savannah that specializes in local ingredients that are in tune with the beautiful setting the restaurant inhabits.
WANDER: How did you end up in Savannah?
BRAD:My business partner and executive chef, Tony Seichrist, and I were working together in Atlanta when he got wind of this kind of run-down beer joint in savannah that the owners might want to part with. We drove down to take a look and were really blown away with the potential, so we made them an offer, quit our jobs, and three months later we were Savannians.
WANDER: How did you get into the restaurant industry?
BRAD: I started out as a dishwasher in a little restaurant in Gainesville, GA. From there I moved into food preparation, line cook, server, bartender, manager, owner.
WANDER: I’d imagine being in Savannah informs a lot of what you do as small business owners and entrepreneurs. How has the city, the coast, and the region shaped what you do?
BRAD: Well, from the beginning we knew the region and coast were going to really dictate our food. There is really just an amazing amount of great food grown or caught very near savannah. The city sort of pushed us on the vibe of our restaurant, Savannah is a beautiful laid back place and so that’s what we tried to capture at The Wyld.
WANDER: The restaurant industry is forever evolving and changing, but COVID forced some pretty crappy circumstances on the whole industry and created a ton of havoc. What was life like as a small business owner with that in mind?
BRAD: Yeah, when covid hit back in March 2020 it was definitely a scary time in general, but in particular to be a small restaurant. We went on hiatus out of safety concerns for a few months, but then gradually returned to business a step at a time. It was the closest we’ve ever come to going out of business. The timing was terrible for us since we are very slow in the winter months and have to rely on our cash reserves from the busier parts of the year during those months. So right when we should have started getting back in the black we had to close.
WANDER: What is your favorite dish at The Wyld?
BRAD: Crab corn chowder in the winter and fall. I cant stop eating it every year when it comes back on the menu.
WANDER: What do you wish you had known prior to starting the restaurant?
BRAD: More about dealing with high tides. I had never lived near the ocean, and out on our little tidal creek, high tides can be crazy sometimes.
WANDER: What do you enjoy most about owning The Wyld? What do you enjoy the least?
Brad: I really enjoy seeing the place grow within the savannah community. When we first opened up there were a fair number of people that weren’t sure what to make of us or what we were doing, but now we get locals that tell me we are their favorite place in the city all the time. That always makes me feel good. I don’t much care for worrying about hurricanes washing my business into the water, which it has tried to do a couple of times.
WANDER: If you weren’t a small business owner, what else would you be doing?
BRAD: Probably running someone’s bar somewhere. I really have a passion for good beverages.
WANDER: What is one piece of advice you would give to another small business owner or someone wanting to open a restaurant?
BRAD: Start simple and do a few things exceptionally well rather than a lot of things just pretty good. If what you do stands out you will grow from there.
WANDER: As a small business owner, it’s tough to find free time and hobbies as the business usually soaks most of that up. But in a best case scenario, what do you like to do when you’re away from work? And how did you get into it?
BRAD: I have trained martial arts off and on for the last 15 years or so. When I am free I like to still train.
WANDER: What are your favorite places to eat in Savannah? Your favorite places to shop?
BRAD: Taqueria El San Luis for lunch authentic street tacos can’t be beaten. Finch’s for quick bite breakfast, their avocado toast is great. The Emporium for dinner, I’ve never had a bad meal there. For shopping, I like to just walk Broughton St there’s a ton of cool shops, and it’s always fun to window shop your way down the blocks. Oh and Alex Raskin’s antiques is an experience in itself, definitely a must.
WANDER: What’s one thing that you absolutely have to do if you visit Savannah?
BRAD: Grab some to-go sangrias from Rancho Alegre and go to Forsyth Park for a lazy lovely afternoon.
WANDER: What is your favorite part about living and working in Savannah?
BRAD: Savannah is an exceptionally beautiful place to live and work. The natural beauty of the old oaks, marsh, and waterways combines with the old architecture of the downtown areas to really be something special to experience.
The next time you’re in Savannah be sure to visit The Wyld Dock Bar! We couldn’t have asked for a better spot to kick back for lunch.
Keep an eye out over the next few weeks as we roll out more content from our trip to South Georgia!