It is a cold and windy afternoon on a Tuesday in late October and I am walking down Congress Street from MLK Blvd searching for establishments to feature in Where to Eat Savannah. I am seeking places with something new and different that would add to the experience our Where to Eat followers expect. I stop between Congress Street Station and the Rail at a detached two story building that stands at 409 West Congress Street. The appearance of this old 1880’s building leads me to believe it is a bar with no restaurant. However, I remember a few years ago a restaurant was in this location and this means it has a kitchen so this is what I am looking for. In fact, I learned the building was remodeled in 1990 -one hundred ten years after it was originally constructed –to be a restaurant /bar. I lean in to shield the glare of the sunlight and through the window I see inside a few people flowing about. The cold wind hits me and since I have a few minutes, I open the door, see what is inside, and have a chance to step away from the October wind.
Inside the light cast from the glass front reveals a bar stretching across one side of the tall cavernous brick and concrete chamber that is Boomys. Sunlight is reflecting off of a pounded metallic and wooden bar with tall bar stools that are stationed uniformly facing a well stocked bar. The brick walls and solid concrete floor frame a large open room with high open ceilings. Two stories of space are illuminated by the glass window frontage by day and create a display of its patrons by night . The building embraces the past even with HD TV’s and people on digital devices occupy some of the seats at the square tables in front of the bar. In the back room area is access to the rest rooms, swinging doors for the kitchen and a pool table stands in the remaining space as if it is a homage to the owner’s previous business which was a billiard hall located next door. This is clearly a bar. I ask the lady behind the bar if the owner is in and available and if could I meet him or her. She disappears into a side room and within a moment a man walks out. The man, with close cropped hair, casual clothes and a heavy northern accent introduces himself as Keith Berger.
Do you serve food? He explains at that time they are remodeling the kitchen and will be adding an extensive menu as soon as they finish the remodel and get everything together. I tell him who I am and why I came by (omitting to get out of the wind part). He suggests I check in from time to time as he is usually there. Over the next few months I stopped by a few times to say hello and check on the progress. Then the day came last April when Keith said he was ready to talk..
I caught up with him one morning in late July to discuss Keith and Boomys further. Keith T. Berger is no stranger to this corner of Congress Street. He is a man who stays involved now as well as throughout the years in the restaurant and bar business. I asked him how he decided to get into this business. Keith was sitting a the end of the bar. His eyes wandered over to make sure the vendors making deliveries did not need his attention then paused to consider the question. Keith grew up in Connecticut where he attended Southern Connecticut University and studied marketing. When the opportunity to move to Savannah to attend SCAD came along he took it and graduated with a degree in Computer Animation. He answered, “It is a business that I have been in for the past– well I guess I am showing my age here.–25 years. I am involved in every aspect, I have bused tables, cooked, waited tables owned establishments and throughout the years become good at it”. He tells me a number of people who are there he has worked with in the past and these friends became a part of a team each one investing themselves into what Boomys is.
So what is Boomys. When I walked in the first time to Boomys I am thinking this is going to be another place with “Bar Food”. You know you can get a mediocre meal of pizza or burger while primarily there to drink. We commonly think of it as “Bar Food”. I was completely wrong about it! Keith has a secret weapon Saigon Restaurant. It was open until a few years ago on Broughton Street. It’s closing left a void in Savannah for authentic Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. The kind of food you would expect at a higher end restaurant not a bar. Rachael Tran (Lady Saigon) now brings the same high end food from Broughton Street to a new home that is a block north to Congress Street. Rachael is in business with Boomys taking on the restaurant within the establishment. This great food rounds out the unique concept behind Boomys.
This concept presents a challenge for Keith. “The biggest challenge is to get people to understand that Boomys is breaking the norm by offering higher end food”. So don’t be surprised if you hear let’s go to Boomys when out and about. The meanings behind the word include a bar that not only has top of the line local entertainment such as Eric Culverson and Liquid Ginger, but also it has higher end cuisine with Lady Saigon food. You can go in your jeans without a reservation, get service at 2 am (unheard of for this quality of fare) and still leave with a few bucks in your wallet.
Keith explains the simplicity of marketing the name which can be branded into their brand. Much like, for example,“Google” once really meant nothing, Google was just a word that took on meaning after people used it online, the name Boomys is the same. It will mean what we define it to mean. It’s simple, somewhat southern, easily remembered and can be used to quickly describe the place. Today local people already use shortened versions of names for places in Savannah. They say let’s go to Molly’s or Social for example instead of saying Molly McPherson’s or Congress Street Social Club. So where did the word come from? Keith says he had a former employee when he owned another place who was nicknamed Boomy. He chose Boomys,with no apostrophe since it wasn’t possessive and his friend Boomy didn’t own the place The word -after Keith thought about it- is just right to give the establishment a name that he believes will catch on.
Sandwiched on Congress Street between several popular destinations, people walk by this one with its windowed front and after a look through the windows can feel the place calling you in. Keith smiles at me and says what else do you want to know? Keith has confidence and experience. He knows the business well and has people involved with him that are also experienced. What’s next? I ask. Expansion is a probability in another city such as Charleston but no definite plans are being told at this time.
As I concluded the interview I took a look around Boomys. I saw people in jeans enjoying themselves, eating, drinking and having fun . Then it hit me-BOOM -this is BOOMYS and I quietly heard my own paradigms about a bar breaking away. The recipe is take some ripe paradigms and slice them, mix them into a highly customer serviced environment, throw them in an old historical building and let them simmer to perfection. Serve while hot and you will have a true taste for Boomys.