The Next Big Thing

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Anthony Debreceny elevated the traditional downtown café with The Collins Quarter, and The Deck chiced up the idea of a Tybee beach bar. Next on his list: bringing “panache,” as he puts it, to Savannah’s pub scene. Situated in an 1853 Greek Revival on Drayton Street, Debreceny’s new venture is named The Fitzroy, after the first suburb in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia. Opening in late February, The Fitzroy has everything a dive bar ought to (tap beer and soft pretzels, ample booth seating and late-night hours), along with the requisite trappings of a cosmopolitan eatery (charred cauliflower, coffee-rubbed flank steak and craft cocktails, marble and copper fixtures). And yes, Debreceny promises, there will most certainly be a riff on his lauded avocado toast.

On Savannah:

I think this city has matured significantly since we moved here four years ago, and the customer who comes here is different now. I believe that locals and visitors are looking for more variety and diversity, and The Grey, Cotton and Rye and Atlantic are among a number of amazing restaurants that have helped lift the Savannah food scene. With more restaurants, we all benefit—from food tourism and from an emerging culinary environment.

On The Fitzroy vibe:

We say “gastropub” for explanation purposes, but the Australian pub is our inspiration. These days, the pub is so much more than somewhere to go and have a beer. There’s been a big shift in Australia toward a dining model in a pub environment, and some of the best chefs are opening pubs.

On the new menu:

We’re doing a lot of small, shared plates, plus some larger, shared plates. That’s how it is in Japan, and that’s been the trend in Australia for the past 10 or so years. Apart from a hamburger or a sandwich, we’re not planning much for individual consumption. We’re trying to encourage connecting and sharing and talking. When my wife and I go out, we never order a dish of our own—we’re always having chopstick wars because we eat off of each other’s plates. We recently went to The Grey for her birthday and ordered everything that was on the starter menu and shared it all.

On team efforts:

The food at The Fitzroy is a melting pot of ideas from me and my team: I’m from Australia and have lived in Korea, Japan and Holland, our executive chef Chris Moore comes from the gastropub scene in Portland, Oregon, and director of operations Arthur Sertorio is French. We plan to have regular items we all know and love, like burgers and fish and chips, but we’ll also take guests on a journey outside their comfort zone.

On process:

I’m a guy who admittedly had no idea of the restaurant industry before opening Collins Quarter. I like coffee and I like good food. I’ve never been a chef and I’ve never worked as a server—my whole experience is as a customer. That’s why I push everyone on my team to think like a customer.

On the future:

I’ve been leasing the space two doors down from Collins Quarter for two years. We’ve been using it for storage, but by September we plan to introduce a coffee shop, or something in that realm. I’ve been waiting for Husk to open around the corner so we can see what I might be able to bring in to complement it. I have my ideas, but I can’t tell you just yet.