During my career, it has been a hobby of mine to hunt down restaurants in small towns and urban areas on my travels in the South – places where cooking smacks of tradition and long hours in the kitchen. Okay, maybe it’s more of an obsession than a hobby when it comes to getting things done: this tribute sits at tables ranging from urban barbecues to hidden gems in small towns and cities. rural roads – funky, fanciful, sometimes historic and usually colorful places. Here are some of my favorites in no particular order. But my criteria are specific: homemade in the tradition of the South with a strong sense of place, and so deliciously comforting, it’s worth the detour.
Note: Some of the information in this article was obtained while on sponsored travel.
1. Talbott Tavern
In Kentucky, bourbon is on most restaurant menus, and not just in its sipping form. Bourbon Balls, Bourbon BBQ, Bourbon Nut Chicken, and Beer Cheese with Bourbon: Talbott Tavern, which bills itself as the world’s oldest bourbon bar, serves all of the above as part of a stopover. stagecoach dating from 1779. Located in downtown Bardstown, the capital of Bourbon in the United States, Talbott’s menu also lists iconic Kentucky dishes such as the favorite home-cooked burgoo, a stew that is rarely found in restaurants; warm brown and tavern pie, invented by the tavern.
2.225 ° city smoke
San Antonio, Texas
Barbecuing is, of course, deeply rooted in Southern culinary tradition, and Texas has no shortage of top-notch spots that excel. Thanks to his cattle breeding heritage, he specializes in grilled beef brisket, the best you can find. Took a few GPS after our receptionist recommended it without a break, but 225 ° Urban Smoke is worth finding. Good news: it’s close to the airport, so you can work it back and forth. Like most good barbecue joints, it’s not fancy. You order at the counter from an irresistible selection of entrees, barbecue platters and Cajun specialties. Get your brisket – tender and juicy at the chin – by the pound, in a sandwich like The Big Easy (with sausage, pulled pork, cracklins, and barbecue sauce), or on a plate with one to three types of meat and two sides.
3. Buxton Hall barbecue
Asheville, North Carolina
While I’m on the barbecue, Buxton Hall BBQ claims a bit more stardom but remains humble with its rustic 1930s ice rink setting and faded murals adorning the brick walls. James Beard contestant Elliott Moss, known for his determined use of every part of the pig in his kitchen, teams up with fellow Beard contestant, restaurateur Meherwan Irani, for a stunning result. Moss’ whole pork approach pays homage to Eastern North Carolina style, drizzled with a vinegar-based sauce and topped with a creamy coleslaw. For a taste of the ultimate in Moss style, order the BBQ Hash Plate, a simmered pig’s head and other pieces of ‘giblets’ that taste incredibly wonderful. Not so brave? Try the Whole Hog Pulled Pork Plate, constructed with meat that has been smoked for 18 hours over hardwood coals.
4. The Swanson
Some of my best Southern food finds are just that – a restaurant I found purely by luck and accident. The Swanson falls into this category. He had us at his cookies. No wait, he got us first with his beautiful Victorian house from around 1880 in the city center. (NOT ALL of my favorites are simple and funky.) But about these cookies: they portended goodness to come, small but filled with sweetness and texture that cut through cornbread territory. The Swanson shamelessly touts the Southern Classics section of its menu, especially its award-winning fried chicken and fried chicken breast with country milk sauce. Choose two sides, from collard greens soup to frozen salad or cornbread dressing.
5. Southern Restaurant
Another chance find, her name naturally caught my eye. And the appetite. Off the main thoroughfares that converge in Elizabethton’s urban sprawl of chain restaurants, Southern Restaurant is tucked away on a charming downtown street. Paddle fans, a glass front, oilcloth on tables, southern trailing waiters, and a menu that spreads comfort make it feel like stepping back in time. It puts the South in your mouth starting with breakfast, including Granny’s Fried Taters and itchy sausage and gravy. For lunch and dinner, there are chili cheese or fried country steak sandwiches and meatloaf topped with house sauce. Save room for the cobbler or the trendy hot pecan pie.
6. Farm restaurant
Think “Branson,” and theme parks and country music venues inevitably strike a chord. But far from the traps of tourism, downtown Branson holds this gem, Farmhouse Restaurant, just down the street from Dick’s 5 and 10 – two day trips to Nostalgia. I know it’s frowned upon to start with dessert, but that’s what I’m doing here because the Blackberry Cobbler is legendary. The farm’s breakfast and lunch-dinner menus read like a Who’s Who of Southern cuisine: cookies and country sauce, whole fried catfish (and why not fried okra with that?), Pork barbecued shredded and pork tenderloin sandwich. Wash it down with jars of homemade lemonade or sweet tea. Go ahead, unbutton your pants if you need to. You will feel right at home here.
7. Olde House Café
Walterboro, South Carolina
The food truck sitting outside touting home-cooked southern cuisine made us brake and make a quick left turn into a parking lot full enough to be another testimonial. Buffet lunch is a thing of the South, and that’s what kept people in line. Rocking chairs on the porch, a welcome welcome to the foyer / treat shop, and rough wood benches ring the southern bell even more. Refuel at the hot buffet, salad and dessert bar, which change specialties every day (fried chicken is the most popular), or order a la carte. The menu ranges from liver and onions to smothered chicken breast and New Orleans seafood platter.
Pro tip: Regulars love the banana pudding and bread pudding.
8. Brantley Village Restaurant
Oriental, North Carolina
Off the beaten track coastal path, but not far from New Bern or Atlantic Beach, here’s another local spot for a buffet lunch featuring fried chicken and coconut cream pie. On the menu, seafood from Brantley’s Village Restaurant holds a place of honor in this port city – typically served Southern style, that is to say fried but also with other options such as stir-fry and grilled. The oyster burger is signature, made from local molluscs. Family favorites and side dishes reflect Southern culinary ethics with dishes such as fried okra, sweet potatoes, hush puppies, barbecue, and the fried catfish sandwich – all served in a no-frills cafeteria-style setting, just convivial.
9. Guillory’s famous foods
Lake Charles, Louisiana
One of the strongest influences on Southern cuisine, Louisiana is full of restaurants serving styles of Cajun and Creole home cooking. Known for its barbecue and crackers, Famous Foods occupies a simple dining room where locals flock for their fix of fresh crackers, blood sausage, pulled pork, ribs, and sausage. Crackers are similar to what trendy kitchens call fried pork belly and Latinos call it chicharrones. Here, Guillory’s fry them fresh and hot directly on site. Blood sausage – a flavorful Louisiana sausage made with pork, rice and seasonings – is quirky, cornbread or smoked style at Guillory’s.
10. Café 615 House of Da Wabbitt
Café 615 Home of da Wabbitt serves shrimp stew and okra, but otherwise home cooking at this quirky place in the small town of Gretna – just across the river from New Orleans – takes a more familiar twist. Bring a big appetite when you order the ever popular platter of pork chops – pounded, breaded and fried in gigantic plates of delight. House smoked chicken is another favorite. If you doubt its southern authenticity, opt for the bread pudding with whiskey sauce. If like me you’re wondering about the name, you’ll hear stories of how it started as an illegal gambling operation. A sign announcing that it was a drive-in for token food then featured Bugs Bunny (and still does). And, like me, you’ll always wonder his name, but not his more than 70-year commitment to the community.
11. Farmer’s market restaurant
Fort Myers, Florida
He started out as a sidekick at a state farmer’s market in 1952, using the fresh produce that passed through his deep south specialties. This market closed a few years ago, but just recently the owners have opened a smaller, more modern version. Throughout the ages, the Farmers Market Restaurant has remained true to the principles of Southern cuisine that have kept it popular, despite the great food town that has developed around it. Are you tempted by fried chicken livers? Don’t worry, you’ll also find more traditional dishes, such as country-fried pork chops, shrimp and grits, and chicken and dumplings. Fresh veg is still a big deal, with a dozen sides ranging from okra and tomatoes to corn fritters.
Pro tip: Its reputation for pies alone creates a foodie fan base. Personally, I prefer peanut butter.
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